Welcome to Life @ Vested, Vested’s very own blog that talks about all things people and culture in the company. One of the series covered in this blog is Growth @ Vested.
Growth @ Vested covers the learning and development experience of the Vested team. Like most startups, people at Vested face steep learning curves and need to learn and grow quickly. In this series, you will read about the growth journeys of Vested’s team members through their stories and insights.
In this blog post, we introduce Pinkal. Pinkal is a recently-promoted Staff Software Engineer who has been with Vested since 2019 and is based in Toronto, Canada. He is an ideal candidate for this first entry, since he has experienced the company’s growth from the very early days. Being part of the People Operations team and also an editor of Life @ Vested, I wanted to hear from Pinkal on how Vested supported him, what he has done to ensure his development, and how he has supported those around him.
With coffees-in-hand, Pinkal and I engaged in conversation.
1. Tell us about your learning and development journey at Vested.
When I first started as a software engineer, we were a few people in a small startup in a very competitive environment. Two things stood out:
- I had to learn on the job!
- I learned to learn, fail, then stand back up and learn again. It’s a cycle!
Over time, I realized that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel! Use what is at your disposal, what’s been tried and tested, and make improvements from there.
When I was promoted, I had to shift gears from being an individual contributor to being a people manager – in other words, I had to break out of my comfort zone! Finally, I realized that learning is a two-way process. I used my learnings in the last 3 years to regularly help my team get better in their jobs.
Kai’s two cents: this reminds me of the Peter Principle which says that employees rise up through a firm’s hierarchy until they reach a level where they stagnate and remain at those positions. This mindset should be avoided at all costs. Progression is part and parcel of the process, but to advance, you need to learn and master new skills and abilities. After all, as you get further in your career, you are expected to tackle a wider array of issues.
In the wise words of Phil Knight, Founder of Nike: “Life is growth. You grow or you die.” (harsh, but true) And since we’re on the topic of quotes, here’s one from our co-founder Darwin, shared by Pinkal.
2. How have your managers supported and guided you in the learning process?
I think all my managers have their own strong suits. If I can summarize my learnings from the founders, especially my direct manager Ying:
- Be more structured with what you do.
- Communicate a lot! It matters so much – don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Be more considerate. Put another way: Think People.
3. Your thoughts on training / certification programs?
We do our best to get everyone involved in training and getting certifications across the company. Some certification programs we provide are simple – it helps keep everyone learning. Obviously the challenge is to keep people constantly interested, so that people feel less nudged and more motivated to return to trainings and certifications because they want to, not because they have to.
Kai’s two cents: Building good habits is tough! One method is to join forces with others on similar learning journeys. More minds on the same path equates to more drive to reach the finish line.
4. Growth and hurdles are not mutually exclusive. Can you share with me a challenge you faced with your managers?
Update != Progress; Update == Managing Expectations
Before Vested, I wasn’t someone who truly valued the importance of communication. Initially, I found it tough communicating well with my mentors (Ying and Darwin), and struggled with this for almost 6 months. It was a frustrating process, but luckily for me, Ying and Darwin were patient and kept emphasizing the importance of communication. Eventually, I improved.
The above is similar to a line of “code” (only engineers would get this, I think!) that was shared with us by Darwin. It means updates do not equal (!=) progress. If you update someone, it doesn’t mean you are making progress. Rather, think of updates as managing the expectations of everyone involved in the process so they have a better understanding of what is going on.
5. As a manager, how are you supporting your team? What similarities have you noticed with your style and your manager’s style of coaching?
Being an early team member, my management style is highly influenced by that of the founders. Going back to what I mentioned earlier, here are the principles that I share with my team:
- Preparation and the expectation of being prepared. Before, I had no agenda, now, I want to be prepared so I and my team can have effective conversations.
- Take progressive steps. Always look back at the decisions you make to keep improving. Know what’s important and what isn’t, and what has worked and what hasn’t.
- Think of the bigger picture, the higher perspective.
Kai’s two cents: coaching is important! More than that, as more companies go global, the coach has to accommodate people from different cultures. Vested is no exception: we have employees in India, the US, and Canada!
What have you seen from your own experiences? How have you grown? Were there similarities or differences? We look forward to hearing from you!