For the last few weeks I have been pondering over this month's topic of the Ministry of Testing blogging club (What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had?), and wondering if I can write something meaningful about that.
It was only after I went to bed one night and I couldn't immediately catch sleep, that it suddenly dawned on me the best advice I got was when I was still studying.
One lecturer (can't remember who) of my studies in The Netherlands gave this little piece of wisdom: grab the opportunity.
Looking back at my career so far it has been the advice I have followed and lived by a lot; often more unknowingly than not...
As said, the advice to to grab the opportunity was given by a lecturer while I was studying at the HEAO in Breda.
But I can't remember who. There was another tutor however, called Ferrie Veen, and I always enjoyed his lectures. Probably because of his approach to teaching, which I really liked.
One of the assignments he gave us was to compare yourself with an object and use that in a job application letter. I wrote a whole letter around a paperclip; the gist of it:
- Being flexible
But more on that later...
The last part of the study was a student placement at a company for half a year, and work on a pre-defined practical assignment. That went quite successful for me and as a result I was offered a job at that company after my graduation. The first opportunity on my career path I grabbed. I landed a job without having to use my paperclip application letter, yet ...
Applying for my first job
Even before I started that job, the company went bust and I still had to go in search for a job. Looking back I could have seen it coming, but I was young and a bit naive (lesson learned).
Luck had it that, around the same time, a local bank where I lived was hiring for a role that matched my qualifications. I immediately grabbed the opportunity to go to that bank and asked for the manager who was hiring, so I could introduce myself. Of course I still had to write an official application, which I did. And yes, I did use the paperclip analogy. I did get the job and I worked there for 2 1/2 years.
After my then partner graduated, she got a job at a tourist office, in a completely different part of the country. This meant We had to move and I had to look for a new job. Got rejected a few times on jobs I applied for locally, which was of course dissapointing.
A friend of my kept telling about his work and that they were always looking for colleagues to join their team. But that was a 2 hour commute one way. I still applied though and was offered a job. And by coincidence at the same time I got offered a job closer to home. After much deliberation I decided to take the offer further from home. Could have been interpreted as a stupid decision, but I never regretted it. In the 6 1/2 years I worked there I had many opportunities to:
- Work on great projects for different clients in a wide variety of industries
- Share knowledge with colleagues as a trainer
- Get to know lots of people with whom some of them I am still in touch with
After our first child was born, something had to change in my work situation. I was away still a lot for work. And as a result of that, I only saw my son during the week when he was asleep. Weighing the options, we decided to take the opportunity to settle ourselves abroad and start a Bed & Breakfast in Scotland. Something we often talked about. As financial support it was wise to still have a steady income, so I went in search for a job. I had the luck that a software company in Aberdeen was hiring for a role that suited me perfectly. I applied, had a telephone interview, flew out for a face to face interview, and soon after an offer was made. I willingly accepted, and so we packed our stuff and moved across the pond.
In that company, I started as the first tester in a team of 12 developers. Over the years, I built up a structured testing discipline and culture. In the 12 years at that company I've grabbed many opportunities to grow mysself. By the time I left that company, a team of 15 test engineers was in place which I was in charge of.
Regarding my B&B adventures, I can tell many a story about that. But I will leave that for another day.
It was not my plan to leave the company yet, as there still were so much more opportunities to be grabbed. But beacause of a organisational restructure I was made redundant.
I knew there weren't many job opportunities close by. So I had to look further afield for my next gig, and needed to be aware that it probably would take a bit longer to be back in fulltine work. Then, a week into me sitting at home, a friend pointed out that a local whisky distillery was looking for a tour guide. Well, that was an opportunity I couldn't let pass. I showed my interest and soon I was showing tourists around Scotland's most beautiful distillery, while I still kept applying for jobs.
Luckily it didn't take too long to be made a new offer for a job. But it meant I was working away from home again ...
Have been in my current job for almost 3 years now, and it already has given me lots of new opportunities:
- The opportunity to work on medical devices. Something I haven't done yet in my 20+ year career.
- The opportunity to get my hands dirty again. Not being in a managerial role and doing actual testing.
- The opportunity to work with hard- and software. A whole new dimension and things to take into consideration.
- The opportunity to get into public speaking. A manager that encourages to submit papers for conferences.
- The opportunity to get more involved with the testing community. A Ministry of Testing Meetup closer by.
- The opportunity to make changes to the organisation. Bringing in 20+ years of experience.
- The opportunity to build a Community of Practice. Finding likeminded colleagues.
In your career, there are many things coming on your path you can't foresee, and not always have influence on. You can steer your career a lot yourself, but sometimes you need to look for opportunities, grab them, and help that get you further.
lets see what's the next opportunity ...