Towards the end of the telecommunication boom of the early 2000s my career as graduated of Electronics Engineering was starting. I enjoyed the thrills of solving problems every day in my first job in Lima, Peru.
During those day I could see myself as a deeply technical expert in the future: an expert in Linux, computer networking, and cybersecurity. But ultimately my career path took a few detours. And later discovered that I was not the only one.
As host of Let’s Talk About Digital Identity podcast, I had the chance to interview dozens of professionals in the digital identity industry. Some of them spent more than 20 years in the same steady career path, but others jumped from let’s say telco operators to the banking sector to ultimately end up in digital identity. Professionals from both paths became equally brilliant.
If I could give career advice based on my own path, I would choose three points:
1. Explore different interests
Explore different interests even if they seem unrelated to your studies of profession. Personally I have several interests. I genuinely like public speaking, I genuinely care about digital identity, privacy and security. As a result of exploring one of my interests (being an avid podcast listener), I became a podcaster, and I am now hosting podcasts for almost 10 years.
Do think of a few interests you genuinely have, and make the decision that you will spend more time going deeply into them. Start with one. Read books, take courses, attend seminars, and more importantly put them into practice. Learn them and if you feel more motivated, become proficient on it. You will find ways to combine them into your skillset and build a unique and powerful professional competence.
Networking is key in Finland, and I think it’s more necessary than in other countries. Often when I recommend networking, people tell me “Yes, I'm on LinkedIn, and I'm often connecting with people and building my network.” To me that is not enough. Try to arrange a “virtual coffee” with your new contacts and ensure you know each other more.
But most importantly, attend events and meet people in person. Show up and if you don't know anybody, just force yourself to talk with strangers. Exchange contact details and aim to meet them again for lunch or in another event. If you attend a meetup, those events are coming every month or every two months. So come back again, and they will see you again. And when people see you again the trust is being built.
I challenge you to take a step further: not only attend events but propose yourself as a speaker for a meetup. Contact the organizer and tell them “I want to speak.” Even if you are not super expert in that field, but you have something valuable to share, just propose yourself. The meetup organizer will feel that “OK, you must be someone important, otherwise you would not volunteer
for being a speaker and sharing your stuff.” After all, everybody has some topics, some ideas that you are passionate about and you really care about.
3. Find a mentor
Several universities and associations organize mentoring programs. I've been a mentor several times. So, aim to find a mentor. A mentor can tell you the lessons learned from their own career, which will help you save yourself from making mistakes others made. A mentor can open doors for you, can introduce you to people. Someone who is ahead on your career path can give you more insight about a profession because sometimes it's difficult to get information about how a specific sector or a company is, how they operate, unless you talk with someone who is or has been inside. TEK also has a mentorship program, and there are many others in Finland.
Want to hear more? Oscar spoke about his career story in TEK's event, check out the recording here.
You can download the eBook "4 Key Tactics to Get Your Talk Accepted at Tech Events" by Oscar Santolalla here.