Overcoming The Fear of Rewriting Your Career Story (Especially as an Immigrant)
Nada Buhendi is the CEO and certified master career coach at Unleashing Your Awesome. On this episode, she shares how she transitioned careers and the unique issues that arose from being an immigrant to a new country. We discuss:
Why she quit a job via text!
Challenges of learning a new industry or role
Unique challenges that immigrants have when changing jobs
The personality types that tend to be great product managers
people, career, product manager, felt, building, product, story, immigrant, role, lead, advocating, enjoy, resources, big hurdle, person, comparing, moment, perfectionism, client, personality
Welcome to Product Voices, a podcast where we share valuable insights and useful resources. To help us all be great in product management. Visit the show's website to access the resources discussed on the show, find more information on our fabulous guests or to submit your product management question to be answered in our special q&a episodes. That's all at productvoices.com. And be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform. Now, here's our host, JJ Rorie, CEO of Great Product Management.
Hello, and welcome to Product Voices. Today we're gonna be talking about rewriting your career story and overcoming the fear that comes along with that, especially if you're an immigrant and have additional obstacles to rewriting that story. My guest today is Nada Bihendu. Nada is the CEO and certified master career coach at Unleashing Your Awesome. She is a formal Agile coach and Product Manager with 15 years experience across companies like Deloitte, Accenture, and Slalom. Nada, thank you so much for joining me.
Thank you for having me. JJ.
Let's start with a little bit more about your story. I gave a short bio. But tell me more about your story.
Yes. So I think a lot of people get drawn to the fact that I was a bit of a badass and I quit over text. Don't recommend that that's the best thing to do with the tools I had. Yeah, tell me about that story. Well, you quit over text, I love it. Yeah, kind of reminds me of that episode and Sex in the City when she breaks up with someone over text. But I swear, that wasn't the inspiration, the source of inspiration, it just spontaneously happened.
You know, at the time, I was 35 years old, female immigrant and I was on my way up to the in the corporate ladder. I was I was part of a consulting company, and everything looked good on paper, my boss was great. My salary was six figures, I was taking on a lot of great responsibility. But the truth is, I was feeling like a robot like a corporate zombie, coming in with my head down, faking it putting on a mask, pretending that I enjoy what I'm doing. But I had plateaued in my career. And the reason I did not leave was because I felt or I was programmed my entire life, to just focus on working hard rather than enjoying what I really, you know, did. And I came up from an upbringing, Middle Eastern upbringing, where your parents want you to be a doctor, an engineer. And it was all centered around being extremely successful in your career, getting straight A's being part of prestigious school, lots of you know, corporate ladder climbing. And because of that, I was working weekends, I was traveling continuously for 15 years. And I honestly did not understand the concept of enjoying my work or even my life, I felt that I had to separate the two. And that just did not go very well for me. So there was a lot of build up that led to that moment.
Frankly, you know, a lot of it came down to not feeling respected in the workplace. The backstory behind it that not a lot of people know and won't be able to find on my website, when they read it is that I had gone to get my driver's license. So I took the day off. I was an Agile coach at the time. And when I came back, I was sitting in the meeting room where my team was supposed to show up for their daily stand up. And no one was there. I was just sitting there like an idiot looking around me wondering what happened. And one of my team members found me there and basically said, Did you not get the memo? I was like, what memo? She said the engagement lead just canceled all your meetings. Oh, wow. without even telling me. And, you know, I just found where my team was. And it was replaced by a whole bunch of useless meetings where my team was basically pulled in multiple directions. And that was just the, I guess, the needle that broke the camel's back. Only, I would say two months before that incident. I was pulled aside by a senior leader simply because I had sent out an email to the client asking about the status of my access to their systems. I couldn't even do my job, I couldn't even log into our, you know, backlog our product backlog to see what's going on. I couldn't even book my own meetings. So I was simply sending an innocent email asking about that. And I was pulled aside by that leader. And in a and I was talked down to, and I remember him saying something along the lines of, you gotta watch, stepping on people's toes. When my wife asks me to get a glass of water, her tone matters. If it is the nagging tone, then, you know, I'm not going to do it. They're in shock. I'm, like, comparing me to his wife. That's so inappropriate, like, what is the message that he's trying to portray that I'm a woman, and I can't speak up and I, and you know, like, all of these things were going on in my head. So a lot of incidents were going on, where I just felt disrespected.
You know, one of one of the client engagement leads advocated for me to be on a $1 billion program, and to become basically the lead Agile coach. And there was a lot of politics in my company, and my boss not wanting me to be on that project. So lots of stuff like that, that just accumulated and led to that moment where I basically just said, I quit overtax, I can't do this anymore. It's time for me to just respect myself enough is enough.
