June 16, 2020

Thriving Through Change by Developing an Agile Career with Marti Konstant

Thriving Through Change by Developing an Agile Career with Marti Konstant

“Change is happening so fast that if people aren’t adapting to it and responding to it, and hiring for it, they’re not going to have the people that are going to help them grow and get through the rebound of business that we are in the middle of right now.” - Marti Konstant

In this rapidly changing workplace, today’s guest is helping workers transform themselves, and in turn revamp their workplaces and organizations as a whole. She does this by helping others to cultivate their individual careers and to view workforce development through an agility lens, which expands opportunities for creativity, growth and happiness. 

Marti Konstant is a workplace futurist and the best-selling author of Activate Your Agile Career. She has an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and is a former technology executive from Silicon Valley. She has been featured in media outlets such as NBC Chicago, Levo League, The Muse and has worked with companies like Samsung, Dow Jones and Apple. She is an investor in multiple technology companies and is an expert in applying agile principles to workforce development.

Connect with Marti: https://www.martikonstant.com/

Connect with Laura Khalil online:

instagram.com/iambravebydesign 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/BraveByDesign/

linkedIn.com/in/LauraKhalil

Get on Laura’s Newsletter:

http://bravebydesign.net 

Invite Laura to speak at your live or virtual event http://bravebydesign.net

Support the show (https://www.paypal.me/bravebydesign)

What You’ll Hear In This Episode: 

  • What inspired Marti to do the work she does today, and the valuable lessons she received working with technology companies [1:46]

  • What “A/B testing” your career is - and isn’t [6:42]

  • How to give and receive feedback in a constructive manner [8:06]

  • What Marti believes is management’s role in supporting this type of structure in their workplace [12:36]

  • The reasons that thinking of your career as a series of projects can be really helpful [14:21]

  • What to look for in a work environment that would be more open to having agile employees [16:31]

  • Where Marti sees people stumbling most on their career paths [21:34]

  • The first steps to take if you are interesting in developing your own career agility [28:29]

Additional Links & Resources: 

Marty’s Book, Active Your Agile Career & Her Career Resources and Tools 

Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go by Beverly Kaye & Julie Winkle Giulioni

Support the show (https://www.paypal.me/bravebydesign)

Transcript
Marti Konstant :

change is happening so fast that his people aren't adapting to it and responding to it and they are hiring for it. They're not going to have the people that are going to help them grow and get through this rebound of business that we are in the middle of right now. Welcome to brave by design.

Laura Khalil :

I'm your host, Laura Khalil. I'm an entrepreneur, coach and speaker. I love thinking bait, exploring the power of personal development and sharing the best strategies from thought leaders and pioneers in business to empower ambitious women and allies to bravely rise and thrive. Let's get started. Hi, everyone. I want to welcome you to this episode of brave by design because we have a real treat for you today. Marty constant is a workplace futurist and the best selling author of activate your agile career. She has an MBA from the US versity of Chicago Booth School of Business and is a former technology executive that has worked in Silicon Valley. As a top career influencer. She has been featured in media outlets such as NBC, Chicago, Forbes and the muse, and has worked in companies like Samsung, Dow Jones and apple. Marty is an investor in multiple technology companies and an expert in applying agile principles to workforce development. Marty, we are so excited to welcome there. I love this idea of an agile career. But before we get to that, I just want to know a little bit about your story. What kind of inspired this for you?

Marti Konstant :

Well, I started the world out as an artist, Laura and oh, I was a designer and I worked in technology and then I got a marketing degree and an MBA and B it got into them. Marketing Management realm. And what I learned from working in technology companies is all about agile, agile software development back in the year 2000, there was an Agile Software Manifesto. And we learned that the way to develop good product is to work in these collaborative teams to get feedback often. And to iterate Mm hmm. These versions instead of doing these big bang launches,

Laura Khalil :

right Marty kit for our audience who's never heard of like agile versus waterfall, can you just explain sort of like how the world was and sort of how people what people have moved to,

Marti Konstant :

right. So you know, it used to be I'll explain it in something really easy. Okay. Think of software, the way that it used to be developed. You develop one whole thing, you'd project management, you'd learn the requirements, you'd get input and then you would go back almost in time. To a cave for a year or two and develop this awesome product, and you'd have a huge lunch. And then the next two years you'd spend working on all the bugs. So agile versus calling it waterfall. Agile is a process by which the engineers and the software developers and the product developers and the marketers and everyone gets involved giving their input, and they get information along the way, and they adjust the product specs as needed throughout the process. So there are a lot of things like soft launches and getting feedback early. And then making a product better is something that exists now that didn't exist before in the way that project management and you know, waterfall processes used to exist.

