Holding and growing personal power at work

Tiffany Jachja
4 min readApr 6, 2023

Many people who struggle in their careers struggle to find the right level of information and guidance on their topic of interest. We often have to spend social currency to gain knowledge of systems, processes, and the industry. So many people share paralyzing narratives around what to say and what not to say to gain knowledge and understanding of the industry and the workplace. This blog post is for those who are struggling to learn and feel empowered in the workplace. May you never do a disservice to yourself or your community by getting in your own way.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Invest in the lessons you need to learn.

It’s necessary to learn the fundamentals. Every role at work has a threshold or minimum requirement necessary to serve the job function. Some roles have requirements with more numbers and standards. And some of these requirements are skills only gained from experience. One example is debugging code. You can’t get good at debugging code if you’ve never read code.

Give yourself grace and invest in gaining the experiences necessary for you to grow. You can prompt these experiences by working with your team, management, or hobbies. For example, when I first became a manager, I wanted to know how many people I could feasibly and successfully manage at a time. My team was small at my day job, so I started coaching online and in the community bringing other engineers in the industry into my world. Eventually, I found my number and learned lessons about people management, including my style, passion, and ability to coach and mentor.

I will also preface that this process had no shortcuts. I had to host group calls and 1:1s, develop my own documents and material, and onboard/introduce my clients to who I was and how I could help them. Make the work helpful for your future self as you go through this process. I leveraged my career clarity workbooks that I created in my coaching progress in my day job as my team grew. As you grow relevant skills, your potential to exceed your role grows. It’s a path like every other one or the one you will take. I had to develop skills that would take me further as a software engineering manager.

Busy doesn’t mean successful

If you are trying to figure out why you are struggling in a role, identify your day-to-day activities on the job. Are these activities based on implementing, influencing, building relationships, or setting strategy? These are the themes of activities that you’ll notice throughout your career. Most people will spend their day in one or two areas of the four. If you are spending your time in too many areas, you may want to reevaluate the tasks that are most important so that each work activity is not taking too much of your energy to complete.

There are some times at work when you need to wear multiple hats and do multiple jobs. If this is the case, group work activities that involve strategy and implementing/doing the work together. Work activities involving influence and relationship building go together as well. I say this because most implementation and strategy work requires deep work focus and can be grouped together in a day. This is not to say you can’t group any two domains of work together, but just be aware that it may require more energy to go from a calendar of 1:1s to deep work focus, or god forbid a meeting, deep work, and then another meeting.

Influence is power onto

The topic of personal power may sound selfish, greedy, and ambitious in a “bad” way, but it’s actually the opposite. The reason why I teach empowerment is because it gives people the power to own their careers. Many people can relate to having a bad manager who blocks the careers of others.

Influence is how you or others take charge, speak up, and ensure others are heard. Remember that you can influence and give power to others or yourself before, during, and after meetings. There are different ways to do this, but some of my favorites include sharing notes, following up with individuals, and inviting others to speak in a meeting.

If you own any meetings, sessions, or areas of your work, find opportunities to expand your influence. This is a great way to own your actions and guarantee results that will drive you to the next levels of your career.

Cultivate the dynamics

I shared tips about getting proficient at work, organizing your work, and expanding your influence. Now it’s time to bring it together. We’re all connected. There’s always someone else who has gone through some or part of our career experiences. Gaining and holding personal power at work is remembering your journey and that path and energizing others with their visions.

When you cultivate your accomplishments, you create career momentum. When you plan for the future, you set a career trajectory. Work with others to ideate, share ideas, and build on your accomplishments. If you don’t have a manager who can support you in doing this on a regular basis, tap into the community of like-minded individuals to see you in your work. This is how we build confidence.

In summary

You don’t have to change how your job is done to succeed. Gaining and holding personal power is about having the possibility to influence others. I’ve been learning that I hardly get to decide how things are done at work. It’s out of my control. What I can control is the courage that I have to do the right thing and see where that takes me and others alongside me. I hope this post is helpful for you all going through your careers and looking for that surge of empowerment in the workplace. May we be that light for ourselves and others.



Tiffany Jachja

Software engineering manager covering topics on software, personal development, and career.