Monday, April 11, 2016

How Do You Shape Your Career?

[Good reading for fresh grads and those who want to change their career!]

I checked my LinkedIn profile rarely. I know it's a treasure trove for networking, but I have managed to get by building communities and getting more people to use technology through offline means (since the purpose of what I do is to get more people to use technology). I also rarely read email notifications from social media sites, but one email caught my eye. It was from an educator/musician from Sydney and he was asking for advise on how to improve his career. He also mentioned that it would really be an achievement if he'd be able to join the company I'm working for.

It took me a few days to respond to him since I had to think about how I managed to land the job I have now. I never planned to work for a global company. I always thought I'd spend my whole career in the Philippines. There was one thing I did that helped me shape my career: I purposely picked up many different skills since I was a student. And here's I picked up skills along the way:

Organizing and Being Focused. I learned this from my Mom. When I was about four years old my parents and our neighbors worked on building a new and bigger Parish church. They had most of their meetings at our house and being the baby of the neighborhood I always sat with them. My Mom always thinks ahead and lists down everything that needs to be down. I learned the 5Ps from her -- proper planning prevents poor performance.

Communications and Writing. I realized when I was in high school that I was a very bad writer. I started writing when I was just 8 years old and when I read my diary I realized I was a really bad writer. I joined the writing club and eventually our university's literary publication to improve my writing skills. I wasn't as good as my friends and I still feel awkward with my compositions until today, but I improved. I could write in both English and Filipino and the skills makes it easy for me to write reports, blog posts at work. The skill has helped me put together appropriate stories for my audience (especially during reviews).

Sales and Distribution. My first corporate job was at a telco and our team was tasked to break in new products in our sales channels. I learned to pitch, close sales and maintain relationships with frontliners to purchasing to executives. I'm not very good at selling and getting a no from a client always breaks my heart, but it helped me have better interpersonal skills and presentation skills. From this job I learned also how to strategize breaking in new products.

Production and Being Entrepreneurial. When I left the telco I worked on completing my MBA. My parents then decided to start a business on manufacturing stone crafted furniture. I had to learn to do costing, purchasing, production, managing workers, banking and finance etc. It was very hard to be an entrepreneur and at that time the export market was very hard to crack. I learned a lot about production processes since we were in manufacturing. The key skills I got from this stint was costing, budgeting and creating forecasts.

Marketing. Aside from production work, I was in-charge as well of marketing our items. This was back in early 2000s so digital marketing was just starting back then. Aside from offline brochures, I learned how to create a website and I explored the many online directories. It's so effective that we still get calls until today even if we closed shop more than a decade ago already. During this time I realized that I had a huge interested in the online world and I wanted to become a product manager.

Product Management. Since my son was growing up fast and generating furniture and houseware was hard I decided to try my luck and find work. I almost worked for a high-end furniture shop, but I flunked the final interview when I was unexpectedly interviewed by the president of the company. I froze up. Because of that I prepared well for my next interview which was for a startup tech company. I was lucky because they were looking for a product manager for an online directory for exporters. The previous skills I had acquired made it easy for me to strategize how to grow the product locally. It grew so well at some point it was bigger than the local directory. Because of that I was moved to manage the main directory.

Advertising, Research. and Trainings. I was eventually moved to the main company backing up the startup. Since the setup was more corporate I had the chance to pick up more skills. I jumped on the chance to be mentored by Dr. Ned Roberto for Research and I did not shy away from other marketing work that would be assigned to me. I had the chance to work on ads (TV, radio and newspaper). Since I was managing our online and mobile product I had to conduct a lot of trainings across the country. I learned a lot during this time but I unfortunately had a tyrant boss so I decided to leave.

Community Management. My first role at the global company was to be the eyes and ears for my country. I was alone and my mandate changed every quarter. I realized though that there were so many people who wanted to learn, but I don't know everything. I discovered that there are people who are willing to help others learn too. I was never shy to ask for help and help was given by local experts to grow the dev community. Learning this skills has helped me grow many different communities from developers, to entrepreneurs, to students and now educators.

So that's what I told him (this is an expanded version though). In the 2 decades I've been working this is has been my mantra:
1. Pick up as many skills along the way.
2. Never shy away from an opportunity to learn.
3. Be open and flexible.