Career Advice

Career Advice

Why Goldman Sachs’ behavior in Bully Market by Jamie Fiore Higgins is just not that unusual

I have just finished reading Bully Market – the story of how Jamie Fiore Higgins rose to MD at Goldman Sachs while hating the culture but loving the money. It’s a fast fun read, not great literature but a compelling insight into the behaviors women have put up with in the last 30 years that are all too common, and yet still egregious enough to be shocking. She’s brave to write so frankly about what she experienced – hats off to her. You can read the NY Times review here.

The book brought back many so many memories for me. So many shared experiences, so many times I could not quite believe the behavior around me, and yet I never worked at Goldman Sachs. I worked in the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley which also had a male-dominated, good old boys culture generating wealth for the people who were willing to work really hard and put up with toxic cultures. And so many of the things she experienced I and many of my friends also experienced a world away.

When Jamie had her babies at Goldman there was a lactation center where she could, in theory, go to pump breast milk but her boss made it clear he didn’t want her taking the time out to do that so she weaned her twins. When I got pregnant with our first child there was no maternity leave policy at the company I worked at so I turned to working with HR to write one. When I came back to work after 6 weeks I was determined to try to breast feed our daughter but there was nowhere to pump breast milk except the ladies room – with nowhere to sit except on the toilet – and so I would lock my office door so I could pump in private. I would moo loudly if someone knocked on the door. I had to keep a sense of humor but I gave up after a few weeks.

When Jamie had a miscarriage her boss put pressure on her to come back into work before she was well enough. When my son was 4 weeks old my boss asked me to come into the office because there was a major reorganization going down and, as one of the executive team, I needed to be there. I agreed, but my son was not weaned and so I took him in with me, breast fed him in the meetings sitting at the board room table with the other execs while they didn’t know where to look. I then held him on my shoulder while he slept as I stood in front of my department of 150 people telling them about the new organization. Yes, it was insane, but I felt I had no choice. If I didn’t go in I would not be considered serious about my career.

Jamie recounted experiences of piggish behavior in her male colleagues and their attitudes towards women. I saw and heard it too many times. Being told the meeting with the customer would be at a strip bar – so I went to the strip bar with the guys, building up a tolerance for drinking shots. Learning about the golf tournament held for our customers which had topless caddies – and being thankful I was not there, but also very grateful to the customer who made a formal complaint. Walking into a bar in New York with a colleague and finding the Goldman Sachs partner who led our investment banking team in the bar, drunk, with four prostitutes. I confess I was merciless and sat down with him, engaged him in conversation, chatted with the hookers and watched him squirm as I, the client, witnessed his embarrassment.

Male colleagues attitudes to pregnancy were a mine field. As Jamie found, many men relate what you are going through to their wives’ experiences and if it is different then you must be misguided. One day, after struggling with my schedule and being asked to attend an offsite on the weekend I finally realized why my life seemed so much harder to plan than the rest of the executive team – I was the only member of the team whose spouse worked, and the only female. 

The hostile experiences were continuous. The customer who sat in meetings staring at my breasts, the customer who would always put his hand on my knee when he sat next to me, no matter how many times I took it off. The CEO of one of the largest US semiconductor companies who I sat next to at a formal dinner in 1991 when I was 6 months pregnant. He looked at my belly, then into my face, and told me he didn’t believe in promoting women because they just got pregnant and left. My boss, sitting on his other side, gave me a hard look not to say anything. Suck it up and smile. 

And as for the long hours, they could be appalling. I was usually the only woman in whatever group I was in and I would try to get in first and leave last. My hours even made it into the company comedy show one year. I knew it would take working harder and smarter than the men to get ahead. I knew I would be judged if I showed a moment of weakness. Too many men asked me if I’d come back to work after I had our first child. I was never confused about the pressure. Dinners, late nights with customers, travel almost every week in the US, to Europe, to Japan and no internet at home so it was hard to work from home. That meant dinners at the office, or out with customers and  dinner with my kids only at the weekend.

This was not unusual, for anyone. The experiences Jamie shares at Goldman Sachs were horrible but she was being paid in 7 figures. Goldman, and many, many other companies, could behave that way because they were paying so well, whether in cash or stock options. I admire that she put up with it so long, that she was willing to write about the hostility she felt as a woman in their environment and I hope it is slowly changing, but change will be slow until women are in equal power at the top and can create a new set of rules.

