Last month, I spoke about my Manos Experience – it was a really great opportunity to connect with startups as well as speak with other folks within the tech industry focused on innovation, and how to rationalize what ‘technology innovation’ could do for and to a business. But one specific encounter stuck out to me – not really because of the question asked, but because of the answer I gave and the subsequent reflection that has ensued since…
After my participation in the panel and after working through the queue of folks waiting with their questions, I was stopped by a summit attendee on my way back to our office space. She was young, excited and full of energy. She was talking a thousand miles a minute – I remember that excitement. And she asked, what seemed to be such a simple question. She referred back to my Fireside chat with Xochi, and asked me a single question ala my ‘3×3’ format with Xochi (a single question with a three part answer, example – In our lives, we have defining moments that impact the trajectory of our career journey – what would you say were 3 events that impacted and changed the direction of your journey?). Her question to me –
If you could pick a personal mantra to provide direction, as far as how you make career choices, what three words of wisdom would be included in it?
She went on to explain that she was currently going through an exercise to establish her own. She felt she needed something to help her focus on making her ‘next step’. She stated that although she had landed her first job, she wasn’t too thrill about it. She’s been doing it for the last year, but she looks around and everyone is so excited about what they are doing, and she’s not. She was so excited to get a job, as they were hard to come by when she graduated. But after working a year, she realised that her heart wasn’t ‘in it’ and really, she wasn’t doing what she thought she’d be doing… or what it seemed, she went to school to do.
She wanted to ask me, because she looked me up on LinkedIn and thought (to quote her), ‘wow, you’ve been around!’. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered or not, but as she continued to chat and her speech became more animated, I could tell she was ‘hooked’ and saw it as pure positive. She was looking for inspiration… not for me to give it to her, per say, more to help ignite her own internal inspiration for finding her own personal mantra.
So what personal mantra did I give her?
Be Bold. Be Fearless. Be Happy.
Be Bold – Don’t be shy of the ‘big Ask’. I’ve attended a number of events, inspiration sessions, as well as career mentorship types of activities, and they all make mention of this. Have confidence in yourself and your ability and don’t shy away from asking or pursuing what you want. In looking at my own career, I remember early on I asked to be promoted into an open role. I was told, quite frankly, that I didn’t have the ‘technical aptitude’ for the role, so I shouldn’t bother applying. Now this was someone in a mentorship and leadership role, someone who I believed to have had my best interest at heart. Of course anyone who knows me, knows that didn’t set well. So I did it. I applied, I introduced myself to the hiring manager and I explained how I was a self taught technologist, and technology came ‘naturally’ to me. And not to be fooled by my non-technical degree. Long story short, I landed the role and taught me to trust my inner voice. Sure ask for input, guidance, mentorship, etc. – but don’t be swayed by someone else’s negativity – especially if you know you have the ability, focus and, more importantly, the passion to deliver.
Be Fearless – Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith. Sometimes the most positive things can come out of taking a chance. Looking back, I say 70% (if not 80%) of my career is based on taking leaps and having faith in my ability as well as the faith others have in my ability. Be ready to take a chance. Even if, it doesn’t work out exactly like you hoped or envisioned, you can always learn and grow from the experience. And through those faithful experiences, both positive and not-so-positive, you can establish a wealth of knowledge that can differentiate you amongst your peers.
Be Happy – I can’t stress enough the importance of happiness. You need to be more than content with what you are doing in life. Considering the amount of time, effort and even sacrifice that’s given for a career choice – being happy with what you are doing is so, so important. Find what ‘geeks you out’, find what feeds your passion, and pursue it. And don’t be afraid of making a change if something isn’t right or there isn’t that spark. Life is way to short to spend time wishing you were somewhere else, doing something else.