Angie Chang: Welcome to another episode of Girl Geek X podcast, connecting you to the best insight from women in tech. I’m Angie, founder of Girl Geek X, and this podcast brings you the best of Girl Geek Dinners, where we’ve been elevating women in tech for over 10 years.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Hi, I’m Sukrutha. CTO of Girl Geek X.
Gretchen DeKnikker: And I’m Gretchen DeKnikker, COO at Girl Geek X.
Rachel Jones: I’m Rachel, the producer of this podcast.
Angie Chang: And today we’ll be sharing advice on navigating career transitions.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: This is a really interesting topic for me, because I have always struggled with having this five year plan or ten year plan that actually I could relate to. Sure, I would create one, but I never really stuck to it. What did you all feel like, after listening to topics about career transitions?
Gretchen DeKnikker: My career is just … I’m 46 years old. I’ve never had a five-year plan, and since I’m in the middle of like my midlife crisis of like I don’t know what I want to do with like the third wave of my career, I sort of wonder if maybe I should have. Maybe you can help me, Sukrutha, write my five-year, like, here’s what you should do with the last few years of your career. I think I’ve always just followed my heart and I’ve always sort of followed the next thing that felt like the right thing. And that’s advice that I give and sometimes, lately, now that I’m in this cloud of, I don’t know what I want to do next. I wonder if it’s good advice, but I’ve always given the advice of, don’t be afraid to take a left turn. Have a plan, have a good understanding of where you’re headed, but don’t be afraid if something comes up and it doesn’t fit the plan that it feels like the right thing to go explore that. Especially when you’re younger where you really can’t screw up. You really can’t, any career thing you do, particularly in your twenties, you really can’t screw up any path, you could just find new paths and new passions by leaving yourself open. Because you really don’t even know yourself as well as you’re going to as you get older, so you don’t have to have it all figured out when you’re 27, or even 32.
Angie Chang: It was at a Girl Geek Dinner that I had met some very inspiring women in tech who were doing things like having a kid and writing iOS apps on the side, or women who were product managers at really admirable companies, and they would tell me how they were still interviewing for new jobs and opportunities and always keeping a door open and looking for the next best thing. That always surprised me but also made me realize how we have to be on top of our own careers, even when everyone else thinks that we have a great career already, there are those women who are already thinking about what’s next as well. So, we’re always having to be open to going to networking events, talking to more people, and looking around the corner at what’s coming because we are in the silicon valley, of defining the next role, the next field, the next industry, is our responsibility we have to take upon ourselves.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: I wonder if you’re more likely to make a career transition when you have no options, or when you have a backup option that’s not scary.
Gretchen DeKnikker: That’s a good point. Yeah.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Because I remember reading about this. It’s not a ladder to the top. It’s like a jungle gym, right? There’s so many different parts to go to the top, and every experience you’re gaining is gonna help you in the long term. But with career transitions, they don’t necessarily have to be a lateral move. It could be that you’re taking two steps back to take one giant leap forward, and it’s just thinking about that in a way that it’s not detrimental to your career. It’s what will make it easier for you, I think.
Gretchen DeKnikker: Do you have an example of what you mean when you take the …?
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah. For me, after 5 years in my first job, I wanted to change jobs because I felt I wasn’t learning. I could’ve stayed as the big fish in the small pond, but I recognized that if I stayed I would just not grow.
Angie Chang: And just personal context, I remember when I met you, you were a software engineer in test end dev quality engineering and I was always asking you about that, and then you made the transition to become an engineering manager.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: That’s right, so what happens when you make a move like that is that you’re putting yourself into a situation where you’re a beginner again. So you’re having to prove yourself again and you would think, oh my gosh, that’s gonna take longer, that’s gonna cause a delay in my growth, but growth means so many different things. You have to decide what growth you’re after.
Angie Chang: Absolutely. I think people should always be looking to apply to new opportunities and roles you never thought about, just to have those interesting exploratory conversations of how they might have value to other industries and companies and who knows, you might get a really interesting offer, you might make some good connections. Maybe increase your salary.
