“After a certain point in your career, a lot of growth is down to org policies and randomness/luck.”

Someone smart told me this once. Can’t stop thinking about it. The person who said this is pretty successful and IMHO has made it already. It takes a lot of self awareness to accept this.

  • You join a company. Within 3 months, your manager leaves. Suddenly you level up, not because you are smart and capable, but because there is a vacuum.
  • You are a middle manager somewhere. The superstar product lead in another org leaves to take up an external opportunity. You are moved to the open position and you get credit for all the existing projects in that org. You get promoted.
  • You are up for promotion. One month before the cycle, the upper management decides that since this year there is not sufficient budget, they will rank nominees based on tenure, and you miss out inspite a of stellar performance.
  • You are the no name product lead working on BNPL for a fintech company. No one cares about your team or your projects. Afterpay is acquired by Square and suddenly BNPL is hot. It also becomes your company’s core focus. You are being chased by all fintech companies who want to ramp up their BNPL product. You are the expert. You get a big stock grant and a double promotion at your current company.

There are dozens of examples like these that I have seen myself in companies I have worked at or heard from friends who work at other top startups.

I feel over your career, the luck evens out, and you will get what you deserve. But you can’t underplay the impact of luck on career growth. They are both needed. You can’t rely on just one. But since you can’t manifest luck, working hard is the only thing in your control I guess.