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  • Writer's pictureliatnetanel

3 Lessons I Learned From Ultrarunning About Building Your Role

Updated: May 16, 2020

When I was a child, my grandma always told me: “You should focus on one thing and be the best at it”. It sounded like a great plan. But I then realized I love a lot of things that don’t necessarily work together, and somehow in my mind I could see obvious connections between them, and how improving in one area immediately affects others.

In 2019, I joined Microsoft as the Ecosystem Business Development Manager. Since this was a new role, I had no one to learn from or “shadow”. Plus, I had no background in tech (let’s talk about a potential panic attack) and for the most part, I had no idea how to start.

How I got to Microsoft deserves a whole blog by itself, but for now, I wish to focus on how to change to a different position at work in general. To better explain my perspective on building a new position, I want to share with you three lessons I have learned from an important field in my life that supposedly has nothing to do with work – running.

For the past six years, I’ve been participating in ultramarathons in Israel and around the world. So although I didn’t know almost anything about the tech world, I did know a lot about running, and decided to implement the lessons I have learned from long distance running on “how to start in a new role?”:

1. Going uphill is hard, but the view from the top makes it worth the sweat – most of the time, new places and new roles are hard; you need to learn the organization’s language (did you know that Microsoft has acronyms that only they understand?), culture (compliance and privacy can be a pain in the neck sometimes), and most importantly, what value is your costumer aiming for. Although it’s hard and, frankly, it’s an everlasting journey, when you finish a project, even the smallest one, and know you got it right – it is worth that journey.

2. Standing still gets you nowhere – one of the greatest challenges in ultramarathon running is to keep on moving. When you are over 24 hours on your feet, with no sleep, at some point you ask yourself: “why am I doing this?!”. The problem is that standing still will not help you finish the race. Same goes for building your role at work/your new position: It’s hard, and you fail, but as long as you keep on moving, even in baby steps, you will reach the finish line eventually. The “secret sauce” is to keep on trying – you get better with time.

3. One step at a time – one of the scariest things about ultramarathon running is that when you are standing on the starting line, you realize that the next time you’ll meet civilization or a shower will be in approximately 40 hours. That’s why you divide your race into pieces. You only think about the next station, next cutoff – nothing more. In a new role/position, everything is new and overwhelming. In order to save yourself from a potential panic attack (trust me, that’s not fun or useful), try to plan only a few steps ahead: the following day or the following week. You will not know everything on the first day/month/year…

Looking forward, here are my two cents

Next time you feel like you’re stuck or get to a dead-end, try to divide the challenge ahead into small pieces, like eating a huge steak and just taking one bite at a time. Don’t know which piece to take on? Take on any of them, as long as you keep moving. And remember, that no matter how hard it seems, you’ll get there in the end.

Lastly, let me share a secret with you (but don’t tell anyone): at this point, when I am learning how to build my new role at 3d Signals and provide value for the people I work with, I keep reminding myself that “the race is long and in the end it’s only with yourself”. (Everyone’s Free to Wear Sunscreen, Baz Luhrmann).

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