Rachel Jones: During our panel on engineering leadership, a few women actually shared thought exercises that they’ve used to help chart out their careers. Sukrutha, could you tell us more about that panel?
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, so Angie and I met Arquay Harris, and she is a Director of Engineering at Slack. And the really, really fun tidbit we learned about her that night was that she got her job at Slack through a Girl Geek dinner that she attended a few years ago. We hear great things about her. She’s a terrific manager, her past experience includes Google and CNET, and at the dinner we asked her about what she thinks about her career at engineering leadership and how she thinks of it at that Girl Geek Dinner. That evening, we also met Kimber Lockhart, who is now the CTO of One Medical. She’s spoken at a past Girl Geek Dinner when Box sponsored it while she was a VP of engineering there. Consistently she’s given great advice about framing your career and thinking more about the challenges that you might face, and working around it, and building your career path. Here’s what she had to say.
Arquay Harris: I try to think about it in terms of what is the highest aspiration that I have for myself? And a lot of people think about five year plans and if I look back at my life five years ago I probably would not think that I would be in the position that I’m in. But what I mean by highest aspiration is, is it to be CEO of a company? Is it to be CTO of a company? Is it to just continue to be director of engineering? And knowing that helps me figure out how to chart my career. It’s like the north star. So for example, if I said, I wanna one day be CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I would probably make different career decisions. I might try to get bigger and bigger teams, I might move jobs more often, I might have different goals. Up until very recently, my aspiration for myself, I like the director of engineering level. I like the ability to mentor people on a one-to-one level. I like that human interaction, and I feel that in some roles, like if I’m CTO of a company that has 10,000 engineers, it’s probably difficult to do that in the way that I would like to do that. Not that it’s good or bad, that’s what I see as the highest aspiration for myself. But I think, though, I would say if you had asked me that today, maybe that answer is different, right? And so understanding that and knowing that as my experiences change, that that aspiration maybe changes, and then maybe I’ll have to think, maybe I should do things differently, I should network, maybe I should do things like Girl Geek Dinners, right? So you get more exposure, whatever that happens to be, I think understanding what that north star is pretty important.
Kimber Lockhart: I occasionally give a workshop on career paths and thinking about career paths. And one of my very favorite exercises from that workshop is that we draw three different pictures of things that could happen that might be dream career moments. And so I draw, for example, well maybe I’m gonna quit my job and join a venture capital firm, and go interview a bunch of heads of engineering, and write a book about everything I just learned. Wouldn’t that be fun? My other one’s, I’m gonna be the CTO of the US and won’t that be very exciting except maybe not right now. The point of the exercise isn’t so much the crazy visions, but the part where you look at of those visions and say, what about this can enhance my career right now? So I did that crazy vision exercise around writing that book, and I said, you know what I wanna do? I wanna get my ideas out there. I want to start writing. And so about a year ago I said, I’m going to make time to start writing essays, and started posting on Medium, something anybody can do, and found that it was a wonderful way to grow my career in a direction that it hadn’t been before. It wasn’t just about aiming for what is the next level up in the management chain, but rather, what is another dimension that I can add to my career today?
Rachel Jones: So have exercises like what these women suggest been helpful for any of you? Sukrutha, I know you mentioned creating a five-year plan.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: That evening, when I heard Arquay talk about her highest goal and her highest aspiration, that made me go home and think about, what is my highest goal or highest aspiration that I want? And do I want to continue where I am or what my north star is, like she said. I try to chart it out that way but it’s not always that I will follow it exactly to the tee. But it makes it easy if I have multiple options like Kimber called out, right? Think about three different options for yourself and design according to that. I’ve found that it’s been a bit easier for me to take risks because the one thing that I try to avoid is to just stay where I’m comfortable, because then I’m not really growing. What do you think, Angie?
Angie Chang: I think having those three different scenarios is a really great exercise. I’ve heard people who invested in having some professional coaching have mentioned having this framework or exercise of thinking through at night, what are these three diverse things that could happen in your life? So that gives you not just one point. If you don’t succeed in becoming a CTO, you might wind up being a really great security leader at a different type of company. There’s different ways to think outside of that very rigid box of what we see as success.