Good for you. I love it. That's, that's amazing. And it took courage to do that crazy, crazy situations and unfortunate situations lead to it, but really, kudos to you. So. So let's talk about that. Okay, so So you send a text and you quit. And then you're like, Okay, now what I'm sure, at least at some point, and you've done a great job of transitioning your career. So let's talk about that and talk about some of the challenges that go along with transitioning careers. As an immigrant, as you were, but I want to break that apart and talk about each layer first. So So first and foremost, what are some of the general challenges of transitioning careers? Why is this difficult, scary for most people?
I think the number one for me in that moment when I made the DIS that spontaneous decision, and then took a step back and realize what I have just done was almost this thought of how dare I, you know, how dare I basically, decide that I want to, I want to go for something that maybe in my head was was something that maybe I didn't deserve? There was that internal talk that was going on in my head like I should, I should work hard, I should pay my dues. How can I just quit? You know, I think that narrative of should I stay or should I leave was always going in my head. And in a way, I felt a sense of disappointment, because I gave up in a way. So there was that internal dialogue going on. But I think for me, the biggest thing, being an immigrant was always that hurdle of not having a strong network of people who would have my back who knew me from high school, or knew me for a long period of time. Just feeling alone, and not knowing anyone was the biggest thing for me and the biggest hurdle. And they think when you are navigating career transitions, or your professional life alone, without even someone who, you know truly gets you to the point where they're gonna say you can do this, I know you. When that is missing, it becomes very difficult to to keep going and advocating for yourself, because all you have is yourself. And then that also creates that impostor syndrome off Am I good enough compared to all of these people? Something that I realized, towards the tail end of my career, that social media, and what you see from the outside is almost like an exaggerated circus of what happens in people's true life. Yeah, so all these people who were who were popular in the communities or in the industry, when I went and dug deep into their resumes and their profiles, I realized that they were not as experienced as I thought they were, or at least not that far ahead. You know, for me, and when I started having conversations with them You know, in my head, I was putting them in a pedestal because of their digital presence because of their brand, you know, but at the core of it, they were just really good at marketing themselves. And it was something that, you know, I made an assumption off and started comparing myself against them just because of the appearances. So those are like a couple of things that I felt, you know, I struggled with, but the core of it all is just feeling alone and not having a strong circle of advocates, because you're new, you're new to a location, you are new to an industry, you are new to a community.
So I would say that was the number one thing. Yeah, I can imagine. And as you said, even, even if you're not an immigrant, which we'll we'll talk about in just a moment. Anytime you move into a new industry or new role, you're basically starting over now, you've got a lot to draw from, and I think that's part of the the, you know, coaching and learning that that you do with folks is, is have them draw from, from what they, you know, bring to the table, even if it's something different than what some of those experience people have. But you do feel like you're on an island, you do have impostor syndrome, you do feel like you don't know as much, even if it's just the the lingo and the acronyms and all of the stuff that goes along with, you know, a certain domain.
So, absolutely, I can, I can understand why that's scary. And to your point of feeling alone, but let's layer on some of the specific issues that come along with being an immigrant. So obviously, like you, you mentioned, you're, you're new to an area and you don't know anyone, what other obstacles come along with moving to a new country, and, you know, kind of navigating the legal and the immigration and everything else that goes along with changing a career journey.
I mean, the legal aspect of it is part of it. Definitely. And it's something that, you know, I cannot 100% speak to, because immigration laws change all the time.
Which is part of the part of the difficulty, right, because it's hard to navigate all that.
Yeah, part of the difficulties. And when the pandemic occurred, of course, there was a humongous backlog, when it came to evaluating, basically, immigration applications or work permits, etc. Although I gotta tell you that I've had a lot of clients who actually overcame this hurdle. So sometimes, rather than assuming that it's impossible, or is difficult, I always advise people to reach out, you know, for legal help, or, or talk to people who have gone through it, rather than assuming that it's an impossible task, because everyone's situation is different.
