Career Day Advice

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This is a presentation I gave at "Career Day" to graduating seniors at my children's school last fall. I'm sure most of the lessons in here went in one ear and out the other, since you can't really understand this stuff until you've been out there for a while.

Text of Career Day Advice

  • Career Day James Gwertzman Vice President, Asia/Pacific PopCap Games
  • What happens AFTER graduation?
  • You live in a knowledge economy Your knowledge and skills create your success
  • You build your own career path You must figure out yourself: Where you want to go How to get there
  • Who am I? Engineer Manager Father Coach Game Designer Student Vice President, Asia/Pacific Chairman Leader Entrepreneur Salesman Husband Technologist
  • Careers are messy Dont be taken in by clean career narratives Every career, in hindsight, forms a narrative But thats not how you experience it Life is actually a series of decisions & branches Very different in the moment than looking back No one follows a straight path
  • What my resume shows Microsoft, Asia HQ Sprout Games PopCap Games, Asia Harvard Online Mktg Mgr Managing Director VP Asia/Pacific Tokyo Seattle Shanghai Microsoft Escape Factory PopCap Games Program Manager President Director Business Development Seattle Seattle Seattle
  • What it actually felt like Should I help PopCap expand Im bored I to Asia? Or run its Online should quit and business in North America? join a startup Where should I go after I graduate??? I failed, now what? Wow, Asia is fun but Success!! Its great I really want to do a that so many people startup.. But what? want to buy us. What How about games? should we do?
  • On making career decisions You wont know till later which decisions mattered So dont stress about them too much And never stress about the paths you didnt choose You dont have as much control as you think Some general principles you can follow Follow your heart Stay focused Line up the next shot
  • If you follow your heart Youll work harder Youll be happier Youll be more passionate about your work Youll be more fun to work with People will like you more You are much more likely to be successful Youll get more and more opportunities Money and status will follow.
  • This is not as easy as it sounds! Youll feel pressure to conform Pressure from parents (Get a good job) Pressure from your friends (Get a BMW) Pressure from society (Successful people drive BMWs) Pressure from yourself (I want a BMW) You may not be any good at it Your heart may not know what it wants
  • Seek greatness, not money Greatness is not measured in money Answer for yourself what it means to be great Making a difference in lives of others? Making the most of your talents or opportunities? Having an impact on the world?
  • Be honest with yourself Everyone has strengths and weaknesses It is very hard to change yourself Pick a career that plays to your strengths while avoiding your weaknesses Be ruthlessly honest with yourself If its not working out, life is telling you something Not everyone can be a rock & roll star But maybe you can do PR in the music industry
  • Hold onto your hobbies Your hobby can help you find your path No one cares what you do for fun So you can try a lot of different things Figure out what you really love Everyone needs a way to recharge Take your hobby seriously You never know where it will lead
  • Theatre Computers Loved going backstage as a kid Learned programming as a kid Joined stage crew in high school Summer job building computers Ran stage crew as a junior & senior (TD) Wrote an email system for my high school Designed the set for Pirates of Penzance Majored in computer science at college Worked at a summer theatre festival Summer internship at Microsoft Designed sets for many shows at college First job at Microsoft Started a computer game company!
  • Stay focused Be careful about jumping around too much Beware of grass is greener syndrome Stick with something to build a reputation Companies want to see that narrative To change careers, line up the next shot
  • On getting your first job Starting a career is daunting To get a job, you need experience But experience comes from the job, right? How to break into any career? Just do it! Work for free Volunteer (but be serious about it!) Do it as your hobby Find someone to shadow Create your own job
  • On interviewing for a job Things I look for when hiring: Passion Horsepower Effectiveness Cultural fit Why should I hire you? How do you stand out? Best thing I want to hear: What is your toughest problem? Give it to me and Ill make it go away.
  • On succeeding at work Good managers love initiative Nothing helps you stand out more Put yourself in your managers shoes How can you help your manager the most? Its not about you anymore Most powerful words in business: I made a mistake and I need your help
  • On the importance of humility Be humble when changing schools / jobs You need to be willing to take one step back in order to take many steps forward No one knows yet how great you are Let them discover it for themselves Dont worry, they will
  • On mentors Mentors are key to your success They can open doors and give you honest feedback Its like getting another brain You can tap into their experience, contacts, wisdom, etc. Figure out what skills or experience you lack Then go seek it out Everyone loves to talk about themselves Dont be afraid to talk to the CEO
  • On mentors Mentors are key to your success They can open doors and give you honest feedback Its like getting another brain You can tap into their experience, contacts, wisdom, etc. Figure out what skills or experience you lack Then go seek it out Everyone loves to talk about themselves Dont be afraid to talk to the CEO
  • On the importance of luck Dont underestimate the importance of luck But dont just wait around either You need to put yourself in the path of luck
  • On importance of communication Everything in life is communication Become an expert communicator This is a life-long task Start now! Treat every writing assignment as good practice School essays are great opportunities to learn Dont treat them like a horrible chore Master the essay and nothing can stop you
  • Your job is to make it as easy as possible for me to give you an A Best advice I ever got from a teacher Applies to all aspects of life Never make it hard for someone to help you Put yourself in their shoes Filing expenses Submitting a term paper Applying for a job
  • On Intellectual curiosity The world is a fascinating place There is so much out there to learn Learning doesnt stop when you leave school For some people learning starts when they leave Be an active learner Follow your interests Use school to learn HOW to learn Read, read, read Most great leaders are avid readers
  • On work life balance No one ever looks back at their life and wishes they worked harder People do look back and wish they spent more time with family & friends Early part of your career is the time to work the hardest Establish yourself and figure out where to focus your career
  • Questions? James Gwertzman jam