Un­mask­ing the myths of ad­vanc­ing your ca­reer

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By QI­DONG ZHANG in San Fran­cisco kel­lyzhang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Is a pro­mo­tion in your ca­reer plans for 2014, or maybe a New Year res­o­lu­tion?

You might find some guide­lines on how to make it hap­pen in a class be­ing of­fered this spring at Stan­ford Univer­sity by El­iz­a­beth Xu, a 17-year vet­eran IT engi­neer in Sil­i­con Val­ley, called Ten Steps to a Suc­cess­ful Ca­reer.

Stylish, fash­ion­able and with an ami­able smile, Xu doesn’t fit the stereo­type of a Sil­i­con Val­ley engi­neer. The Ste­vie Award(or “Busi­ness Os­car”) she won on Nov 8, how­ever, crowns her as a global leader.

Xu’s IT back­ground fea­tures a long his­tory in soft­ware de­vel­op­ment, ap­pli­ca­tions, Big Data and per­son­al­ized ad­ver­tise­ment soft­ware de­vel­op­ment and sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis at IBM, Vi­tria, Rear­den Com­merce, and Acx­iom, where she pro­gressed from engi­neer to project man­ager, di­rec­tor and vice-pres­i­dent. A glass ceil­ing does not seem to be a prob­lem for her.

“It’s a per­son’s own re­spon­si­bil­ity to de­velop his or her ca­reer in to­day’s ever-chang­ing tal­ent mar­ket. My class will coach lo­cal pro­fes­sion­als in 10 sys­tem­atic ac­tion steps taken from great lead­ers in the in­dus­try,” said Xu.

The steps will help re­fine one’s ca­reer vi­sion, build­ing re­al­is­tic goals, de­vel­op­ing fea­si­ble plans and ex­e­cut­ing them flaw­lessly, she said. She will also coach on ef­fec­tive pro­fes­sional brand­ing and net­work­ing, team col­lab­o­ra­tion and lead­er­ship skills.

“I hear so many engi­neers com­plain about be­ing burntout from man­ag­ing a de­mand­ing ca­reer, rais­ing kids and sup­port­ing their fam­i­lies all at the same time. Pro­fes­sional ca­reer ad­vance­ment seems to be a myth to many. That’s how I came up with the idea of shar­ing my ex­pe­ri­ence in the class to help those who need guid­ance and ad­vice,” she said.

A grad­u­ate in space physics from Pek­ing Univer­sity, Xu came to the US in 1989 to con­tinue her stud­ies, get­ting a Mas­ter’s in com­puter sci­ence and PhD in at­mo­spheric sci­ence at the Univer­sity of Ne­vada and an MBA at Stan­ford.

“Many tech­ni­cians and engi­neers hold their po­si­tions for 10 or even 20 years. On the sur­face, life is steady but on the emo­tional side, their drive is dead. Deep in­side they have no feel­ing or pas­sion for their jobs any more when there is no sense of achieve­ment in a daily job. Even when some quit their cor­po­rate jobs and start up own com­pa­nies, they run into same is­sues of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and lead­er­ship,” said Xu, who also in­tends to coach on ca­reer val­ues and choices.

Wes Cheng, a soft­ware engi­neer at Google, said it was a rare op­por­tu­nity to hear Xu speak and learn from her ex­cep­tional ca­reer ex­pe­ri­ence.

“She taught me how to think in the leader’s shoes, how to pre­pare a day from the drive to work, through off-the-books and bat­tle-tested ex­am­ples. I felt con­fi­dent and com­pe­tent on how to grow my ca­reer af­ter her class,” said Cheng.

Her book,which has the same ti­tle as her class,was pub­lished by Story Robin in July 2012 and has be­come a fa­vorite of many pro­fes­sion­als.

Xu em­pha­sizes the im­por­tance of a per­sonal men­tor in ca­reer ad­vance­ment.

When she first ar­rived in the US, Xu met Pat Zim­mer­man, a Jef­fer­son and Kennedy Award win­ner and a mem­ber of the Amer­i­can In­sti­tute for Pub­lic Ser­vice. Her friend­ship with the 26-year telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sional has lasted more than 20 years.

Mod­estly at­tribut­ing her achieve­ment to Zim­mer­man, Xu said her men­tor­ship helped her adapt to Amer­i­can cul­ture quickly.“Pat be­lieved in me when I was no­body, and with­out any reser­va­tion,”Xu said.

“In Sil­i­con Val­ley, ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists do not in­vest in projects, they in­vest in peo­ple. Some­one might see your pro­file on LinkedIn and think that you are very in­ter­est­ing. They may ask to meet for a cup of cof­fee and talk about your dreams,” said Xu.

Cur­rently serv­ing on the boards of sev­eral non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions, Xu has given ca­reer de­vel­op­ment speeches to thou­sands of pro­fes­sion­als at com­pa­nies such as Google, Ap­ple, AT&T, PG&E, Ya­hoo, Cisco, as well as pres­ti­gious schools such as Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity, UC-Berke­ley and Stan­ford.

“Learn­ing from my ex­pe­ri­ence is a first step to in­vest­ing in your­self,” said Xu, who be­lieves the myths of ca­reer pro­mo­tions will be un­masked at her class.

The ba­sic tips she gives to ev­ery­one are: live to your fullest po­ten­tial, love peo­ple around you, learn from peo­ple around you and leave a legacy.

El­iz­a­beth Xu

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