Hello, you, the person reading this. The title caught you because you are either in the middle of what you believe to be a poor career choice, or you have had one in the past, or you are looking to make a career move and want to make sure that you don’t misstep. I have worked in the technology industry, all of it in fintech, for thirty years. During that time, I’ve had many roles, in practically every area of the technology organization. And, yes, I have ended up in those situations where I would say in the middle of the assignment that possibly it was a “poor career choice”. However, I am here to tell you that looking back, every single activity that I was engaged in brought me experience that was valuable in one way or another. For instance, in one of my assignments, even though my background was development, I was asked to order infrastructure hardware (thinks servers, network equipment and raid storage) for my assignment. While I was asked to do this because it was largely administrative and I was low man on the totem pole, I learned a lot about how to size the equipment, lead times for ordering, and all the activities necessary to install and test the equipment. This gave me a greater appreciation for the effort to implement infrastructure and how complex it can be that is still gives me a better vantage point today, nearly twenty years later. Another use case was when I was assigned “shifts” during a merger activity in the command center, mostly in non-desirable slots (i.e. 3rd shift). Despite the fact that my knowledge at the time was not as critical as others in making the high profile decisions, I was introduced to the sequencing of tasks and operating practices to quickly escalate and make decisions to keep things moving ahead timely. A lot of those practices I took back and included in my own daily activities of team management and task delivery. Moving forward to a more recent larger merger in my organization, I was asked to help create the ability to test transactions between the future new systems. This role was turned down from two other individuals, before I was asked to take it on (so, clearly I was not the first choice, and/or the other two individuals thought this would not be a fun role). The testing was for the new unified set of systems for the combined company, and this was before we had completed all the necessary coding to actually have all the systems work together. To finish a full set of integration testing, first we had to create test data to simulate a future customer in the ‘new’ format. Working through that introduced me to core systems, and the teams and leaders, for the future organization. Plus this allowed me to be on the forefront of knowing how the new organization would work, and in many cases, before most of rest of the organization was exposed. This allowed me a valuable view across the entire new spectrum of systems which supported me in my next move. Looking back, I have only had one situation where I regretted the choice. During an organizational change, I was placed under a manager who clearly did not appreciate my working style. I worked for that individual for nearly three years, and it was demoralizing. After a year and giving it my best, I knew the relationship was never going to get easier. I should have left at that point, but I waited another year before I started looking for another role. That is the only career choice I would change; when you have tried to work through a difficult relationship with a team member, stakeholder or leader and it does not change, you should remove yourself from it. So, unless you are in a role you do not feel valued, and then I encourage you to look for your next step, each role can be critical to your own career growth. Even if the role does not seem appealing, or targeted to your specific skills, or was not your expected next step–look at each role as something valuable that gives you insight and additional skills that you have been gifted and did not even know you need. These will be your own secret weapon of skills that you now have and possibly others do not have. Every career is different, and leveraging every experience will make you stronger.
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