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The Difficulty in Making Career-Defining Decisions

Alignment
Goal Setting
Managing Expectations
Personal Growth
Roadmap
Changing Company

7 December, 2021

Yao Xiao
Yao Xiao

Director of Algorithm Engineering at Aibee

Yao Xiao, Director of Algorithm Engineering at Aibee, shares how he decided that he would transition from a well-established organization to a new startup, broadening his scope.

Leaving a Large Corporation for a Startup

Previously, I worked at a well-established company that had large authority in the tech industry. There were many products and systems but I was dealing with a narrow scope engineering role while I wanted to try and broaden my horizons. Specifically, I was interested in the product side of feature requests, marketing of products, and planning specific steps on a roadmap. I was unsure how to continue and plagued by hesitance and indecisiveness.

Coming To a Decision

Envision the Future:

I created a framework for myself that helped me make this major decision about my career. I began by envisioning myself in five years and asking myself what goals I wanted to achieve within this time period. The answer to this question would theoretically involve the role I wanted to be in and which position would allow me to achieve these end results. From there, I moved backward, looking at my options and choosing the road that would provide me with the most opportunities.

Prioritizing my goals and what I wanted to achieve was as simple as overcoming my inability to make a choice. As soon as I had detailed where I wanted to be in five years, creating the road map became clear. After comprehending my priorities, I ensured that each result would be obtained on my created path.

Things I Considered:

I discovered that there are many things to consider with this framework. The possibility of promotion, day-to-day tasks, teams in collaboration, and the scope I would be working on are all things that I considered throughout this process. For me, a well-defined scope was a roadmap of my tasks that took place over a year-long time frame. On the other hand, an open scope allowed much more flexibility and broad exposure to responsibilities.

Another major point of consideration for me was the project and product that I would be working on. There are often many products at well-established companies, meaning if I disliked one option, I would be able to transfer internally. In terms of startups, there is often only a single product, and if I disliked it, I would have to exit the organization.

Making the Decision:

In final, making the decision relied on majorly one point of consideration: my five-year goal. I wanted to increase my broader knowledge and increase my scope. By focusing on this angle, I found that the decision-making process became much easier and more clear.

Thinking About Long-Term Career Goals

  • Utilizing the long-term vision is incredibly valuable to make large career decisions. It can be difficult to think about things four or five years down the road, especially in a tech space. Many individuals believe that the future is unpredictable when it comes to technical products. I recommend thinking less about the technical aspect and more about your strengths and weaknesses, specifically what you’re looking to improve.
  • The most difficult part of decision-making is understanding yourself. Many people can see themselves in many different places in the future, and finding a specific answer is challenging. Prioritizing certain values and goals is essential, as creating a plan to achieve every possible outcome is often impossible.

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