Gretchen DeKnikker: For some reason this is also making me think about when people talk about going back to school. People are always seeking advice. Particularly, going to business school and getting their MBA. And I think the advice I always give is, well what are you going to do afterwards? And if you don’t have a clear goal of what the outcome is, what the thing is that you’re gonna get, then there’s no reason to give up two years of income and two years of your life, and then business school is hard anyway. It’s great, it’s fun, but if you don’t have a specific outcome that you’re looking for, and this would apply to school in general about not doing it. And I think that Kimber’s way that she looks at it is one of those lenses of oh, well what if I went back to school? It’s something I think about all the time. Mostly because I just think oh, I don’t wanna work anymore, and then I think, okay, so you’re gonna give up how many years of income and run up a whole bunch of debt probably? And then what, exactly, is the job that you’re gonna have afterwards? Are you just kind of looking for an academic vacation?
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, so I had to actually go through an exercise similar to this when I was thinking about what I wanted to do next when I was still an engineer. And so I worked with a career coach that was assigned to me through a work program and she asked me to think about my three options, so I said, all right, so I want to stay in tech, I know that. I could be an engineering manager, I could move in to product management, or I could remain an individual contributor and engineering leader. And so she asked me questions like, what is it about that role that you think you’re going to like, and what do you think you’re not gonna like? What do you think you’re going to be really, really good at, and what about those roles do you think you want to be good at? So just working through an exercise like that really helped me.
Gretchen DeKnikker: Angie, you decided to kind of go from your pioneering Women 2.0 days, and then you made the transition to work at Hackbright. What was your process there?
Angie Chang: You have talked about going to business school, and many people I know that go to business school wind up becoming product managers. As someone who’s been a product manager twice, I found that it’s not necessarily about the title, but it’s about the work that you do. And I was very attracted to the idea of Hackbright, which was outside of anything I’d done before. Joining a very tiny crew of people who are trying to do an experiment called teaching adult women to code and get jobs in tech sounded very exciting. So I jumped for that, wound up being a good decision and a good pivot in my career, because I was able to also change what I had been doing. Because previously I was in product and engineering, I also was writing, and then through joining a place like Hackbright I was able to join the business department and work under the CEO of my first official business role. And from there, after four years, I continue to bring that business lens to Girl Geek X and to my next career, and so it’s been a great pivot that I didn’t plan, but just followed the opportunities as they came. And in fact, I remember that the founder of Hackbright came to a Girl Geek Dinner, and said, hey, this is my idea, and I was like, interesting. And the fact that he dared to come to the Girl Geek Dinner and be an ally and pitch what he was working on, and I followed through and visited the campus, I was like, okay, this is legit. This is a really good initiative. There’s good people here. So I think you have to really just open yourself up to these opportunities and follow through with them if they turn out to be right opportunities.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: That’s great.
Rachel Jones: It’s really helpful having these tips for ways to think through what you wanna do in your career, but how do you know when it’s time to actually start taking those next steps?
Gretchen DeKnikker: I think for me, because I’ve always done really early stage companies, there’s usually the coming to terms with my current role and how I feel about it, and then what do I want to do next. The first part of it, for me anyway, is when you start finding yourself unhappy and you start thinking about, okay, what are the ways that I could change this, right? Do I need to change the role, do I need to learn some new skills, do I need to try to have a different manager? What are the ways out of it? And for me, particularly in small companies, there aren’t a lot of those opportunities and options. So then it becomes okay, am I happy more days than I’m not, and then when you get to the point where you wake up and you’re like that was three days this week that I woke up and went, ugh instead of thinking, oh my God, I have twenty things to do and hopping out of bed because you want to get them done. And so then coming to the all right, so what do I like about this job that I would like to do at my next job, what do I not like about this job that I don’t want to do at my next job, and starting to look at it that way.
Angie Chang: And oftentimes I think the scariest thing is just starting and being able to say to your friends when you’d see them for brunch and saying, I’m gonna be open to new opportunities. Please let me know if there’s anything interesting that comes along.
Gretchen DeKnikker: Oh, come on. Last time you posted that on Facebook! She was like, not happy. I was like, wow, that is bold. She was just like, hey, I’m opening some new stuff.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Contact me. I think that was really, really, really gutsy and awesome.
