Sometimes opportunities seem to appear at people’s doorsteps, but I’ve found in interviewing hundr of people for my podcast, articles, blogs and television news segments, as well as my corporate work, that there are always choices the individual made that led them to be both prepared and in the proverbial right place at the right time.
Vogel is no exception. Her path from being an attorney in the Justice Department, including as an Associate Deputy Attorney General and as Acting Director of Justice and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama Administration to inaugural Executive Director of the new tech nonprofit, EqualAI, may not seem like a direct route, but she did it, so let’s all learn from it.
Careers are like that are rarely a straight path, especially for women and especially for those of who are innovative thinkers and who seek to stretch ourselves. Here are some takeaways I see from her journey – and there’s great career advice from her at the end too.
Get trained: Being prepared is critical. It’s easy to say “have confidence” and “learn communication skills,” for example, but you have to be able to do a specific job and do it really well. You need to outperform expectations.
Key to that is getting trained. That can be technical training or college degrees or a combination of the two, especially as your career evolves and you want to keep your skills sharp. Vogel chose law school, some of us choose another graduate studies route (I earned an MBA, for example), but I think the point is to get yourself armed with the credentials you need to succeed in your chosen field. I believe this is more important for women, since women still face an uphill credibility battle, unfortunately.
Go to conferences and events: Vogel told me that she landed the EqualAI job after a chance meeting with Robert LoCascio, founder and CEO of LivePerson and cofounder of EqualAI, at an event. Don’t underestimate the value of going to these events and chatting with folks.
Photo by Gerd Altmann for Pixabay
Leverage interesting projects you’ve done: For example, Vogel’s work leading the creation and development of the Implicit Bias Training for Federal Law Enforcement put her on the radar for this EqualAI job, which is also focused on addressing implicit bias. When you figure out where you want to go next – or apply for a job that is a bit outside your direct path but connects to something you’ve done – highlight the project that dovetails with the new job. You never know….
Seize opportunities: Vogel told me that her meeting LoCascio at the event was happenstance, but she did follow through and seize the opportunity, even though it seemed a bit off her beaten path.
Diversify: Vogel is a lawyer, but she’s also a technology policy wonk and now teaches tech policy at Georgetown Law School too. It’s good to have projects that are outside your normal “day job” to change the subjects in your head, to keep your thinking fresh and to meet new people.
When I asked Vogel her advice for mid-career women who want to use their education and experience to make a difference and achieve professional and financial success, here’s what she said: “Find her passion and find where her passion has a need that can be fulfilled,” which is a key point.
She added an equally important point about the need for a diversity of backgrounds in the tech space: “The tech space seems foreign to many people who grew up with the art history, history, English backgrounds and the liberal arts and sciences, we don’t feel as connected to the tech space. But it’s all the more important that people with that diverse background bring that in, bring that curiosity, the big picture thinking, the historical context, into the technology space….”