Advice from Silicon Valley

Madelyn Zednick

During my time in Silicon Valley, I had the opportunity to meet with many different companies and Western Michigan University alumni. In going from meeting to meeting, I was able to gather a piece of advice everywhere we went and have compiled it all here in this article.

 “Do what you’re passionate about.”
– Eric Stoner, Shipt

The lifestyle in Silicon Valley is no easy feat to keep up with. The environment is extremely work focused and if you start losing your drive and energy, you will quickly fall behind. The same can be said for the business world in general. If you are not motivated to keep pushing forward, those who are will outshine you and continue to progress while you remain stagnant. An easy way to keep up with this pace is to work on something you are passionate about. Work becomes less like work and more like something you wake up excited to do. Why give 50% towards something you have no interest in when you can give 110% towards your passion? No amount of money or prestige is worth a lifetime of being miserable.

“Nothing should be a one-person journey.”
– Sima Yazdani, Cisco

Everyone wants to be recognized for their achievements. However, those achievements are not always attainable on your own. Never be afraid to ask for help or advice. Sometimes an extra opinion (or ten) is necessary to feel comfortable enough to take a risk or make a decision.  Learn to rely on your team members. Think of the energy one passionate worker has and now imagine the man power capabilities of a team of equally passionate people. If you look back on how you got where you are today, you will realize how much others helped you along the way. Don’t forget to thank them.

“Put yourself in a position where if you fail, you fall forward.”
– George Hoyem, In-Q-Tel

Taking risks can be intimidating and scary. However, those risks are necessary in achieving those reach-for-the-stars type goals. The key to taking those risks is to make sure you are taking calculated risks. Weigh the pros and cons. Figure out where you will land if you fail. Make it an experience you can learn from and use that in calculating your risks in the future. Because truth is, you are not always going to succeed. It is the ability to recognize and learn from your failures that will allow you to fall forward and continue to grow rather than fall back and shy away from future opportunities.

“Wear failure as a badge of honor.”
– Dragos Maciuca, Ford Innovation and Research Center

This one is pretty self-explanatory and goes along with the last quote regarding risks and failure. If you fail, be proud of the risk you were willing to take in order to grow. While others are sitting there going along with the status quo, you were willing to branch out and go someplace others may have never gone before. That reflects more on your character than the actual failure ever will.

“It’s better to look forward than over your shoulder.”
– Lou Giacalone, Jr.,

It is so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing around you. Like running a race, why keep looking back at what your competitors are doing to try to catch up to you when you can instead focus on what you can do to stay ahead? In order to continue to make a name for yourself, you must put that energy into what you are doing and only what you are doing. Focus on how you can differentiate yourself from the pack and run with it (pun intended).

“Align your desired self with your actual self.”
– Zachary Spencer, LocusLabs

Everyone wants to be perceived in a certain way. However, there is often a disconnect between how you want to be perceived and how others view you. It’s when you have this disconnect that you hold yourself back because you are essentially refusing to recognize the self-growth you need to go through. In continuing like that, you can become hard to work with and your relationships with co-workers can suffer. Take the time to reflect on yourself and your actions and make the changes you feel are necessary to become your desired self. Stop pretending to be someone you’re not and start becoming the person you want to be.

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