11 Pieces of Advice on Managing your Career in Tech
Leaders from HubSpot, Hewlett Packard, Carbon Black and Shire provide insights on their own career paths, hiring trends and how to maximize career satisfaction.
Over 100 Tufts Gordon Institute alumni, current students, and faculty members gathered in Tufts’ new science and Engineering Complex on November 2 for an evening focused on career building and networking in the tech industry. The event featured a panel discussion, “Navigating your Career in Tech.”
- Becky McCullough, Director of Recruiting, HubSpot, Inc., A06
- Rupin Mohan, Director, R&D, Head of Development, Chief Technologist, Hewlett Packard, E03
- Allison Perkel, Senior Director at Carbon Black, E93, E02
- Lisa Wyman, Head of Quality Compliance & Risk Management, Shire, E08.
Moderated by Sarah Stockwell, Career Coach, Professional Development Trainer at Tufts University, A95, A12, panelists discussed first impressions as a job candidate, making the transition from an individual contributor to a manager, standing out in the interview process, making job transitions, and networking tips.
Here are the top 11 takeaways from the panelists including insights from their own words.
1. Be prepared for interviews. Show initiative.
People often underestimate the importance of doing your homework, not only on the company but the people with whom you’re meeting. Try to bring relevance to the person you’re meeting with, to their goal and their journey, and use that as an opportunity to show them that you care about how they fit into the company. – BM
I had a recent candidate come in who gave me a really great example of how she took initiative outside of her work environment. When I look at someone who’s going to be key on my team, it’s someone who can take the initiative, not wait for what they’re told to do and really find solutions to problems. – LW
2. Make your resume impact-oriented.
Don’t just say you’re responsible for building a piece of software or building a model for a particular sales forecasting. Talk about the impact that it had on the company. Did it help reduce the time to map out your budget by 15%? Did it help achieve revenue growth of x%? Anytime you can quantify the impact that you’ve had in your role, your organization, that’s going to really help. – BM
And be prepared to answer how you arrived at those numbers – we will ask! – RM
3. Don’t undersell yourself during the interview process.
This is your chance to be your own marketing department. If you play it down, you’re not going to get past the hiring managers. This is your chance to really shine.- AP
4. Find the right mentor to position yourself for career moves.
Building relationships and finding the right mentor is the key. That’s what helped me. I thought my work was going to just show for itself. But then I realized nobody’s going to just give you the best promotion on a platter. Finding the right mentor takes time and effort. – RM
Tap in to your existing networks. The Tufts community is very broad. Use it. Reach out to folks. Talk to them. Maybe the first person won’t be a mentor. Maybe the second person might not be – it may be the third person. We have a great community. Use it. – AP
5. Recognize that managing people is a different job than being an individual contributor.
I felt like transitioning from a high-performing individual contributor to an effective people manager was hard. I recognized that I had to learn a different set of skills. I spent a lot of time finding people in the organization that I valued as high-performing, effective leaders, and I would reach out to them to ask for their feedback on my performance as a leader, or ask them how they made the transition. And in my free time I learned how to be an effective manager by reading management books. You need to really fine-tune your skills when you make that transition. – LW
6. There are many paths to grow in your career aside from being a people manager.
A lot of times people think that the next career step means becoming a people manager. There are many ways to grow in your career, by becoming a subject-matter expert, or leading cross-functional teams, without managing people. Recently, a manager on my team became a people manager, and she hated that she lost control of the execution, she hated that people were depending on her and her time was taken up by counseling and coaching. That just wasn’t for her. She’s now back in an individual-contributor role and couldn’t be happier. Those paths aren’t set in stone, and it’s OK to test it out and see what works for you and what doesn’t. – BM
And also, if you feel you’ve made the wrong choice, don’t be afraid to go to your manager and say, I want to go back. – AP
7. Tap in to your network if you are seeking advice or trying to make a life transition.
As you encounter challenges in your work environment, or you’re preparing transitioning from being parents to college kids, or being a first-time mom, use that network to understand how people have overcome those challenges. Leverage those diverse opinions or sounding boards for challenging moments within your professional and personal career. – LW
8. Don’t be afraid to apply.
When you look at a job description, and you see six bullet points of must-haves? They’re not always must-haves. And, speaking mostly to the women in the room – really – don’t be afraid to apply. If you don’t try, you won’t make that transition – AP
9. Don’t wait until you are unhappy in your role to look for your next step.
You should always be testing the market. When you try to make a job change when you’re unhappy in your current role, oftentimes you’re running away from something and not necessarily running to something. The sooner that you can leverage your network, explore the community that you’re interested in joining, the better. – BM
10. The more you network, the easier it becomes.
Be purposeful in your networking. When you reach out to someone, don’t just say, ‘hey, I’d love to get to know you,’ say, ‘hey, I’d love to hear about that specific transition,’ or, ‘hey, I saw that you took three years off from work to raise your family and then went back. I’d love to hear what that was like.’ The more specific you can be in the purpose behind the networking, the more apt they are to engage. – BM
11. Be aware of the role you can play in championing diversity.
In engineering, it’s not a secret that there are very few women and people of color in the workforce. Companies have found that changing their workforce to bring in more different voices made them a stronger company. So it’s still a work in progress – the key thing is to not stop trying. – AP
I think diversity and an inclusive work environment is not just a good thing to have. It’s proven that companies with more diverse teams and leaders perform better. So I founded Lean In at Shire, which connects women and men across our organization, in small-circle environments where we talk about conversations or challenges within our workplace to create a more equal workplace. – LW
As a leader, you are going to have to create the environment you want. And you have to create an environment where, whether you’re white, black, brown, a woman, or a man, doesn’t matter. What matters is what you contribute, how you contribute. – RM
In a lot of organizations, hiring comes from referrals, which can be a great source of talent. The challenge is, you run the risk of creating this culture of sameness. So a push for diversity needs to come from the top. For example, we implemented a recruiting policy where for every director-and-above-level role, our interview slate must include at least one gender or racially diverse person. And we have taken it a step further, to say 50% of the people that we identify for the role have to be outside of the local Boston area. Those are real, live steps that can be implemented to improve diversity. – BM