Leading your career

Tiffany Jachja
8 min readJun 7, 2023

This post is about navigating and owning your career by discovering yourself so that you create and make the right career decisions for yourself.

When choosing a career, many people will follow a framework that involves self-assessing their skills, identifying and researching career options, taking action, and continuing to grow and learn. I’ll talk through all four aspects of this framework to provide practical tips for uncovering more about yourself and gaining the confidence to own and make lasting career decisions.

Auditing your skills

I recommend everyone go through the process of auditing what you know, your strengths, and interests/hobbies. The intersection tells a lot about what would be fitting for a career. If you are serious about finding your reason for being, there’s a framework for this called Ikigai, which is used to help you find your purpose. Chris Do has a great talk on this that you can watch.

When considering a career choice, people typically look at the occupational skills, degrees, or certifications required for the job or industry. Emotional intelligence or “power skills” are seen as an afterthought. When assessing your talents, strengths, and interests for potential careers, think of the skills that are either complementary or differentiating in the role. For example, problem-solving skills would complement an engineering career involving Rocket Science. A differentiating skill would be project planning or presentation skills. These differentiating skills are particularly interesting and should be paid attention to because they often come as natural strengths that help us achieve workplace and career goals.

Our strengths are either driven by tasks or our relations with others. Victor Seet has a great blog post detailing this: "Strategic Thinking and Executing strengths are primarily task-oriented. It isn’t the case that they do not care about relationships — only that they enjoy finishing the tasks and leverage the different tasks to build relationships with others. The Influencing and Relationship Building strengths are primarily people-oriented. For these two domains, it’s not that the task is unimportant, only that the tasks are completed because they give meaning to existing relationships. Simply put, their motivation to complete the tasks comes from the relationships they are building.”

Knowing where your strengths lie is important because you’ll find work roles that require strengths in different areas. And while it’s not ideal, it’s not uncommon to see many people wearing multiple in the workplace, requiring them to influence, execute, and work on projects. “In the Strengths-Based Leadership philosophy, it is often taught that individuals need not be well-rounded, but teams should be.” Knowing abilities will help you navigate different kinds of work responsibilities and help you manage your energy and pace yourself accordingly as you pursue your goals.

P.S. If you're looking at your energetic capacity and it feels low or lower than others’ — consider how often you context-switching between people-oriented and task-oriented work. It is typically the cause of burnout or additional energy expenditure. For example, it’s probably more taxing to try to get work done in between the 5 minutes you have in between work meetings than it is to focus solely on the meetings or the work that needs to get done.

Researching Career Options

Once you’ve developed a plan and narrowed down your career field, looking for a position (i..e. job, internship, fellowship, etc) can be daunting. Some would say, “looking for a job…. is a job.” For job seekers newer to the workforce or discipline, I recommend getting good at reading job descriptions and seeking employment from diverse industries. Different titles can apply to the same job function.

The first paragraphs in any job description typically contain more information about the employer and why the role/team exists. The job description also includes requirements and responsibilities. If you are checking off all boxes and requirements for a job role, consider looking for more senior roles if that applies to you since you are most likely overqualified for a role where you’ve checked off all requirements and responsibilities.

If you’re struggling to check off all the responsibilities of the work, consider how you can gain exposure or experience to those technologies, skills, and work experiences through projects or other opportunities.

Consider where your skills and knowledge lie if you’re specialized or very niched in your expertise. Domain knowledge is often just as valuable as technical mastery, where, for example, (in the case of the IT field) what you know about healthcare can drastically improve how you develop applications for healthcare services.


It’s also good to know what is available and popular within the job market when investigating and pursuing job opportunities. There are always shifts in the job market. It’s your choice to go with or against the grain. It’s often slower or more challenging to grow linearly in a career path that is less stable or congruent.

