Ivy Ross is a tech executive heading up Google’s top-secret wearables division, but she didn’t follow what you might consider a traditional path to get there.
She’s been a jewelry designer, with her work appearing in some of the world’s best museums, and she has worked at multiple companies—including both Mattel and Gap Inc. When she gave a recent Commencement Address at FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology), Ross explained how it was because of and not in spite of her unorthodox career path that she gained the success and fulfillment she currently enjoys.
Here is her best advice for young people just starting out.
Ignore Your Ego
After Ross’s jewelry designs hit their 12th major museum and she’d won the De Beers Diamonds International Award, Ross realized her heart just wasn’t in it like it used to be. She’d worked so hard to achieve the kind of recognition she was receiving, but now that she’d attained the highest heights—accomplishments any designer would spend an entire lifetime working towards—she had nowhere else to push herself.
Having her ego’s biggest desires met helped Ross to let go of those desires to try and see what other desires lay beneath them. And she found she gained a lot more satisfaction turning her talents to team work and the joy of creating things collaboratively with others.
Stop Planning Too Far Out
Plans are always necessary in some form or another. But the ubiquitous 5-year plan that everyone insists upon? Ross says ditch it. Could she possibly have predicted 5 years ago, for example, that she’d be spearheading a secret Google project? Of course not. Would she have been too restricted to try had she laid out a stringent 5-year plan in another field? Probably not—and that’s her point.
Ross thinks 5-year plans are the way of the past, particularly given the rapid pace at which industries and technologies are changing and how often new opportunities present themselves. Staying open to different possibilities is difficult, but doing so can shape the most rewarding careers.
Appreciate the Here and Now
Ross maintains that following the “ideal career path” won’t necessarily get you where you want to go. Don’t take jobs with the question, “Where will this get me?” in mind. Try asking instead, “What can I learn here?” or “Can I do what I do best in this environment?”
Take your eye off the end game and ignore the destination. Figure out who you are an what you’re good at, and just follow your heart.