Gretchen DeKnikker: It was amazing!
Sukrutha Bhadouria: I would do that, too. Tell everybody you meet what you want. Someone will make it happen. Because that’s basically you making it happen.
Gretchen DeKnikker: I made a list one time one time of 25 people I was gonna have coffee with, and by the time I was done with the coffees I thought I would have a plan. I was doing customer development for my life, right? And by talking to all these people, a pattern was going to emerge and by the end of it I was going to know what job I wanted. It didn’t totally work out that way, but I had a very good sense of what kind of company I wanted, what kind of leadership team I wanted, what kind of space I wanted to work in, and now I’m still kind of trying to apply that plan, but the process was very worth it. And you get to talk to people.
Rachel Jones: It can be scary thinking through giving up a job that you have to take the next step, even if you are unhappy or you feel like you’re not getting the kind of growth that you need. So how do you navigate that and know when it’s time to move on?
Sukrutha Bhadouria: I think I’m a little bit more risk averse than I should be and so my whole thing is, what’s the worst case scenario? Is staying at my current situation the worst case scenario? Then that’s fine, you know? And so if that’s being without a job, or with a job that I hate, is it okay to just put up with it for two more months? Or is it better to be without a job? That sort of thing is what I try to think about, but it’s not always easy, I’m gonna say that. So, I don’t know how you do it, Gretchen.
Gretchen DeKnikker: So I let myself get to a point where I’m really, really unhappy and then, because I’m in such a state of unhappiness I have a very hard time thinking about what I want to do next because I lack that optimism or the mental space to be able to dream and imagine. So more than once I’ve left a job without another job and not in a good financial situation, but just knowing that that was sort of the forcing function and that that was the only thing that was actually going to make me move forward was to close that door. Because then you’re like, there’s no net! There’s no net! I better get some wings and start figuring out how to fly. I don’t know that I would give that advice to other people. I just know it’s really the only thing that I’ve–
Angie Chang: I think some of the women that I have admired for their careers, they’ve always took time out every year at least once or twice to take a day off and really explore new opportunities even though they had a perfectly great company and job title at the time. So I think when I look at people that I admire but I haven’t done that level of self-investment but I really aspire to do that.
Rachel Jones: I think this conversation about risk relates a lot to a story we heard at our dinner with Quantcast. Angie, can you tell us some more about that?
Angie Chang: A senior software engineer at Quantcast, Malvika Mathur, spoke about moving from her cushy job at Microsoft to a relatively unknown tech startup called Quantcast. And she talks about her thinking on the matter here, this quote.
Malvika Mathur: I joined Quantcast January of 2017, but before that I was working in Microsoft for five years in the India headquarters at Hyderabad. And I joined as a 21-year-old, right out of college, and I was like, damn it, that’s it, I’m done, I’ve accomplished everything that I need to, right? So happy with myself. But the 21-year-old me was really naïve as well. So the first three years were really great, but then, early 2016, my husband and I decided to relocate to San Francisco. I was like, well, okay, Microsoft has offices here, there are teams here, I’m just gonna stick and move to one of those teams. So I was in talks with recruiters and figuring out what I need to do next, and then decided to talk with one of my mentors. And he asked me something really important, something I never thought I’d ask myself. He asked me, why do you want to stay? I was like, why is that even a question? It’s my dream company, the pay is great, all my friends are here, I like the work. Why would I want to move? But then he asked me again, why do you want to stay here? And I thought about it. Turns out the answers for both these questions are not the same. Thought about what I’d done so far in Microsoft, I thought about, if I move to a team here, what would it mean for me? And I realized it’s gonna slow down my growth trajectory. And that’s something that’s really important to me. It’s great to be learning new technologies, but I realized that as a developer, that’s not all I wanted to do. I didn’t wanna just go in and write code. I wanna do something more. Contribute more in the work that I do. And suddenly, life out of Microsoft became like an option. Since I was moving to the Bay Area, working at a startup was suddenly on my shortlist. So I started looking for jobs. And looking for jobs is hard. It is exhausting. And I realized that, subconsciously, that was one of the reasons I didn’t want to move out. I was in a stable job, I was comfortable, I had my friends around. I didn’t want to move. But in the whole process of not looking for a new job, I ended up ignoring the whole process of what’s right for me and my career at that point. So I started to evaluate that, and I started to give that a lot of focus. When I was interviewing at all these companies, they’re asking me questions, but I also made sure I was asking these guys the right questions as well. Because I wasn’t that girl anymore who joined a big company and was excited with any project. I wanted to do more things and I wanted to make sure that wherever I went, I got those things.
