Growing into new roles beyond the cloud
(Transcript of an Ignite Talk delivered at O’Reilly Velocity + Software Architecture Berlin 2019)
Last February my department had a series of rearrangements and everyone was given the chance to change the team. Management asked for our input to restructure as close to our wishes as possible. “We thought the agile coach role might be something for you”, my boss told me. And I replied: you know what? actually I would like to change to the OpenShift migration.
That conversation was on the phone, so I couldn’t see his face when I said that, but I can imagine his surprise. “Wow, that was kind of unexpected”, he said. And I can understand him: me? A former developer who had spent the past 4 years as a requirements engineer and never had anything to do with operations wants to change to the infrastructure team with an upcoming cloud migration?
Ladies and Gentlemen, as crazy as it sounds: that was the right move. Both for me and for the department. Let me tell you a few good reasons why.
For the companies, potential talent is practically infinite if they accept that talent can be grown, if new roles can be filled with existing employees not based on their specific knowledge, but rather on their mindset and ability to learn and adapt. Giving people the chance to evolve into new roles is the optimal way to build a culture of growth and continuous improvement. Motivated people deliver great results.
On the other hand, these are golden opportunities that we employees should hunt and catch. Because that’s the only way to stay competitive. We need to challenge ourselves in order to grow.
Now, having been in this adventure for the last 9 months I can tell you: it is worth it. At first, I felt like an alien in a new world. Today I am still riding up a very steep technical learning curve, but without too much stress, because I know I am adding value to the team as well. Tonight I want to share with you how I have managed to grow into the new role so far, and give you some tips that might help you in your own adventure.
Adapt quickly: by carefully observing the new surroundings, the people, their habits, and the team dynamics in order to take action. When I joined the new team, the first I did was to identify early ways to add value with the knowledge I brought. This helped me stay motivated and not to feel constantly frustrated for being the one who doesn’t know anything.
Embrace continuous learning: and do it step by step. Make a plan with small achievable objectives to manage the learning curve. Be patient. Don’t intend to know everything very fast, because it will only cause frustration. One day one of my new colleagues told me: “Hey, slow down. You are doing fine. Don’t be so hard with yourself”. I had to learn that it’s ok not to know everything. After all I belong to a team and we all complement each other.
Ask around: especially through lots of pairing. Don’t be afraid of asking, but be a good listener. For example, I am often one step behind in the technical discussions, so I make sure they slow down so I can get it.
Have self-confidence: Build it by doing your homework and gathering facts. You have a clear goal and a plan to achieve it which you keep in mind. And on each situation where you get doubts, you go through your plan again, you can do this. You are working on this, so just be patient. You keep repeating it to yourself. Breathe and carry on.
For me it’s been an intense journey so far. I still have a lot to learn, but I have definitely grown a lot both professionally and personally. I am thankful to Kühne + Nagel (my employer) for giving me this chance, and excited about what’s yet to come.
What I would like you to take home with you tonight is the following: “You can be good at anything you put effort into, you just need to dare”. You can grow into any new role, even beyond the cloud.