The best career advice I ever received didn’t actually come from someone else; it came as an insight through self-reflection and learning to trust my own instincts. A few years ago, I was thinking about my career journey to date, trying to identify how I came to be where I am today. What I realised is that happiness comes not from what you seek, but from what you know is true – and my truth was that I was happiest when I followed my interests and found environments where I felt safe to be my authentic self. For this reason, my career path has been a strange mix of roles that inevitably led me to my dream job today at The Iconic.
My career began when I was in primary school, having recently arrived in Australia from Afghanistan. I started a charity with a few of my neighbours; we collected cans and sold them to recycling schemes in order to raise money for refugees. Although our heart was there, we were too young to sustain what we were doing, but thinking back now makes me realise it was the start of a pattern of following what I truly believed in.
In high school, I had my own baking business with my friend where we sold cakes and slices and muffins at school and to my neighbours using my mother’s recipe cards. If you ordered a cake, I would add a coconut slice with your order delivery. I soon realised that people would end up just ordering the coconut slice! Again thinking back, this experience was helping me understand what customers want.
Baking was soon moved to the side when I discovered my love of journalism and decided to study it at university. After a year or so as a journalist, I realised my passion was to write creatively (I’ve actually been working on a novel for a few years now), but that being a full-time writer wasn’t quite what I was looking for. It was at this time that I was seduced by the internet and how the digital world was fast influencing that of publishing – I realised then and there I wanted to be in tech.
Moving into the tech industry was certainly not a fast, clear-cut or easy transition. It took time as a project manager and a (very bad) front-end developer for me to take a step back and question whether I’d made the right move. It took this break via some work in radio, which paid off in the long run as I realised how much I missed being in tech. I then ended up at Yahoo in my first pure digital job, where I discovered that I belonged in product management, working alongside incredibly smart teams who could code and design apps and websites. I also started a fashion label to appease my love of fashion. The brand did really well for a season and we were stocked in around 22 boutiques across Australia, but again the pull of “digital life” was far too strong and I gave it up to focus on a promotion I’d just received in my role at Yahoo!.
I’m now the chief technology officer at The Iconic, where I get to work with amazing people who are developers, IT technicians, analysts, product managers and designers, and we are responsible for the end-to-end experience that customers have with The Iconic’s website, mobile app and mobile commerce site, as well as the internal tools staff use to do their jobs.
Learning to lead our amazing tech team isn’t something I can pinpoint to one aspect or turning point in my career. I’m fortunate that I was able to combine my curiosity with authenticity to offer value wherever I worked – even if I didn’t realise it at the time. If I could offer one piece of advice from my journey to date, I would say: get to know yourself and identify the things that make you tick. Then follow those things until you are working in and around your interests. Look for companies that allow you to exercise your super-powers, accept you for who you are, and enable yourself through learning. If you’re not loving what you’re doing – get out quickly and move on! It’s okay to change direction to find what you love – that’s the most exciting part.