It has been 3 months since I started a new chapter of my professional career at LinkedIn, managing the main Feed! While I have been very excited about my new role, to date I still get numerous questions from my friends, extended family and people I mentor about why I made this shift. “Didn’t you love your job?” “Why did you take a step down?” I wanted to take the time to provide an internalization of the thought process that went into this, in a way that might make sense for a lot of you who might be in a similar situation or trying to decide when and how to decide to pursue your next opportunity.
First a little background — I have spent a significant part of my professional career working at startups from being the Vice President of the Augmented Intelligence Team at Evernote to more recently being the Director of Product Engineering at Branch. I have always thought of myself as a “startup person” — the fast paced dynamic nature of the environment, the ability to really make impact and shape not only the product but also the culture, draws me in. I am also a mother of two adorable little children — a 4 year old and a 2 year old. In fact, I had both of my kids while working at startups, and let me tell you being pregnant (in some cases the first pregnant women) at a startup isn’t that easy. But I have always believed that every working women can find a balance in their career aspirations and family to make it work for them. For a lot of the reasons mentioned above, this wasn’t an easy decision for me to just move on.
How did I decide to leave Branch?
I spend a large portion of my time mentoring people in the industry, its my way to help grow the community around me. With my transition, this was the most asked question of me, not my departure but “how does one decide when the right time to leave is?”
And my simple answer to this question is: Awareness of your priorities.
Knowing what you want to optimize for, in order of priority at any given stage of your life enables you to make the right decisions for yourself
I was extremely happy at Branch, working with some amazing people, shaping the products that we were building and giving part of my life to do so. As with any startup, there are ups and downs, some long hard nights, tears and sweat, but at the end of it, it feels so worth it, because you are in the drivers seat, really making decisions to shape every aspect of the process. I LOVED it! However, I was also a mother to two adorable little children who were very young. I had my son while I was working at Branch and ever since he was small every time he fell sick with a cough, often times at night he wouldn’t be able to breathe and we would need to rush him into Emergency. Coupled with that, he was experiencing delayed language expression, which meant that at 2 years of age, a time when children should be speaking multiple words, he wasn’t able to express himself. None of this in a vacuum was something to be concerned about, they are all part of growing up, issues that I was confident with time would get better. But as a mother, who was spending a lot of time at work, advancing her career, I experienced for the first time in my career “mom guilt”. I couldn’t help but feel that somewhere along the way I did something wrong. Was Rehaan not talking because I was spending so much time at work? Was my family not getting enough parent time because I was chasing my dreams? And I know none of these questions made sense, because obviously they weren’t true, I was spending time with them, my son’s language wasn’t my fault, logically it just doesn’t make sense. But my maternal emotions got the better of me. Yes, I loved my job, but I commuted one hour each way, worked long hours to make up for the commute and at the end of the day didn’t have enough energy to truly engage with my children.
There comes a time in everyone’s life that you have to make hard choices and this was one of them. I had to decide what my priorities were. What was the one thing that I truly wanted to optimize for? — and that for me at this time was “watching my children grow up”. My work was incredibly supportive and offered several options that might have allowed me to find the balance to take care of my personal life. However, I didn’t want to be an exception at a fast paced dynamic environment, I wanted to pull the same weight as everyone else, and I know I couldn’t do justice to my job anymore.
At the end of the day it comes down to always being aware of your priorities and not being ashamed to admit it.
If you are in a stage of your life where you are considering other opportunities, as yourself one important question — What do you want to optimize for? What’s your priority?
Making a career change is hard, it’s life changing in a way and not a decision to be taken lightly. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do next and had my list of priorities ready — Impact, Culture and Balance.
Impact — a place where I could make impact on the world, being able to use technology to touch as many lives as possible.
Balance — Making impact, working hard while also affording me the luxury of being able to balance time with my family, a great commute in the bay area, in my lens does also contribute to this :).
Culture — There are lots of aspects to culture and it means different things to different people, but what I wanted to optimize for was —A people centric environment, one that I could help grow but also learn from, respectful, data driven, challenging and fun!
I honestly thought that this was a very aspirational list, and after interviewing at only one company — LinkedIn, I realized a role on the Home Feed hit all the things I was looking for at this stage of my career. It tied together my background, my aspirations with a great culture :)
A few folks asked why I went from Director to Sr. Manager implying “taking a step down” and I laughed and said:
“Step down” is a perception, in my eyes it was a “step up” :)
Besides a plethora of other reasons, my happiness — satisfaction and impact at work and the world while balancing my family in the process was what I was optimizing for — and perceptions didn’t matter to me.