“What characteristics do you most admire in a peer?”
I was recently presented with this question while sitting in our company meeting. Our HR team orchestrated an entire exercise intended to call out the valuable traits embodied by our team; peer-to-peer, peer-to-manager, manager-to-manager. We listed off ideas almost faster than we could write them down; like excited puppies, we recognized qualities in each other that made our group’s eyes widen and ears perk up with pride.
Since that exercise, I’ve realized that these ideas have been milestones along my professional journey, helping me dive in the previously unfamiliar world of tech. When I moved to Seattle just over a year ago, I packed with me my extensive non-profit experience and my degrees in Vocal Performance, Theatre, and Integrated Marketing Communications. I assumed that my career path would lead me to a position in the arts – that I would not find myself immersed in the niche market of the tech industry. Yet, here I am! I knew so little about this industry when I started at Audienz, and I’ve frequently asked myself, “How did I get here?”
By practicing authenticity and humility; embracing humor and creativity; thriving on organization. In other words, by making myself smart.
Not the know-it-all, dominate-the-conversation, intimidate-you-with-my-brain kind of smart. I’m talking about shedding-the face-value-definition, enduring-the-learning-curve, strategic kind of smart. Knowing when to speak up and when to listen. Trusting collaboration with your team. Digging in to research. Identifying accessible colleagues as mentors. Diving into the subject matter and writing down every question. Then asking those questions. It’s often coveted to be the smartest person in the room. So, trust that you can enter that room, having very little experience with the industry, the product, the process, or the client, and still be the smartest person in it.
If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation – take heart! You are not alone. You will endure seasons of inexperience, times in your career when you are not the expert, ill-equipped to lead or take initiative. And that’s okay! When navigating the unknown, I’ve learned to find my way by leaning in to those around me. Just as I have, let yourself be inspired by the examples of success personified in your peers and leadership.
The nuance of the characteristics shared by my team is endless. We each embody a bit of everything yet allow the strengths of others to persuade us to be better, smarter professionals. And in this, I’ve discovered the truth about my journey through my season of inexperience. The “where” is not as monumental as the “how.” By being smart through it, I credit my journey – the “how” I’ve gotten to this point – with new levels of growth, knowledge, and skill that transcend the end.
If you find yourself in a season of professional development, I encourage you to consider the same strategy: embrace the journey. Your destination will always be a moving target, but you’ll discover that the path there is sprinkled with gifts and growth – if you look for them.