Laura Khalil :

They still do and for people who are listening like if you ever had like a Windows Operating System. You remember when that operating system came out like in the 90s. And it was such a big deal that the new operating system had been released into your point, Marty, then what would happen? Well, there would be tons of bugs and tons of issues. And so then years later, there'd be a new operating system with its own share. And so I always remember that when we think about how Microsoft used to develop, I don't know what their practices are today. But I love this iterative model, because that's a really cool concept when we begin to think about our career. And so let's talk about, okay, I'm, you know, somewhere in my career, maybe I'm starting out, maybe I'm at the midpoint, but I'm bored. Maybe I'm unchallenged. Maybe I'm craving something else, and I don't know what it is. How does this career agility model help people?

Marti Konstant :

Right, so the current liability model isn't just something that I developed as an opinion piece. I I spent five years interviewing people, I interviewed 120 people, I commissioned primary research. And I tried to understand how some people always land on their feet and they're adjusting to the trend of the year, never seem to worry about being out of work. They don't worry if they lose a job, they don't worry if they choose to change. And so I wanted to get at the root of that. And out of all that did of research, I developed a career agility model. And I'll give you an example of a couple principles that came out of that. One principle in particular was called a B, testing your career. Okay? A B testing is a term that's used in statistics. It's used a term that's used in marketing when you want to test does this approach work better approach a versus approach B? In statistics, you'll test variables A, B, and C. see which ones work the best, which ones have the most influence? So the idea is, you don't know when you're starting your career, you don't know everything about what you don't know. So you have to get in there and experiment.

Laura Khalil :

Try it out.

Marti Konstant :

Right. Right. And so that's, that's testing, uh, give yourself permission to test instead of making a long commitment.

Laura Khalil :

So how would out? What would that look like merde for someone who's going into their, let's say, their first or second job? Is that, hey, try out this industry. See how you like it. Try out, you know, maybe a sales role. See if that's for you. How do you see people applying that in their career?

Marti Konstant :

Well, there's different ways you can do it. You can do a B testing in parallel. By taking on a side gig or a side project and learn something on the side. You can take on a unique project within your organization that might be cross functional. So you'll be doing your regular job, but you don't have a big risk to learn something by volunteering for another project and another function. So this is how it looks. It's, it's a way it's not job hopping career agility doesn't mean job hopping, it can mean staying in one organization for 15 years, and holding different roles within the organization.

Laura Khalil :

All as you sort of learn, adapt and grow. As you're kind of taking on new projects. I really like that. One of the principles you discuss is activating the feedback squad. And I want to talk a little bit more about that, especially for women because it is really hard for women to sometimes hear feedback that may not always be super positive, but it might be constructive and feel like it's not going to destroy them or destroy you know, their self esteem and stuff like that. How can Tell us so tell us more about the feedback squad and maybe if you can share, you know, how do we give good feedback? And how do we receive feedback?

Marti Konstant :

Right. So you asked a lot of questions. There's

Unknown Speaker :

a lot, there's a lot there. Well,

Marti Konstant :

you started out with such a really interesting story about getting feedback that is maybe painful to Yeah, let's start there. Let's start there. I think that's really interesting. we've all gotten feedback from people that doesn't sit well with us, we feel uncomfortable with it. And you have to look at the feedback. Where's it coming from? If it's coming from someone that's part of your feedback squad, which is someone that you trust and you admire, whether it's someone younger than you older than you, someone that if they give you feedback, they're doing it with the best intentions, but if you're getting feedback in the middle of a brainstorming session, and it's somebody from another department that just says something new about you. And it's not nice and it's done publicly instead of privately, that can be really painful. And even if it's done privately, if that's not a member that is part of your trusted feedback squad, it's not something that you can take to heart in the same way. There may be a little bit of truth in what's being said. But it's not being said with the right intention.

Laura Khalil :

So I love that. So the squad is really about your trusted advisors or your trusted squad or team or whatever that you're going to accept feedback from. That's really important of who you listen to, and who, you know, maybe they have an opinion everyone's allowed to have their opinion, but maybe it's not one you're going to give as much merit.