But I truly believe that apart from that the biggest obstacle for a lot of us is the mindset. And it's two folds, certain cultures, at least, my culture, there's always been that narrative off. You know, you you, you perfectionism, right? Like, you gotta you gotta you, you might as well not do it, if you're not putting your 100 or 110%. And that prevents us from taking that messy action from trying and being okay with failure. When I was a child, or when I was, you know, younger, my parents would basically frown upon the fact that I would get less, let's say, it'd be no matter. You know, how successful I was, they would always find an area of opportunity, and make such a big deal out of it and discount the winds that had created almost that sense of I was always not good enough. And I always had to try hard, and I always had to put on this perfect image. And I see that pattern in a lot of job seekers, whether it's my designers who obsessively perfect their portfolio and won't apply to a single job until they feel their portfolio is perfect, which by the way never happens. Because no portfolio is perfect and you will always find ways to want to make it better. And I can totally empathize with that. Even for me with my website. I put a lot of blood sweat and tears and there are days where I'm like, I'm just gonna tear this whole thing down and rebuild it. And my product managers So who basically are terrified of even applying for jobs because they're worried about how they're going to answer their interviews, and God forbid, they say the wrong thing, and they get a rejection. So that fear of trying because we're scared of failure and scared of being judged, is another thing that I would say is a big hurdle for people who are sort of, you know, went through that upbringing of, of pressure and perfectionism. It really is a core wound that a lot of us carry, that keeps us from trying. And as we know, in product development, you can't waterfall and sit in a little corner building the perfect product, the only way that you can build the right product is if you get feedback from your market segment, and you're not gonna get feedback, if you don't push something out, it doesn't have to be perfect. But if you don't do it sooner, you're gonna just waste a lot of money and time. And that goes, that applies to the job search, you got to try to get data so that you can tweak, you know your approach.
Yeah, I love that, that that's amazing and so true. And so applicable in so many situations. So specifically, when you work with folks trying to pivot into product management, or product manager roles, what advice do you give them?
Have a clear vision, and a clear focus, don't be afraid of pinpointing what it is that brings you joy in a role, stop. Overly fixating on titles, the product world is huge. There are different variations of roles out there. And companies don't necessarily bring brand, or choose titles that truly reflect the roles and responsibilities of a job. If you don't have a clear vision, and a clear focus about what your sweet spot is your value proposition. And you don't openly articulate what it is that you want without being afraid, whether it's the salary, what whether it's the environment, whether it's the personalities that you want to interact with, you're just going to be all over the place. With your brand. No one is gonna get what you're trying to accomplish here. And people. I mean, Simon Sinek says people don't people buy, why you want to be basically your why behind what you want to do, not necessarily what it is that you want to do. Right. So when we're building products, we are very clear on what that product vision is, who our persona is, and their pain points, in order to build features that really address those pain points. And those are the winning products, the winning products are not the products that try to please every single person and everyone.
I mean, Apple as an example, does a great job of doing that. They're not trying to compete with androids capabilities have long battery life, they're very clear about who their persona is. So I see a lot of people just applying left and center to every job that's out there. And that leads to interview fatigue. And no wonder they give up. Because they're just not, you know, advocating for what they want and bringing their authentic selves. So that really for me, is the crux of it all. And this is why in my program, when people come to me and they say, Hey, can we work on my resume? I started laughing and I'm like, I don't even know what you want to do. How can you have an amazing compelling marketing campaign via your resume and LinkedIn when your vision is not clear and your why is not clear. So that's really the big thing that I see that I would advise people to do is have a focus Don't be all over the place.
I love that that's that's really great advice and so hard for folks to to get into grasp and to move forward on. So I love that. So when you're working with people, do you believe there's kind of a certain personality or a certain type of person that lends itself more or to being a product manager. I'm personally a big believer that there are lots and lots of ways to become a product manager and lots of types of people who can be great at product management. But it is a unique role. And so sometimes people, you know, fit better, if you will, and sometimes even they enjoy it more than somebody else may enjoy the product manager role. So, you know, what do you see as kind of a typical personality or, or type of person that may be a good fit for product management, or may enjoy the role of product manager?
Yeah, I agree with you that there are definitely different personalities, and there isn't like a single, you know, cookie cutter personality that would make a great product manager, I mean, some of the tools that I use when I try to, you know, figure out people's personalities is like the DISC assessment. And I have seen, you know, disc profiles across the board, where I have people who are more drivers and quick decision makers and make great product managers, and I see people who are more on the analytical side and more structured and still make great product managers. But at the crux of it all, there are certain values that are necessary, if you want to be an amazing product manager. And if you basically want to continue, you know, going on that path and up level two director and above, and I'll say that, one of them is you have to have that creator tendency, if you're the kind of person who doesn't like creating an ideating, coming up with ideas, thinking outside of the box, and you and you're not, and you just rely on people to come up with those ideas, it's going to be very difficult. Because the whole point of being a product manager is to, you know, build products from end to end and really be a visionary. If you're not a visionary, and hate, you know, coming up with a better way to do things, then it's going to be very difficult for you to continue in that field.
That's one. The second one is you need to enjoy interacting with people.
Not always easy.