The bottom line is we live in a highly competitive world. Yes, you should not have to put up with blatantly sexist behavior at work or be excluded from client access because you are not a good old boy who likes strip clubs, but in the end we are all competing and you have to have your eyes wide open and be willing to tolerate the tough times to get ahead. We are competing with each other, we are competing with our competitors, we are competing with countries who want to take our market share and our industries. 

We get paid the big bucks to produce results, results that take hard work and long hours, and you must expect to work hard and suck it up plenty if you want to win in a competitive field. Balance is a myth at the top of the earning bracket.

Photo: Puglian medieval fresco © 2022 Penny Herscher

Career Advice

Visiting the Luiss Business School in Rome

I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak at the Luiss Business School in October – in Rome no less! The discussion centered on tech, subjects like AI, China, Semiconductors and then the role and importance of diversity. And all within a gorgeous 16th century papal palace.

Professor Pierluigi Matera graciously interviewed me in two settings: One on one and then with a group of students. Here are the two videos. My comments on diversity start at ~35:00 in the first one, and thread through the second one.

Career Advice

The choice we make to be loyal, or not

Is loyalty a good thing – or is it a dirty word? Depends on the context – politics, business, your family? But when talking about professional loyalty it can be a double-edged sword.

Fundamentally to be loyal to another person is a choice you make. You may have several different reasons to choose to be loyal. You may admire the person – their intellect, their effectiveness, their values. You may be grateful to them for helping you through a tough situation. Maybe they made you money, or promoted you and taught you what they know, or maybe you believe demonstrating loyalty to them will give you a payback. Or in the simple case you just really like them and want to support or protect them.

Similarly, the people you work with will choose whether to be loyal to you or not, primarily based on your behavior. They will each make a decision as to whether you are worth their loyalty or not.

Loyalty is different from friendship – you may not mingle your families or hang out after work – but it outlasts any one job. It may well outlast your career.  I was recently contacted by a former colleague who asked me for help with an ugly situation. Even though we have not worked together for 20 years, or spoken for 10 years, I did not hesitate because I still feel loyal to him.

It can backfire when it is too strong though – when it blinds you to an employee’s performance issues or slows down a difficult decision. For example, the case when a CEO won’t move on an executive that is the wrong person for the job because she is too loyal to her team members. CEOs are usually too slow to fire people; by the time they make the decision it is often at least 6 months too late. I have watched a board unable to remove a failing CEO because they had worked with him for so long; I have seen a CEO removed from his job for not being willing to act on an executive he was too loyal to that was pulling the company down.

Loyalty can put you in a no-win situation. Do you betray a loyal colleague when they lie? When someone you are loyal to is bending the truth to get to an end result, and you know it, and you are asked for the whole truth? Do you reveal the whole truth and expose the colleague you are loyal to? Do you keep quiet, or find a way to avoid the confrontation? I was young when I was put in this situation and I still feel internal conflict when I think about the choice I made to back my boss and help him make the sale on the terms he wanted rather than expose his manipulation of the facts.

But on the flip side, loyalty is powerful and important in tough business situations. When you are growing a business and there is a crisis (we see something every few years… 9/11, 2008, Covid-19) you can take more risk and face down more dragons if you are confident that the people you are working will stick with you, and your plans, through the crisis. When you are personally under attack from a competitor, or a co-founder, or a colleague knowing who you can count on to support you and follow through on their responsibilities no matter what makes all the difference in the world and can allow you to stay focused on the challenge right in front of you.

Loyalty is tested in difficult situations and it is tested over time. It still surprises me to learn who of my former employees and colleagues are still loyal to me today. Surprises and humbles me. And I am hurt by those who I thought were loyal and then showed over time they were not.

But it is a choice. You can decide who you will be loyal to. Are you conscious of who your choices are?

Photo: A loyal Italian soccer fan in Florence © 2021 Penny Herscher

Career Advice

Men to avoid: the ones who tell you to slow down

There is nothing more demotivating than someone above you in your chain of command telling you to slow down, to be less ambitious. Especially if you are a woman and the teller is a man.

This behavior is, of course, not new. So many of our mansplaining experiences are captured in the new book Men to Avoid in Art and Life by Nicole Tersigni – I’m using one of her captioned paintings here to illustrate my message. A laugh-out-loud joy of a book and Twitter meme.

