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Career Advice

9 Ways to Grow Your Career Within a Company With Stack Overflow’s Brittany Boardman

Brittany Boardman went to her first interview with Stack Overflow without expecting much.

"I'm not technical, I'm not an engineer. And I wasn't necessarily looking [for a new job]. But Stack just blew me away," says Brittany of her first exposure to the company behind the world's largest and most trusted software developer and technologist community. "The people I met that day seemed like they genuinely liked coming to work. There was this cohesive belief in what the company was doing. I was converted pretty quickly after that interview—Stack was somewhere I wanted to join."

That's exactly what Brittany did. She first joined as a Senior Account Executive, parlaying her sales and consulting experience into partnering with Stack's clients, and then grew into a lead for that team. Earlier this year, she became the Enterprise Account Executive on Stack's newest product, Teams, which solves the problem of how to manage and share knowledge across an organization.

We sat down with Brittany to learn more about her different roles at Stack and how she continued to find exciting growth opportunities without leaving her company. She shared insight that's applicable across career stages and industries, and we're excited to bring it to you here.

9 ways to grow your career…

…as an interviewee

All of the career growth advice in the world won't help much if you're not at a company that encourages its employees to succeed and supports them as they work towards their goals.

Brittany has worked in finance in New York, been a consultant in Denver, and is now working remotely for Stack from her hometown of North Carolina. She knows her way around an interview process, and her first three tips are about how to use interviews to figure out if a company is a place where you could build a successful career.

1. Talk to a peer. "Even if it's not part of the hiring process, reach out to someone on LinkedIn," she recommends. "They can tell you whether it's an organization that helps to promote and encourage mobility within their employees."

2. Ask about growth paths. Brittany suggests asking the hiring manager directly about trajectories for the role you're considering. Do employees stay in that role for years? Move into management? Transfer laterally to different teams? You don't have to follow one of those set paths, but knowing that people do move up and out is a good indicator.

3. Determine whether your would-be manager will help remove obstacles or just add to them. When Brittany was interviewing for her current role at Stack, she was looking for two things: first, that her future manager had done the job before and knew how to coach her, and second, that she was willing to "roll up her sleeves, have a conversation, strategize, and remove blockers to success." "I probably would not have joined the team if I didn't sense those two things about her," reflects Brittany.

…no matter what your role is

Brittany's latest transition at Stack helping large enterprises bring in Stack Overflow for Teams. It combines her love for collaborating with internal and external stakeholders, strategizing to solve CTO- and CIO-level problems, and being true partners to her clients.

That role didn't drop into her lap, though. As she learned more about herself, her skills, and her company's needs, she saw there was an opportunity and went for it. "There was that question of, 'What do you want to do when you get up in the morning, when your feet hit the floor?' And it's exactly what I'm doing now. I'm really happy. It almost feels like I've created a new job," explains Brittany.

Here's how she recommends you do the same:

4. Ask people you admire about their habits. "What helped me ramp up really quickly was identifying people that were having success and what was driving their success," says Brittany, who found Stack's open culture to be one where people were happy to have those conversations.

5. Don't worry too much about timelines—focus instead on getting managerial support. Brittany's first promotion came pretty early in her Stack tenure, and she wouldn't have gone for it without the encouragement of her manager. Why? It seemed too soon. "I think a few folks were like, 'Oh, that's a big thing. People tend to wait a year before they go out for that role.' But I had a really great manager who encouraged me. 'What's the worst that could happen?' she said. 'They say no and they know that you're interested,'" remembers Brittany. In the end, they didn't say no, and her manager continued to support her even as she moved to a new team.

6. Find mentors. "People want to tell you about how they've been able to overcome something," says Brittany, who has reached out to her company's CRO as well as a few director-level managers to get their perspective on her career. "Just ask!" she says.

…if you want to move into management

While she's not a manager yet, Brittany is interested in stepping into that kind of role at some point, so she's preparing for it now. Here's what she's investing in and where she recommends you do the same:

7. Understand your industry. "You want to really understand the context that you're working in. What's going on in the market? How are things changing? How might that impact our products or clients?" says Brittany, who notes that having that industry knowledge helps with strategizing and bigger-picture thinking down the line.

8. Build relationships across your organization. In her new role, Brittany has to collaborate with people across her company, from security to product. By making those personal connections and building up her understanding of how their teams and processes work, she's preparing for bigger collaborative efforts: "Having that ability to go talk to finance or legal is crucial when moving up into management."

9. Study the managers you admire. It sounds obvious, but it's vital, says Brittany. "I've been fortunate to have some really good [managers] here. And I think, 'What do I like about them? Is it their communication style? How they set clear expectations?' I'm learning from what I appreciate as an individual contributor," she says.

If you're interested in working with Brittany at Stack Overflow, check out their open roles (and start putting her tips to use!).

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