On LinkedIn Learning: Career advice from leadership in tech
December 18, 2019
One of the most important traits we look for when hiring engineering talent is a growth mindset: the ability to learn and adapt to changing conditions and technologies over time. This is partly because, as engineers, we work at the forefront of tech, which means we constantly seek new and exciting ways to unlock the potential of technology. Aside from our own explorations, a growth mindset is also important because technology is changing rapidly every day around us.
Working in this industry since the late 90s, I have seen a spectrum of technologies come and go—so I know that what worked yesterday might not necessarily work tomorrow. Take, for example, the early days of the mobile era. I remember building applications on black and white RIM 950/957s, then on Palm Treo, and all the way up to when the first iPhone and Android came out. It was a time of constantly having to adapt and learn new technologies to remain competitive in the market.
I believe that the best way to future-proof your career is to take the idea of a growth mindset a step further by actively practicing continuous learning. Having a hunger for knowledge has helped me navigate many changes throughout my career, and it’s also why I’m so passionate about leading engineering for LinkedIn Learning. LinkedIn Learning is all about connecting people with learning experiences that make them more productive and successful. We aim to create a toolkit of courses to help you expand your knowledge, regardless of where you are in your learning journey.
Reflecting on my own career and personal growth, some of those learning “tools” for me have come in the form of conversations with colleagues, mentors, and peers across the industry. After all, it’s not only technical skills that we need to be able to adapt through a growth mindset, but also other practices like management and organization.
When I was asked to teach a LinkedIn Learning course, I immediately knew I wanted to share these types of organic conversations and career advice for all our LinkedIn members. From this, the Leadership in Tech course was born, consisting of ten interviews with individuals who represent my personal board of mentors internal and external to LinkedIn. While I certainly could have spent hours talking to many more inspiring leaders in tech, I’m excited to share a few highlights from my conversations throughout the course. It is my hope that learners, no matter where they are currently in their careers, will also walk away impacted by these lessons.
Behind the scenes shots from filming the course
Entrepreneur and former LinkedIn engineering executive David Henke used to say, “You’re only as good as your lieutenants.” LinkedIn’s Chief Data Officer, Igor Perisic, and I talked about what this means in terms of leadership. We discussed how oftentimes as leaders the expectation is that we will always have the answer or be an expert at everything. However, this isn’t realistic. Being a good leader isn’t about “knowing it all”—it’s about surrounding yourself with a set of individuals that are better than you in specific areas. To create a successful team is to identify and acknowledge your own shortcomings and bring in perspectives different from yours.
We also talked about the importance of curiosity. For those early in their careers, it’s easy to feel the pressure of finding and setting your path. However, both Igor and I agreed that doing so can actually be quite limiting. Instead, it’s more important to adopt a mentality of exploration and learning. With a bit of experience, you’ll be able to see the bits and pieces you picked up on the way and that will help in building the foundation of your career. For example, Igor started his career with a background in statistics, and now leads the core data infrastructure that powers the personalized experiences across LinkedIn. Inspiration and learning will find you in different ways throughout your career; staying curious opens you up to all the possibilities.
Beyond coding careers in tech with Igor Perisic
Be in the driver’s seat of your career
Feedback is critical for career growth, but can be tough to receive. When you open your mind to constructive feedback, however, it can be a true gift and turning point for self-improvement to begin.
In my conversation with senior director of content production at LinkedIn Learning Fiona Trayler, she shared how 360-degree feedback acted as a catalyst moment for her career. The feedback she received was not telling her what to do, a specific action to take, but rather focused on how the people around her felt. It was tough to hear, but powerful in that it illuminated areas where she could grow. As Fiona so perfectly put it, with any kind of career, you’re either in the driver’s seat or handing the wheel to someone else. Feedback from others is your copilot as you drive towards the next chapter. But if you don’t seek feedback, you’re stuck in the passenger’s seat, likely still in the parking lot.
Feedback and career conversations with Fiona Trayler
Be intentional with your growth
We all want to grow as engineers, teammates, or leaders. Yet the difficult part of this process is that it often happens outside your comfort zone. My interview with LinkedIn’s vice president of engineering Chris Pruett focused on what it takes to be intentional with self-improvement. At the core, you must want to change and be clear—with both yourself and others—about where you want to be. Being able to have transparent and even vulnerable conversations will help you identify the allies and mentors who can then propel you to reach your goals.
Growth mindset with Chris Pruett
Be a champion for inclusion
Within each and every one of us, we have the power to effect change. During this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing LinkedIn’s head of engineering, Mohak Shroff. Our discussion largely focused on the impact and importance of building inclusive teams. A single act of inclusion can have a lasting effect on individuals, teams and outcomes. Mohak shared an anecdote from earlier in his career when he was in a meeting that quickly escalated as people raised their voices on top of one another, trying to be heard—an intimidating scenario for anyone. Suddenly, the leader of the meeting took a step back. He quieted everyone down to ask someone, who had largely remained silent, for their opinion. This simple question, “Do you have anything to add?,” marked a turning point. It helped the individual feel included. It made the other participants realize they had neglected to hear everyone’s opinions. And, it resulted in a better outcome as it included additional points of views. It’s important to create space for everyone—you never know just how meaningful a small act of inclusion can be.
Building diverse teams with Mohak Shroff
In addition to those mentioned above, I’d like to thank Jeff Weiner, Kathryn Koehler, Tanya Staples, Erran Berger, Jennifer Shappley, and Tim Fortescue for participating in this LinkedIn Learning Leadership in Tech course. Each has such important lessons to share based on their unique career journeys and I’m thrilled to lead the team that helps in sharing their knowledge with our 660+ million members on LinkedIn.
Head over to LinkedIn Learning to watch the full Leadership in Tech course!