Knowing Why You Want to Grow in Your Career

Zach Haehn

VP Engineering at Seismic



"I had been working for a company for a long time. I worked on many big projects, I was well connected, and there were a variety of roles that I played. I had a lot of room to roam within the engineering boundaries and that worked well for me. I kept along a route yet I never really had a career development plan. It wasn't important for me to have a plan. I just always had something interesting in front of me, and when it stopped being interesting, I would look around and see what else was interesting to me. So I looked around one day and thought, 'there's no other job I really want around here, what else can I do?' Thus, how do you determine what's best for you and what is the next step to take on your career path?"

Actions taken

"I was being mentored at that time by the CEO of the company. I had thought about a personal decision to move out of NYC to San Francisco when he and I sat down and he asked me what was next for me. I threw out the idea of opening an office in SF which he thought was a great idea. By taking that chance of asking for something I wanted, I was given the opportunity to move out west and open the new office, attaining a personal goal as well as a new professional one. The entire experience was hugely beneficial for me because in building a new team and office from scratch, I learned there were many things I had to think about that I had never thought of before or didn't know were important. Things you take for granted. Employer branding, your company's place in a city, how to build a new team and culture. What was the culture I wanted to create? How could it be different and yet still consistent with the company we worked in? After two years I looked around and again thought, 'I've hit that ceiling again, what else can I do?'

I started talking to friends. I learned of a role called VP of engineering. Although I had never heard of it (because I worked at a company that had no titles and had been there for 14 years), I thought it sounded interesting which prompted me to think about my own career path. It wasn't until I was looking for a new challenge that I figured out which job I wanted to interview for. I was reminded that, for me, career development just isn't that important until it's important. I don't think I'm figuring it out forever, I just need to think about it for that moment in time. It's only when something stops being interesting and I'm not learning a ton that I have that conversation with myself again to figure out where to go next."

Lessons learned

  • "Know what you want from career pathing. Is it something you feel like you don't have? Do you want more money? Do you want a specific title? Where is the drive to change positions and grow in your career coming from?"
  • "People are different from each other. Some need to set and achieve specific goals, treading the path, while others don't. Both are acceptable. And you might find yourself in both situations at different point in your life."
  • "Make sure to give yourself permission to do what you want to do. Follow your natural tendencies. Don't try to fight them because you'll end up hurting yourself or end up in a place that doesn't make you happy. If there are things you gravitate towards, go do them because you're going to be excited and engage passionately with them."
  • "It's essential to know what's important to you at a particular time and as that changes be aware of yourself and be aware of your emotional needs."
  • "Know that a position doesn't have to be forever, it just has to be right now, or the next two or three years, or however long you determine. Ask yourself what you really want to be doing? What is the next thing you want to be doing? What are your blind spots? Which place am I most effective? Which place am I happier? Answer those questions truthfully for yourself."

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Zach Haehn

VP Engineering at Seismic

Leadership DevelopmentMentorship ProgramsCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill DevelopmentIndividual Contributor RolesLeadership RolesEngineering ManagerVP of EngineeringCTO

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