Be The Change You Seek And 4 Other Lessons That Helped Me Transform My Career

Throughout my career, I have had several learning experiences. However, these 5 lessons truly and totally helped me transform my career.

Throughout my career, I have had several learning experiences. However, these 5 lessons truly and totally helped me transform my career.

All of us have certain incidents in our professional lives that leave a deep impact on us and shape our outlook and style. As I reflect and introspect, here are a few stories and memories that moulded me into who I am today. And I am so grateful for all these experiences. 

If you don’t ask, you don’t get it

After finishing my graduation (as a Botany major) and diploma in computer science, I started teaching as a Computer faculty. Yes, I am from the generation when IT was relatively a new career option and I hopped on it because that just seemed the right thing to do.

Anyhow, along with my teaching job I was also exploring an opportunity to become an application developer (as it seemed cooler) During a visit to a job fair along with my friends, I happened to meet a Senior SAP Consultant.

He spoke to us for few minutes and gave me his business card asking to keep in touch. His job title did not make a lot of sense at that point of time and I was not very sure how he could help me.

A month passed and I did nothing about it. My friend inquired if I had called, and on hearing a negative, he coaxed me to call the gentleman. Finally I did and he asked me to come over for a discussion.

The meeting turned out be a game changer and in a month’s time I landed up my first job as a Visual Basic (rings a bell!) developer at HCL Infosystems. Since then there has been no looking back.

Do you have any options that you have not explored as you are not sure? Don’t wait, just go and ask for it.

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Never let self-doubt hold you captive

This incident is from the relatively early years of my career. Going onsite was a BIG deal and if it was USA, then even more. And I was no exception.

I had landed up a new job after coming back from an extended maternity leave. In my first offshore assignment, we had an awesome techno-functional onsite coordinator who enjoyed high credibility with the client. Few months into the project, he decided to leave.

The client and my leaders unanimously chose me to go onsite as the replacement for a period of four to six months. I was thrilled but a part of me was terrified with the thought of leaving back my toddler for such a long period. Along with that self-doubt of filling up the big shoes of the previous consultant crept in.

As they say if you really yearn to do something then the universe comes together to make it happen. I got a great family support, prepared myself thoroughly before landing onsite, spent time to build rapport with client contacts.

Armed with all these, the next few months were some of the best in my career – learning across technology, culture, people and myself. I would have regretted if I had not pushed myself to do it.

Don’t hold yourself back, take that leap of faith — have a plan and take the plunge.

There will always be uncertainties

Uncertainties will remain. Get out of your comfort zone and lean on the power of community to learn and share. 

Different things motivate different people. For me ‘change’ has been the only constant. I like to dabble into something different constantly.

In one such transition in 2010, I ‘accidentally’ moved into a Global Product Manager role. The scope and responsibilities of the role were ambiguous. When I started to look around for references, I realised, internally, in the organisation there were hardly any similarities to my role. Product Management (PM) was an emerging function at that time in India.

I started to look externally for peers to learn and understand the nuances of this role across the industry. This is how I started to leverage the power of community through events, round tables, coffee-meet ups etc.

I networked with experts and practitioners for advise and to stay updated with the new trends. And I started contributing in many different ways. This helped me immensely in building my craft, organisation and process. The support of my leaders to empower me to experiment and learn was a great enabler.

One critical learning is community is ‘more about give than take.’ I continue to practice this till today. The only way to stay relevant is to learn everyday.

Customer Centricity — There is no alternate for this

Since the start of my consulting career, I was always in front of my customers trying to understand their problems. My PM role for Enterprise products further strengthened this skill. However, when I started as a PM for a consumer product, the magnitude of customers/users were 10x than I was used to.

The focus, expertise, infrastructure, support and processes in place for building customer connections and empathy, helped me quickly ramp up in the new space. This value endorsed and practiced by every leader and product builder (including developers) in the organisation was a great experience.

Dwelling in the “problem-first” space and focusing on the “what” is the approach I recommend to my teams. So get out of your offices and visit your customers. That is the only way to build products they will use.

Be the change you seek

Find your passion and run with it. Don’t wait for someone to tell you.

As I started to engage with PM communities, another area of my interest was to participate and contribute in Women-in-Tech (WIT) initiatives. I loved the synergies, the learnings, networking with my role models and the impact I could create.

In the last couple of years I started to engage more in Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. And I spent my energy on WIT in my organisation so we could learn, share and connect.

The trust and belief of our sponsors helped us scale new heights with many ‘first’ experiences and events. And the endorsements from fellow women technologists and leadership was extremely gratifying for the volunteers. To some extent it was also a self-discovery process (including writing among many other) as I indulged deeper into this and derived lot of satisfaction.

My key learning, do not wait for that BIG opportunity — they come in small packets. Find those whitespaces and follow your dream. People will come along and roads will start appearing.

All of us have our stories and I hope you found some of these relatable. My latest interest is to work with the start-ups to strengthen their business, product strategies and connect them to investors. Mentoring is another activity where I find myself engrossed. That will probably be the topic of my next article.

Do drop in your stories and your learnings from them. 

A version of this was earlier published here.

Picture credits: Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova from Pexels

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