How This Manager in Tech Learned How to Feel Fulfilled in her Career: Elliya's Story
Elliya, Customer Success Manager, Notion
I originally met Maya when she was running the Build Yourself program at the Boston Society of Architects (BSA), where I was on staff at the time.
Fast forward about five years – I knew something was off in my professional life, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I hoped career coaching would help me figure that out. Plus, my company had a stipend for professional development. So, I sought out recommendations for a career coach who would help me figure out what I wanted in my career, how to feel fulfilled, and how to better advocate for what would help me feel fulfilled in my current role. A friend recommended I consider Maya. Since my company was paying for the program and I already knew Maya, it was an easy yes. At the time, she was not taking on individual clients, so I did the Creative Career Intensive program.
I loved being in a cohort with other women who were being mindful about what choices they wanted to make next in their professional lives. In the forum Maya set up, we shared our struggles and provided support for each other. I also did the biweekly coaching calls and worked with people face to face, which was nice. Likewise, I enjoyed having an accountability buddy in the program to talk through things.
I gained the most early in the curriculum in the Uncover your Core module. It helped me realize the sorts of work that I really enjoy – strategic, higher-level work, more experimental, more creative, and more cross-functional.
In the lifestyle section of the values module, Maya talks about the importance of being recognized for your work, feeling proud of your work, and having a sense of accomplishment. Until I did that module, I didn’t realize I was missing that.
I was doing the exact same thing every single day with very little variation, and I wasn’t feeling proud.
I was doing quite well. I was performing very strongly, I was earning my quota and beyond, and I was receiving praise from my team. Yet, I did not feel proud of the work that I was doing and didn't feel valued in the company.
When I tried to bring the skills that I knew I had, I was pretty much shut down, which was super frustrating. Still, I wasn’t looking to switch roles. Then in sort of a fluke, someone reached out to me from another company while I was in the middle of Maya’s program.
While in Maya’s program, I was gaining a better understanding of what I wanted, so I was able to immediately see that I would have more ownership over my projects in this new role. I would be able to work cross-functionally and strategically. It ticked all the boxes I was looking for. I felt comfortable making that switch. I don’t know, honestly, if I would have made the switch if I hadn’t done Maya’s program.
Previously, I was in a role called an onboarding specialist. My new title is customer success manager, so I manage a portfolio of clients and accounts. It’s a step up for me. Also, the team I joined is smaller—only six people, and I am the only one in this role. Whereas on my old team, I was one of 30 people doing the exact same functionality. I have more ownership now. The company also is larger, has raised more money, is profitable, has much higher revenue. I got a $30k raise as well.
The interesting thing about Maya’s group is that members are celebrating more than just people getting new jobs; it’s also things like people advocating to take on a larger project or people setting boundaries. It’s a supportive group of women. It’s so wonderful, and counter-cultural in a lovely way to celebrate deep reflection, self-work, and self-advocacy. At most workplaces, you usually get celebrated for tangible outcomes of your work. But in the program, if someone sets a boundary that they’re going to go home at four o’clock every night in order to take care of their kids, people celebrate them. Everyone understands that that person identified what wasn’t working for them and advocated for a solution, which is a win.
It was fun telling the group about my new job. It was celebrated, even though I wasn’t looking for a new job. It’s great to be in a new role, but it wasn’t the primary thing I was looking for from coaching. I think women are looking for a place where they can celebrate with each other. In the outside world, that is not the norm.
At my former company, I was feeling disconnected from the team and the work culture in general. I was not feeling supported by my manager, by leadership, or by my team. Though it didn’t replace feeling connected at work, it was wonderful to have a community of women mutually supporting each other in advancing our careers. This connection proved to be especially important when working through a pandemic.
What coaching was like
I enjoyed the face time with the group so much that for that reason alone, I would recommend group coaching. It’s an interesting model where you submit your questions in advance and then Maya will answer the questions during the session.
We would split up into pairs or trios and be given a prompt to practice. It was surprising to me how everyone was able to support each other given we were all different ages, in different stages of our careers, had different life experiences, and were working on different things.
At first, I thought “this isn’t going to be helpful to me, there won’t be any translatable advice,” but there was.
Even if at times the advice was only 80% applicable, it was really nice to have a sounding board from people who are out of your bubble, out of your feedback chamber, and able to give you a new perspective on what's going on.
For example, to have someone say, “actually it’s sounds like you’ve already clearly asked your supervisor for what you want and if they haven’t responded to it, that’s a red flag” versus the advice you might get from someone who’s in your bubble, with all the office politics influencing how they advise you.
I do wish that I had asked more questions because it was always helpful when I did. I realized later I was not asking the questions I wanted because I was making myself small. I should’ve just taken up that space and asked the questions.
Most Valuable Aspects
I gained the clarity to recognize this opportunity would be a good move for me. Without Maya’s course, I might have let it pass by.
I better understand what causes me discontent instead of living in a fog of undefinable discontentment. Before the course, I knew something was not working for me, I just didn’t know what it was. I certainly didn’t know how to tell anyone what it was, much less how to go about fixing it—not a particularly specific or strategic request for a manager!
Now, if things aren't working, I feel empowered to go to my manager and advocate for myself. I can articulate things that I want or need that I wasn't able to articulate before.
I know it’ll help me figure out how to make this new team work well for me in the future. As someone who is still fairly early in her career, that’s a super powerful asset to have: to be able to actually identify what is not working and then be able to change it.
I am starting my new job with all of what I learned from coaching in my head. I’m excited to use it to prevent myself from getting stuck in a career rut again in the future.
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