I was coaching a young woman recently and she was extremely frustrated that her boss has told her to “slow down” and be “less ambitious”, in a way she knew was coming from her age and gender. This young woman is mid twenties, smart, high energy, driven and very ambitious. She is an immigrant and has worked hard to get a college degree and now her US citizenship. She has big plans for herself and her career and having spent several sessions with her now I can see she is an employee you would want in your company. I’d want to tap into the precocious, precious combination of intellect and willingness to work really hard.

But that was not the case this time.

I can relate because the same happened to me early on in my career. If you are a young female in tech, more driven than the men around and above you then you are threatening to them. It is easier to put you down, tell you to “be patient” than it is to tap into your energy and drive because you just might overtake them as a result!

Good managers understand this. They see the potential and feed it. Stretch you, give you tough projects that challenge you. I was happy to work really hard and lose sleep if it meant I got a bigger opportunity both to win for the company and grow my skills. It’s your right as a talented employee to be stretched if you want to be stretched.

So if you find yourself being held back, being told to slow down, to be a little more humble, it is time for you to move on. Find yourself a new manager within your company if the problem is a local one with your manager, or if it is a result of the company culture find a new company to work for. And don’t be afraid to be visible so your new manager, or a recruiter, can find you.

Photo © Chronicle Books

Career Advice

Talk in Powerpoint not in Word!

It’s tough to listen when you just want someone to get to the point.

People talk too much for many reasons: nerves, wanting to be recognized or heard, wanting to look knowledgable or sometimes even because they enjoy talking, have lots of thoughts in their head and want to get them out. If you are with friends in a restaurant and they enjoy your style – who cares? But in the office talking too much will work against you because you’ll suck up other people’s time which they will, eventually, resent.

It’s very important to match your style to your audience – whether you are presenting to 1000 people or talking with 1. But it is much harder to be concise than to let your thoughts flow. It is much harder to make a 3 minute presentation that a 10 minute one. It takes discipline and a great deal more preparation.

Being concise is a skill you can learn, like any other skill or language. It takes work, and practice, but once you learn it it is very powerful.

First, consider Powerpoint and Word. In Powerpoint you write down bullets. Short, smart, impactful bullets. In Word you write many sentences, elaborating and expounding on your thoughts.

To teach yourself to present concise ideas start by preparing your bullet points before a discussion. You’re going into a one-on-one with your boss and you know you need to make some points, and discuss some issues. Prepare by making your bullet point list (preferably 3 or less, no more than 5). Then, when you are in the discussion stick to your points. Don’t run on about one or another, make yourself concisely state your issue/point of view and stop.

If you do this every time before you go into a meeting then the next step is to learn to do it on the fly. You’re in a discussion, you know you have a point you want to make, take a deep breath, count to 5, or 10, focus your mind to only the essential of what you want to say and state 1-3 short points, not an essay. Then be quiet and pause for clarifying questions – which gives you the opportunity to crisply expand your thoughts in response.

It is also important to watch your audience carefully. Are they truly with you or zoning out and politely nodding? If you talk more than a minute, pause and check in with the person you are talking with. Ask an open ended question like “what are the holes in what I’m saying” not a closed question like “make sense?” to which yes is the polite, but meaningless, answer.

With some people you may find having a piece of paper and drawing a picture of your idea, or your key points, may help. Many people are more visual than verbal. Sitting with a large pad and jotting down your points together can help you focus and not ramble on. This physical prop can also help you listen better. Writing down what the other person is saying will help you focus on their ideas instead of simply thinking about your response before they have finished.

Finally, always be aware of time. It amazes me when I meet with people and they talk for 10 or 15 minutes about themselves, what they want to tell me etc. without noticing how long they are talking, especially if we only have 30 minutes! If you need to catch up socially first then schedule that into your meeting time; if you simply need a focused conversation schedule 30 minutes and be disciplined about it. One prop is to wear a watch and put it on the table if you need to learn this. Most people will support you if you are straightforward about why you are watching the time. And if you are given 1.5 hours and your executives, or board, want a discussion don’t ramble on for an hour about generalities (as I recently experienced in a board meeting). Talk for 15 minutes max and then figure out how to make your discussion interactive.

The exception to this, of course, is if you are telling a story or you have been asked to make a speech on a topic. Whether that story is professional, or personal, if you have permission from your listeners to tell a story then take your time. Expound, embellish because that is part of the pleasure for the listener and part of your persuasive power to build the picture in your audience’s minds.

If you are naturally loquacious being concise is a hard change to make but it is an incredibly powerful skill for your career and it can be learned. If you want outside help join something like ToastMasters, or a competitive debate club. Nothing focuses the mind like competition.

