What's your name?
What's your title or function?
Principle Research Scientist at Microsoft AI for Good Research
What industry do you work in?
What led you to reach out for help with your career? What was going on in your life at the time?
While I was happy with my career, there was a lot happening in my personal life. We suddenly found ourselves in a situation in which a family member would require a lot of extra care, and I needed to think about my next career move. In particular, I wanted to explore whether it was better to double down into my career and buy solutions to the issues in my personal life, pull back completely from the career, or find a happy medium with elements from both.
What did you feel about getting matched to your coach and why did you ultimately decide to work with her?
It was great, Katie had a lot of experience working with executives, and I liked her work style: lots of asynchronous pre-work up-front so that we could maximize the benefit of our meeting time.
"I couldn’t know whether coaching helps or not. In many cases, it seems to help and there’s a lot of data and tradition (e.g., sports coaching). In some other cases, e.g., life coaching, there seems to be a large number of chancers: the Google and Bing autocompletion for “is life coaching…” is “a scam”. "
What were your hesitations about hiring a career coach?
I couldn’t know whether coaching helps or not. In many cases, it seems to help and there’s a lot of data and tradition (e.g., sports coaching). In some other cases, e.g., life coaching, there seems to be a large number of chancers: the Google and Bing autocompletion for “is life coaching…” is “a scam”.
Sports coaching can be pretty objective, as in many sports there are a lot of metrics. Careers are not so easily measured. Some aspects are easier than others. For example, a salary negotiation coach can probably be measured a lot better than a job satisfaction coach.
What made you take the leap of faith to work with a coach?
A post from Jenni helped, talking about “if olympic athletes need coaches, why not you?”
Another thing that helped a lot was the second season of “Against the Rules”, the podcast by Michael Lewis, that explains a lot about the advantages of having coaches. The second episode “Don’t be good, be great” and the last episode “Aim higher” are among the best things I’ve ever spent my time on, and my kids aged 11-15 listen to those episodes frequently.
If you’ve never listened to it, I highly recommend it: Against the Rules with Michael Lewis on Apple Podcasts.
What was the process like working with your coach?
I’m not sure how much Katie customized the process for me, but I was glad that we had a lot of asynchronous work. I got to write a lot about what I was looking for, what the challenges were, etc. She would read what I wrote and when we met, it was really productive. This worked really well for me.
"Finding time to organize my thoughts and goals and write 3-4 pages required some planning. In my case, it required waking up really early and taking advantage of the silence of the house."
What, if anything, surprised you?
I don’t think I was very surprised, but I spent a lot of time trying to understand how things were supposed to work, so this probably helped.
What was the most difficult part of the coaching process and how did you alleviate it with your coach?
Even though it was not difficult for me, writing coherently about my goals was the “most difficult”. Finding time to organize my thoughts and goals and write 3-4 pages required some planning. In my case, it required waking up really early and taking advantage of the silence of the house.
"In some cases, I was missing opportunities: not being able to articulate why I wanted to work with that company, in that position, probably cost me something that I would have liked. On the other hand, some positions were clearly poor matches for me, and I wasted time pursuing them."
What were the three most impactful lessons you learned during the coaching process?
My main problem was to clarify my goals when applying to positions. I had a good job already, and was being heavily headhunted for lots of big tech companies. I got targeted calls from Apple, Meta, Shopify, Microsoft, Google, other Amazon departments, etc. However, at some point early in each process, I would stumble on the question “why do you want to work for us”.
In some cases, I was missing opportunities: not being able to articulate why I wanted to work with that company, in that position, probably cost me something that I would have liked. On the other hand, some positions were clearly poor matches for me, and I wasted time pursuing them.
I’m not sure I got three things, but I got two very important things:
Extremely good clarity on what I was actually looking for
Extremely good clarity on how to articulate what I was looking for
What was the outcome of coaching? Did it meet your expectations?
It was very efficient, in just a few meetings I had a good working plan and a good framework to make decisions. I ended up dropping for most career pursuits and only keeping Google and Microsoft, with a preference of Microsoft over Google (because Katie helped me see how obvious the preference was).
Beyond the outcome of coaching, the process is often the most powerful part? Did you find that to be true for you?
I think so, I built a good framework that is useful to me to this day.
What's the most exciting part of the work you're doing right now?
I’m at the cutting edge of technology, and the work I do is impactful. I can tell my kids about it and they understand how it helps the world.
You post a lot of thought leadership are AI for good. What kind of impact do you hope your content will have in the world?
Honestly, my main goal with social media is to have a pipeline for recruiting. I try to do it in a way that's educational enough that people that are interested in it are people that have high curiosity, which is something that I like hiring for. With the market the way it is, these days I’m posting just to keep the account alive, thinking about a future where I’m going to need to hire a lot again. But when that day comes, my content usually connects me with people that are interesting and interested, which makes hiring a lot easier.
"Coaching is a cheat code. These days, people do coaching for everything. I recommend listening to the podcast I mentioned above to see some types of coaching that really work."
What would you say to people who are on the fence of working with a Fink Development coach?
Coaching is a cheat code. These days, people do coaching for everything. I recommend listening to the podcast I mentioned above to see some types of coaching that really work.
I like that Fink Development has a good intake process and is willing to fire clients. It’s certainly possible that high-achieving people could do everything on their own if they just found the time and got pointed in the right direction. Fink Development seems to select for people that they can actually help.
Navigating your career is challenging. What piece of advice would you give to other jobseekers or professionals trying to be intentional with their career?
What else do you want to share, that we haven't asked you?
I was so happy with Katie that I referred one of my friends to her. That friend also returned to Microsoft and just got her award for 25 years.
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