Ep 57: Farnoosh Brock: Position Yourself Powerfully

Diva Tech Talk was delighted to interview engineer, tech expert, author and leadership coach, Farnoosh Brock, who shared numerous lessons in personal development and career pivoting.

Having completed her master’s degree in electrical engineering at Clemson University (www.clemson.edu), Farnoosh first worked as a design engineer at then technology startup Atmel Corporation (http://www.atmel.com/)  for a year, before joining Cisco (www.cisco.com), where she spent the next 11 years of her career. “At that time, I started in a very technical space,” she said. “But I also had the opportunity to move around, in other roles, such as sales operations, project management, program management.  I worked with executives on their communications. I did technical writing. I got a lot of experience and am really grateful for that.”

Eight years into building her Cisco career, Farnoosh began to feel restless.  “Something was missing.”  So, she began exploring alternatives, and “I stumbled on my passion for writing,” she said.  That led to blogging and to podcasting. “For two years, it was nothing but a hobby.”  But the light bulb went off for Farnoosh when she attended a blogging conference in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2010.  “That changed everything.”  There she met bloggers she had been reading/following, and social media enthusiasts and experts.  “I had a huge mindset shift at that conference. I realized, for the first time, that I could do something different than my corporate career.”  Coming home, she decided “to take my hobby seriously, and turn it into a ‘side hustle’ with no impact to my career.”  She started her first newsletter; and she immersed herself into studying how to run a business, which was “something I absolutely fell in love with.” After that, “there was no looking back.”  As Farnoosh kept creating, she found much material emanated from her own experiences as well as the experiences of her prospective readers.  Eventually she consolidated and named it: Prolific Living.  “My writing voice changed. I started to create valuable content, through teaching, and wisdom, and breaking down concepts that I found useful.”  Much of the material is meant to inspire entrepreneurship, empower startups, and stretch human potential. “I talk about business a lot, but I also have a lot of content around career, because career advancement was one of my passions when I was in the corporate world.”

Farnoosh emphasized that “if you feel you have an itch to do something, that has nothing to do with your career, and it is a strong urge, I recommend you follow that.”  Addressing the fear that may accompany becoming an entrepreneur, Farnoosh said that a key to being successful in starting a new endeavor is to “have one person in your life who believes in you, unconditionally, other than yourself.”  She observes: “There is no map when you start your own business.”  For that reason, she also suggested that would-be leaders always “work with a mentor or a coach. It will accelerate your progress.” To select that coach, Farnoosh said ask yourself “how do I learn best” and ascertain what you need in terms of your strategy, your current weaknesses/strengths and the style that will help you grow, and reach your next level. “You need to look for someone who has walked down a path similar to the one you want to walk.”

Farnoosh centers much of her coaching around “positioning yourself powerfully” so you can take charge of your career, and lead it. There are some simple elements to this process:

  • “You are not selling; you are serving.”  (See yourself differently.)

  • “Connect the dots from your work to the bottom line effect.” (Articulate your impact).

  • “Create a circle of influence around you.”  (Assess your reputation, by surveying your peers, and extend your visibility if your reputation is sterling.)

  • If your reputation is not ideal, Farnoosh believes you should face that and deal with it, directly. “Start with the person you most dislike, or don’t get along with in your circle. Challenge yourself to improve your relationship with them. Then repeat that.”

  • Ensure that you begin with a positive and complete picture of yourself and your strong contributions to your work and mission. “If you don’t have a high opinion of yourself,” Farnoosh said, “it is hard to position yourself powerfully to someone else.”

  • “Know your ‘blind spots.’ When necessary, make the right adjustments.”

  • Above all: “Cultivate trust, every day. The more trust you have, the more powerful your position will be as a colleague, as a leader.”

Discussing the building of trust, Farnoosh counseled: “When you are starting a relationship, show interest. Then always ask yourself:  what is it that this person wants to get out of the relationship or partnership? And focus on that, first, before you focus on yourself.”  Additionally, she exhorted: “You want to be a deep, deep listener. Make someone really feel heard, and understood.”

The universal conundrum is that “Most of us already do a good job,” Farnoosh said. “But, how do we tell our boss, and others, where we want to go?” By being able to position ourselves powerfully, she asserted, we smooth our own journeys, and accrue the strength to forge our own unique paths.

In reflecting on her own Cisco career, Farnoosh said: “My blind spots really got in my way. My attitude wasn’t great.  I didn’t know how I was perceived. I sabotaged myself. My lesson is raise your self-awareness, hold your tongue, and control your moods. Have a great attitude.”  

Discussing gender inequality in the technical field, Farnoosh also shared that sometimes “you see it where it may not exist.”  Her counsel, for women, is “be curious, not defensive.”  She firmly believes that “trust is one of the main foundations” of successful careers, and women can be agents of change if they can learn to simply keep open, curious attitudes when encountering perceived discrimination. “Be curious, ask questions, don’t be defensive, and see yourself as an equal to your male counterparts --- until there is reason to see it differently. Then address it, accordingly.”

Farnoosh recommends the audio version of widely-acclaimed Dr. Stephen Covey’s timeless Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as highly useful for the Diva Tech Talk audience.

In closing Farnoosh imparted last words of wisdom: “slow down; take care of your body; don’t sacrifice family or personal relationships for career.”  As a yoga enthusiast she also regrets that she didn’t start her yoga regimen even sooner in her life!  And finally, “trust yourself more.  You do have the answers. You know the right decisions. Use both your heart and mind. Trust that it will all work out.”

Please feel free to contact Farnoosh Brock through her website: http://prolificliving.com.

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