Photo: Dante’s Barque, Venice © 2018 Penny Herscher

Career Advice

Startup or large corporate – which is best for you?

Everyone has an opinion of whether you should work for big companies or small, startup or corporate, but the answer is very personal. I was coaching a group earlier this week and the question came up as “I am working for a startup but everyone is telling me I should go work for a big corporate now for my resume – what do you think?”

I believe there is no right way, no right answer. But there are dimensions to consider as you map out your next step.

  • Are you working for good, experienced managers? Do you respect them, and will they invest in you? If so, stay with them as long as you are growing and learning – whether you are in a small or a large company. It is so much more efficient to learn from good managers than from bad. There are a thousand ways to do a job badly and a handful of ways to do it well so learn as much as you can from people you respect for as long as you can.
  • Are you working for a winning startup? I have found many employees are very loyal to their company, even when in their hearts they know it is failing, and yet if the company is not winning you may not grow. It could be that you get more experience because you get a battlefield promotion, but more likely if the company is not growing your responsibilities and span of control will not grow. Remember 9 out of 10 startups fail. So if you are early in your career and want to advance fast try to find a startup (if you chose to do one) that is growing.
  • Do you long for more formal training, If so then it’s probably time to go to a larger company and grow your large company skillsets. These may be larger team management, scale, working with international teams, and probably politics. Larger companies will typically either having training programs internally, or have the budget to send you out on courses. I was fortunate enough to be sent to the Stanford Executive MBA program, all expenses paid (while I was pregnant) because the company wanted to invest in me. It was a fantastic experience for me, a math major with no business training, to learn the basics of finance, marketing, management and organizational development in a crash course. A startup would not have been able to invest in me that way.
  • Do you want to manage lots of people? Again, a large company stint may make sense for you. It is certainly a great experience to manage a large team of people or a large P&L at some point in your career. But with that will come both good and bad politics. Good – the art of influencing people in a constructive way; Bad – the art of backroom lobbying and selfish decisions. So prepare yourself for both.
  • Do you need stability? There are times in all our lives when stability is very attractive, such as when we are caring for an ill family member, and times when it doesn’t seem important. Be aware of what you need right now.
  • Do you need to make a high end salary for the level/job you are in? Larger, established companies will typically pay more, especially if you are in a very competitive job category. Startups will typically want to conserve cash. Make sure you know what you are worth in the market at large and then consciously make the decision that works for you and your financial plans.
  • Do you enjoy risk and want to have fun? Well then, a startup is probably for you.

And when you are all done, looking back on your career from a beach or with grandchildren on your knee, what’s important is that you have lived to your highest potential (whatever that means to you) – and that you have worked for and with great people in fun companies. Life is too short to work in low quality companies, with and for bozos, when there are so many terrific companies and people to work with.

Photo:  Sheep in the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia on the south coast of Spain. © 2018 Penny Herscher

Career Advice

So you want to raise money – chose your investor carefully

At least once a week I take a call, or a coffee, with an entrepreneur who wants advice on how to raise money. We talk about her product and market, the stage of her business, how good is her story and what her vision is. And then we talk about the tactics of raising money. How to get a warm intro to reputable investors, how to think about angel vs. seed vs. venture, how much to raise, what a strong pitch looks like – the usual tactical coaching.

Yesterday I was delighted that the entrepreneur I was coaching also brought up how to assess the quality of the investors. The quality of the firm and the individual. She’d had a bad experience in the past and simply did not want to have a poor quality individual in her deal.

Many entrepreneurs never realize how important this question is: all money is green but it is not all equally valuable. Investors, like human beings, come in all styles and since building a company is a marathon not a sprint you want to be running with someone who is enjoyable to be with and who will help you win the race.

First, pick someone who has the same vision and values as you. You are (hopefully) in your venture because you believe you can change the world (if you are doing it to get rich stop now because you don’t get rich in the startup world by trying to get rich, you get rich by building something) and it’s very important that your investors want you to change the world too. There are many, many tough moments of truth when building a company, and none more so than when you get an offer for your company before you think you are ready – before you have built the strategy and value that you believe is possible. That moment is when you find out whether your investor truly shared your vision on how to change the world or was just telling you he did.

It’s also important to pick a partner who can do heavy lifting for you when you need it. Great venture firms have a rich, deep network to help you recruit, develop partnerships, manage sticky HR issues and even find office space.