If you're the kind of person who's going to say to me that I'd rather not talk to people. I hate working with people. And I don't have the appetite to deal with difficult situations, that's going to be hard to because a huge chunk of this role is aligning people with conflicting, you know, ideas and conflicting agendas. You got to be able to do that you got to enjoy doing that. And it's one thing, you know, doing that in a toxic environment. And I get why some people sometimes their vision gets blurred, because they've been in very toxic environments, and they start getting burnt out. And then they question whether they enjoy interacting with people or not. That's that's a whole separate thing. Fundamentally, if you imagine yourself in a healthy environment, would you enjoy collaborating with people? Would you enjoy whiteboarding ideas? Do you get energized when people have aha moments? Do you get energized when you see a person basically adding to another person's idea? If the answer is yes, then you definitely have a personality that is aligned with with a great product manager.
The third thing and the most important thing, and oh my gosh, that is the thing that keeps me going in my crazy, unstable entrepreneurial world of building my own digital products to help people land jobs is emotional resiliency. People underestimate that. Oh my goodness. There is an insane fixation around frameworks, finding the perfect framework to build products and not enough focus on the emotional All aspects of managing different personalities. And even being able to protect your energy setting boundaries, being able to say no. And I'm not saying that you need to be born, you know, emotional with emotional resiliency, if you have the desire to work on that, and you want to be better at it, and you have that desire to have a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset, if you care about personal development, then you can be an amazing product manager. You know, there's, as an entrepreneur, there are ups and downs in my business, there are moments where I didn't know if I was gonna make it, you know, business wise. And it was the same thing when we were building products when I was building products in the corporate world in my 13, plus, you know, career of being a product manager. And it's that, how do I say this piece of being able to be in risky situations, and maybe a little bit of being an adrenaline junkie, that I think made me a great product manager, and I think, you know, that grit is is needed in the field if you don't have that grit, and if you just want things to be hunky dory, then good luck to you, my friend.
Yeah, totally agree. And, you know, it's interesting, a lot of that is, is what keeps people away from it. Sometimes, and because I think, you know, you can be an introvert, and all of those things that you mentioned still be true, right? You can be an extrovert and still be true, you can be an ambivert and still be true. Right? So it's, some people think that that, you know, there's a certain personality type that can, that that lends itself better to those elements that you mentioned. And that's not necessarily true. It's just that you have to be okay with that, or at least be okay with building those things. So I think that's really great. Great advice.
So my final question for you tonight is just what resources have you found valuable across your career, you've had a unique career, you, you yourself are, have become a valuable resource to many as they build their career. But what what resources have you found as you've been building your career?
Oh, lots of resources. But the one that skyrocketed my my career, transitioning into a career coach and building my name in the industry, and having incredible opportunities. Like, you know, speaking at scrum Alliance, which was such a big deal for me, a year and a half into my business. And now I'm pushing two years is storytelling, and specifically telling my own story, my origin story. People go into interviews, overly focusing on their skills, instead of showing people who they are, rather than telling them who they are. As I mentioned before, you know, Simon Sinek says people don't buy what you do they buy why you do it. And when you stop. And when you tell your story, right, you may not have done the exact role in the past, you may not have had, you know, the exact title, you may not have 100% direct experience. And that's the case for me, because two years ago, I wasn't even a career coach. But why did I have the privilege to work with more than 100 people and help them land jobs? Because they could see through my story that I'm passionate about what I do, and they could see my transferable skills from the corporate world into career coaching. And so the specific part about storytelling is really crafting your origin story. And I learned this by working with top influencers in the market. I learned this by studying, you know, celebrity stories like Oprah Winfrey, and I realized man, that would be such a cool way to help job seekers really shine. One of my clients, Elaine broke into product management, despite having a background in journalism, because she was able to tell a compelling story about how she built this scrappy product when she was in college working at a gym, when, you know, customers were cursing her because the entry gate was hitting them, you know, in their, you know, creating bruises on their legs. And she and I helped her tell the story of how she came up with this scrappy product that basically helped her realize that she gets a deep sense of satisfaction when she's solving problems. Now imagine telling a story like that to a hiring manager. They're gonna be sold on you know, this person is going to do whatever it takes when they come in, into into my organization, versus a veteran who's been just doing this for a long time and lost their passion. So that is my biggest secret weapon. And I can definitely you know, share resources as well, you know, that you can add, you know, later on for people to look at that walks them through how to craft basically a, an amazing story that would gravitate people towards them.
Awesome. That's a that's a tremendous advice and resource. And we'll, we'll link your website to productvoices.com And to the show notes. And so anyone who wants to learn more, from Nada on that and other things, you'll be able to find that.
So Nada Buhendi, thank you so much for joining me today. It's been a tremendous conversation. I've enjoyed learning from you and hearing more about your story. Thanks so much for joining me.
Thank you for having me.
And thank you all for joining us on product voices. Hope to see on the next episode.
Thank you for listening to product voices hosted by JJ Rorie. To find more information on our guests resources discussed during the episode or to submit a question for our q&a episodes, visit the show's website product voices.com And be sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite platform.
Ask a Question