When Preparation Meets Opportunity
By Annie Hedgpeth · November 16, 2023
When Preparation Meets Opportunity

A big thank you to everyone who followed along in the Career Inflection Points series and for all of the kind comments and DMs. Reflecting on such milestones reminds me of the famous quote:

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

I felt very lucky when I got my job at HashiCorp, but if we keep using the inflection point imagery, it was really just a continuation of the curve created in one of the previous inflection points. I also interviewed there four different times, twice with the same team, and just finally landed on the right timing with the right group of people. So I decided to end the series there and pivot to some other ideas that have been floating around in my head.

I have been thinking a lot lately about that preparation aspect of luck and how that’s been a sort of secret weapon in my own career growth. Here’s the TL;DR: it doesn’t matter how good of an engineer you are unless you know how to track your goals in order to show growth quarter after quarter, because guess what-no one else really knows what you’re doing otherwise.

When I first started at 10th Magnitude, they were having some growing pains, so I had four different managers in the first six months that I worked there. I was freaking out a little bit because I was in a new career and industry and I had a lot of learning and growth to figure out. Not only that, but my imposter syndrome was such a daily battle that I was certain that I needed to keep a running log of reasons why they shouldn’t fire me, ahem, ways in which I added value.

I knew that I needed to show growth quarter after quarter, but what was my measuring stick? If I was comparing myself to my colleagues, what they knew, how much they delivered to customers, I would surely come up short; I was the epitomy of being a noob. The only appropriate measuring stick in this scenario was to use the goals for growth in which I set for myself. But what should they be?

I told you about how Michael was a patient tutor for me for in those early years. Well, he also served as a career guide and mentor to help me map out those goals necessary to get me to where I wanted to be. I had no clue about any of it, but he knew me well enough to know where I should take my career and how I should plan it out. (Disclaimer: I recommend that anyone proceed with caution in attempting to simulate this with their own partner. It’s not easy. If you can find another mentor willing to put in the time and effort, then that is probably better.)

So here’s how it would go. I made my 5-10 year long-term goals, annual goals that would support the long-term goals, and quarterly goals that would support the annual goals. I would share my annual and quarterly goals with my manager and with whatever review tracking system we had at the time. Then each one-on-one meeting we had, I would share what I was doing to move the needle on those goals. That’s it. Then when review time rolled around, I would have evidence of growth to show.

Do you think that anyone else was tracking my progress and growth? Absolutely not. That was my job, and no matter how good of a manager I have, it’s always my job. Your growth is the most important to you, not to anyone else, so treat it as one of your most important tasks. Sure, it’s a lot of work to stay on top of it all the time (I use the Full Focus Planner), but it’s just like keeping a budget. At first you think that having a budget is restrictive and such a pain, but eventually you see that it actually allows you more freedom than you had before because you have greater control over where your money is being spent, which allows you to spend it on the things that matter most to you. Goal setting is just budgeting for your time and life energy.

While the Full Focus Planner has been great for planning, we’ve missed something that would help us truly track and make progress in our jobs and with our network by being more integrative. We are in the early stages of creating that solution, and if you want to make progress in those areas, let us know. We’d love to talk to you!