The Power of Curiosity to Build Your Career

Nearly ten years ago, I graduated from law school and had absolutely no idea where I was headed professionally. I had extensive education, but no clear direction because I had no passion for the law and few marketable skills. While working as a legal compliance officer for a tech start-up following my law school graduation (basically, the only job I could get which allowed me to make my student loan payments), I became interested in the internet. Working with programmers and entrepreneurs had piqued my curiosity: What is the internet all about? Could I learn how to make web pages? I wonder what I could build if I knew html? Note that I wasn’t wondering how I could make money or whether I could get any kind of technical job – this was purely curiosity about the technology itself and whether it was something I could be a part of.

My curiosity lead me to complete a free online html class. Every lesson in that course was a source of fascination for me- I loved doing the exercises and seeing my work appear on the internet. I became completely obsessed with making web pages; and they were awful! :) I was so excited about my new skills that I began sharing my work with friends and family. Given the poor quality of the pages I was producing, it’s no wonder I didn’t receive much encouragement at first, but I knew I was on to something. I stuck with it, buying books about coding, information architecture, CSS, web design, Javascript, PHP, MySQL, web usability, SEO and much more simply to quench my thirst for knowledge. Still, I was not thinking about money or career; I just kept building pages, and eventually, web applications. Over the course of two years, I had hundreds of pages published online, most of which offered free information or provided free services (one example: I made a web app which helped students to figure out what their grade on a final exam would have to be in order to get a passing grade in a class).

Within three years, I had developed an online learning platform which, years later, would become a revenue generating business for my family. With each incremental improvement in my coding and web design ability, my confidence grew. I launched numerous monetized web services and used these successes as critical talking points in my job interviews as I worked toward solidifying myself as a tech professional in Silicon Valley. First, I worked as a Technical Writer at TiVo until I was promoted into a Program Manager role on the Customer Service team. You might not believe it, but I still wasn’t thinking about money- my only interest was in learning more, and more, and more. I wanted to understand, I wanted to improve, and I wanted to see what was around the next corner.

After nearly five years with TiVo, hundreds of hours of home study, many failures and a few successes with web businesses, I had learned enough to try to build my own software support operations team. An enterprise software company in San Francisco, Hearsay Social, took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to develop a support operations team. Still, I continued to build my skills by developing new apps, new web sites, and completing a computer science certification program and starting a technology graduate program on nights and weekends.  I had never loved learning this much before; I had to know more, I had to find out what I was capable of, and I wanted to try and fail as much as possible to become better.

After one year at the start-up, I achieved my ultimate professional dream: I was hired as a Senior Product Support Manager at Google. Nearly three years later, I am managing a team in Google’s Consumer Operations organization and continuing to learn and grow as a tech industry professional. It is amazing to think about how it all came about- an insatiable curiosity about the web lead me on a journey of exploration which took me from disillusioned and bored law school graduate to a happy, engaged and passionate Operations Manager at Google.

Follow your curiosity!

Posted in web entrepreneurship