Mektup #16: Why do you hide your goals and ambitions?

Hey, friend, happy Tuesday!

Today, I'm going to tell a little story about myself and share some learnings.

After thinking and receiving a lot of good feedback, I decided to become an Engineering Manager, seek a people leadership position. It was a while ago. After my decision, I did what I knew for my whole life: studying.

It took two years for me to become a manager. In the first couple of months, I hid my decision and ambition from everyone else. I thought that if I shared, they would consider me as hungry for power. My approach created a few problems for me.

While studying, I began to take extra responsibilities in the team, such as shadowing manager interviews, leading projects, doing 1:1s with the team, and more. With these responsibilities and my secret ambition, conflicts started to emerge.

When I joined the hiring process of an Android developer while I was an iOS engineer, people questioned me being in an interview without any Android knowledge and experience. We had experienced Android engineers to conduct the interview. What was I doing there?

During my 1:1s with the people, I never mentioned that I wanted to become an Engineering Manager, not once. Soon enough, I learned that that was a mistake.

Compete with Yourself, Not Others

When I had extra responsibilities, people questioned why I have these tasks, not them? Because in their eyes, I was an engineer like they were. What was my privilege to have more responsibilities? They were not jealous; they were confused. Although they may have sought the same position, the reason was not the competition.

However, I saw that as a competition, and I hid my goals more intensely.

Then it came to a point where we all criticized each other and took defense in each opinion. Before it became a disaster, we sat down and talked openly and transparently, and I explained all my desire to become a leader. After that talk, everything significantly changed. Surprisingly, they started to help me.

"When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you." - Start With Why by Simon Sinek

I was competing against myself the whole time, but they didn't know it because I didn't tell them. What the team saw was that I was competing against them. Who can blame? My role and goals were unclear, and I was walking in their territories. They were right.

Imagine getting a puzzle without a reference picture. When there are a lot of missing pieces, it's easy to put a piece in the wrong place. Once I explained and brought clarity to the situation, they saw the picture in the puzzle, and they started to support meβ€”such a remarkable shift.

Be Transparent

Now, I see similar mistakes. Many people compete in the shadows, and no one is transparent about it. You might take extra responsibilities and stretch projects to advance your career. On this journey, if your intention is unclear, you will also face significant resistance.

Not only your team needs clarity but also some others in the company. You don't need to tell and explain it to everyone; no need for broadcasting.

However, your promotion discussions happen when you are not in the room. If someone in that room is surprised to hear you seek a particular position, your chances of getting the position are low.

When you clarify your intentions, you also get a side effect. When you're an engineer, people match you with engineering responsibilities in their minds. Once you communicate your plans and show that you are willing to take extra steps to learn and grow, they begin looking for cues and see your progress. It's a psychological thing, so you have to change the perception in people's minds. If you don't, what you'll have is interpretations and complaints.

People can't see your thoughts, feelings, and intentions; they only see your behavior. And they build a story with what they observe and how you impact them.

I took the diagram from Thanks for The Feedback by Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen

When you openly share what you want to be, clarify your intentions, your story becomes clear.

It might look scary at first because openly talking about ambitions and desires might indicate you are seeking status, authority, or more power. Once you phrase your goal correctly, all these misunderstandings disappear.

For example, I framed my intentions with "learning." When I told people that I'm willing to learn more about leadership because I think I can do a good job, and if not, I can come back to software engineering, they understood that I'm not competing with others; my competition is only with myself.

Clarity = Transparency = Trust

I've never seen hiding a thing leads to good. Secrecy leads to office politics, competition, and water cooler gossip; clarity leads to trust and authenticity. When what you say matches what you do, people trust you more, and authenticity makes people feel warm and helps them build trust.

Until we meet again in the next Mektup in two weeks, here is what you can do. When you take action toward your goal, think about how much clarity you provide, talk to people about your purpose and explain why you are doing what you are doing.

Until next time, stay transparent :)

P.S. If you face any objections to your decision, you know how to handle them.​


What I Published Over Last Two Weeks

I published an article, a book review and a podcast episode.

πŸ”– The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck Book Summary, Review, and Notes​

πŸ“ How I Use Polywork as A Software Engineering Leader​

πŸŽ™ #23: Accessibility and Inclusive Design with Eric Bailey​

If you’re finding these letters valuable, consider sharing it with friends, colleagues or work friends!

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Oct 19, 2021
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