Gretchen DeKnikker: I think the really interesting part of Malvika’s story is her manager asking her why does she want to stay and really making sure that she understood it’s almost that thing of, if you were re-interviewing for this job today, would you still want it, right? It’s sort of like that. And having someone who will force you to go through that process of really evaluating, you know, if you were gonna buy a house would you buy the same house that you’re in, or whatever the decision is, to make sure that just because it’s fine, is it great? Is it the thing that’s gonna get you where you want to go. I spent the past few weeks with one of the girls that I’ve been mentoring over the years and she was approached. She’s fairly happy in her current role, but she was approached by another company and they came to her with three undefined roles that she might be good at, and she was really struggling. She didn’t know which one she wanted to pick, and I was like, that’s because you don’t know what you want to do next. So she’s like, and it feels like one is too small, and another one is like one-and-a-half roles. And I was like, okay, well then you need to deconstruct all of these things that they want done and then maybe rebuild the job listing for yourself. But in the process, what I was really hoping she would do was take that and figure out what she wanted to do. Which is, over time, eventually what she did, which was cool, I Jedi mind tricked her into figuring out what she wanted to do next. And then it turned out that she decided she wanted to stay. She saw more positive things in her current role than she saw in the beginning just by contrasting it with the roles that she had going.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: That is such an interesting way of looking at it. Would you chose the situation you’re in now if you had more options? Would you seek out those more options? I think we don’t put ourselves in those situations mentally to think about it until it’s an extreme situation where someone’s asking you, are you having a life event that’s making you think about other options. But it’s really good to evaluate that.
Angie Chang: Now, ten years later in my career, I’m like, maybe people should actively bookmark a day or two in their lives to go and seek new opportunities, despite their happiness level at their company, just to make sure they know where they’re gonna be going in the future.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, I think that’s great, to do that regularly. My thing is that, just thinking about this, I feel like I should make a plan to continuously mentally put myself in that situation of looking for other opportunities, even if I don’t need it, because I might discover something.
Angie Chang: Maybe it’s not even a new opportunity as in a new full-time job, maybe it’s also joining an organization, starting another–There’s so many women’s professional networks that are growing these days, I’ve noticed there’s a lot of women in product, women in data science, women X. There’s so many women that are starting to speak more, there’s so many things you can do.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: That reminds me of what we go through with Girl Geek. We thought about this. Things were going great with the dinners, we were getting great feedback, and we wanted to more, so then we thought of the virtual conference, and then we thought about a podcast. Maybe applying that to ourselves as a self-growth mechanism would also be a good way to do it.
Rachel Jones: Yeah, thinking of it as you don’t have to be in a dire situation or have no other options before you start thinking about ways to move forward is really important.
Gretchen DeKnikker: Yeah, we always tell everyone at the events, build your network before you need it, and this is build your path before you actually want to walk on it. Those two things can definitely go hand-in-hand.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Or even before you think you need to walk on it, right?
Gretchen DeKnikker: Before you’ve even got shoes.
Angie Chang: Yes.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: How well in advance can you be a planner? But you have to be willing to adapt well, too, because every plan you make may not be a plan that you can follow to the tee.
Gretchen DeKnikker: I’m a terrible plan follower.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Oh yeah, I’m pretty bad too. I think it’s that thing, the January 1st is when all gyms are so full.
Gretchen DeKnikker: Hit January 15th, it looks the same.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: No one.
Angie Chang: Yeah.
