As I reflect on my career, I am grateful for the great people who have positively influenced my career. These incredible people saw my potential, invested in my development, provided new opportunities, mentored and sponsored me. We do not take the time to celebrate the people who have supported us in our professional lives.
In this blog post, I will share the five people that changed my career trajectory. Check out the other "Her Career" posts for tips and resources to help you thrive professionally.
The person who gave me my first internship
Throughout my years studying at the university, I worked on campus, babysat kids, and worked in restaurants to pay my way through school. When the time came to find internships, I had no idea where to start. I did not have a network in Germany that I could call on at this time of need. In a casual conversation with one of the mum's of the kids I was caring for, I shared that I was looking for an internship. A few weeks later, she told me about one of her husband's friends that would be interested in talking to me about internship opportunities. I prepared myself and went for coffee with the New connection. He offered me an internship in an IT department of a bank in neighboring Luxembourg. I still remember my first time on the shuttle from Trier to Luxemburg. I could not believe that I was on my way to my first job in a bank.
The internship gave me my first taste of Program Management, and my journey started. Internships were unpaid back then, so I continued babysitting. When the six months were over, I returned to continue my last year at university. After one semester, the time came for my final internship, and the person who gave me my first internship made an introduction to someone who worked in an IT department at an airline, and I got my second internship. This connection would not have happened if he did not spend some of his social capital on my behalf.
The person who gave me my first job
After writing over 50 job applications, I started worrying that I might not get a job after graduating from University in Germany. Although I had worked hard to earn my degree in business information systems and lived in Germany for almost ten years then, I still had no solid professional network to rely on and was mainly applying for jobs that I found in newspapers. Then one day, I was invited to interview at a management consulting firm in Offenbach outside Frankfurt. Unfortunately, I didn't get that job. While I was on my way back to Trier, I got a call inviting me to an interview in Cologne. I remember preparing very hard because I really needed this job. Early one morning, I got on a train to Cologne to hopefully get this job. The interview went well, and I wanted to work for this mobile agency. This was my first full-time job that helped me continue building my portfolio as a tech program manager.
My new employer took a bet on me and believed in my abilities. My first project was managing the development of a mobile app for a well-known German automobile brand. I still remember making 18,000 Euros in that job, and it felt like a lot of money to me.
The people who approved my relocation to the US from Germany
Although my move to the US was for a personal reason to be with my now husband, it has been one of the greatest things to happen to my career. Moving here has taken my career to heights I could never have imagined. I worked for an American company that had an office close to where my husband lived. After a series of events in my personal life, I knew that I was ready to move from Germany to the US. Relocating with my company was the easiest way to make it happen. Years before, I had spoken to our HR lead and other leaders in the company about my desire to relocate to the US. In late 2014, the time was right, and I had great advocates for my move from Cologne to our San Francisco office. Although because there was no business reason for my relocation, I had to cover most of my costs. However, my company did a lot of my immigration paperwork which was the hardest part. Moving to the Bay Area to be with my now husband was great for my personal life and career.
The person who gave me my first role leading a program management office
Working in a Management consulting company was one of my career highlights. It offered me the opportunity to work on projects for clients in many different industries. In eight years, I worked on aviation, automobile, fashion, and travel programs as a software program manager. I also got to work with global teams and learned a lot about different cultures. Fast forward to when I moved to the US, my skills as a global program manager were in high demand. After working on several projects for two years, I was offered the opportunity to work on a global program and said yes. My initial role for this client was to lead the development of a new platform. Over time, the scope of our work grew, and I built strong relationships with our clients. With the increase in scope and the size of our global team, the need for a central Program Management Office (PMO) came up. One of my team leads asked if I wanted to like to manage the PMO, and I initially said no. The role had a lot of responsibilities and required me to travel. I could not imagine having to be away from home for so much. He kept the role open and gave me time to get used to the idea of this big role. A few months passed, and I started believing that I could succeed. Having a team lead that encouraged me to take a bigger role is something I will always appreciate. Leading the PMO has been one of the highlights of my career.