Marti Konstant :

Right And the important thing about the feedback squad is it doesn't when I was growing up, and I know you worked in in technology, too in Silicon Valley when I was growing up in the business I envisioned that while I was going to have this perfect mentor that was 10 to 15 years older than me, they were going to arm me with all of this information about how business works. And what I discovered in my research is 80% of the people that I interviewed didn't have that now. 20% did. So it really happened. 20% of the people in the universe do have mentors like that, you know, through accident or through some kind of a formal relationship. So what I figured out is, how did I learn things along the way, I had situational mentors. When I had a problem in a certain function, I would go to a person who had a lot of experience in that area, inside or outside my company, they may work with me for a little while, maybe a couple weeks and give me some insights so that I could be better prepared in my work. So that's situational. There could be someone that's younger than you that is just so technology savvy, that can help you in an area that you might not have as much information on. And then there's mastermind groups, there's groups on Facebook that you're aligned because of a certain topic. But they're trusted environments where you ask for input and help. So it doesn't necessarily have to be something that you have to invest in as a coach, although coaching is a good idea.

Laura Khalil :

You know, what I love about what you're saying is you are really highlighting. For me anyhow, this diversity of thoughts and opinions from people who may have different backgrounds, different areas of expertise from you, because often when we think about a mentor, we're thinking about someone who is above us in some way, like, maybe within the structure, they're higher up from us. And what I hear you saying is, well, there's a lot of people who are experts in different arenas, and we can all learn from one another which is pretty cool, because We all know that that level of diversity can actually make you pretty well rounded in your career. I love that. So let's talk a little bit if we can about management style, because right now we're talking a lot about the individual coming forward and making these really empowered choices in their careers. Is this something that an individual is wise to talk to their manager about? speak about career agility? And what is management's role in supporting this type of

Marti Konstant :

structure? I think it's always wise to talk to your manager about your ideas. I have been reading this book by Bev Kay, who is a legend in career development, help them grow or watch them go. She encourages career conversations that are iterative, incremental, not performance reviews. And so when a person is curious about another opportunity, or maybe a little frustrated in the role that they have, it's okay to talk to your manager about that. I also recommend them to talk to other people, colleagues that are maybe in roles that seemed interesting to them, or people that are in other senior management roles throughout the organization that you can build bridges and say, you know, I have this idea, what do you think? And then go to your manager with some things that you thought of that you've gotten feedback on. And you may go to them and say, you know, I have an idea about how to solve a significant problem in our department, and it could be solved by a new role that can exist to solve this problem.

Laura Khalil :

Hmm. I love that. One of the things I want to ask you is you say to think of your career as a series of projects, which is a real Sort of a paradigm shift, I think from how most people think of their careers. I think a lot of people think of their career as title changes or role changes or moving up a ladder. So can you talk to us a little bit about how people have traditionally thought about their careers and why thinking of your career as a series of projects can be really helpful?

Marti Konstant :

Well, I think in the past, we may have thought about the title jump. Yeah. And I used to think about it, like you'd get it and then you'd go along. If you're a runner, you'd go along a straight and even path for a while. Mm hmm. But what you can do when you think about it as a project, and even paths can get boring, you mentioned boredom. Yeah. What we want to do is get rid of the boredom and reduce the stagnation and how you do that is no matter what you're doing, I worked in marketing a lot. I tended to get really excited and energized. About the projects, the conferences that we were building up for the thought leadership that we're building the product launches. So I tended to look at breaking things down into projects. That made me a much more highly engaged person. My title was the same. And so if you think about what a person does in a role, they're very excited when they first get there. But at some point after they've mastered their craft, they can risk boredom. Yes. And if you can just at that juncture, hop on to another new and exciting thing within your profession. And so it's like surfing a wave, you keep on surfing the wave all the way through instead of falling off that surfboard.

Laura Khalil :

Because Yeah, to your point, what does tend to happen is when we see people looking for new jobs, trying to leave the company, they feel that they are stagnating, and I love this idea of riding the wave. And I also I do appreciate how we can reframe our own thinking within the organization of what is the project that I would love to get engaged? And then maybe how can I help create that? And is this an environment that is open to that? And actually, that sort of brings me to something I just want to riff on with you? Are there environments that are better suited to career agility? And maybe what are some of the things we would be looking for in a work environment that would be open to this?

Marti Konstant :

Well, interesting question to pose in these times, right? There's a lot of change going on right now or there's change, there is a need for agility. You know how five years ago we were talking about digital transformation, and if we didn't get technologically adept and integrated throughout our organizations, we were going to be out of business. Within five years. That happened with a lot of people What's happening now is changes happening so fast. That is people aren't adapting to it and responding to it and they aren't hiring for it. They're not going to have the people that are going to help them grow and get through this rebound of business that we are in the middle of right now.