Taking Action

Now that you know more about who you are, what you’ve worked on, and what you’re working towards, it’s time to show up. You have 30 seconds to say hi, who you are, what you’ve worked, and what you’re working towards. I tell people it can, and it will probably change often. The one I might share with recruiters hiring for a director of an engineering role might be, “I’m Tiffany. I’m a tech leader helping technologists deliver better software. I have experience leading, coaching, and mentoring over 40 individuals across industries such as media, finance, and manufacturing. I’ve led data, software, DevOps, and platform engineering teams, and now I’m looking for opportunities to lead teams of teams and expand my leadership.” Other times, I’m the career coach helping others land and grow their careers in tech. And I share my story and what I know with the community on stage and in private spaces.

Knowing who you are is powerful. And preparing a story around it is how I see the resume writing process. It showcases your summary, your skills, and what accomplishments you made while using specific skills or technologies. People often down projects and community experiences. and work opportunities in their resumes and interviews because they don’t realize that your performance is measured through your technical mastery, the potential to make a business impact, and your ability to amplify a team. You showcase all of that throughout your career.

Technical mastery is the foundational skill to achieve your work responsibilities. Your business impact happens in the context of the business/work. Your team contributions happen within the context of why your team exists (and it can often be contributed through onboarding coworkers, training them, or interviewing them). So never discount those. And as you look through your resume bullets, ensure you lead with a strong verb, the business outcome, and what you did (technical mastery) using specific skills or technologies. I usually allow the first bullet point to summarize the scope of my role at the company or within the project. And I use the last bullet point to capture my accomplishments within the realm of team building/collaboration. This is a simple framework for entry-level roles that don’t involve managing people directly.

There are other tips for interviewing and preparing questions that most people can learn and practice online. The resume is meant to get your foot in the door. If you’re struggling throughout other parts of the interview process, consider where in the process and how to manage your time best. Circumstances such as Visa sponsorship requirements should be addressed as soon as possible to ensure it does not block the ability of an employer to extend an offer.

Growing and Learning

To maximize your experience while on the job, I recommend workplaces that support your learning and development. If that is something that you are interested in, jobs that have learning and development built into your role will be most serving. For example, consulting or professional services require constant learning, and most places demand getting certifications or training for promotions or to continue leveling and accomplishing day-to-day responsibilities.

When it comes to growing and learning, it’s also worthwhile to consider how your environment will shape your progress. Some workplaces are 100% onsite, requiring you to be in the office, hybrid, remote, or remote with travel. Some workplaces also encourage mentorship. Some places will not include that. If any of these preferences matter to you, make note of them and ask about them in conversations with a recruiter during the job interview phase.

It is also possible to outgrow a job. If you find yourself unhappy or unfulfilled at a workplace, Brene Brown has a good framework for this which involves assessing if there is nothing new for you to learn, if your mood or health has declined, and if what you value is no longer aligned with the values and direction of the organization. “If you’re seeing any or all of these signs, consider it’s time for a change. Yes, it takes courage and vulnerability, especially in the face of all the reasons everyone in your life will give you for staying put.”


Earlier this month, I gave a talk on a panel session at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). This is my extension of what was shared and what I had to say about finding the right career for you. I know it takes courage to own and be accountable for your career. It’s your life.

Feedback from the session.

I shared this story in my panel session… about three years ago, I participated in a leadership workshop, and I found myself incredibly emotional and angry with myself. I always wanted to be more, and I would get frustrated whenever I looked at my accomplishments because I never felt like it was good enough. It would hurt to make a comparison to the future version of me. It would feel like she was completely different and better than me and that I would never be her. The truth is she’s not different from me. She’s just calling me forward, asking me to take steps to become her through every action, code, and belief I give myself every day. And each action I take brings me closer to becoming her. Sometimes it’s dressing up like her, and other times it’s being brave enough to ask myself questions and truly hold onto the answers as my own. If you find something scary, emotional, or difficult in these words, practices, and frameworks you might just be on the right path to uncovering yourself and becoming more of yourself through your career. Be strong, be brave and know that your choices are bringing you closer to who you want to be.

Some more pictures of NCCWSL!



Tiffany Jachja

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