Change Management

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then                                         now!

Yesterday marks 2 years at Twitter for me, which is an exciting milestone. It feels like the time has flown by, and simultaneously it feels like my early experiences here were a lifetime ago. I began reflecting on the various and vast changes that I’ve witnessed in my short time here, and on the way we manage change and hypergrowth.

What kinds of changes have we experienced? Without being too specific to Twitter, startups grow. Management teams change (not quite so much in my case). The vision of the product redirects. New features get added. Most noticeably, the staff increases many-fold. We move into new offices, adopt new traditions and think about monetizing in different ways. Luckily, the snacks pervade.

Navigating that change can be challenging because every day you come into a different set of circumstances and face a different set of challenges with new people. The easiest way to diffuse the change management is to incorporate new additions as quickly as possible and get them acclimated to the environment right away. Then they, too, become the arbiters of the culture and owners of tasks that will help propel the company faster.

A great piece of advice I learned early on here was to innovate quickly and be decisive. I’m not in a product-building role. And I didn’t even start here all that early (this was a fairly large company when I joined). But to navigate the change successfully you, have to be able to do both of these things well. Innovating quickly means being scrappy: sharing your thoughts and ideas, and then rolling up your sleeves and actually executing on them. Going the extra mile to do the analysis, make the sale, build the deck. Being decisive means things get done more swiftly. Indecision can lead to stalling, but these companies grow and march onward whether or not your decision has been made. From my experience, it’s better to be able to march forward with everyone than lag behind.

And finally, roll with it. There are inevitably bumps, reroutes or even mistakes. We hire the wrong person, conduct the wrong study, pitch the wrong idea to the wrong company. Given how quickly these companies grow, those misdirections get smoothed over and course-corrected pretty quickly. But you have to be malleable to turn around when the time comes.

Corporate structural change used to intimidate me, but I’ve come to terms with the idea that no two days will be the same. That’s part of the excitement. Here’s to more of managing the change in years to come.

Change Management

Pick a Company, Not a Function

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It’s graduation season and in the spirit of those who are graduating (hey Nancy!), I thought I’d provide some advice for all those weighing a few job opportunities. Most opportunities for recent graduates and young professionals are part of a formal program: banking, management consulting, or other large corporate jobs. But when you are considering entering an entrepreneurial or smaller arena, the options might be different for new grads who are “business” generalists.

Often when I speak to people experiencing this dilemma, it comes down to the following:

1. I got my dream job! But I don’t know anything about the company (OR it’s a company I don’t really love/understand the product)

or

2. I am going to work for the most amazing company, but they’re hiring me for a role I have no interest in doing 

I understand why the dilemma feels lifechanging. You want to work for the perfect company and do the best job, but the reality is that both don’t necessarily happen at the same time. It feels counterintuitive to take a job that isn’t exactly what you want to do especially since you’ll actually have to be performing in that function day in and day out.

Indeed, when I was interviewing for tech jobs, I was speaking to companies about everything from user services and support to financial planning and analysis. At one point, I even considered taking an internship (with the promise to turn into a full-time position) because I was so passionate about one of the companies. I wasn’t exactly interested in this broad array of opportunities, but the opportunities to work at the various companies seemed exciting nonetheless.

The best piece of advice I received when I was looking to make a move into tech is to take a job for the company, not the function. Here’s why:

1. The “company” is just the people you are surrounded by. If you want to work for an organization that will put you in contact with some of the best and brightest, you will benefit from working at that company regardless of your function. As long as you are expanding your network and working with great people, you will succeed.

2. There is a ton of mobility within companies. Especially at startups, new functions and even new teams crop up all the time. If you take a role within the company and decide it isn’t the right fit for you, which is exactly what I experienced at Twitter, there are plenty more opportunities that will become available to you.

3. As a young professional, your job is simply to learn and absorb as much as possible. If by working for a company you are able to do that, regardless of your position, then it doesn’t really matter what job you take. Take note of the skills you want to acquire and take charge or making that happen. Chances are you wouldn’t even be qualified to take a role that’s so far out of scope that you couldn’t knock some items off of your “to learn” list.

With all of that, if you truly don’t feel comfortable or it feels like your career will take a wrong turn, then simply don’t take the job. Sometimes walking away is the best idea, even if it’s the scariest. But shying away from a great opportunity because the job isn’t perfect is the wrong attitude.

 

 

Pick a Company, Not a Function

Building a Personal Brand

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When I was in college, after my first year on campus, I ran for student body president. My strategy was to walk around and talk to everyone about my ideas: in the cafeterias, in the library, even walking up and down Thayer St. I didn’t win, but the strategy proved to be pretty successful over the subsequent years. My network was large and I had spoken to so many people, that they knew what I was about. As a result, I was often consulted for activities or admitted to classes in which my colleagues knew I was interested. I had built my first “personal brand,” and I learned pretty quickly that it served me well.

What do I mean by personal brand? A personal brand is a way of consistently representing yourself to the outside world so that others know exactly who you are. Your values, interests, and even stances on various issues are all part of the way you present or market yourself to the outside world. If you consider commercial brands that are well known, it’s probably because their marketing team has done an outstanding job of making that brand memorable.

The idea is to do the same with your personal brand. This brand is helpful in shaping an identity, and can come in handy if you are establishing yourself in a new job, company or industry. Building that brand means sending a consistent message, discussing your ideas and seeking advice from a wide array of mentors and sponsors. This can be within the confines of your professional existence at work, or cross the boundaries of the professional/personal divide. Once your brand is established, people will begin to associate you with certain activities or ideologies.