Laura Khalil :

So it's really about this interesting. There's careers ability, and then we're talking about company agility as well. Like how quickly Are you able as a company to adapt?

Marti Konstant :

Well, and they're related? I mean, think about Okay, what I've noticed in the last four to five years is the big companies are becoming more lean. Big Pharma doesn't have this huge, you know, numbers of people in their sales force any longer. A lot of that information is being communicated in a different way. marketing departments are smaller and these bigger companies, what that translates to, is less people. It doesn't mean that the work doesn't have To be done, some of that marketing work might be contracted with agencies on the outside or contractors or, or consultants. And so the alternative workforce, which is really close to 40%, right now, sector 30, between 35 and 40%, depending on who is doing the counting. And so what that means we have more generalists on staff and more specialists in the alternative workforce in the form of contractors, consultants, you saw it in Silicon Valley. Absolutely. All over

Laura Khalil :

well, you know, the thing I have to say it's really funny that we're talking about this Marty because I, you know, my bread and butter for many years was doing developer marketing consulting, because it's a very specific niche. And I always tell people who are afraid of leaving the corporate world, if they have a desire to have their own business, not everyone does, but if they have that desire is there is so much opportunity out there. There, there is so much money out there, as we begin to see to your point 35 to 40% of the workforce move in this direction. I actually think it's pretty exciting.

Unknown Speaker :

I think it can

Marti Konstant :

be, I mean, the Institute of the future headquartered in Palo Alto, I went to one of their, you know, think tank sessions. And, you know, there's, there's a downside and upside to this short gig economy, or the alternative can be a lot of workers that are lower paid. But there's a segment of this that they did a huge study on, and they call them the savvy consultants. Mm hmm. And the savvy consultants, the savvy, smart consultants were the ones just like you were talking about. They figured out a need. They created a niche for themselves. Yeah. And they're very much in demand. I was surprised when I was a contractor in Silicon Valley. I felt like

Unknown Speaker :

wow, I don't feel old.

Marti Konstant :

I feel like I'm really needed in this environment. I felt like there was a lot of work out there. Now, did I want to stay there and continue doing it there? That was another question. But when you have an expertise, I also had an expertise similar to what you're talking about. Mm hmm. It's called, you know, it's called marketing technologist. Yeah. You know, adopting that part of the industry, when other people were hanging with strategy and all that. And it's like, well, you know, what, there's a gap of the marketing and the technology and making certain that it all works and integrates with all the systems that it needs to integrate with.

Laura Khalil :

It's a really, it is a specialty, it's a really needed field. And, you know, it's so interesting what you're saying about this research about Yes, absolutely. 100% in the gig economy, we do see people who are not being paid well, however, as someone who really benefited from it for a number of years. I will say To your point, there's absolutely ways that savvy entrepreneurs or savvy consultants can do very well for themselves, but you've got to separate yourself from the pack. You know, you can't just be like anyone else, you know, and you do talk about personal branding, as well, which I think is also really an important piece of that. One thing I want to ask you about, is if we're beginning to think about career agility, okay, how can I adopt these principles in my life? Marty, where do people stumble in this process?

Marti Konstant :

they stumble in their head and fear. You know, so I know two women specifically, they have five children. Each of them have five children, okay. And I have witnessed each of them different age groups. I have witnessed each of them evolve, invent, reinvent and be totally viable. One went from a technical arena to the branding arena. She was a technology person and engineer and she just thought, well, I want this other thing. She is still raising five kids that are in grade school and in high school, and she's doing this, but she decided that business branding for small businesses was where she wanted to spend her time. So you see people like that, and then I meet other people that say, you know, I have too much going on. I can't do anything else. Yeah, so when you say that you can't do anything else. You won't do anything else. There. There are like, you know, podcasts like yours. If someone's driving to work or walking in the morning these days because we're working from home some of us. We can be listening to one of your podcasts and learning about a new way of thinking a new way. way of learning. And it's incremental, they call it micro learning and the learning and development space. 15 minutes can get you a lot further. And it actually is the way that Jen's ears are Generation Z. And Millennials are wired for micro learning opportunities. But I'm wired that way now too. I enjoy shorter spurts of learning. I don't have to allocate two and a half hours.

