10x New Beginnings
How to apply 10x thinking to your job search?
It’s no surprise that the very first post is about job search while we’re witnessing The Great Resignation! It also coincides with my own job change (more about this later). With so many people changing jobs, one may argue, what’s left to discuss here? People have figured out exactly what they want. Let me share a different perspective, a 10x perspective. While many have landed an offer (in many cases multiple offers) at the company of their dreams, the selection criteria is often not optimal. Most changes are about more money, better titles, better work life balance, in other words, doing more of the same. Even when it’s different, a systematic approach to maximize the value creation potential is largely missing. This results in sometimes egregious mismatch in role and expectations, and massive waste of human potential.
I’m not saying money, titles, or work-life-balance are somehow less “worthy” goals. They certainly are important depending on what you want out of your life at that moment, but my thesis is that you can often achieve most/all of that while also aligning yourself with an opportunity that will maximize your potential, help you thrive and give you joy along the way.
Here is a framework I’ve come up with to help you achieve your “10x” goals during your job search, and it’s based on the notion of leverage. Given a job, you can always apply your skills. With leverage you can have outsized impact using the same set of skills. There are three main ways you can increase your leverage, and often you combine these elements to have a multiplier effect. I list them in an increasing order of leverage:
Domain Knowledge (10x) - I have built native replication and disaster recovery products as part of my journey at Springpath/Cisco. During the process, I’ve built knowledge about evolving market needs in this area, competition - their strengths and weaknesses, technology stacks, hiring plan, performance benchmarks, customer deployments, go-to-market strategy, and operational challenges. Based on this acquired domain knowledge, I feel pretty confident about starting a new company in this area, or pursuing a job opportunity with companies focusing on modern data protection software. I would not be starting from scratch. I would be bringing my domain knowledge to accelerate the execution - avoid the mistakes and doubling down on what worked best.
Power of Teams (100x) - Great teams work together time and again! We see this in the startup world all the time. The reason is pretty simple. You put two or more smart people together on a project, the result is not automatic addition of their smarts. Often the result is less than linear, and sometimes downright negative. But once you discover a set of team members you work effectively together - complementing one another's strengths and weaknesses, collaborating constructively, helping each out push their boundaries, all while having fun - the results are often magical!
Inner Passion (1000x) - There is absolutely no substitute for passion! You can’t borrow it from somebody, and you can’t fake it. It’s the inner nuclear reactor powering all your efforts. If you’re skilled, but lack passion, you will never be able to outcompete or outshine somebody with passion. I value passion so highly that in my opinion, it trumps the first two forms of leverage by a mile. If you’re passionate, you will build the domain knowledge faster than anybody else. If you’re passionate, you will attract like-minded people to work together with you. If you’re not passionate however, (and I see this in the tech industry all the time because of its lucrative jobs), you can find success but it would be hard to achieve greatness. Even if it’s not the greatness you aspire to, you will be hard pressed to find joy in your daily work. The pursuit of happiness starts with passion!
How to operationalize this framework to get 10x advantage in your next job? Naturally, I’d start with passion. Figure out the customer issues you feel most passionate about solving and pursue those opportunities vigorously. Next identify the team. The best bet is to network with your current and prior colleagues with whom you had a greatly positive working relationship and see how you can repeat the collaboration. Finally, learn as much as you can about the business you’re part of currently, and see how you can leverage that knowledge in your next job.
Coming back to my personal job switch story - after working in enterprise software for more than 15 years, I realized my passion dwindled and although I had a few fantastic offers to work in enterprise infrastructure space with fancier titles, more money, and even a co-founding opportunity - I couldn’t summon my inner passion to commit to this work for next 4-5 years or however long it takes to drive a meaningful impact. I believe, as a manager, and especially as a manager, you not only need to generate enough enthusiasm for yourself, but also for your whole team. So, I took a rather bold step to decline these opportunities in search of finding a new passion. I did a ton of research: (i) read engineering blogs from Google, Uber, Netflix, Intuit, to name a few, (ii) studied books on data pipeline, data science, applied AI/ML, and (iii) talked to people working at some of these companies about the nature of their day to day work and interesting problems they solve. Through this research and deep introspection, I realized I wanted to be close to the customer journey, get that real time feedback and act on that data to improve customer experiences and drive product changes. Turns out - a completely new business context, a starkly different paradigm, putting my psyche into the beginner’s mindset - is exactly what I needed to feel re-energized. With passion restored, I looked at other multipliers and got hold of a fantastic set of ex-colleagues to not just help me secure leads for new opportunities, but also with a goal of re-establishing a working relationship. While I’m switching domains, and won’t be able to carry much of the domain knowledge at my new role, I’ve learned a great deal about key technologies powering state of the art big data applications, product telemetry and customer data driving innovations in customer support and products, customer centric culture, and solid engineering management principles - I feel excited and inspired to take this next step in my career.
As this first post draws to a close, I wish to thank you for taking time reading my perspective, and wish you the very best in your 10x journey!