GET EMAIL UPDATES FROM POWERTOFLY
By signing up you accept the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy
BROWSE CATEGORIES
GET EMAIL UPDATES FROM POWERTOFLY
Career Advice

Taking Career Risks: Why Snap's Farnaz Azmoodeh Sees Her Career in Two-Year Cycles

Farnaz Azmoodeh used to dislike running. She was really, truly, actively not interested.

But after suffering through it for a few months, it's now one of her favorite things to do. "I get so much joy out of it," says Farnaz. The same thing happened when she started making pottery: she says the first month was "terrible" as she struggled to shape the clay with no success but shares that she came to love the process of building after getting through an initial period of learning and adjusting.


Farnaz draws a parallel from her approach to hobbies to her approach to her career. She's currently a Senior Director of Engineering at Snap, a role she's earned after taking several calculated risks at work, each of which came with its own uncomfortable period of growth and adjustment. She's learned to chase those periods and value them for the growth that they bring.

We sat down with Farnaz to hear about her path to Snap, how she first identified the benefits of taking risks at work, and what advice she has for other women looking to make bold moves to advance their careers.

Learning to go for it

Farnaz was working on her PhD in computer science at USC when she got an email from Google. They were recruiting for engineers. She'd just completed the required courses for a master's and wasn't planning on leaving her PhD program, but the opportunity made her reconsider her plan. She realized that she wasn't feeling fulfilled by having to go so deep (versus broad) in her studies and wondered if making the switch from academia to industry would allow her to get more meaning from her work. "I was really frustrated," explains Farnaz. "I'd be doing this amazing work, and the output was often a paper, as opposed to putting what I'd built in the hands of people to use."

So she took the first of many risks in her career and left her PhD to join Google's publisher quality team. In her first few months on the job, she realized that instead of just focusing on making sure that the content Google's advertisers were showing up on was brand safe and removing bad content, they could also try to proactively find quality content. Farnaz set out to work on that and soon found herself preparing to present her team's findings to Google's founders.

"It was really exciting for me, presenting my project to these legends," she remembers. "I was nervous. Either they were going to promote me and this was going to jumpstart my career, or I was going to get fired, and I wasn't sure which one."

As you may have guessed, it ended up working out just fine, and Farnaz went on to spend almost 10 years at Google. Halfway through her tenure there, she ended up taking another big career leap: this time, stepping up to be a manager.

"In our field, you either need to go down the direction of being a technical lead or becoming a manager in order to multiply your impact," explains Farnaz. She chose the latter, but didn't find it to be the smoothest transition.

"It was extremely difficult for me," she says. "I went from being able to pinpoint what I was responsible for, going home and knowing exactly what I accomplished that day, to this role where I couldn't get a tangible sense of the impact I was having." (Eventually, she learned to quantify her impact as a leader with the help of mentors who had made the same transition, but the learning curve was certainly steep!)

When the opportunity to work at Snap came up, Farnaz recognized it as a risk from the beginning—but she also saw that the company was built on embracing that risk. "Imagine the DNA of the company where the idea is 'hey, I'm going to go build an app with disappearing photos and videos.' It's such a different way of looking at it. The culture at Snap empowers people to take risks and be creative about solving old problems from a different perspective," says Farnaz. "Snap acknowledges the importance of being a risk taker, being creative."

Every two years: a framework for signing up for constant growth

When Farnaz became Senior Director of Engineering at Snap and had to learn how to run the platform engineering team, she was certainly forced out of her comfort zone—she didn't have a background in platform engineering and remembers having to "study almost every night" to pick up the skills she needed to be successful.

But just like with running or pottery, Farnaz got the hang of things pretty quickly. Looking back now, she's realized that her career has tended to follow a pattern.

Farnaz explains it as a two-year cycle. First, she takes on a new role outside of her comfort zone and feels overwhelmed. Then, she builds up the skills and experience to do that role well. After some time operating from a place of relative expertise and comfort, she needs to take on something new to make sure she's still growing.

"I've learned that this cycle repeats almost every two years. That's how long it takes me to get comfortable, and if I don't make a change at that point, I'm going to get really bored, and that's not a good state for me," she says.

She doesn't think about it as a hard and fast ticking clock, but she does make sure to stay open to new opportunities. "Keeping myself and my options open helps me absorb opportunities a lot better than having a fixed mindset around 'this is what I want to do in two years,'" she explains.

3 ways to be bold in your own career

Farnaz acknowledges that the right ratio of challenge to comfort will be unique to each individual, but she does want to encourage others to stretch themselves and take risks when it's right for them. She left us with a few tips for getting started:

1. Do your homework. "Taking educated risks requires you to do some real homework and be conscientious about what it is that you're doing, how you're going to avoid mistakes, and ensure that you're not jumping hastily into commitments," says Farnaz.