Gretchen DeKnikker: When you’re thinking about when is the right time and what’s gonna be that forcing function, I think it changes in your career, what that thing is gonna be. Malvika’s story was fairly early in her career, right? She was still in her early 20s when she was talking about doing this, and so she made the decision from a place of the role, and then obviously she had this desire to work at a startup, so she was willing to leave this company that she’d always wanted to work for and she felt really proud of working there into something else. For me, my 20s was about gaining skills, my 30s was about becoming a manager and getting to know myself better, but 40s is my way of learning how to be strategic and how to get all of these things to work together where you’re a manager of managers and you can only give so much instruction, but you have to do it in this strategic way that people are going to figure it out and be able to follow. And that’s required me, every single step of the way, learning more and more about myself, and then more and more about what motivates different people. But particularly understanding what you bring to the table, your biases, your weaknesses, and how to hire around that, also, and hire people that balance your weaknesses. And that you’re finding the right people for your team that aren’t necessarily always the people you wanna go have a drink with, but they’re the people who bring something to the table that isn’t already there. So this segues really great into our next section featuring two speakers from Care.com. Dominique is the Senior Director of Growth and Product, and then Sheila Marcelo is the CEO and Chairwoman at Care.com and just an all-around general badass that we were so excited to have speak.
Dominique Baillet: So I’ve actually made a lot of career moves in my life. I’ve had a number of different professional jobs and when I was earlier in my career and where I am now, I’ve always made choices based on where do I think I’m gonna learn the most, and where am I gonna grow the most? And what’s interesting is that, what I need to learn and grow has changed as I’ve gotten older. And so when I was earlier in my career, it was all about skill development. Where can I learn transferable skills, where can I learn the most from mentors about how to actually do something. At a certain point in your career you actually check the competency box, and then you migrate over into a territory of now you just need to be really confident and you need to be able to walk into a room, command that room, and there’s a different level of skill there. And so actually, like many people up here have said, one of the reasons that I joined Care is, I’d gotten to a point in my career where I could check the competency boxes, have the degrees and all of that. But I was in environments where when I looked above, I didn’t really see examples of leaders that felt like, that’s the type of leader I could be. And so I found myself feeling like, wow, in order to continue to rise, I really need to change my style, I really need to do something different, and it felt uncomfortable. It felt like, that was gonna be hard for me to do in an authentic way. And so coming to Care, actually, and being able to learn from Sheila and seeing not only Sheila, but other executives in more senior positions than me and being like, yeah, I get them. And I can get there with the style I have or with the skill I have and there’s other things I need to learn but still feeling like it was possible. And for me that was really important to continue to get that next level of confidence, to truly believe that with what I have, I can get there. And that, frankly, was just a lot harder if I was in environments where I couldn’t look above and see examples of leaders like me.
Sheila Marcelo: I’ll just add to this. It’s so competitive in the Bay Area. Lots of different areas, but even more so here. You get recruiters are pinging you all the time, there’s just so many opportunities. They’re pitching you the next startup or company. There’s great companies. And I think the thing that I’ve been focused on in my career is long-term relationships. I probably interviewed once and updated my resume from one of my first jobs and I haven’t since because I just kept moving from company to company following leaders that I believed in that actually gave me opportunities and continued to help grow me and believe in me. Because that’s difficult to replicate. There will be plenty of startups, there will be plenty of sexy new technology, there will be plenty of great, great opportunities recruiters will always pitch you. And if you follow the opportunity and the pitch, sometimes you luck out, it’s gonna be great, and then you can retire young. There’s a lot of potential of that in the Bay Area. But then there’s also the journey in life, which is who you wanna be around, so there’s definitely purpose. But I think there’s also just the richness of where we spend most of our time, majority of our time in our lives. And so if in fact you enjoy the people that you work with, and you’ve found that tribe, I’m always encouraging people to say, try and stick with that tribe. Move from company to company. I’m completely fine when somebody says, look, we’ve worked together, I’m gonna leave for a little bit, and we’ve had people boomerang back, or we work two, three companies later together. Might not be the next one. So it’s just something to think about as you look at opportunities, is to actually look at the people in your life who’s helping continue to sponsor and help you grow and catapult you to opportunities because they know you well. That’s really what you want to do in your career would be my just small piece of advice.
