Hello to those who have been kind enough to open this article!
I am Akansha Goyal, a computer engineer (like many of you) from College of Engineering, Pune who happened to land a decent job through the graduate program with Barclays in India. I have been working with this beautiful organization for over 3 years and have changed 3 roles since (I know I know, it may seem a bit much).
On a personal note, I am an extremely sarcastic individual who likes to create people centric communities and initiatives, and loves to read, talk, tell and hear stories, travel, ask questions and do social salsa dancing on sundays alongside some whisky sours. This is my first attempt at writing so please be a little kind.
Enough about me. So, Why am I here? What am I even going to write about?
I recently went back to college for a recruitment drive, for which I had to talk about my professional journey so far and it got me thinking about how far I’ve come and the key learnings that I can pass on to those who are as clueless as I was in college. (Also, my boss/mentor basically thought it would be a good idea for me to write. I will talk about him later sometime!). So here goes —
Lesson 1 — Start by being sure about what you don’t want to do.
I joined Barclays as a developer (computer engineer, yay!) for Product Control Technology, Investment Banking. With the new regulations in place post the 2008 recession, Product Control Technology has become a very important and tech intensive area for banks. Well, I thought to myself.. This will be great! Watching Mad Men, White Collar and the Big Short, Investment Banking seemed quite intimidating. It definitely was quite interesting to begin your career with. So I gave this role my best and enough time (over a year) but soon realised that it was quite redundant and I moved on. Quick Lesson — Ensure you give enough time (more than 6 months) to a role before you make up your mind to move on.
Lesson 2 — Don’t go back to doing a similar role; explore diverse roles while you can and focus on breadth of skills instead of depth early on.
Once I decided to move on, I quickly applied to a few interesting roles that I found. Having an updated CV always helps!(I got this advice from my MD, Manoj Kulkarni early on — he said given the uncertainties in this world, it’s always good to have a CV ready; best case you have something to reflect on). So, I applied to these wonderful sounding jobs, got through the technical interviews but later realised that in reality they weren’t really what they sounded like on paper. Quick lesson — Always ask the important questions before you decide to take up a role; Start with “How will a normal day for me look like in this role?” It will help you get the clarity that you may need to make up your mind.
The next role that I took up was of a data analyst and BI developer for the retail business. A completely new business and technology — I got to learn and immensely upgrade my skills and it was absolutely amazing! Could this be it?
Lesson 3 — When you’re getting comfortable in your role and you begin to feel like the smartest person in the room, MOVE OUT!
I run a speaker series called Barclays Speaks at Barclays since 2017 through which I have gotten to interact with some of the most amazing people inside and outside of the country. I remember during a talk, Ankur Warikoo, CEO Nearbuy.com talked about how to never stay in your comfort zone and he couldn’t have been more correct (He is almost always spot on so couldn’t expect anything less).
I got so comfortable being a data analyst that I knew it was time to move on. I happened to have a conversation with my now boss/mentor and he happened to have an opening for me (Fate? Nah, I think it was just him being him)
I decided to take up a completely new role of a business analyst for machine learning for Barclays UK. Quick Lesson — Networking and more importantly building relationships definitely help. They open avenues you didn’t even know existed, so never take your work relationships for granted and always, always be grateful.
Lesson 4 — Don’t lose sight of the bigger goal and think long term.
I have seen people especially in IT jumping roles and companies for better opportunities, better money, better ‘quality of life’ as they say.. I have myself switched 3 roles in 3 years.
But before you change your role, think about whether this move will add value to your bigger goal. Is your career even progressing towards what you want to do say 5 years from now on? Also, if you are great at your job, you will get promoted anyway. It may take a little longer but it is probably around the corner so why waste time switching companies or teams and building relationships and your own identity all over again?
On the other hand, don’t stay in a role only for a promotion. Often, when you tell your manager that you want to leave, he/she will lure you by offering more responsibilities and maybe even a promotion. Don’t give into the temptation!Yes, I didn’t succumb into the temptation and decided to move into this new role of a business analyst keeping my bigger goal in mind. Few months later, I was promoted to Product Manager!
Lesson 5 — Choose your manager wisely!
This is a new one, even for me and I think I am still learning. In all my previous roles, I was lucky to work with like-minded people and took this experience for granted.
I just want to emphasize on the importance of having a great relationship with your manager, especially in your early years. Yes, you can create opportunities for yourself and by yourself (I have through Barclays Speaks) but having a great manager will add so much more value to your learning and experience so if you can, choose wisely!
Thank you for reading! More lessons and stories coming your way soon! If you thought I added some value or made any sense, do write to me or leave a comment.