2. Invest in your confidence. Farnaz's two-year approach allows her enough time to get comfortable in her past role before taking a new one, and she highlights the importance of spending some time in that comfort zone before moving on. "Learning and absorbing is really fun, but at the same time, it's very humbling. After every major change, you often find that you're the person in the room who doesn't have much to add. But then you ramp up slowly and you get to the point where you're actively contributing, and I've learned I need to stay in that zone for a little bit to build my confidence back up and be able to remind myself when I'm facing the next challenge that I've been through it before."

3. Don't be afraid of failure. Being scared to fail or to be judged is an understandable feeling before taking on something new, says Farnaz, but a misplaced one. "We all have the grit required to be successful, even though it might take time," she says. "There isn't even a single 'failure' I can look back at and not see a ton of positives that came from it. I would remind people that, particularly in tech, there are so many opportunities that there is no real failure. You can bounce back right away."

If you're interested in joining Farnaz at Snap, check out their open roles here.

popular

How These Companies Are Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.

That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
Videos

[VIDEO ▶️ ] Prepare for Your Interview With a Commercial Real Estate Management Company

💎 Get ready to bring your best self to a job interview at a commercial real estate management company!

📼 Press PLAY to hear insight from a recruiter at VTS, a commercial real estate management company, into how to best prepare for your interview. Andres Harrison, Senior Talent Acquisition Manager at VTS, shares some tips on putting your best foot forward in a virtual setting, as well as the steps for the application process at VTS.

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
Webinars

Early Career Connections & Mid-Career Pivots: Learn more about Our Partners, Sponsors & Speakers

Learn more about the amazing speakers and sponsors from our September 2021 virtual summit Diversity Reboot: Early Career Connections & Mid-Career Pivots; 4 days of fireside chats, workshops, panels, networking sessions, and an interactive virtual career fair.

Our Early Career Connections & Mid-Career Pivots summit welcomed 8,000+ registrants to the PowerToFly community! From pro-tips on how to kickstart your career as a young professional to restarting your life after caregiving - we covered it all! If you tuned in, thank you! If you missed the summit, you can now relive the entire experience! If you're feeling the itch to pivot or learn some new skills, make sure to use your special PowerToFly code: POWERTOFLY750 to get $750 off your next course with Springboard.

We want to extend a HUGE thanks to our Gold sponsors Smartsheet and American Express and our Influencers Palo Alto Networks, amazing.community, Path Forward, and APCO Worldwide. Also, don't forget to visit our Merch Store and grab yourself some PowerToFly apparel, we donate 100% of the proceeds from our sales to TransTech Social, supporting transgender people in tech.

Last but not the least, registration for our October summit Lifting Latinx Voices at Work is now open! With topics ranging from bilingualism to growing Latinx representation in the C-suite, you won't want to miss this free opportunity to connect with your peers, network with top companies, and learn from leaders who've been in your shoes!

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
Webinars

The ABCs of ERGs: How to Create, Build and Grow Employee Resource Groups

Part of PowerToFly's Employer Conversations Series: DEI All Year Long

Being your authentic self at work can be a struggle. That's where Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) come in. An ERG builds connections between teams that go beyond simple work relationships. Whether the focus is on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or being a parent, an ERG can be a powerful growth tool for both the individual and the company; and they go a long way in creating more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces.

Join PowerToFly and its partner APCO Worldwide, as we break down the ABCs of ERGs. Whether you are looking to start your own ERG, grow your membership, receive stakeholder buy-in, or take your group to the next level, we hope you'll join and participate in this interactive discussion with your fellow leaders. There's no need to prepare anything in advance, but we hope you'll lend your voice to the conversation. Questions are welcome!

RSVP HERE FOR FREE

This interactive discussion, part of PowerToFly's Employer Conversation Series: DEI All Year Long, will take place on October 7th from 12pm to 1pm ET.

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
Kensho Technologies

From PM to Chief of Staff: How Kensho’s Meaghan Cassidy Approaches Career Growth & Continuous Learning

Meaghan Cassidy had all the cool pandemic hobbies before they were cool pandemic hobbies.

She started baking sourdough years ago. She took up yoga and bouldering even before that. And when much of America was frantically googling "how to keep a plant alive," she was caring for her thriving vegetable garden and turning its cherry tomato harvest into a delicious and easy Caprese salad (served alongside fresh sourdough, of course).

READ MORE AND DISCUSS Show less
© Rebelmouse 2020