Finding My Path: 3 Pieces of Advice I Would Give My Younger Self
January 11, 2018 | Express Scripts
Kelly Dowdy is a senior director of software engineering in our Austin office, working to improve Express Scripts’ digital products that service over 83 million Americans.
When I look at my career, it’s clear why I chose technology – my love for math and engineering. I took my first computer programming course as a high school freshman. During this time, my interest in math transformed into a love for programming. Combining math with problem-solving skills to crack real-world dilemmas fascinated me then, and still does today. Throughout the rest of high school, I took as many courses as I possible in software development before studying information systems and computer science at Carnegie Mellon University.
While figuring out what was next in my career, I was drawn to Express Scripts and their mission to make prescription drugs safer and more affordable for millions of Americans. The ability to develop technology that impacts the lives of 83 million people was extremely exciting. Even better, my family already used Express Scripts’ services so making their lives better made my decision easy.
While I’ve had an extremely enjoyable and rewarding career, there are a few lessons I know now that I wish I would have known earlier. So, in the spirit of spreading the knowledge, here are three pieces of advice I would give my younger self:
Raise your hand
Early in my career, I was hesitant to talk to my boss about my career interests and ask about other opportunities within the company. I thought it might offend my boss that I wanted to leave his group. So instead, I relied on finding my next growth opportunity through the company job website. Eventually, I became frustrated in my search and started looking externally. When I submitted my resignation, my boss and mentor offered their connections across the company and urged me to reconsider. Sure enough, within two days an internal position opened up that aligned perfectly with my growing career interests.
This was a teachable moment! I realized that leaders are excited when members of their team ask for more opportunities, not offended. They want to invest in your career, so don’t be afraid to raise your hand. Positions can be created for people internally or special projects can be assigned to give you exposure to areas of the business outside your current position.
Find a mentor
I’ve been lucky to have a mentor since my very first day on the job. These mentors help guide my career path, prepare me for interviews, and provide advice and feedback. As I advance in my career I also find value in having a “blind spot” mentor. This is someone who not only has your back but provides candid insight to my shortfalls, enabling me to take action and thus hopefully become a better leader. In the latter part of my career, this has been invaluable for my growth and development.
Break away from the predefined “career path”
When I started my career, I thought there were predefined steps I must follow to become a leader. In my mind, I’d start with position A, move on to position B, and so on and so forth. A trusted colleague challenged this thinking and led me to the realization that there are no set career paths – everyone’s path is different.
Instead of defining what role you should have and when, focus on building critical skills and competencies through experience. That’s what’s really important. Look for gaps in your skills and abilities and find ways to grow these through experiences. I’ve found this approach to be very fulfilling and helpful. Embrace that new role or a special project. This change in mindset has made me a more well-rounded leader in every way.
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