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How to avoid the 3 mistakes I made in my tech career

How to avoid the 3 mistakes I made in my tech career 1

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Before becoming a career coach, helping women to thrive in their careers - Crystal Tse worked in tech. In this new piece, she shares with us 3 mistakes she made and what’s she learnt from them. So you can too.

Now that I’m on the outside I see where I went wrong in my tech career. This is not to say it was a disaster, in fact, it was the opposite.

 

I learned a helluva lot about operations, rolling out new technology, how telecommunications and the internet works and to my surprise – how people work. But I now know that I did my career a disservice by not doing these things, which I’m about to share with you in the hope you can learn from my mistakes.

1. Not participating in a women in tech community

‘You can’t be what you can’t see’.  

Working in a male-dominated industry meant that everywhere I looked all I could see were the spaces I didn’t belong to. I’d like to point out here though, there were many men who were supportive of me and a minority who were not. Being in these spaces for over 10 years I was not aware of how weary I was of being on the ‘outside’ until I recently joined communities of like-minded women. Belonging was a huge factor that I was missing from my previous career. 

Women in tech studies have shown that this is common. One of the reasons women leave tech is because of a lack of role models and peers and this is why I recommend getting involved in a women in tech community.

So you can see what you could be.   

To support each other when no one else gets what it’s like to be the only woman in the team meeting. 

To get advice from other women who have done it. Like how to negotiate your salary, how to ask for a promotion, how to balance work and family, how to deal with BS from your colleagues.  

To know that it’s not just you that has to spend as much time justifying why you are in your role as actually doing it.  

To find out about ‘hidden’ career opportunities you wouldn’t normally have access to. 

Here are some communities

Ada’s List: https://www.adaslist.co/ 

Rising Network: https://therisingnetwork.com/  

Communities by industry

Women in Data https://www.womenindata.org/ 

Women Who Code https://www.womenwhocode.com/ 

 

2. Staying too long in one job.

I got comfortable and I became stuck in a fixed mindset. The longer I was comfortable, the harder it was to challenge myself again. When I had plateaued long enough, going for the next job was difficult because of my fixed mindset and mistakenly thinking that it had to be a ridiculously amazing opportunity to leave the comfort of what I know.

How do you know you’ve got too comfortable?  

  • You stay for the people, not the work. 
  • None of your work feels like a stretch for your abilities. 
  • You know all the processes, you know who to go for what and in fact other people ask you about processes and who to go to. 
  • You think that opportunities are for other people. 

 

 

What to do about it: 

  • Think about where you want your career to be headed in 1, 5 or 10 years time. Reflect on what work lights you up. What’s missing that you want more of? What would you love to be doing in your career that you don’t yet do? This is your vision. 
  • Then it’s time for a conversation with your manager to look for stretch opportunities that align with your vision. If none exist or don’t work out then you know it’s time to look outside. 
  • Tap into your community for advice and support to flesh out your vision and for ideas on how you can work towards it. 

     

Remember, you don’t need to know all the steps from start to finish, just the next step right now.

3. Not understanding my strengths

This led to a toxic combination of a noisy inner critic and “comparison-itis”. I saw my colleagues excel in the things I lacked and this fuelled my inner critic. (If your inner critic is particularly intense check out my post: ‘how to make your inner critic your ally’). If this is true for you, it can be paralysing and before you know it, you’ll have missed out on opportunities.

How to find your strengths:  

  • Think about the best days you had at work. What were you doing and how did you feel doing it? Your strengths might feel natural and easy for you and sometimes we mistake ‘easy for me means easy for everyone’ and that can lead to dismissing your strengths.  
  • Your strengths might get you into a state of flow, where challenge and interest hit a sweet spot and you lose track of time.  
  • Ask trusted family, friends and colleagues what they think your strengths are. You may find that the same strengths show up in work and in your personal life.  

So in summary here are my top 3 tips for your career to thrive on your terms

  • Find your industry community that feels right for you.  
  • Work out what you want from your career and look for opportunities to get you there. Lean into your community to help you. 

     

  • Take the time to truly understand your strengths to give you confidence in your work. 

 

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