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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

10 Career Lessons from 10 Years in Silicon Valley

I published this first on LinkedIn. 

Ten years ago this month I drove across the bay bridge in a full-size truck with everything I owned in the back, to start my first post college full-time job. I was a bright eyed, recent BYU grad, that did not know hardly anything about San Francisco.



Fast forward to the present and I feel extremely fortunate to have spent my whole career thus far in the bay area, working with many wonderful people at some pretty amazing companies. I recognize that it has been a privilege to have a career that I've enjoyed immensely.

There are a few lessons I've learned over the last 10 years that have really stuck with me and I wanted to share them here. Some are unique to Silicon Valley, some are not, but I hope you can enjoy what I've learned.

You're smarter than you think. I remember the first time I was in a meeting with a fellow marketer that went to Stanford. I was extremely nervous, to me, he might as well have been able to read my mind. I'd never met anyone that went to Stanford. I was extremely intimidated. A few months later I realized that he was of course very smart, but I realized I could keep up. I think that is so often the case, we think others are smarter or have some talent we don't have, but it's often not the case.

Work is important, but not THE most important. It may seem strange that I learned this in a place that is known for promoting the "hustle". People here do work hard, but I've also seen so many examples of people that can have a ambitious career and still take care of the things in their lives that are most important. It's not easy, but I'm grateful for mentors that have shown me it can be done.

Find managers who believe in you.
Looking back, almost all my managers have encouraged me, believed in me and given me opportunities to grow. If you are not in that situation, my only advice would be to find a way out as soon as possible.Your career will be greatly limited under a manager that does not believe in you.

Dream big. I think the biggest advantage of Silicon Valley is people here believe they can do crazy things and they just do it.

Find managers who tell you the truth. The most rapid personal career growth that has happened to me is when I've had managers who have told me the truth. At first it was uncomfortable and hard, the millennial inside of me would sometimes prefer constant praise, but with constant feedback you can learn so fast. If you're manager is never correcting you, you're not growing as fast as you could.

Manage your reputation like your career depended on it. The world is small, especially in Silicon Valley. Back channel reference checks are happening constantly, word gets around. Your reputation is either helping you behind the scenes or working against you. Work hard, treat everyone with respect and build those up around you and you should be fine.

Trust your gut. The first few years of my career I'd see a decision be made or something happening that deep down in my gut, I thought it was the wrong decision or disagreed with. I rationalized that they were more experienced or smarter, but hindsight is 20/20. In those situations, I now know to trust my gut and bet on myself. I remember getting that advice from the CEO of a start up I worked for in college, but did not have the confidence to follow it for the first few years of my career.

Be a missionary not a mercenary. If you are lucky enough to have the choice, I've found that I've felt much more fulfilled when I really believe in the product, the mission and the leaders of the companies I've worked for.

Leaving good in pursuit of great. In terms of roles and companies, I've seen that the people that push themselves when they get comfortable and leave a good job or role in pursuit of greater opportunities are happier. Companies in Silicon Valley have become masters of helping you feel comfortable and fulfilled in jobs that maybe don't push you to your full potential.

There is power in diversity. I truly believe that I've learned more being surrounded by a variety of people, ideas and background.

Thank you for reading and humoring my walk down memory lane.

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