Gretchen DeKnikker: I think what was interesting about what Dominique and Sheila had to add was in contrast to Malvika, who was earlier in her career, Dominique is really talking about the challenges in your mid-career where you stop looking for skills and really start looking for other growth opportunities. And her advice I found myself just nodding all the way through when she was speaking. It really resonated with me. And then Sheila really just talks about finding the right people and sticking with them. And prioritizing the people that you work with over other things because there’s always that great thing that comes out of it when you have solid team that can really, really deliver things.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, so, listening to Sheila’s talk, I wonder if it’s more likely to be women who choose the people they work with over the actual technology or their role or the responsibilities they have been given. I wonder if that would make you less risk averse as a result, because you’re choosing a happy community over uncomfortable situations, maybe.
Gretchen DeKnikker: I totally see why she gives that advice, and on so many levels, I agree with it. I think the only part I feel may be similar to you that how much are you growing if you’re always with these same teams and you’re essentially somewhat in the same role. I’m sure that you’re getting, as your director leaves and they become a V.P. somewhere else, then you come in as a director, things like that. I think there is something about it. I think the other part that I thought about when she was talking about it was, if you stick with these teams, this is sort of how we end up with a lack of diversity. We end up with a lack of cognitive diversity. Having the same people that obviously think similarly enough that you can function very effectively as a team, how much are you growing even just as a human when you always have the same set of people at the table? You see this a lot in Silicon Valley. Teams move around together. But I also think that’s a little bit part of the problem. Or maybe a big part of the problem, I don’t know. But it’s hard to prioritize that versus as an individual I do want to be happy every day and I don’t know that I can change the world by having this job, and should I go take a job where I’m super uncomfortable in this hopes of changing the world, right? And I don’t have an answer for that, but it’s definitely something to think about.
Angie Chang: I’ve always gone for work that was interesting. I never particularly thought about people. I love you all. It’s not a first, right? You do good work and there happens to be good people there, but I’ve never looked at it as people first. I don’t know if that’s a masculine or a feminine trait or anything.
Gretchen DeKnikker: I think it’s whatever it is that makes you happy, right? If I’m around a bunch of people I can’t stand, I’m miserable 24/7, even if I’m solving a really interesting problem, but that’s just something I know about myself. I mean there was definitely one company that I stayed a little bit longer than I really wanted to because I felt like I loved the people there so much and there was still the opportunity to change the role and have it evolve so that it became challenging again, versus trying to go find someplace where I loved the culture and the people that I worked with so much, and that there was that opportunity to change that one piece that would be less difficult than going and trying to find that magical formula that I wouldn’t even have known how to replicate at another company.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Right.
Rachel Jones: Yeah, how important to you in thinking about new roles you might take on is the culture of the place where you’d be working? Versus what you would be doing there?
Sukrutha Bhadouria: I feel like, for me, it depends. It depends if it’s a culture that I think I can improve or I can learn from. And of course if the work is interesting. Then I will pay attention to the culture. But if it’s 100% toxic and I just don’t enjoy the work challenge, either, then I’m not even gonna try.
Gretchen DeKnikker: I think at this point in my career, in my thirties it definitely had to be a super interesting problem and the people really mattered, too. But I think at this point in my career, it’s so important, particularly because the roles I do, I end up working directly with the CEO, and having that relationship be really solid. And at small companies, the CEO really dictates the culture. And so I think those two things go so hand-in-hand. And those two things have to mesh really, really well or I’m miserable and I can’t even be effective at my job because of that mismatch in styles or whatever it is. That’s honestly maybe the most important thing at this point.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Is it fair to say then that the best metric to choose to measure an opportunity by is how effective do you think you’re gonna be? Never mind everything else. Do you think that’s a good single metric that we can pick?
Angie Chang: I feel that’s very idealistic. I always want to be effective and I always want to do things that are impactful, but that’s really hard to measure.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Yeah, I wonder how much you can measure of that before you take the job.
Angie Chang: They’re always trying to sell you, right? You’re only getting the best parts.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: So how I can see how if you already knew someone who was in that company or in that team you could get more insight, so if you already have that connection. Like Sheila talked about.
