- Wise Words -
The Certainty of Change
by stefan zahariev
“What got us here, won't get us there” – is a mantra that I try to live every day.
It was introduced to me from a successful manager and mentor of mine that helped me realize that accepting what change brings us is at the heart of every successful career. I am writing this not with Covid-19 at the centre of my thoughts, but when I look at the change we have already gone through this year and the uncertainty we are all going to be dealing with for many more months I think the tactics that I learned and want to talk about here are more relevant than ever.
In the past 10 years, I have moved from 2 industries, 2 companies (I tried to stay loyal, while embracing change) and changed teams 6 and had many more manager changes! Many of these moves were not brought on by me, but instead as I work in the ever-changing world of technology, were out of my control. I had to roll with the virtual punches. As business models changed, as the market changed, as my managers changed, my job also changed.
Here’s how I dealt with change during the pre-Covid days and I hope at least some of my tactics are useful to you now and in the future.
Accept It – Knowing Why It’s Good
This is probably the toughest step of all. It is easy to fall into the anti-change trap. It is in our human nature to be afraid of leaving our cosy comfort zone. What drives the fear can be that we are not in control of the situation. However, we can’t stop it which means accepting it is key.
My career began on the technical side of the business (I started in ad technology) and at the beginning, I was planning to fully extend and develop in that direction. After a few years and a lot of thinking I knew that it was time to change.
Growing in the same team or discipline promised a quick career win but I realized that this was not enough and wouldn’t help me in the longer run. As the next step, I decided to move to a client-facing position and even if I was a bit anxious at the beginning, I quickly realized that I had a great skill: I was a client-facing person with a very strong technical background.
The change meant that the next few years were some of the best in my career. Clients loved my technical expertise. I progressed and evolved much quicker in this role than I expected and it was an exciting time.
Embrace It - While Maintaining Social Distance
After learning how to accept change, I moved on to embracing it. Embracing for me came at different stages. At the beginning I looked at change in a more positive way than previously. I found positive-minded people that were also open to change to help me through it.
The biggest test of embracing change was when I moved industry, from ad tech to online travel. Sure, I needed to learn. What made moving attractive was that it was a chance to develop new skills and prepare myself for the future. After intensive research and thinking I decided to use my current skill at a great company called Skyscanner. It is a true leader and innovator in everything it does. Two years later I have zero regrets and it was the best decision I have taken, even looking at it with 2020 vision!
Having seen how change has worked out for me, I now don’t just accept or embrace it, I seek it out. I now know that change is as an opportunity to grow, improve and deliver more value to the organization I work for.
Another mentor of mine helped me understand that success comes in different forms but what is the most valuable asset for a company is when a person is ready and able to adapt to change.
You might be working on something today and focusing on a completely different project tomorrow – and that`s fine. In the past 2 years at Skyscanner, I have changed disciplines. My new role is completely different from the first one. What has been great about it is that I have managed to dive into new areas of the business, learn new technologies and work with the brightest people out there. This helped me look at the bigger picture beyond my discipline and the team I worked with. It helped me spot trends and opportunities that I was not able to previously see and as you can imagine this had the snowball effect. The more opportunities I see the better the service we can offer to partners and the better the experience of our travellers.
Changed For Good
Having been in the workplace for about ten years now, I realize that what helped me get here, won`t help me get where I want to be in the next 10. I am though confident that the skills I have learned and my positive experience of change will help me take bolder decisions. I am fortunate to be surrounded by professionals that appreciate the present while looking to the future and how to adapt for it. I will be doing all I can to adapt to the future and grasp the opportunity that I hope change will afford me.
"Career discomfort is good", "View your career as a journey", "To move up, move out" and a alternative take on change: "Why it's ok to be comfortable in your career"
More by Stefan: "Questions to ask your manager"