What does it take to grow a career in the IT industry — and still have a personal life?
Shirley Turner started at Intel as a payroll clerk with no college degree, a choppy resume, a relatively new marriage and two very young daughters. She stayed 24 years, steadily advancing and moving between divisions, before retiring as director of Intel's North American Channel Marketing in 2008. In 2009, she founded Black Lab Marketing, a Portland, OR.-area-based consulting firm serving small- and medium-sized businesses and non-profit organizations.
Turner shared the maxims and lessons that guided her professional choices and personal values in the CompTIA webinar "Career Planning/Pathing: How to Move From One Level to the Next
" on Wednesday:
Work ethic foundations"Be the Best"
and "Be independent and self-sufficient."
— from her mother, a fiercely independent woman who became a businesswoman running her own successful restaurant in the 1930s after a disastrous first marriage ended in divorce."You never tell anybody how good you are. You just pick up your horn and play."
— from her father, a professional trumpet player from the 1930s to the 1960s.
Early career lessons"You don't have the education, so go get the experience."
— from a manager, who encouraged Turner to work beyond her lack of college degree (which she eventually did earn). It's a practice Turner continues today. "I just dive in, learn what I have to do, and I build experience.""People work with you, not for you"
and "Just because people don't think the way you do does not make them stupid."
— from a manager instructing Turner on the finer points of teamwork. These maxims hold true at any career level, Turner says. "You alone are responsible for your success"
and "You can make your job anything you want it to be."
Organizations may develop "career paths" but ultimately, Turner believes each person is responsible for his or her self. In the 1980s, Turner worked as a finance clerk but in her spare time figured out how to use Lotus 1-2-3 (the precursor to Excel) for a specific accounting process, reducing the time required from two weeks to four hours. That side venture made the job more interesting to Turner, and Turner more valuable to Intel. "As long as you perform the tasks that you were hired for and paid to do," Turner says, "there's no reason why you can't add other aspects to your job.""People want you for the values you possess more than your skills"
— a realization Turner had after a manager recruited her to move from Intel's finance department into its manufacturing department, and later into its marketing department.
Mid-career, Movin' on Up Lessons"Build on what you know."
When Turner moved out of finance into Intel's manufacturing department, she organized her time to finish the "numbers" part of her job quickly so she could focus on learning about the company's manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico and its engineering teams in Oregon. This strategy can help increase a person's success rate in a new role, build their confidence and make them look like they are hitting the ground running. "Fear is a great motivator."
"The more scared I get, the harder I work," says Turner. Once, only days into a new marketing job, Turner staffed a tradeshow booth but didn't know how to answer several engineers who quizzed her about a silicon board's properties. In response, one engineer snipped, "It's okay, honey. Don't tax your brain." Turner vowed never to allow herself to be that unprepared again. "Keep your Boss' Boss off your Boss' back."
— Not only does this strategy help your boss, it introduces your work to those above your boss, Turner says.
Maxims for Playing in the Big Leagues"Shift from 'do more with less' to 'optimize resources' "
— Intel experienced multiple budget cuts and layoffs during Turner's last eight years at the company. Instead of mounding the same collection of tasks on fewer people, Turner prefers a strategy that decides how to achieve company goals within set budget and staff limits. "Every move you make… they're watching you"
— Upper-level executives always have to watch their demeanor and show strength to their team, Turner found out. "You can't avoid politics"
and "Loyalty can be dangerous to your career"
— Upper-level managers have to be flexible and adaptive, and can't tie themselves to one strategy or one individual, Turner believes. "Advocates are more important than mentors"
— Mentors are instructive and supportive, but advocates are on your side; they have your back, Turner believes. The higher up an advocate is, the more valuable to your career they are.
Reality Check for Work Life Balance
"Make sure you make the right choice." — Turner's mother worked hard, long hours, but had nothing left to give when she came home to her daughter. Turner did her job well, but made sure she had time and energy to dedicate to her daughters. "Your company will drop you in heartbeat no matter how good you are," Turner quips. "But your kids are your kids forever."