Unmasking the myths of advancing your career
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.