Taking Healthy Risks in your Career
28 March, 2022
I have never been someone who knew exactly what they wanted to do in life. If you’re one of the lucky ones, more power to you. For me, it has always been knowing more about what I didn’t want to do that led me to the career that I love.
First, a little bit about me. I’ve been a mobile software engineer for over 10 years. I completed my master's in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech and went on to join Samsung to help build their first-ever Android enterprise management framework. Before my final leap to Upspeed, I was leading a team of 30 engineers at VMware to build enterprise mobile solutions that shipped to 10M+ users.
Sounds good so far? Well, the path to get there was nowhere near as straightforward. Growing up, I knew medicine, law, finance, and arts didn’t interest me. So I went into engineering. I have been fascinated by mobile phones since my dad’s first Nokia phone. I remember playing games on it and thought working on mobile might be interesting.
My parents were not engineers, and although they supported me, they didn’t have the background to provide me with any advice for my career. When I was working on my master's degree, I focused more on networking and computer architecture than software development. However, sometime during my college career, I had a project where I was required to write a mobile app – and quickly fell in love. While I continued with my master's program, I knew that I wanted to find a role in mobile software development.
Taking Risks and Making Jumps
I graduated during a recession and began the challenge of finding a job opportunity without all the skills to match it. It was difficult because mobile was still not as prevalent and no one was hiring. I bombed most of my first interviews until I finally landed a role.
I was very lucky that my first manager took a chance on me. I hope that he saw the determination and accountability I would bring to the team. I was lucky that I was surrounded by other engineers and mentors who helped me become a better engineer.
I experienced a similar transition when I made the jump to becoming a manager. I made the shift for a few reasons, but the main one was that I wanted more say in the decision-making and strategy. To be completely transparent: I was unsure if people management was for me, but I knew that without making the transition I would never be sure. Thanks to my managers who put me in roles where I could exercise my manager's muscles, I was a little more confident taking the leap.
It’s the same in my current situation, as I’ve just started my own company, Upspeed. I started by being an intrapreneur, recognizing and solving problems at work. It led me to launch an engineering blog, VMware 360, to help showcase VMware’s thought leadership. I finally made a switch to entrepreneur when I found problems I thought many companies and teams would also face. Again, it’s uncharted waters for me and I’m unsure if it will work out. If I fail I will simply try again.
I’ll leave you all with three takeaways
- It’s ok to not have everything figured out. Try to mitigate risks where possible and take a leap.
- Know your core strengths.
- Open yourself up to new experiences. Worst case, you’ll eliminate another thing from your list of things you want to do.
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