My First Job: Silicon Valley. (Things I Wish I’d Known)
The following was an op-ed piece I submitted to The Muse. Since I find it relevant, I’ll post it here as well.
I don’t watch the Oscar’s. I’m just over the complete disrespect they have shown to my main man- Leo. (until last year). But there was one moment that stuck extremely vividly with me, when Matt McConaughey (fellow Texas Longhorn), accepted his award. Here’s the excerpt:
And to my hero. That’s who I chase. Now when I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say “who’s your hero?” And I said, “I don’t know, I gotta think about that. Give me a couple of weeks.” I come back two weeks later, this person comes up and says “who’s your hero?” I said, “I thought about it. You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.” So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “not even close. No, no, no.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at 35.” So you see every day, every week, every month and every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.
That inspirational speech at the Academy Awards always stuck with me; because in 2006, I believed I would be a savant in the legal field. The opportunity to attend a Top Business School meant very little to me at the time. I graduated with a degree in Finance & Management; ready for law school. But, life takes unexpected turns. When I didn’t get into my top choice school, I was left scrambling. I spent the last four years building a legal resume, not one for Wall Street. I closed my eyes and begin to apply to almost any company I could think of. Few months later, I was presented an offer to join Facebook, before it was a public company. Here I was: legally motivated & financially educated, about to take a tech job. Although the experience itself was rewarding, I tended to find myself at odds whether this particular position would lead to the one I aspired for. I had spent the last 6 years making decisions for a future I had absolutely no idea I wanted to pursue.
Life Plan’s Doesn’t Make You Carlton Banks.
One of the most blatant secrets to succeed in your career is to actually think about where you want to be at different stages of it. Regardless of your passion, growth is synonymous with happiness. You want to make educated decisions to help put you in a position to achieve your goals. I knew I eventually wanted to make an impact at an executive level; but that didn’t necessarily help me answer questions of “Where should I live in my 20’s”, “Is Grad School right for me”, “Is staying at Facebook the cool or practical choice”. I was concerned of the here & now; not necessarily thinking what this translated in 3–7 years. I’m reminded of Carlton Banks (#FreshPrince) where he busts out a giant poster of his “30 year life plan” right before he interviews with Princeton.
There is no need for one elaborate scheme (because things change!), but there is a need of having multiple timelines. Sit down and think about where you want to be in 3, 5, 7 years, and work backwards. Have you set yourself in a position to be where you want to be? Is the job you’re currently doing going to help you get the job you want down the line?
Mark Zuckerberg’s Leadership Ladder
My third day at Facebook was most likely the most spiritual I have experienced in my career. Mark Zuckerberg had given his town hall to the company where he ended the speech with “set goals you can’t achieve.”
His argument was when we set unattainable goals; we develop habits that push us to our peak. In the process, we learn how to work effectively to help us reach goals that are still amazing. Just as important as the result, is the process. Building good habits is critical towards achieving growth. At a tech ‘start-up’, where the distractions of free food, drinks, nap pods, scooters, and x-Box just scream your name- it’s important to prioritize and shut out distractions that can build bad habits. I say this while my 22 year-old self at the time was happily on his 4th bowl of raspberry crunch and engaged in a GTA tournament at 11am. On a Tuesday. (learn from my mistakes).
The Black Mamba is the Habitual Creature You Want to Be.
Kobe Bryant and I have a lot in common. Our birthdays are three days apart. We tore our Achilles wearing the same pair of shoes 5 days apart, and we both are stubborn students of history. Kobe wasn’t always my idol. I hated his demeanor and introverted personality. But the more I learned about him, I grew to admire him. Kobe’s abrasive attitude towards the world stems from his constant attention to perfect his craft. Regardless of his success, he will always give credit to two things: routine & idols. He is constantly looking up to past players on ways to improve (have a mentor or a ‘ghost’ you chase).
He also has a routine that keeps him disciplined. The two go hand in hand in your career; always make sure you know exactly when you need to focus on a task. In a Generation X world, it’s easy for us to have a couple of energy drinks and crank out a project. In the real world, it requires a check on our mental health to give focus to many things throughout the day. Always give respect to your ability to get thing’s done.
Care About Your Craft.
Towards the end of my tenure at Facebook, I learned a lot about myself. I was definitely better at basketball in real life than on Xbox, naps are welcome anytime of the day, and I knew more about internal systems development than most people my age. What does that mean to a Finance graduate who deferred law school? For once, I felt I developed a tangible skillset I could carry throughout my career. Often times we look for shortcuts without realizing if we’re developing anything real.
Doctors must master human anatomy; Developers must be able to write code, and Chef’s should know how to sear a steak. For other careers, there are blurred lines between being good at what you do, and being good at delivering what you think you’re good at. Learn early on your career to develop the technical skillset that will make you unique. Experience is defined as what one learns. Being able to translate that across professions and industries will help build the path that is meant for you.
Take advantage of experimental learning and online courses! These are your best friend when you want to learn something efficiently without the cost of going back to school or bugging your co-workers. Our generation will have career paths that are generally not taught in most schools- so you will have to be creative. Get ahead of the curve, learn about X, Y and Z while you have the energy to do so.
Its 2016, and it’s been exactly 10 years. Am I my Hero? Well no! My hero is still ten years away. Looking back over the past decade, my experience has shaped my ability to expect the unexpected. Am I happy with where I am? Of course not! I’ve worn many hats as a Technologist from Manager to Entrepreneur. Roles have varied from analyst to executive. At the end of the day, the only difference is my ability to stay ahead of the curve.
The only thing we can do as professionals is to prepare ourselves for whatever life throws at us.