Thursday, April 8, 2021

4 Career Lessons from 4 Years at Zoom

Four years ago I remember leaving LinkedIn's swanky offices to go interview at Zoom. As I sat in the lobby waiting for my interviews at Zoom HQ in downtown San Jose,  I remember looking around at the very scrappy/modest start up office and really questioning whether this was a good idea. 

Turns out, it was the right thing for me and I've learned so much from my experience so far at Zoom. I'm on paternity leave right now so I've had some time to reflect on the last four years and wanted to share 4 lessons from 4 years at Zoom. Now, I must admit I stole this format from my friend at DoorDash, Nathan Tanner. His 4 year post is great if you want to check it out

1. Personal growth is almost always uncomfortable. I joined Zoom because I wanted to push myself. I figured if I was going to be in Silicon Valley I wanted my career to accelerate as quickly as possible. Joining a small, fast growing software company like Zoom was my way of trying to kick things up a notch. It really has been a career accelerator, but I always joke around with other Zoomies that even pre-pandemic Zoom felt like a brand new company every 1-2 quarters and during the pandemic it has felt like a new company every 60 days. This means there were countless times I felt completely in over my head, overworked, outside of my comfort zone, unprepared or frustrated that a process that worked 6 months ago no longer works. Over time, I'm come to learn that those uncomfortable feelings are signs that you're growing and being stretched, it's the price you pay for growth.   

2. Anything worth doing will have naysayers. When I joined Zoom, no one really tried to talk me out of it, but some people definitely seemed less enthusiastic or impressed when I shared the news. As Zoom has become more well know and grown, I've had several people reach out and say to me something like "wow...when you joined Zoom I thought you were really making a bad career move but looks like it has worked out!". It does not always work out, but as I look back on that decision and have watched other people make different career moves, I've come to the conclusion that if everyone thinks everything you're doing is 100% the right thing to do and the perfect path, you are probably not doing anything too interesting or your friends/network is too homogenous. I have found immense value is talking career moves over with a variety of people I trust and respect, but at the end of the day you have to decide what your path is and not let a consensus or worries about the perceptions of others drive big decisions.  

3. You're in the drivers seat of your career. Even in companies with sophisticated career programs, you have to decide what you want to pursue, have goals and share them with your manager. If your company does not have good career programs not only do you have to do those things, but also drive it to action, whether that be a promotion, a role change or additional responsibility. I see a lot of people that seem to be waiting around for someone to give them an opportunity, or point out to them their next best career move. Chances are you are surrounded by people that can do that, but often you need to ask or initiate those conversations. Waiting for a formal evaluation once a year is usually not enough. Also, be wary of stagnation, deciding to things slow down a bit career wise is often the right call, but it should be a conscious decision. 

4. Raise your hand. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world with the variety and amount of cool experiences I've had the last four years at Zoom. I got to run our first Zoomtopia (I hired my favorite band, Weezer to be the entertainment), be on the IPO deal team and help launch our International Government Relations program. All of these things were never my day job, but most of them happened because I volunteered or just started doing it. Now, I must admit there were almost always moments I regretted signing up for a big project on top of my existing demanding job, but looking back on the last four years, some of the most interesting, fulfilling and memorable experiences came from my willingness to raise my hand. 

The last four years has been the most rewarding and challenging time of my career. As I reflect on this journey so far, I'm filled with gratitude to all the Zoomies that have helped make this such a incredible place to work and hope these hard earned lessons can help or inspire anyone reading.