I’ve written before about my ambition to build a meaningful company and my journey of being hired away from my first attempt, taking what seemed like a step backwards. I wanted to put myself in a system that was succeeding to understand how it worked. And although I knew early on that I wanted to build things, that obviously wasn’t much of a plan.
I was easily in the “I’m not sure what I’m doing with my life” bucket.
Leverage what you know
At the time, I knew I liked working with people. I was fascinated by the impact the right person made on a project vs. the wrong one and I thought there was no better way to make an impact on a company than putting the right pieces in the right places. Heading toward a career in hiring and recruiting wasn’t where I *wanted* to go, but I realized how it could help me get to where I did. I realized it could be leveraged.
In my case the point of leverage was clear: as a non-technical founder, I wanted to be the best team builder on earth. I learned through failure that building the best possible team is the ultimate competitive advantage. It’s much more important than your plan, strategy or ideas.
Take any NFL football team for example: if they had the world’s best playbook (plan) but their roster was filled with average players (people), how good would they be?
It all comes down to the people and I wanted this to be my specialty; the irreplaceable value that I’d bring to the table as a founder. Getting good at identifying, recruiting and hiring the right people suddenly has tremendous value to my career.
How does this relate to you?
If you’re currently in a job or on a path that doesn’t seem to be getting you closer to the career you imagined, you have to figure out a way to leverage the experience and skills you’re getting and then use that as your competitive advantage.
As I recently told a friend (a great QA engineer who’s contemplating a new direction):
Building a foundation in QA can set you up to provide a very unique kind of value, regardless of what type of role you move into. You have a QA perspective you can apply to certain problems that others can’t, and this is what makes you unique and valuable. This may be the exact unicorn skill-set some companies are looking for.
We have to recognize that an engineer isn’t an engineer, a sales rep isn’t a sales rep, a founder isn’t a founder. Every single person is unique and so is the value and perspective they bring to the table. Just as I’m working to position myself as a founder with hiring and recruiting deep in my blood, you can (and should!) position yourself as an engineer (or sales rep, or founder, etc) with a unique background and set of experiences in your blood.
This is something you can and should leverage throughout your career.
I hope this helps you (even if just a little) gain more clarity into your career path. I’m incredibly passionate about this stuff and I’m more than happy to continue the conversation if anyone needs a sounding board. Feel free to email me directly at troysultan [at] gmail.com if you’re interested in bouncing ideas around.