3 Major Lessons In 2 years
My two years in the tech space have taught me 3 major lessons: great careers don’t need to follow a straight trajectory, mentorship is key, and to always raise my hand.
No Single Trajectory Can Define Me
Some of the most experienced and talented people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with, worked in industries, on products, and in roles that are tangential or even very different from their current role.
They’ve built up their toolbox of skills and are therefore more valuable by bringing a unique perspective to their job. This was a major learning for me when I first started my job out of college. I had an assumption that specialization was the key. While the ability to dive deep and show technical skills is valuable to my role, the more important aspect of my role is my experience with a wide range of projects. This has kept me intellectually stimulated and more prepared for future opportunities. Simply put, the ability to learn something new and drive results is a transferable skill and more important than memorizing the technical nuances of a single product.
The opportunities I have my mind set on aren’t always the best next steps in my career. Instead the next great opportunity or path is most likely to come from the projects I’m currently doing today and from the people I’m working with. Of course, having a general idea of what my passions are is important (at the moment, this is marketing, cloud computing solutions, startups, and product). But narrowing down my vision to a specific role, industry, or organization, is a limiting move. The truth of silicon valley is that employees are constantly moving between different roles to grow their passion to learn new things and take on new and exciting projects. People move from sales to marketing, from product to business development, and from engineering to product management. All of these roles ultimately focus on driving business growth and delivering products that customers will love but vary in their own specific focus. I believe there is no single role that can truly define my career, skills, passions, and value add to tech.
Mentorship is Key
Mentorship is key. My ability to grow in my current role has been dependent on understanding the values, practices, and codes of business around me. This is mainly attained by meetings and calls with more senior members of my organizations. Putting my head down and driving results has proven to be just a piece of the larger puzzle of success. Understanding what types of tasks are valuable to the business is even more important, as it might not always be as obvious. For example, a mentor of mine pointed out to me 6 months into my role that strong writing skills were critical to highlighting my capability to grow in the business. This then became my focus for the year that followed and by making sure I took ownership of writing business documents allowed me to grow and take on even more bigger projects. After a year and a half, I was able to earn a promotion. While I believe I would’ve put in the same effort into my work without knowing the information shared by my mentor, I don’t believe I would’ve properly allocated my efforts in order to gain the proper experience for a promotion. My mentors have also proven to be a sounding board and source of mental reassurance. When work becomes overwhelming or I’m unclear on my standing in my job, they’re able to provide me with clear and objective feedback and guidance.
Raising My Hand
Being a source of stability in a world of uncertainty can truly help you earn trust with stakeholders. In alot of business meetings involving planning and decision making, the answer isn’t always clear. I’ve doubled down on these opportunities as windows for leadership. In these moments, I come prepared with my own research, speak up, and facilitate others to provide their thoughts as well. Nobody has the answers, but that’s okay. The best ideas arrive after many iterations and discussions. I saw myself growing in my role when I took on daunting tasks. Some of these tasks were minor like updating a deck or sending out an email but others were major projects that take months of preparation and collaboration. In one instance, I was offered to help drive a major project launch and the work required a great amount of reading and getting up to speed on the product as well as the processes required for a launch (blogs, social media, web launches, sales training). I reviewed and revised my work over 40 times with countless feedback from stakeholders and learned the right way to communicate value propositions to customers: concise and clear. Ultimately, by raising my hands to provide my opinion or dedicating time, I’ve been able to help move projects forward and earn trust from my peers.
All of these lessons have allowed me to become a sponge in the workplace. Malleable and ready to absorb all the information needed to take the next step and be successful at it!