Avoid the money based VC (often a former investment banker) who’s motivated by running a portfolio, who wants to tell you what to do but has never done it himself. Find someone who walks the talk and builds great companies. Find a former entrepreneur who has really done it him or herself. If you can, find a VC who has been doing it for more than 10 years and has a great track record – and talk to their CEOs – or find one who’s been a CEO, built a good company and taken it public. All this is visible on their web bios.

And pick someone you enjoy being with. Most companies take many years to mature and if you are going to meet with your board a couple of times a quarter for 5 years it certainly makes the journey more fun if you enjoy interacting with them.

Sadly there are many entitled, think-their-shit-doesn’t-stink VCs in Silicon Valley. I could fill a book of stories of men who think they are rich because they are smart and that they don’t have to be courteous or helpful. Who are openly rude, dismissive and condescending. For comic relief – one of my most bizarre meetings was with a young VC whose firm had been in early at Google and he spent the whole meeting behind his desk checking the Google stock price and telling me how much money he had made. He was not the partner in the deal, just in the partnership, and yet he still thought it was all about him and I should be impressed!

But at the same time there are plenty of men, and women, who truly love working with entrepreneurs and have a very healthy respect for how hard building a company is. The challenge is you may have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your investing prince or princess. So manage your time and do your research up front.

Of course, in the end, you do need to get funded and you may need to take what you can get, but if you have the chance to be selective, the right investor is more important than the highest valuation because you’ll build a better company, have a stronger chance to change the world and make more money in the long run with the right partner.

Photo: Valetta, Malta © 2018 Penny Herscher

Career Advice

There’s no dishonor in being fired (most of the time)

So you “get fired” – what does that really mean? And should you feel bad, or is it an opportunity to review where you really belong.

Let’s start with the word. Fired. The web has a variety of etymologies for the word fired being applied to losing ones job but the version I grew up with is that when a craftsman was very bad at his job (say… working on a Medieval cathedral) and he was kicked off the crew his tools would be thrown into the fire (so he could not continue), as opposed to the craftsman who loses his job because times are slow in which case he is given the “sack” – he put his tools into his sack and left.

People get “fired” for a whole variety of reasons and in the majority of the cases it has little, if anything, to do with how good they actually are. They may lose their job because a company is downsizing, or reducing a group because a project is over, or the team/task is being moved to a cheaper location. I know a fantastic Bay Area VP who lost her job because the team was moved to Denver by the acquiring PE firm and she said no thank you (even though the severance was pathetically small).

A person may lose their job because they were in the wrong job in the first place: the job was simply not a good fit for their skills and it’s a shame they, and the hiring manager, did not figure that out up front. This is a great opportunity to get feedback, get coaching about where the fit would be better, maybe make an inventory of skills and satisfaction and figure out a slightly different career (see my blog post on this here).

I’ve seen great sales people fail, and get fired, because they switched industry and, without a deep knowledge of the product they are selling, they never quite grok the new sales process well enough to make quota, but they are still great sales people.

Sometimes people get fired because they challenge their boss to a point where the boss feels threatened. If you work for a weak manager this is always a risk, so find a strong person to work for. This happens to senior executives who go over their bosses heads to the CEO, or even to the board. If you find yourself in this situation don’t be naïve. Know that if you lose faith in your boss (or know they are doing something really wrong and won’t listen to you) and go over his or her head there is a 90% probability you’ll lose your job. Even bona fide whistle blowers lose their jobs in most cases.

You can even sometimes see executives lose their jobs because someone has to be sacrificed (to the SEC, or major investors) and the board is not willing to let the CEO take the fall. Yes, this happens.

And then we have the whole recent crop of media moguls, executives and CEOs who have been fired for breaching some part of the sexual harassment code of the company. What’s fascinating, and worrying, about this trend is we have the whole spectrum from the ghastly Harvey Weinstein to CEOs being fired for having a relationship which breaches the company’s rule for relationships within the company, to  “code of conduct” reasons where the company does not say why (but they say in their press release that it is unrelated to the business). My biggest worry about boards acting as judge and jury on sexual harassment cases (oversight of which is loooooong overdue, trust me) is that we could get a backlash and future serious cases of harassment will get ignored. If the #metoo movement sticks and creates permanent change that’s a good thing, but with most board members still being male (and too often not wanting to deal with harassment issues that come up) I do hope boards don’t get bored and stop paying attention because too many marginal cases come up.

