Sometimes all it takes is someone to say “if you’re bored, leave” for us to get out of our comfort zones. At least this much is true for Akshaya Venkat, a technical product owner at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America (MBRDNA), whose favorite career move to date was her switch from the telecommunications industry to the software industry almost a year ago.
“At a certain point, most of us get comfortable with our jobs and it’s important to position yourself in a way where you are always learning and growing,” she says. And that she has, adding that the new challenges and technologies at MBRDNA keep her on her toes.
Her learning doesn’t stop there, either. “One thing I am trying to improve on is to accept failures regardless of how big or small they are,” she shares. “In my 11 months at MBRDNA, I have realized in retrospect that the times where I have made a mistake are the times where I have learned the most.”
Venkat recently shared with us the career path that led to her current role, as well as her no. 1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now. Check out her advice for job seekers (and job switchers!) below.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I have been in my current role for about 11 months now. Prior to working at MBRDNA, I was at T-Mobile headquarters for five years. I began my career as an engineer in the Core IP Engineering & Design team and after two and a half years, I became the product owner for a software development team focusing on backhaul network automation, crucial for the deployment of 5G technologies.
What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day?
The first thing I do at work is check my email and my to-do list. Before I head home, I write a to-do list for the next day and make sure my desk is clean for when I come in.
What’s the most unique or interesting aspect of your job or company?
The most unique aspect of MBRDNA is our non-hierarchical working model. Although I do have a manager and a director, I am truly an independent contributor who is encouraged to make bold technological decisions without having to ask for explicit permission from leadership. I believe this unique relationship between leadership, product and engineering fosters a working environment built on trust.
What is your favorite perk about working at MBRDNA?
My favorite perk about working at MBRDNA is the Holiday Shutdown. The entirety of MBRDNA is shutdown the week of Thanksgiving, as well as the weeks in which Christmas and New Years fall on! This is a total of three full work weeks of holiday. I believe it allows all MBRNDA employees to spend true quality time with their families and come into the new year recharged.
What’s something you think most people don’t know about your company that you think they should?
We have a sweet office in downtown Seattle focusing on Cloud & Connectivity Software Development.
What’s something you’re especially good at work?
Something I am especially good at work is enforcing structure, setting expectations with all involved parties and making sure a high standard for quality is being upheld for anything our team works on.
What about outside of work?
Outside of work, I am good cosmetics. Doing makeup gives me an outlet to express myself and is a fun hobby that does not involve a computer.
What are you trying to improve on?
One thing I am trying to improve on is to accept failures, regardless of how big or small they are. In my 11 months at MBRDNA, I have realized in retrospect that the times where I have made a mistake are the times where I have learned the most.
What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?
The one career move that I’ve made that I’m most proud of is taking the leap from the telecommunication industry to the software industry. The jump was not an easy one but I am grateful for all the doors in the field of software development has opened for me.
What do you love most about your job or your company?
One thing I love most about my job is the fact that there is always a new challenge or new technology to learn about. This keeps me on my toes and allows us to make the best decisions for technology in Mercedes-Benz vehicles. I also love the fact that the work we do here at MBRDNA directly impacts.
What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?
I am currently reading a book titled “Leading the Transformation: Applying Agile and DevOps Principles at Scale”by Gary Gruver and Tommy Mouser. It provides a clear framework for improving development and delivery from an executive’s point of view. I am also binge watching the American Law Drama, “Suits!”
What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs right now?
I would say be confident in your skills and do not downplay your abilities. I would also advise them to be persistent and not give up if they get rejected once or twice.
Who is/was the most influential person in your life and why?
The most influential people in my life are my parents. Both of my parents emphasized the value of education but also the importance of being a well-rounded, cultured and kind human being. I think the values they have instilled in me are a big part of what has helped me succeed in my professional and personal career.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
The most memorable piece of career advice I have received was to never settle and to always look for the next challenge. A mentor of mine once told me that “if you’re bored, leave” and it is the best advice I’ve ever gotten. At a certain point, most of us get comfortable with our jobs and it’s important to position yourself in a way where you are always learning and growing.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
The best boss I’ve ever had was the boss who cared about me both as a person and as an employee, provided consistent feedback and coaching and followed up on their feedback to help me grow.