A manager and skip-level manager that gave me the space to do great work
In previous blog posts, I have shared how successful the last two years have been for me professionally. Two of the people who have played a significant role in making this possible are my manager and skip level manager at the time. I am sure when they both first met me, they must have wondered why I was so bold in professing what I wanted from my career. I started building a relationship with my skip-level manager in 2019 when I joined a partner organization. Due to my previous experience, I knew that I needed great Sponsors to get to when I wanted to be in my career. Without knowing all the details, I am very grateful she has advocated for me in rooms where my career progression was discussed. In 2021, a few months after I returned from Maternity leave, I got to meet my new manager. Over the last two years, I have really appreciated how much faith and trust my Manager has put in my abilities.
Reflecting on my career journey reminded me of the past year's highs and lows. My professional journey started in Germany and has continued in the US over the past eight years. My experiences have varied vastly, and my growth has been phenomenal. As I think about what is next for me in my current career phase, I am reminded of how instrumental others have been in my career. I want to be someone that is a positive part of someone's career journey and experience.
Time for Reflection
One of the best pieces of professional advice I have received is building my network before I need it. I learned that growing my network needed to be a part of my career development planning. When I planned to write about the topic of networking in December, I had no idea what January 2023 would bring and how important our professional networks would be in these times. A lot of us have been neglecting our networks due to the pandemic.
In this blog post, we will explore five important questions to help us take stock and plan for our professional networks. Check out the other "Her Career" posts for tips and resources to help you thrive professionally.
Do you understand the benefits of having a professional network?
Like with many things in our lives, for you to have a solid network, you need to see and believe that it is beneficial. It takes work, and we know that It is easier to invest in doing something when we see that it is valuable. Professional networks serve multiple purposes, such as connecting you with people who have skills you can learn from, providing access to jobs or new projects, expanding your perspective, or providing opportunities to leverage your expertise in the service of others.
Strategies to consider
What does your professional network look like?
Networking experts group professional networks into these three types: operational, personal, and strategic. The operational network serves the purpose of helping you get work done effectively within your organization, while personal networks help your professional development, and strategic networks are most useful to gain clarity on future prospects or plans. All three types of networks are crucial for a successful career. The exercise of mapping your network and writing down the names of people you actively connect with in your network is helpful.
Strategies to consider
What area do you have gaps in your network?
Mapping out your network allows you to see where you can create better networks. A crucial part of maintaining a solid network is knowing what areas we can build out more. After mapping my network, I found that I needed to develop my strategic network. I also learned that I was no longer actively engaging with people outside my company. I like to remind myself that I have built networks in the past and can create new ones as needed.
Strategies to consider
What is holding you back from building your networking?
There are people who really enjoy networking. Some of them are natural, and others have mastered the skill of networking. Although I am an extrovert, building my professional networks did not come naturally to me. After doing some self-reflection, I found that my fear of rejection held me back from networking. I really struggled with reaching out to people. One thing that helped me was having a template that I leveraged to reach out to people. It helped me clarify why I was reaching out to them and how I could also bring value to them. It is less daunting to reach out to people now, and I remind myself that their willingness to connect is out of my control.
Strategies to consider
How can you maintain your professional network?
It is essential to continue maintaining our networks. Our professional networks need to change over time. As we grow and develop in our Careers, we need different types of networks. This is a reminder that professional networking is something that is ongoing. It takes continuous work and learning to build networks to grow with us. Our connections are a critical part of having a successful career. I have had to plan and be intentional about building my network.
Strategies to consider
We are responsible for our networks. As in our personal lives, the people we surround ourselves with in our professional lives matter a lot. You will reap the rewards of setting time and energy aside to grow and maintain your network.
Call to Action
What is networking and why is it so important?
To Take Charge of Your Career, Start by Building Your Tribe
Learn to Love Networking
4 Solid Strategies for Expanding Your Professional Network
How Leaders Create and Use Networks
While visiting Nigeria in January 2018, I posted my first blog post. At that time, I was very focused on starting to do things that I was afraid of. Looking back on the past five years, I am more than amazed about my journey. I am proud of the over 250 blog posts I have written, the people I have met, the countless stories I have heard, and the path I have built. Over the next years, I look forward to telling stories I have been holding back, providing a platform for others to share their stories, and exploring speaking opportunities.
