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Feeling Stuck In Your Career? This Is For You Pt 2

In today’s blog, we are sharing Part 2 of an interview with Azunwie, a Google Executive who shared with us how to navigate your career and feeling stuck! If you missed last week’s blog, stop now, go read and then join us back here!

Ose: I also love that you mentioned that even while navigating and growing in your career, you also started a business, and this is just awesome. I wanted to just kind of throw that question in there, but tell a little bit about that and then go into what you're doing now and how that has evolved.

Steph: It's all back to the whole thing of like, what kind of question do I want to answer? So starting the business was a passion project really. I'm Ghanaian. I'm from the Northern part of Ghana, where shea butter is heavily produced. And I was like, oh, like these women who produce the shea butter usually don't get as much of the income that comes from it. So what can we do? We can start a natural skincare brand. The wholesale part is there, the retail part is there, but the money or the income and the profitability are going directly to the consumers and the community. And we did that for two years, which was a wonderful experience.

And that's another thing, with your career, you need to constantly think and evolve and be okay with letting things go when you realize that you can't do that as well as you wanted to. And it got to a point where I couldn't do that as well as I wanted to. But the learnings from starting a company, the frustrations with getting people to align, the frustration with working with people on your tech side, to your producers, to the marketing is essentially the same things that help me in my current job, the same things that help me when I need to negotiate. There is no that I don't negotiate for. I negotiate for everything.

Ose: I know, you make sure I get every deal. I feel like that's a business that you put on the shelf. So it's something you're going to come back to once you're in a different season in life, which also, too, you realize sometimes you're stuck in one thing, and you're like, I just have to put it on the shelf for a while and then some things you do let go.

Steph: Exactly. But to my whole point of being stuck, it's okay to be stuck. You will be stuck so many times, and I'm just in a phase of my life where I am looking for ease, so I am giving myself a lot of grace and ease. There are so many things that I thought will work out in a certain way and they didn't, and there are so many things I thought wouldn't work out, and they worked out beautifully but what remains the same is that I know that I'm smart. I love to have fun. I love to enjoy the people and the things that I do. I know that I'm really curious and because of that, I get bored easily. So I'm constantly shaping my role into a question, like, what do I need to solve?

I think it's important that you break your career aspirations or your career that you have at the moment into different things. Because when you look at it overall, you're like, oh, I'm just doing this. But if you'd say, oh, you're in a, let's say you're in a marketing team. And you're like, one part of my function is to get people to understand our project. One part of my function is to get the different teams I understand on the same page, certain parts would happen better. There are certain parts that you would do well versus the other. And it's important for you to break these things apart because when you do, it makes you feel good about yourself. Because when you see the parts that you're doing well, it helps you navigate the paths that are not going so well.

And that's important because the better you feel about yourself and your output, the more you can show up. So I'm constantly looking for things that make me feel good, that make me feel like, ah, I'm playing a role, I'm contributing, and I'm driving impact because it's important to me for how I think about myself, my role and the next phase of my career.

Ose: After assessing all of these amazing opportunities you've had starting your business, navigating your career, navigating being stuck, what is one lesson that you would want listeners to know? Just if they're at that place of just a crossroads, they want to advance their career, they're not sure how to even deal with maybe life issues, things that have come up. What advice would you give to them to keep going forward but giving grace, as you said?

Steph: I'm constantly trying to navigate, but one thing I would say is if I think about the trajectory of my career, there's no one lesson that I have experienced that has not been useful in my current role. It's hilarious because I think a lot, and I reflect a lot on both current and past experiences, and I'd literally be thinking about something, and then something that happened in a role like four years ago would come up, and it's something that at that point I didn't even think was important. And for me to be able to, four years later, match it to something that's happening in my life now and get the lessons out of it makes me confirm that everything is important.

Every experience that you have, you have it for a reason and it's going to empower you as you go through your career.

The second thing is to advocate for yourself, especially for women of color. I negotiate a lot because one of the ways that I advocate for myself is keeping in the back of my mind, Steph, negotiate, just to negotiate. Just do it for the sake of it. As I did more of that, I realized that if I was walking into a conversation, it wasn't even intentional. It's become so part of me, it's like top three; by the time I'm done with this conversation, this person needs to know, Steph did this. This person needs to know Steph has experience here, and this person needs to know Steph is funny as hell or like very direct.

So I constantly keep in mind you're negotiating. That has been very helpful to me because in every conversation and every transaction, I'm walking away fulfilled. I say that because, for me, I feel worse when I disappoint myself than when I disappoint other people. And a part of it is like, fairness is very important to me. So when I was starting my career, I felt like I couldn't advocate for myself as much, or when I felt like I was the only person of color, and because of that, I couldn't speak up in the meetings as much. Yes, there were so many parts of it that were outside of my control, but I will go home and beat myself up over it. And now I'm in a space where I'm like, yeah, maybe I won't speak up in the meeting because it's not comfortable, but I have had one on ones with all of these people in the team that they know that even if I didn't speak up, that's still, Steph is smart as hell.

Know yourself. Know what triggers you. Know what it's important to you. This is something that I haven't done really well, and I'm working on it because sometimes I meet someone I work and I'm like, I give them the whole thing. And I'm like, I did this, and I did this, and I went to school here, and I did all of that. And I can tell that they're impressed because, unfortunately, human beings are interesting people. And when you lay your qualifications out there, someone knows that they need actually to prove that you're not smart versus when you come and are humble, then they can easily disregard you.

So for me, even when it's a coffee chat, like simply someone getting to know me, I'm like, so I did this, and I did this and I'm interested in this. And like, what's your perspective? Like, I need to leave that conversation with this person thinking this is a smart woman. It's just something that's important to me, so that's on my list. Career progression is important to me. I'm very direct, but one thing that I struggled with at the beginning of my career that I'm still working through was being direct professionally without coming across as whatever else because I'm very assertive.

So I was always concerned, especially when you're starting your career, you're like, whoa, I just have two years of experience, can I tell this person I want a promotion after one year? You know what? Now I firmly believe that you should let people know where your mind is. So that even if they don't give it to you, they know that Steph wants a promotion. Even if they don't give it to you, they know Steph wants more money.

When you meet someone, what do you want them to know about you? And it's not going to be perfect because sometimes you meet people and you gel really well. And there are some people you meet, and you're just like, God, can the time go away? Because you don't have that chemistry. It happens professionally too. Be upfront with yourself on what is important for people to know about me. What is important for me to take away from every conversation? How do I advocate for myself? Do I want to ask for more money? Even if my voice is shaking, I need to make sure that I express that. Do I want a promotion? I need to express that.

A lot of us try to separate professional and personal. At the end of the day, your professional life does something to you. It enriches your life differently, but at the end of the day too, it's not everything. You can get sick, and you wouldn't even think about work. You can get fired, and that's that. Nonetheless, because life is short, know that you need to get everything that is true. Yes, you have to be kind, you have to be reasonable, and you have to be diplomatic, but every time that you leave a conversation, let the person know who you are and what is important to you.

Thank you for reading our interview with Azunwie!

It can be a challenge for us all as we grow and want to find ways to challenge ourselves in our careers. I hope Azuwine was able to help you understand what it means to pivot and try new things while still building your skillset in an upward motion. Let us help you create a career roadmap, reach out to us today!

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