“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” - Sheryl Sandberg

CogoConvos is a speaker series where we invite thought leaders from both Cogo Labs and the greater tech community to discuss ways to grow personally and professionally. Part fireside chat, part forum, CogoConvos is an awesome space to ask questions, listen to stories, and walk away with new perspectives and ideas.

Our most recent iteration of the program was focused on "The Career Jungle Gym" as Sheryl Sandberg so perfectly put it. We hosted an excellent panel of speakers to talk about creating your own career path, building a network, and the often amazing things that can come from the unexpected twists and turns while growing your career. Our panel was one that will go down in history:  

Shimrit, Trish, Felicia, and John

This impressive crew started off by telling us about their own career journeys. Forays into higher education were a surprising theme, others worked in public television and at a company that creates farms in shipping containers. Trish Fontanilla said that “it’s not necessarily where I’ve worked, but the skills I’ve gained while working there. I’m at the point in my career where the twists and turns are starting to make sense.”

This sentiment was shared by everyone else on the panel. By thinking about what inspires and motivates you with each experience, you'll begin to define what you really want in your career. For Shimrit Markette, translating a role in career services at a university into leading People Ops at EverQuote was motivated by the desire to help people find fulfillment in careers they love. Shimrit says, “Do your job and do it really, really well.” By tackling the role in front of you, even if it might be a few stops away from your dream job, you'll create opportunities for yourself.

This is exactly what lead John Werner to Cogo Labs. With a history of exciting endeavors, like TEDxBeaconStreet, John tackled each one with energy and focus. No matter what you're doing, John says,“build a reputation for yourself that you can make things happen.” John suggests that you find a few things to really push yourself and deliver on them. By challenging yourself and stepping outside of your comfort zone, you will earn trust in your ability to tackle anything and might learn some surprising new skills you never knew you had.

Another important piece of advice is to keep an open mind and take the risks that align with your own definition of success. Felicia Jadczak was in a role she was dedicated to when she started a side project with friend, Rachel Murray.  Despite steadily climbing the ladder, Felicia said that "my career took a sharp right turn because I was doing this side project which today is She+ Geeks Out.” Personally, we couldn't begin to imagine the Boston tech community without She+ Geeks Out and we're so glad she took that detour! (Also consider this a very early save the date for their June event - we're hosting again! And yes, there will be lots of rosé again.)

We also walked away with the great idea of starting a personal advisory board. By creating a group of people who will counsel and challenge you on tough decisions and crazy ideas, you'll have a support system to help you feel more confident in your decisions. These people could be former managers, a more experienced colleague in your current organization, even friends whose opinions you truly value. Figure out the mix that works for you!

This is going to be a hard one to top, but it makes us even more excited for the next night of CogoConvos. We are so grateful to these awesome friends for coming out and sharing their experiences. Have an idea for a future CogoConvo? Share it with us on Twitter using #CogoConvos!