When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It

Image for post
Image for post
Zion National Park, Utah; photo by the author

About a month ago I told the Smartling team that I’m leaving the company at the end of this year. I plan to take some time off to recharge after having spent the better part of five years giving my job everything I have.

Smartling has just scratched the surface of its potential. The market for translation and localization is massive, and the company has a stellar customer roster and team, which means the best is yet to come. And, I can think of no one better than my friend and colleague Kunal Sarda to take over responsibility for leading its customer-facing team.

I’ve been humbled—and overwhelmed, to be honest—by the number of people on the team who have asked me for career advice since I announced my departure. Here’s my answer to the most common question I’ve been asked: “What can I do to advance my career?”

Simplifiers Go Far

As Dave Kellogg says: simplifiers go far, complexifiers get stuck.

Say Yes to Opportunity

Or, to quote one of my favorite baseball players: When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

A prerequisite is that you work for a company that will give you opportunities. I’m lucky to be batting 1.000 so far: both Atypon and Smartling gave me opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have been given elsewhere.

Actually, this isn’t exactly correct. The key is to work for a manager who will give you opportunities: someone who realizes your potential and makes it possible for you to work towards achieving it. For this I’m forever grateful to Georgios Papadopoulos, founder and CEO of Atypon, and Jack Welde, founder and CEO of Smartling.

While pursuing all of these opportunities, just remember not to lose sight of your work–life balance. I’ve made that mistake before (for my first five years at Atypon I was in the office at least six days a week—entirely by choice, I should make clear) and don’t care to repeat it.

You Can’t Please Everyone

To be clear, I’m not advocating for a self-above-all mentality. That’s a toxic mindset. And, business almost never is a zero-sum game: successful companies and teams find ways to expand the tent, rather than accept a culture of fighting for the limited space inside. Being selfless is an essential behavioral trait. As Sandler teaches, “You can’t have true rapport and trust until you say something that isn’t in your best interest.”

Still, your professional development will slow or stagnate if you constantly reign in your ambition out of fear of breaking a few eggs. Much of striking the right balance boils down to how you communicate and build trust. I’m guilty of having done things the wrong way on occasion—not because I cared only about myself, but because I was inexperienced and didn’t place enough emphasis on striking that right balance. I’m working on it.

Luck and Super Luck

This was a man with a true rags-to-riches story. It would have been easy and quite reasonable for him to say that while he had gotten lucky along the way, it was hard work and determination that created his success. His answer was telling, and it sent a clear message:

Be humble. Nobody achieves success alone.

Sign up to receive new posts by email.

Written by

Chief Customer Officer at Brightflag. I write about issues relevant to and situations faced by SaaS companies as they scale.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store