Gretchen DeKnikker: And I think that there’s, particularly with your manager, because your manager’s really gonna make or break your role. People don’t leave companies, they leave managers. It exists. It’s a saying for a reason, right? And I think if there’s anything that comes up in the interview process where you’re like, that’s probably gonna be an actual thing later. It’s usually just a little sign of what’s coming. It’s kind of that first date, where you’re like, is he a jerk? Should we even go on a second date? Where you’re just really evaluating the basics of making a mental note of that. If we come back to that later and he still seems like a jerk, he’s out.
Angie Chang: So career transitions has been an awkward topic for me, personally. I always found myself, when I start to peter at a job, I found myself not actively self-sabotaging, but not working extra hard to pick up the pieces. And instead focusing my time on my side projects, like Girl Geek Dinners, or Women 2.0. And then almost pushing myself to the point that I would get, laid off with severance, and like, yes, I can pursue my new opportunities now! And I think hindsight’s 20/20, and we always come up with this great advice that we end up giving other people, such as actively seek out coffee conversations, or actively seek out x, y, and z. And we do that, and that’s great, but we should probably also follow that advice that we give other people.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: Just talking through it with all of you has made it so much easier for me to think about what I want to do on a regular basis. Just like everything else, this is a muscle. You need to keep reevaluating what it is that you want out of your career, you want out of life, to be prepared for the sudden changes that might come about.
Angie Chang: I feel like people come to Girl Geek Dinners oftentimes, they’re often coming from work, they’re very stressed out from their work, and I can see them listening to the speakers and they’re kinda crunching through their head what they have to do, but also taking into account what these women on stage are talking about and thinking through is this the right time to stand up for this or that? Or should I go talk to a recruiter about this really interesting role here? And it’s a constant game of checking in with ourselves, as well where we want to be, and looking at new opportunities.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: How about we end this with a commitment. Like a takeaway. What are each one of us going to do to help us with career transitions. Help ourselves. So I definitely, definitely want to think about is this the role, is this a job that I would chose now? And I wanna commit to this annual review. Keeping time aside every year to think about, is this exactly what I wanna do? What do you think you want to commit to as we end the year?
Angie Chang: I think definitely committing to the asking yourself is this the role that I signed up for originally and where I wanna go from here? Where do I want to see myself in a year? In five years? What is the best case scenario? What is the worst case scenario? What’s a good doable scenario?
Gretchen DeKnikker: I feel like a jerk, but I don’t know that I have a commitment to myself, just because I’ve been literally living in this two year career transition right now of trying to figure out what I want to do next. So I feel like I spend so much time thinking about it, that I don’t know what to commit to.
Sukrutha Bhadouria: I think I struggle with choosing something based off of will it make me happy? Because it’s so vague, for one, and then the other thing is that for me, it’s like exercising. While I’m doing it, I don’t like it. When it’s done, I’m glad I did it. I’m not always loving what I’m doing at that moment. I just learn to enjoy it at some point.
Angie Chang: Thanks for listening to this episode of Girl Geek X podcast. We’ll be back soon with more advice from women in tech and our two cents.
Rachel Jones: This podcast is produced by me, Rachel Jones. To learn more about Girl Geek X, or buy tickets to our next event, visit girlgeek.io. You can also find video and transcripts from the events we went through today. If you’re interested in hosting a Girl Geek Dinner, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angie Chang: This Girl Geek podcast is brought to you by Quantcast. Quantcast specializes in real-time advertising and audience measurement. As the pioneer of direct audience measurement, Quantcast has the most in-depth understanding of digital audiences across the Web, allowing marketers and publishers to make the smartest choices as they buy and sell the most effective targeted advertising on the market. This podcast is also brought to you by Care.com! Spanning child care to senior care, pet care, housekeeping and more, Care.com provides a sweeping array of services for families and caregivers to find, manage and pay for care or find employment and manage their careers. Headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts, Care.com has offices in Berlin, Austin, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Angie Chang: You can find video and transcripts from these events at our newly redesigned website. Go check it out, girlgeek.io.
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