Laura Khalil :

You know, I can't believe we're talking about this, Marty, because I have been thinking it's so funny. I have been thinking about this very recently. I think that and this is a little bit of a tangent from what we're discussing, but I'll mention it anyway. Because I think someone listening probably needs to hear this. Like many people who are probably who consume a lot of podcasts or love to educate themselves. I love taking courses online. And one of the courses that I've made Most recently been involved with. It's interesting that the educators seems to be under the impression that the more hours I talk, the more you'll learn. And so there's about seven hours of content every three weeks. And I keep thinking to myself, I wish you could share this with me in a quarter of the time because I think it's possible. But I think that there's some kind of interesting block that in some individuals have around more content equals higher price, where if you could save me as an entrepreneur or business owner 90% of the time, but teach me the same lesson, I got the same thing out of it. I would pay for less time. Just Yes, yes. I don't know if that makes sense. But it's really been like bugging me recently,

Marti Konstant :

but you have to learn it all. In other words, in order to learn I wanted to become a better speaker. Eight years ago, I had always spoken in my departments. I'd spoken at conferences. I want to be better The problem people have is they want to be better all at once. I knew each year that I was practicing and learning techniques that I would be better. And I know that two years from now I'm going to be better. Yeah, you can't learn. It's like building websites, you kind of you know, it's a little overwhelming when you're a small business person and you're managing your own website. You can't do it all at once. You have to learn these things incrementally. And I think some of the course developers think, Wow, this whole big thing. Yeah, we have to teach them everything how to do this. I learned that my activate your agile careers is now a workbook that's going to be launched and it was beta tested at one of the universities. And I learned that each of my segments needed to be simpler. They didn't. The exercises needed to be simpler, and I used to do some of that instructional design. Early on in my career, so I knew how to break these things down. So I made them simpler. And so when I delivered a workshop recently, it was a four hour workshop, when I looked at it, and I said, Really, I'm going to spend the whole time just doing this. And when I was going through it, it was magnificent because the people that were learning, I was interacting with them and breaking them into small groups. And they were so excited because they got a bigger part of the experience versus me just getting up there and talking. I got up there and truly facilitated. And we accomplished x versus x plus y plus z.

Laura Khalil :

Yes, I hope so. First of all, I'm learning that in my own teaching, and I hope that other people listening are learning that, that you don't need to do everything. And in fact, as I've learned, because I sometimes have a tendency, you know, if you if anyone hears me speak I have a tendency to kind of Be like a firehose of information. And I'm realizing as I go forward that that's not necessarily the best way for people to learn by bombarding them with so much information. But to your point, let's go deep on one topic, let's really dig into this little thing that, you know, maybe for you or I'm already we may think, Shiva is that enough, but yeah, might might really be enough. It might be enough for what they can process in that four hour setting. I love that.

Marti Konstant :

Yeah, you know, the last course I developed or the workshop I to follow up, I had a millennial that I was I paired up with I collaborated with, and I shared with her everything and she said, has to be about half. I said, What do you mean, she says too much. The exercises are too much. So you know, sometimes it's getting the perspective of another individual that has delivered content, for designed content to get you into the frame of We need to do this for the people that are learning not for us it right that are learning they were not exposed to this. To your point people didn't know what waterfall was.

Laura Khalil :

Right? Exactly. Or agile was yes, we need to be a little gentler than throwing everything at them. Marty, I absolutely love this. So let me ask you this for people who are listening, and they want to get started in developing their own career agility, what are the first steps they take?

Marti Konstant :

The first step would be to learn an overview and you can go to my website to get some great free bundled content. To start on that I have a 28 page, white paper that's geared towards organizations from the organizational construct, as well as the individual on workforce agility. And then I also have a simpler career. agility guide, very simple walks people through some of the things they can do give some examples. And then of course, there's the book and soon to be workbook.

Laura Khalil :

Already, I love it. Now if people want to learn more about you or the book, where do they go?

Marti Konstant :

They can go to Marty constant comm that's m AR ti konstant.com. forward slash resources. And I emphasize the forward slash resources because it's kind of buried on the site. It's not on the top navigation. I just have it on the site. Navigation comes off the bottom so you can get three different things that you can download for free on there. I love

Laura Khalil :

that Marty, do you have any parting words for our listeners,

Marti Konstant :

experiment, measure, and learn and repeat.

Laura Khalil :

I love it. Thank you so much for joining us on this episode of brave by design.

Marti Konstant :

Thank you so much. Love the name of your show and enjoyed this immensely.

Laura Khalil :

I want to thank you for joining me and remember to subscribe to your favorite app so you can stay up to date, and I would love your review. If you've enjoyed this episode, please leave a review and comment on Apple podcasts. You can also keep in touch with me online. You can find me on LinkedIn and I'm also on Instagram at force of badassery. All that information will be available in the show notes. Until next time, stay brave