In this blog post, I will share the five lessons that I have learned through my blog.
#1: Following your dreams is essential
Starting my blog was part of my dream to create a community of women who support one another on their journey. My blog created a platform for me to share my story, start a conversation and hear people's experiences. The experiences that have come through my blog have surprised me. If I did not take the bold step and followed my dream, I would not have had experience.
#2: Doing something bold helps you grow
My blogging journey has taken a lot of bold steps. I sat on my dream to start a blog for over seven years. Once I started, I found this new determination to not stand in the way of my success. For some reason, I talked myself into thinking that I did not have anything special to add.
#3: Taking time to reflect is a gift
Someone at dinner asked me what my favorite part of my blog has been. My response was that it has helped me discover myself. There are so many blog posts that I have written about my personal struggles at that time. Planning and writing my blog posts helped me become more aware of my thoughts and stage in life.
#4: Overcoming self-doubt is a process
When I finally launched my blog, I thought I had gotten past the major self-doubt I had experienced. Little did I know that I would experience phases where I doubted myself and didn't feel like blogging. I had to keep reminding myself of the results I have seen over the years and believe that I have something special to contribute.
#5: Having a solid support community is key
Especially when we work towards our bold goals, we need people who believe in us and support our success. Every time I receive a comment about a post I wrote, I am very encouraged to continue. I have been blessed with amazing people who have been by my side over the past five years.
Final Thoughts: Appreciation
One thing that is sure is that I could not have done this without my people. Let me take the time to say a huge thank you.
My Life in the US - Year 8
In February 2015, I packed up all of my life in Germany and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the US. I can not believe I have been living here for eight years since I moved here. It has been an exciting ride. I still miss Germany and some of the things I got used to after living there for 14 years. The theme for this year was "chase your professional dreams."
In this blog post, I will reflect on my eight years in the US. This is part of my "Her Relocation" series, where I talk about my experience living in multiple countries over the past 20 years. Check out my previous posts about My Life in the US - Year 1, Year 2&3, Year 4, Year 5, Year 6, and Year 7.
Growing my career
In my 8th year in the US, I experienced tremendous professional success. In the past years, I focused on finding a job that I really enjoy and settling into it. Last year, I did great work, got promoted, and worked with an awesome team. Moving to the US took my career to another level. I had no idea how fast I would grow professionally, and I am very grateful for this journey.
Spending time with our family
Traveling to the UK to see our family seemed like a homecoming for me. Although we didn't get to go back to Germany, being in Europe certainly made me feel at home. We got to introduce our son to our family, build new memories and enjoy the things I missed. Traveling out of the US gave me time to reflect on my journey and more perspective on how things have been going. I am very grateful to be living here with my family at this phase of my life.
Enjoying my life
In the last few years, I have prioritized doing things that I enjoy. We are blessed to live in a beautiful part of the world. Exploring different parts of California has been a highlight. We have been enjoying short day trips and longer vacations in the sun. Looking at pictures makes me very happy that our son gets to experience these beautiful moments.
Not understanding some things about the US
Even after living here for eight years, I still do not understand many things. Living in Germany made me expect basic social services that, unfortunately, are unavailable in the US. The most significant difference that has affected our lives is the insufficient availability of child care. It is difficult to reconcile that getting a quality education for our child will be very expensive as long as we live in the US. I have accepted that healthcare is a privilege that not everyone has.
Getting a taste of Germany right in our backyard
One important thing to us is to pass on our Nigerian and German culture to our son. When we started looking for a daycare for him, we were thrilled to find a bilingual German and English daycare that was only about 20 minutes from our house. That was the start of our connection with some other German families. We have enjoyed some German traditions like going to a Christmas Market and Lantern festival. I have really enjoyed being able to show our son a part of our culture.
Final Thoughts - 10 Lessons I learned
In the eight years of my life in the US, I learned a lot of great lessons, including the following: