Moving Up (And Around) the Career Ladder: Three Tips for Professional Growth from American Express’ Karina Alvarez Silverstein
Any seasoned professional can tell you that advancing in your career isn't only about moving up the ladder, it's also about moving around it. Karina Alvarez Silverstein, Engineering Vice President at American Express has done just that during her 12-year tenure with the payments company. "I love finding new challenges when I have an itch for something new," says Karina. Her career growth at American Express has allowed her to increase professional impact without having to switch companies.
We sat down with Karina to learn more about her career journey and glean some key lessons for steady career growth.
Moving Around the Career Ladder at Amex
Karina's experience with American Express began after an interaction with a recruiter at her university's career fair in 2008. "I was really intimidated about joining corporate America," reflects Karina, "but the experience during recruitment and interviewing was so positive that I wanted to join the company."
Twelve years later, Karina's journey at Amex continues. She's had the opportunity to grow and reinvent herself during that time. "I've been able to switch domains or positions almost every 18 months." Karina attributes her consistent career growth to her insatiable drive to learn new things. "Being in technology, you always have to be learning to keep up; otherwise it's easy to feel irrelevant," she says. "I truly believe that learning is how someone gets better. I'm always striving to be a better version of myself in all dimensions, day to day."
Through the years, as she's gained experience working across functions and teams, Karina has gotten to learn about different areas that interest her. "Deciding what challenges to pursue next is influenced by what is sparking my curiosity." Amex makes learning and exploring new concepts easier for employees like Karina by offering plentiful career development opportunities.
"We have a program at Amex called 5+ Development Days," shares Karina, "where you get to invest in your professional development and personal growth over five uninterrupted days, so you don't have to take time off to learn something new." Through this program Karina has obtained certifications, completed courses, and taken advantage of job shadowing, all of which helped her tremendously as she took on new roles.
Karina's most recent transition from Engineering Director to Vice President of Engineering was particularly challenging as she dealt with changes in her personal life. "It was definitely overwhelming at first, as it was the same time I found out I was going to be a mother." She leaned on her leaders and mentors to help her navigate those challenges after she accepted the role. "I learned that work-life balance is in my control and I really appreciated the value they brought me during this change."
3 Key Lessons (and a Mantra) for Constant Career Growth
Whether you're just starting your career journey or are eager to try something new, here are Karina's top three lessons, and a reassuring mantra, to help you advance your career:
Build meaningful relationships. Building true connections with your colleagues facilitates collaboration. "In most instances, bringing a win to the enterprise means working with others," Karina explains. Go beyond superficial gestures and reach out to people in your circle to get to know them better. You never know, they might teach you something new or help you get your next promotion!
Don't be afraid to fail. "Failure is not a bad thing. It's how we learn," says Karina. "What is important is how you recover from a failure." Being afraid to mess up can cause you to be hesitant to take that next step in your career or even prevent you from doing it all together. Take on new challenges as learning opportunities. That way if you fail, you learn something new along the way.
Keep learning and challenging yourself. "Don't become complacent in your current situation," advises Karina. "We live in a rapidly changing world. If you want to change your situation, constantly remind yourself the status quo is there to be challenged." Find ways to upskill and reskill so you don't fall flat when a new career opportunity presents itself.
Don't give in to imposter syndrome. One thing Karina wishes she knew earlier in her career is avoiding imposter syndrome through positive self-reinforcement. She uses this mantra to combat self-doubt: "Don't get in your own way. You were offered a role for a reason, you were invited to a meeting for a reason, you were sent an email for a reason. Your opinion and direction are valued, so do not doubt yourself."
PowerToFly finished out 2020 with not one but TWO virtual events featuring leaders at American Express.
American Express is one of the world's most recognized brands. What goes on behind the scenes to create the premier service company and largest credit card issuer by volume? Just ask their technology organization. During our two 90-minute sessions, you'll learn about upcoming projects, gain career advice, discuss job opportunities, and discover how to get your foot in the door for a new career.
American Express is a global services company that provides consumers and businesses with exceptional access to products, insights, and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. They make it easier, safer and more rewarding for consumers and businesses to purchase the things they need and for merchants to sell their goods and services through innovative payment, travel, and expense management solutions.
If you are a Phoenix based tech professional and you would like to attend this event, please email your name and URL to firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for an invite.
PowerToFly is very happy to be back in Phoenix to host a special invite-only evening featuring women tech leaders at American Express on Thursday, February 27th. And best of all? You're invited!
PowerToFly events with American Express are diverse gatherings that create lasting connections for attendees and often result in hires. On this special evening, you'll have the opportunity to network with top women in your field, as well as team members from American Express and PowerToFly. As a bonus, we're offering complimentary headshots from a professional photographer at the start of the evening.
The event will take place on Thursday, February 27th, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm (check-in begins at 5:30 pm) at 18850 N. 56th Street, Phoenix.
Agenda (Subject to Change):
- 5:30pm - Check-in & networking over light food + complimentary headshots
- 6:20pm - Kick-off from PowerToFly
- 6:25pm - Keynote address by Danielle Cloud - VP Loyalty Programs
- 6:35pm - Behind the scenes product demo
- 6:45pm - Panel discussion featuring American Express leaders
- 7:00pm - Audience Q&A
- 7:20pm - Networking continues over light food
American Express is hiring. Their amazing benefits include up to 26 weeks of paid parental leave, flexible work arrangements, Healthy Living wellness programs, tuition assistance, and great medical coverage. Learn more about American Express and their open roles by going to the American Express profile page on Power to Fly.
About PowerToFly: PowerToFly is a women-run startup that works with companies to identify skilled professionals they'd like to network with. Over the past two years, we've produced over one hundred events across the world with brands like American Express, Microsoft, Deloitte, and Slack, which have resulted in countless hires. Visit http://powertofly.com to learn more.
About PowerToFly's Events: All RSVP'd attendees are welcome, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, or age. If you require any accommodation to fully participate in this event, please email email@example.com, and we will contact you to discuss your specific needs.
Unfortunately, PowerToFly and American Express cannot admit outside recruiters to this particular event. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this policy.
PowerToFly has been fortunate to partner with American Express on past events from New York to London so we were thrilled to return to Sunrise, Florida on August 27th, to host a brand new night of networking and tech talks featuring American Express' women tech leaders and allies.
PowerToFly's Dionna Smith-Keels hosted the event, which took place at Amex's gorgeous (and huge) complex in Sunrise, Florida, which is just thirty minutes from Fort Lauderdale. As our guests arrived, they had plenty of time to network, enjoy refreshments and take part in our complimentary headshot photo station.
After some brief opening remarks from Dionna, Adrianna Bailey - VP, Software Engineering at American Express began the evening with warm welcome remarks, diving deeper into the company culture at American Express that truly sets it apart.
Next up, we were treated to a tech talk entitled "Machine Learning: Unstructured Content Organizer" which was hosted by Amex's Prasad Kanvinde and Valencia Steiger. The audience followed up the talk with plenty of probing questions.
The centerpiece of the evening was a panel discussion where Adrianna was joined by four colleagues to discuss their current projects and career journeys. Our panel then concluded with ample time to take questions from the audience and for our panelists to share career advice. Our esteemed speakers included:
- Ileana Figueroa - VP, Technology
- Lisa Meisenbacher, VP, Technology
- Dean Vocaturo - VP, Network Engineering & Optimization
- Man Chon (Kevin) U - VP, Technology
The night wasn't over yet! Our guests stuck around to mingle and network with our speakers and hiring leaders while everyone walked away with fun goodie bags of Amex swag.
American Express is hiring. Their amazing benefits include up to 26 weeks of paid parental leave, flexible work arrangements, Healthy Living wellness programs, tuition assistance, and great medical coverage. Learn more about American Express and their open roles by going to the American Express profile page on Power to Fly and clicking "follow."
All photos by Ivan Apfel Photography
Getting ready for the night to begin!
A delicious spread.
PowerToFly's Dionna Smith-Keels kicks off the event.
Keynote Address speaker Adrianna Bailey
Adrianna welcomes our guests.
Our amazing panel.
Another look at our panel.
Our panel took questions from the audience.
Top off the night with some delicious treats.