Career Advice for Ordinary People ㅣJoshua Zerkel
7th February 2024 | ⏰ 00:14:47
Career Advice for Ordinary People ㅣJoshua Zerkel
TLDR: Josh, a marketing executive in Silicon Valley, didn't attend an Ivy League school. He started his career as a designer and transitioned into instructional design. During the early 2000s, he pivoted to productivity consulting and landed a producing job at a local news station. He eventually joined Evernote as a community manager, where he built a successful program before moving to Asana to do the same. His advice for career advancement includes taking on diverse opportunities, asking for informational interviews, and seeking mentors. He emphasizes the importance of focusing on priorities, avoiding work about work, and embracing learning opportunities.
Navigating the Maze of Career Development: A Journey Through Silicon Valley Without an Ivy League Pedigree
In the heart of Silicon Valley, where innovation and technological prowess converge, Josh Zirkle, a man without an Ivy League education, carved a path for himself, defying the conventional wisdom that success in tech is reserved for those with elite credentials. His journey, marked by twists, turns, and a willingness to embrace opportunities, serves as a testament to the power of adaptability, resilience, and the belief in one's own abilities.
The Genesis of a Career: From Design to Productivity Consulting
Josh's odyssey began in Detroit, Michigan, where he harbored aspirations of living in a bustling city. Fate led him to San Francisco, the epicenter of the burgeoning tech industry. As the Internet's allure captivated the world, Josh found himself drawn into the realm of web design, a field in its nascent stages, devoid of the sophisticated terminology that would later define it.
Over time, Josh's expertise evolved as he delved deeper into the intricacies of user experience and instructional design. He recognized the significance of understanding how people interact with technology and sought to empower them with knowledge to optimize their usage. This pursuit led him to establish a successful productivity consulting business, catering to individuals and teams seeking to enhance their efficiency and productivity.
A Serendipitous Encounter with the World of Television News
While thriving in the consulting realm, Josh stumbled upon an unexpected opportunity in the world of television news. Intrigued by the allure of reaching vast audiences and the profound impact of news on people's lives, he secured a producing role at a local news station.
The television industry, particularly news, proved to be an exhilarating yet demanding environment. Josh embraced the relentless deadlines, the pressure-cooker atmosphere, and the intricate web of internal politics. In this crucible, he honed his teamwork skills, mastered the art of storytelling, and developed a keen eye for concise and compelling narratives—skills that would prove invaluable in his future endeavors as a marketer.
A New Frontier: Evernote and the Global Community
As Josh continued to navigate the ever-changing landscape of technology, he encountered Evernote, a note-taking and organization app that captivated his attention with its versatility and potential. Through his extensive use of the platform and his knack for distilling complex concepts into digestible formats, Josh became a recognized expert in Evernote's functionality.
This expertise led to a pivotal moment in his career when Evernote approached him, recognizing his passion and proficiency. They invited him to join their ranks, a proposition that ignited Josh's enthusiasm. He saw an opportunity to amplify his impact, reaching a broader audience and empowering individuals and teams to work more effectively.
At Evernote, Josh assumed various roles, each centered around forging connections between the company and its customers. He became an integral part of the marketing team, directly engaging with users, guiding them through the intricacies of the platform, and fostering a vibrant community of passionate Evernote advocates.
The Art of Cultivating Mentorship and Seizing Opportunities
Throughout his journey, Josh acknowledges the profound impact of mentorship. He emphasizes the importance of seeking out individuals who believe in one's potential and are willing to champion their growth. In his own career, he encountered a mentor at Evernote who recognized his talent and provided invaluable guidance, opening doors to global opportunities and expanding his horizons.
Josh's advice to those seeking career advancement in the tech industry is unequivocal: embrace opportunities, seek informational interviews, and engage in conversations with individuals who inspire you. He stresses the significance of building relationships and nurturing connections, as these interactions often lead to unexpected pathways and serendipitous encounters.
The Asana Chapter: Building a Community from Scratch
Josh's reputation as a community builder par excellence caught the attention of Asana, a leading work management platform. They recognized his ability to foster vibrant communities and entrusted him with the task of establishing their community program from the ground up.
