Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Thoughts From Silicon Valley: So Good They Can't Ignore You

INSEAD 18Ds take Silicon Valley

Katie Dill is an incredible person! For about an hour yesterday, she held me and a group of other INSEAD MBA candidates spellbound as she talked about her career journey, her thoughts on design, and her passion for the future Lyft is helping to create.

As Vice President of Design at Lyft, Katie oversees design in a broad sense across the company. This includes user experience, product, and other areas. Prior to joining Lyft, she was Director of Experience Design at AirBnB for about four years. She oversaw Airbnb's service experience and trust and payments platform, and grew the design team there from ten people to a hundred. She was recognized as one of Fast Co’s Most Creative People in Business in 2017.

As I sat there and listened to her, my mind kept returning to one of the more important books I have read recently: So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. Cal’s thesis in the book is simple: ability is important.

Cal argues that the things that make a great career great are rare and valuable, and people who want those careers must possess something rare and valuable to offer in return. If you want a great career, you have to be great at something. He goes further to offer a roadmap of sorts: “to construct work you love, you must first build career capital by mastering rare and valuable skills, and then cash in this capital for the type of traits that define compelling careers”.

Going back to Katie. Despite possessing a fair amount of innate talent (a TechCrunch article mentions she frequently redesigned and repurposed objects around the house when she was younger), she studied Industrial Design at the Art Center College of Design, did design internships in Hong Kong (2006) and Australia (2007), then worked at frog (a design firm) for five years from 2008 to 2013. She has an amazing role today working on stuff she is passionate about and helping to shape the future of transportation, and that is made possible by the work she put into earning career capital and leveraging it to gain increasingly exciting positions. (Also time and chance, but we all get a bit of good luck when preparation meets opportunity).

Every time a speaker has said something indicating they put in significant effort to master valuable skills on their journey to their current careers, I have written in my notebook: “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”. I have now written that for every speaker I have encountered during this course.

My bright red BBSV notebook. I think I'll be glancing at the squiggles inside for a long time to come
It’s a simple approach that seems to work. Be so good they can’t ignore you.

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