I do not consider myself an especially brave person. You can find me watching The Secret Life of Pets over IT any day. Sure, I’ll do a haunted house – if I can piggyback on the person in front of me the whole way through. In fifth grade, I didn’t just freak out when the health teacher brought in pig lungs, I passed out.
Lately, however, I’ve been reflecting on my career and how I ended up in my dream job as a User Researcher for the world’s leading social media and marketing management platform. My career path was characterized by uncertainty from the get-go, and there have been several moments where fear has nearly gotten the better of me.
At Sprinklr, being fearless is one of our core values. We pride ourselves on having the ability to recognize that it’s OK to take risks, to learn from our mistakes, and to pursue growth, no matter how scary it may seem. Ole Webster will tell you the word fearless literally means ‘to be without fear.’ As I’ve learned, and as we at Sprinklr know, being fearless in real life means not only embracing fear but conquering it.
I am not one of the lucky people who have always known what career path they want to take. I studied psychology in school because I had a lot of feelings at age 19 and thought that might be a good way to figure them out. After a year of late nights and difficult clients at my first job with a PR agency, I was already on the hunt for something more.
In college, an alum had visited my class to speak about her job leading social media for Hilton. I thought, ‘There’s no way she’ll remember a student in a 30-minute presentation two years ago.’ But I had nothing to lose and a LinkedIn connection, so I made my first fearless move.
Be Fearless- Career Tip 1: Make the call (or send the email, message on LinkedIn, whatever!)
I joined Hilton’s Global Social Media team in 2016. At that time, social media was barely recognized as a marketing necessity, much less a meaningful revenue stream. Over the next few years, my scrappy 7-person team and I fought tooth and nail to prove the value of our work. Today, Hilton’s Social team has expanded to more than fifty roles and, in 2018, became a Sprinklr customer.
At Hilton, I was nearly always the youngest person in the room. As the closest person to over 5,000 hotels in desperate need of social media resources, I soon realized I had a unique voice in our corporate conversations. I learned how to communicate with people several levels my junior, some who had been in the industry longer than I have been alive. Each email, each meeting, each presentation, I set aside my insecurities to fearlessly advocate for my ideas.
Be Fearless- Career Tip #2: Recognize your value, no matter the situation. Never let your fear define you.
I loved working for Hilton and, after nearly three years, felt confident (and safe) in my role. I spent a summer traveling and fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. After returning to the comfort of Dallas, something inside me kept longing for the lush, green mountains of the PNW. Enter my next step of fearlessness.
A month later, I packed everything I owned into my Nissan Rogue and drove thirty hours across the United States to Portland, OR. I had only spent a few days in the city beforehand and knew no one. I had never even lived on my own. I was terrified but driven by the adventure before me.
Be Fearless- Career Tip #3: True adventure lies outside your comfort zone.
Months later, I had conquered homesickness and learned to navigate my new city. I was comfortable in my job leading Intel’s cybersecurity social media efforts (another Sprinklr customer!) That was when I received a message on LinkedIn from a software company called Sprinklr.
I had heard amazing things about Sprinklr during my years in social media, but the proposed role- “UX Researcher-” was completely foreign to me. My first thought was to dismiss it entirely. Sure, by then I had social media experience with two Fortune 500 companies, but data science? Software development? There was no way I was qualified!
Still, the recruiter had reached out to me- that had to mean something, right? She seemed genuinely interested in my skillset, so the least I could do was jump on a quick phone call. She explained that Sprinklr was looking for someone who was passionate about social media and building relationships with people all over the world. They needed someone who could relate to the issues social media marketers face every day- someone who could show empathy for those driving social and digital marketing for the world’s leading brands. After twenty minutes of speaking with her, I was hooked.
Be Fearless- Career Tip #4: Seize the opportunity when it arrives.
At Sprinklr, team members of all levels across the organization take the time to speak with each candidate. Before each interview, I breathed deeply, repressing any doubts that crept into my mind. As the interviews progressed, my fears disappeared. Instead, I enjoyed learning about the many facets of Sprinklr and found each person I spoke with to be personable and passionate.
By then, I had a pretty good idea about the culture at Sprinklr- welcoming, caring and spirited- but making such a huge pivot in my career path was terrifying. I was convinced that my future lay in social media or marketing. I had never considered using “soft skills,” qualities like compassion and the ability to listen, in a professional role. But I knew all too well how challenging the ever-changing social media landscape can be and I couldn’t help but think how rewarding it would feel to make even one person’s life just a little easier.
Be Fearless- Career Tip #5: It’s never too late to change paths.
In 2019, I became a User Researcher for Sprinklr. User Research is by far the most rewarding role I have ever held. Every day, I meet with and learn from marketers, analysts, and social media practitioners for the world’s leading brands. McDonald’s, Citi, and SAP are only a few of the incredible companies I’ve interviewed, and each user has a unique story to tell.
Each of these moments in my career path were (and still are) full of fear and uncertainty. Yet, as Nelson Mandela and many others throughout history have noted, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.’
Being fearless doesn’t mean you fight dragons every day. Sometimes, being fearless is as simple as saying ‘Yes, I’ll figure it out,’ when you really mean, ‘I have no idea how.’ It’s claiming a seat at the table, even if you don’t know what you’re going to say. Yes, fearlessness can be found in the giant, life-changing moments, but it also exists in the mundane, every-day decision to get out of bed, not knowing what the day may hold.
Fear may be a given, but fearlessness is a choice. Today, and every day, I encourage you to do one thing that scares you, big or small. Eyeing that open role on another team? Apply. Considering a new exercise class? Show up. Questioning if it will all be worth it? Take one step, then another. You might be surprised where you end up.