Undeterred by the challenge of creating a community from scratch, Josh embarked on this new adventure with characteristic enthusiasm. He immersed himself in understanding the nuances of B2B software and the unique needs of its users. By carefully analyzing customer feedback and establishing a robust feedback loop, Josh ensured that the voices of Asana's users were heard and acted upon.
The Essence of Productivity: Doing Less, but Doing It Better
When asked about productivity tips, Josh emphasizes the importance of prioritizing and shedding unnecessary tasks. He advocates for a mindset shift, recognizing that true productivity lies not in doing more but in doing the right things. By focusing on high-value activities and eliminating distractions, individuals can reclaim time and energy, leading to greater productivity and personal fulfillment.
Advice for Navigating the Tech Industry's Labyrinth
To those embarking on their own career journeys in the tech industry, Josh offers invaluable counsel. He encourages them to embrace the discomfort of not knowing everything, to seek opportunities for learning and growth, and to actively seek mentorship from those who have gone before them.
Josh emphasizes the boundless nature of opportunities in the tech industry, where new roles emerge continuously. With motivation, skills, and the ability to connect with others, individuals can forge their own paths, tailored to their unique interests and aspirations.
Conclusion: A Tapestry of Experiences, a Symphony of Success
Josh Zirkle's career trajectory is a testament to the transformative power of adaptability, resilience, and the belief in oneself. His journey, marked by a willingness to embrace new challenges, seek out opportunities, and learn from setbacks, serves as an inspiration to those seeking to navigate the complexities of the tech industry without the traditional Ivy League pedigree.
Josh's story underscores the importance of staying curious, embracing change, and nurturing relationships. It is a reminder that success is not confined to those who follow a prescribed path but is within reach of those who dare to forge their own, unconventional routes.
##FAQ: Q: How did you navigate the lack of a traditional Ivy League education in your career advancement within the tech industry?
A: Embracing opportunities and leveraging skills: Despite not having an Ivy League education, Josh Zirkle focused on identifying opportunities that resonated with his skills and interests. He started his career as a web designer, then transitioned into instructional design to gain expertise in helping people learn how to use technology effectively. This led him to consulting work in productivity, where he recognized a need for tools like Evernote to enhance productivity. His knowledge of Evernote eventually led to a role at the company, opening up new avenues for career growth.
Q: How did you manage to build a successful career despite making what you perceived as bad decisions early on?
A: Embracing change and learning from mistakes: Josh acknowledged making some poor career choices early on but emphasized the importance of viewing these experiences as learning opportunities. Instead of dwelling on past decisions, he chose to embrace change and adapt to new situations. He transitioned between roles and industries, gaining diverse experiences and skills that ultimately contributed to his successful career trajectory.
Q: What strategies did you employ to survive and thrive in the fast-paced and competitive tech industry?
A: Adaptability, continuous learning, and networking: Josh highlighted the significance of embracing adaptability and continuous learning in the tech industry. He emphasized the need to stay updated with industry trends, technologies, and best practices. Additionally, he stressed the importance of networking and building relationships with individuals and teams across different roles and organizations. These connections provided valuable insights, opportunities for collaboration, and potential mentorship.
Q: What advice would you give to younger individuals or those new to the workforce who may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of navigating a career in tech?
A: Seek opportunities, embrace discomfort, and don't be afraid to ask for help: Josh advised younger professionals to actively seek opportunities, even if they may seem daunting at first. He encouraged them to embrace the discomfort of not knowing everything and view it as an opportunity for growth. Additionally, he emphasized the importance of asking questions, seeking guidance from mentors and peers, and being open to learning from mistakes.
Q: Can you offer some simple yet effective tips to enhance productivity in the workplace?
A: Prioritize tasks, minimize work about work, and take breaks: Josh shared his insights on increasing productivity, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing tasks and focusing on those that align with strategic goals. He highlighted the concept of "work about work" and encouraged individuals to reduce time spent on non-essential tasks. Additionally, he stressed the value of taking breaks to maintain focus and prevent burnout.