If you are the kind of person that claims taking control of your professional growth, changing careers, and moving up the ladder are easy feats, I would love to draw on your experience.
For me, my growth journey was and still is a hell of a ride. Not so long ago, I promised myself that I’d go above and beyond to take control of my journey, gain focus and combine my passion and skills to see where this path would take me.
As my journey continues, I recently changed my title at work to “Director of Product, R&D Operations.” What exactly does this mean for me? We will get to that, so keep reading.
My professional career began in the field of Quality. For the past 14 years, I have led teams in the quality assurance departments of various corporations. I have always been passionate about processes, their value, personal growth (for myself and my team), leadership development, and team building.
At the height of the pandemic two years ago, I joined Diagnostic Robotics, a digital health sector market leader. Even though part of my plans included gaining control of my professional growth, I didn’t know how to go about it. I was certain that it needed to become a priority, though.
That’s where it all started for me, and I hope my detailed process will help others gain more clarity:
1.Jot down your dreams — Start by literally putting pen to paper and listing your professional goals. I focused and tried to be as honest with myself as possible while answering questions such as “What does my dream job look like?”, “What am I truly passionate about?”, What opportunity would I pursue next if there were no limitations?”
I figured that at the top of my list would be gaining experience in multiple cross-functions, leading significant efforts from ideation to delivery, and working with clients to define customer satisfaction better. This exercise enabled me to organize my dreams by role (Team leader, VP, COO)
2. Map your skills — Continue by listing your abilities to determine where you need improvement. Focus on each skill area and need for improvement related to a particular growth path. For example, skills like delegation, motivating others, and team management are paramount for a management path and need to be at the highest levels.
As for me, once I listed my skills, I ranked my current abilities on a scale of 1–5 and noted what level I thought the skill needed to be at for my chosen path. Your manager should also rank it, but this requires a collaboration based on trust and open communication.
This is how it looks like
3. Start paving the way — Once you had completed the daunting task of performing an unbiased self-assessment. You should work closely with your manager to identify opportunities to fill the gaps. Also actively search for opportunities within the company that would correspond to your plans of polishing specific skills listed in your self-assessment and create your own reality.
That being said, the ride is equally bumpy and exciting. It is important to keep in mind that your skillset is your career capital, so an essential step in gaining control of your career is to seek fulfilling positions that would allow you to put your best assets forward.
Some simple ground rules that helped me
● Don’t focus on the title, but rather look at the essence of the role — what will your day-to-day responsibilities be? What experience will you gain? Who is your manager?
● Allow yourself to fail — the journey of taking control of your career is not easy; you will feel like you’re failing multiple times as you work to improve and focus on your chosen direction. Don’t forget that we learn and improve from every failure. Don’t get discouraged!
● Engage your manager. Cue them into your plans and request guidance. A true leader will encourage and support you.
● To the managers out there: dare to listen to your team, try to ask the questions that will give the other side food for thought, and believe in them.
Paving your professional way is not easy, but it is very satisfying. My current role is challenging and just a stop along my way. It is an operational function in charge of optimizing the intersection of product, engineering, and customer success while supporting the R&D team and their go-to-market counterparts to improve alignment, communication, and processes. This starts to sound more and more like my next post, so make sure to stick around.