Saturday, August 20, 2016

What was the best advice you have received?

I just re-watched the Neil Gaiman commencement speech from back in 2012. If you haven't seen it yet I highly recommend it. I thought I'd answer one of the set of questions for myself.

What was the best advice you have received (and took)?

The best advice that I have received is “be the manager that you wanted”. This was from a very high level Engineer who has been through everything on both the management and techie side.
I was just promoted from Senior engineer to a new manager/tech lead. I was pretty clueless on what to do so I had asked him for advice. Its funny because in retrospect the answer is obvious but often times we focus on thinking that there is something else, some trick to it. Instead, by refocusing on the problems I was able to be successful. It was also really easy because as a developer in the group I already knew all the pain points and problems. All I had to do was start addressing those things. I spend the next segment of my career fighting hard for my people, listening and addressing needs, and giving them the time and space that they needed to make good art ;)

I think this advice applies not just for career, but can be generalized to us "growing into the person that we wanted to be" or "building your company or product the way that you wanted as a user".

What was the best advice that you didn’t take?

During my second job as a Software Engineer I was laid off. A senior engineer at that time had told “Don’t rush to work, take time and travel”. I of course was gung-ho about pursuing career and didn’t heed the advice. Instead it was not really until my early 30s (I mean I did take a week off here and there for some travel but nothing extended) where I really took some time to travel (A 3 month sabbatical to South America). I loved it so much and gained some powerful insight and experience. I can’t believe I didn’t do something earlier. I also believe that it is such a missed opportunity since experiencing something in your 20s is different than your 30s, and so on. Even though I’m trying now to take time to make up for some of those missed experiences, I know that it won’t quite be the same.