Some people worry about getting pigeon-holed or stereotyped. What if I am only associated with that one message? But people need something to latch onto. If you want to be memorable, stick to your guns. Understand that most of the people you interact with will assume that you have more than one dimension. It’s also permissible to go “off-brand” every once in a while (otherwise you probably aren’t a real human being). Building a personal brand also means that you can become the go-to person for something very quickly – something that can catapult careers at a young age.

My success in building a person brand has been being vocal about my beliefs and sharing my thoughts broadly. Blogging and Tweeting have helped as well, but there are many strategies that can be successful. Tweet @ me if you have additional ideas about how to craft and perfect your personal brand.

Building a Personal Brand

Confidence/Competence

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After a very interesting conversation with a colleague yesterday, I started thinking about the balance between professional competence and professional confidence. There is a sliding scale and a series of tradeoffs that are often made between these two, but they are not mutually exclusive.

What do I mean?

Competence: basically, how intelligent are you and do you have the skills to perform the task at hand? There are a variety of gradations on this one, and for junior professionals getting a footing on their roles, competence will depend on the task at hand. For example, if you work in business development and you are asked to manage a partner’s expectations regarding pricing, your competence will (hopefully) be fairly high. On the other hand if you’re in the same role and asked to conduct an acquisition analysis, your competence might be lower.

Confidence: the ability to project or exude positivity and/or certainty. This one is pretty self-explanatory. For example, if your manager asks you for an opinion on a subject about which you are an expert, you’ll be pretty confident in your response. If anyone asks me about, say, Twitter Ads, I will (hopefully) deliver my answer with confidence.

In the early years of a career, there is often a divergence or gap between confidence and competence. Depending on the industry you choose to enter, you might begin obtaining skills in one area but not the other. In my experience, when I graduated from college I felt both competent and confident. Boy was I wrong! Investment banking takes the following approach: undermine the confidence; destroy the competence. Then, build back the competence from the ground up, which may or may not restore the confidence.

Why does this gap exist?

It exists primarily for the purpose of professional training, but also to mark and delineate points of inflection in a career. By “breaking” both pieces of the puzzle, it represents something to work toward on each end of the spectrum. Once you have mastered both for a certain area, domain expertise, task, etc, then it’s time to move on to the next level. For most people, that’s a promotion or a new role. But with that new role comes a new set of challenges for which an individual must work to become both competent and confident.

Know Your Audience

There are some instances in which it’s better to lead with confidence than competence. I find that when I am presenting or working on something that I’m passionate about, my confidence trumps my competence. Should I work to close the gap? Yes. But the audience or recipients will benefit in some capacity by the enthusiasm or confidence I try to project.

On the other hand, competence can go a long way in trying to prove a point or in many analytical settings. “Show me, don’t tell me” can often lead to a competence trumping confidence attitude.

Why does it matter?

In thinking about my own career, it’s been helpful to catalogue the growth trajectories of both confidence and competence, not letting one preclude the other for too long, and understanding when it’s time to take on the next challenge. I recognize what broke my professional confidence initially and what it takes to build both confidence (having an opinion helps with this one) and competence (learning something broadly and deeply simultaneously helps with that.)

How do you think of this dichotomy?

h/t to @klineshoes for the thought exercise.

Confidence/Competence

Givers, Takers, Matchers and Favors

 

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Adam Grant, Wharton professor of organizational psychology, recently wrote a book called Give and Take in which he describes various workplace and other professional sociological behaviors. The construct of givers and takers resonated with me, because the professional world is all about doing favors for one another. Indeed, someone who is able to parlay his or her network into something beneficial often succeeds.

In a nutshell, a giver is someone who is constantly willing to give of him or herself. If you ask a favor of that person, he or she will happily say yes (and probably have a hard time saying no). Grant argues that having a giving mentality in the workplace is critical to a having a charitable society, and also contributes to profitability, etc. He or she asks for little in return. For example, when friends from New York have friends who move to San Francisco, they often reach out to me to ask if I would be willing to help their friend acclimate to the city. I am always happy to do so.

On the other hand, a taker is ordinarily on the other side of this arrangement. Someone who is has no problem asking for tasks or favors from others. In the crudest terms, these people are able to extract value from their connections. In my experience, I’ve asked friends to talk to acquaintances about summer internships, industries of interest or even for mentor-like advice.

Giving and taking in the context of asking connections for professional favors is one of the most tangible ways of understanding these constructs. A taker is someone who doesn’t mind asking for an introduction to a mutual connection, for access to information or for a task to be completed. The act of asking for something can take guts (especially when you are in a more junior position), and ordinarily the taker is in the position of authority. The taker is perceived to be the more successful of the two.

There is a middle ground between givers and takers, known as a matcher. This person aims to find value in asking others for favors, but understands that there is a tradeoff and also wants to add value where possible. If favors are a running score board, they want to have marks on both sides.

I have been learning over the course of the last few months from both personal and professional endeavors that while we shouldn’t necessary tally favors from friends and colleagues, it’s important to be comfortable asking for favors. I have recently had to branch out into my network and make some big asks from close friends and acquaintances alike. When I was looking for jobs a few years ago, I contacted almost anyone I’ve ever met in the field that interested me to ask for introductions or to submit my resume. Now as I continue to expand my network, I find myself matching friends who want to learn about other companies with friends who work at those companies. It’s scary to make the ask, but people are honored to do the favor (most of the time) and the results rewarding. Some of the most successful people I have witnessed have no problem soliciting help from those around them. We should all strive to be matchers, but since it is in most of our natures to be givers, we shouldn’t be bashful of being a taker every once in a while as well.

Givers, Takers, Matchers and Favors