Today is my 17th careeriversary.
That’s right, 17 years ago today I started my first job in the storage industry, as a technical trainer for Legato Networker, working for Cambridge Computer Services at 355 Western Ave. I had no idea what storage or data protection were, I hadn’t really ever had a “real” job prior, and I was living in someone else’s apartment until September 1, when my own lease started.
Here are some things I’ve picked up along the way.
- Always be learning. My dad is not the only one to have given me this advice, but he’s the one whose saying it I remember the most clearly. And it’s true. When I stop learning in a job is when I get bored, complacent, dissatisfied, and unmotivated.
- Take time to learn. My boss Kevin at Dell taught me this. He put unprecedented amounts of time for learning into plans for onboarding new employees, as well as into ongoing plans for existing team members. He truly saw it as part of one’s job to do that learning.
- Learning means making mistakes. Publicly. I’ve had to do a lot of learning – and failing – in front of other people. But I’ve found that It’s important to get comfortable doing this, or I don’t learn quickly enough to get anywhere.
On the home front
- Outsource everything possible. As a working mother, I’ve paid close attention to advice from female senior executives. This was the best piece I’ve gotten, from various people – outsource whatever I can: laundry, dinner, transportation, cleaning, etc., so my time with my family is my time with my family.
On not being intimidated
- Everyone is a person. I am almost never intimidated. Everyone is a person with concerns, with goals, and with a world outside of work. So I just talk to them as I would anyone else – I’ve developed the confidence to know that I have a right to be heard if I’m in a conversation with someone. Also, I try not to forget about the actor-observer asymmetry fallacy. TLDR: It might be you, not me.
- Speak up. My best opportunities at work have come from going to someone with an idea to solve a problem or to improve something, when it wasn’t my job. My best contributions are often asking questions that nobody else wants to or thinks to ask.
“Maybe we should manage our tech support cases on a bulletin board visible to everyone”
“I can project manage our 12-person team into producing two whiteboard videos apiece.”
“Sure, I’ll figure out how to get 80 people on a tour of our labs, in 10 groups, one of which only speaks Japanese.”
And when I didn’t ask for a title or a higher salary, I didn’t always get one. When I did, I did.
On Career Trajectory
- Get through unpleasant times by picking a date in the future. When I’ve been thrashing in a role about whether to stay or not, I stay put. Then I pick a date in the future and forget about leaving until then, at which point I can re-evaluate, knowing it’s not a split-second decision. I’m happier during the waiting time too, knowing that it’s finite.
- A network decides a career. What everyone says about having a good network is true, and then some. After my first job, all my job offers and opportunities have come from my network. I landed here at Infinio because it looked like a cool place, and mrDiva was connected to Matt who worked here because I had introduced him to Gina several months earlier. So, I try to keep in touch with people, maintain relationships, and be generous with favors.
- Know when you get the call. Sometimes opportunities come up that are unexpected or not exactly what I want. I’ve had to recognize which of these are opportunities I shouldn’t turn down, even if they take me on a different path than I expected, and figure out how to say yes.
Years ago, right when we found out I was pregnant with babyDiva, and mrDiva had just graduated from his MBA program, he got a job opportunity of a lifetime. The timing was strange, it would mean a cross-country commute, and he had never done what they were asking him to do. But it was so obvious to me that it was “the call” and he had to say yes. He did, and it has been more than he ever expected.
- Say yes then figure it out. I recently read a great blog post that now of course I can’t find anywhere about always opting to move into a role where you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s scary as hell, but great advice.
When I was on maternity leave for each of my children, I got a call about coming back after leave into a bigger job – a job that I didn’t know how to do. Sure, I said, both times, wanting to get back to Netflix. Shit, I said, both times, when I came back. And Got It, I said, both times, 90 days in.
Let’s see what the next 17 years have in store.