So how to think about it if you have been let go? Unless you have done something really wrong like steal from the company or sexually harass a coworker or let a customer down through your own negligence or missed days of work and then shown up high as a kite (all of which I have fired people for) then your “firing” has little to do with your worth as a professional or a human being. It has to do with your fit in the job you found yourself in, or the circumstances of the company. So you are still great. Don’t let being fired cause you to doubt it.

Photo: Musée de Cluny, Paris © 2018 Penny Herscher

Career Advice

How does your investor make money?

So you want someone to give you $100,000? $1,000,000? How does that person or firm make money?

Too often I review business plans which have a great idea, a huge market, but no viable business plan that explains how the investor makes a return. I saw two this week like this (one in the US, one in Israel). Terrific technology ideas, potentially large markets, enthusiastic smart young teams but no P&L, no future financial plan and no discussion of current valuation, or even readiness to discuss it.

Before someone other than your friends and family will give you a useful amount of money they are going to want to know how much return they are going to make, and over what period of time. Unless you are a former founder with an amazing track record, or flat out lucky (and you can’t plan for luck) you will need to be able to explain the following:

  • what the size of the market is for your idea – who buys what/when/why
  • how you bring your idea to that market and how much money you make over time (your best stab at your P&L over the next 3-5 years)
  • what your idea/prototype/beta is worth now (i.e. if you want to raise $1M and you only want to give away 10% of your company then you have to justify why your current company is worth $10M today)
  • how the value of your company grows over time and possible exits – why is it IPOable at some future date or who might buy it?

You don’t necessarily have to have slides for all of this because the first thing you need to do is hook an investor on your idea but if they bite and start to ask how you see your revenue and value developing you’d better have enough of an answer to get into a good discussion. Don’t be intimidated. Remember the investor does not know more than you do about your idea (even if they act as if they do), and whatever you say will not be what happens (reality has a way of messing with even the very best of plans) but you need to have thought about how you’ll make money and be able to engage the potential investor in a discussion.

Eventually you’ll need to be able to make the argument for how revenue grows, how much cash you need to get to cash flow breakeven (i.e. self sustainable) and what the company will be worth in the future when you do. And the great VCs, if they are intrigued, will then dig in and help you figure out your first business plan and how to value your initial round.

Photo: Dante’s tomb, Ravenna Italy © 2018 Penny Herscher

Career Advice

Managing the switchbacks of your career

A successful career is rarely a straight line up the slope. It is so often a weaving up through experiences and it’s important to recognize how and when to weave.

I did a coaching session yesterday where just this question came up. This time the individual had years of engineering, both as a stellar software engineer and also as a manager and can feel he wants to do more – can do more – and knows he needs to broaden his skillset.

I have a handful of principles which can be helpful when you are wanting to grow and create more upward momentum in your career:

  1. Make sure you are in a critical path for the company (and this will vary by industry). For tech companies success hinges on sales (revenue and cash) and product. In, and in-between, these functions there will be a number of critical roles and projects. These could be supporting the top customers, could be developing a handful of critical new relationships, could be bringing a new product to market. Learn what these are and which would be i) new to you, ii) challenging for you and iii) valuable to the company.
  2. Make sure you advocate for a new position you can be successful at if you work hard and learn fast (which I assume you would!). It’s important that you succeed in each role you take on even if it’s a bit rocky as you come up the learning curve. It’s OK to make short term tactical mistakes in your career, it’s not OK to make strategic ones.
  3. Stay visible. In some companies a tour away from HQ is truly valued but in others it may be the kiss of death for future promotion because you are out of sight and out of mind. If you do decide to step away from HQ to stretch yourself – for example to China or DC – agree on a time frame with your management (e.g. 2 years) and be sure to discuss what you would be eligible for when you come back, but before you go.
  4. Be aggressive – that you are very focused on personal growth – but humble  – that you know you have a lot to learn. I’ve had too many engineers tell me they know they’d be good in sales while massively underestimating how truly skilled great sales people are, and too many sales people sure they can do marketing (better than marketing is doing it) with no comprehension of what it takes. If you have not worked in a job I guarantee you underestimate it, so be humble.
  5. Be direct. It’s rare, especially in small companies, that your executives are sitting around thinking about taking risk with you to broaden your career outside of what’s immediately expedient for them so don’t beat around the bush.

If you’ve been in the same role for 3 years look up, and across, and consider stretching yourself in to a new role – unless this is truly what you want to do for the rest of your working life.

Photo: From the garden of La Foce in Tuscany © 2012 Penny Herscher