Can I be honest real quick?
I’m sick and tired of society holding managers and other leaders in the workplace to a “superman/superwoman” complex. While yes, we are “the boss”, and are strong, and fearless – but like everyone else, we experience moments of confusion and anxiety, especially when we undergo pivotal moments in our career that’s out of our control and that can literally change our entire career trajectory.
This is Charles Garrett’s story.
For the past three years, Charles has worked as an engineering manager at Seismic (previously known as Percolate), and was recently promoted to senior engineering manager.
Charles always had a love for science and technology, and that love grew stronger after he took a CS 101 course in college. As Charles told me, “I was completely lost in the beginning, and it was really, really difficult, but I knew that tech was for me. You know you have those moments where you’re working on something that seems impossible, and it clicks and you get it, and that is an addictive experience. For me, that’s what working in software feels like. When it doesn’t feel like work, and you get that rewarding feeling of productivity, and you’re enjoying how you’re spending your time, then that’s the sign, and that’s what it was for me.”
Once Charles graduated from college, he worked in tech at Blackberry for 5 years, and then a few years later joined his current company. Now, as an engineer manager, he spends his time working on product strategy, aligning projects, and helping his team execute goals. Most importantly, as a manager and leader, Charles time is spent making sure his people are good, feel important, and are motivated.
Managing projects and people is a beast on its own, but it gets even more crazy and stressful when you throw in dealing with your company getting acquired (and trying to process what that means for you, all while keeping your employees sane and focused).
Managing this new, unexpected situation of his company being acquired, all while trying to climb the corporate ladder, and be a good leader was something that was a challenge for Charles, but eventually, he came out on top and learned a lot along the way. Recently, I caught up with Charles and learned more about how he dealt with the acquisition, and his tips for others going through a similar journey and trying to climb the corporate ladder.
Change can make you worried and insecure. Here’s how to deal.
“The past year was really challenging, up until our acquisition. Now we have become a part of this larger company, we’re able to build and strengthen our teams, and it’s just created more opportunities for everyone here.
It’s crazy too because an event like getting acquired can be really tough because it makes people wonder if they’re going to keep their job, or even worried about how their work will change. Sometimes when this happens, you lose people – you lose some talented coworkers and people you’re used to working with and that’s unfortunate. For me, I knew that there was a lot of room for growth, and opportunities to expand my role.
I remember when the rumors surfaced that we might become acquired. We didn’t have all the details since it wasn’t 100% certain. That next month was my most challenging month because there was a lot of worrying and my thoughts were focused on worst-case scenarios. It created a lot of insecurity for me, but also had me thinking that is the moment that I need to really reflect on how well I’ve been performing over the last year, and bring that conversation to the table upon getting acquired as they are giving me my new job. I knew I would need to come in strong and be prepared to negotiate.”
When times get tough, you can show up for your team by doing this..
“At my company, I manage a team of four to five engineers, a designer, and a project manager. At one point, I started losing some of my engineers, and then my project manager left. These changes really affected our customers and product. It also affected the team morale every time someone would leave.
I was able to keep people motivated despite all of this because I would maintain a positive attitude. In my one on one’s with my team, we discussed what their goals were, and what career path they were wanting to go on. From there, I worked on tying their goals to different projects that we have going on, and helped them see what this opportunity of being acquired means as it relates to their goals.
Also, I learned to give people the space to express their concerns. As a leader, you have to have that safe space so people know that they can tell you that they’re worried, or that they can ask you any questions. You have to communicate that their concerns are equally important.”
If you’re in a company that’s getting acquired, remember this.
“Your foundation is your work ethic. If you have a strong work ethic, you are in a good position in the company, acquisition or not. You have to really focus on the opportunity and remember that you’re an essential part of this machine that’s being acquired, and you are going to be critical in the ongoing success of it.
You have to learn how to advocate for yourself just like the investors in your company are doing. They’re in it for their best interest which is their dollar, and that’s going to drive a lot of what’s going on in the company. You have to look at yourself that way. You are your own resource, you’re an equally important investment, and you have to advocate for yourself. I think the biggest part of that is taking some time to think about what you want, what your goals are, and how it maps out to the current and future opportunities in the company. Think about where you fit in the company, even in the new transition, and make that known.”
If you’re interested in climbing the corporate ladder, keep this in mind.
“Be visible and very genuine in your interactions. Don’t start conversations with people just for small talk or try to force a connection. Being genuine in your interactions with people really helps facilitate a productive, working relationship.
The second thing is be visible in the work that you’re doing. Share your opinions when you’re in meetings. You got that job at that company because they wrote that position looking for you – they want your opinion. Speak up and share your thoughts, and collaborate. We all know, one of the things about diversity in the workplace is that we want a diversity of opinions and experiences to help contribute to product development. You have to be comfortable sharing your opinions and being you.”
Outside of Seismic, you can catch Charles working on his mobile app game. During his app creation journey, he’s creating a documentary and tutorial around the process of building the app to help other people learn how they can do the same thing. Learn more by going to www.brave-labs.com.