A former student came back from Thailand after teaching for a whole year and requested a letter of recommendation for graduate school. Her email prompted me to write about what I share with my staff about the idea of owning their careers. I emphasize that they have choices, some harder than others and that it takes planning and preparation. My career path which I will describe below may not be a typical one and may not be the ideal one for anyone, but it’s a path I chose for myself. I have gotten advice in the past that I was making the wrong moves. In retrospect, I am glad that I followed what I wanted to do and my experiences have proven to be very valuable in my current job.
The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins is a very practical book for any leaders in transition. Personally, this is a book that has helped me transition from my manager to an associate director position.The advice and tools provided in the book just make sense.
The premise of the book are as follows:
- Assess your strengths and weaknesses and identify personal vulnerabilities
- Diagnose your situation and understand its challenges and opportunities
- Negotiate a productive working relationship with your boss
- Secure early wins that establish credibility and create momentum
- Build your team and connect with influential support coalitions
Deborah Scott was my former Director at Student Information Systems and Technology (SIST) at UC Santa Barbara and I consider her as one of my most important mentors. She is now the CIO at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Below is my tribute to Deborah at her going away party. She has many of the leadership qualities I admire including the ability to inspire, to bring people together and most importantly, she manages towards possibilities, not constraint. I always looked forward to our conversations because I always left feeling so much better about myself. I think my speech below captured what Deborah meant to me as my mentor.
In my career, I’ve played the role of the interviewer and interviewee many times. When I’ve interviewed for positions, I always prepared a lot, learning about the company, the job description and prepared answers for every potential questions I could be asked. Throughout the years, I have compiled questions and answers as a Powerpoint slides for myself which includes introduction, behavioral questions, personal strengths/weaknesses, reasons for leaving current job and motivation for the position I am applying for, technical questions and questions specific to the position. I have shared this to my friends and staff as well.
In my life, there have been many people who have helped me along the way. These are people who inspired me, provided me opportunities and guidance to be where I am now as a person and as a professional. These are what I call my mentors. They are the ones who always made me feel better about myself. They’re like leadership books, self-help books come alive. Interestingly enough, not all of them even know who I am, but what this person said made so much impact on me for what they said/actions I observed I now consider them my mentor. I find inspirations everywhere, from everyone, so the list of people I will write about is just by no means a complete list, but nevertheless, these are people who have made significant impacts on my life. These are the people that when faced with certain situations I am not sure on how to handle, I ask the question – “What would he/she do in this situation?”