Take risks to reach your goals - Emily Snowdon, Product HuntFeatured

What's the biggest risk you've ever taken in your career and how did you build up the courage to do it? I’ve taken a number of big risks during my career. I’ve learned that taking career risks doesn’t always mean having extraordinary courage. Instead, it can mean looking for new opportunities or creating them for yourself then pursuing them when you can.The path to my current role hasn’t exactly been straightforward. I graduated in 2008 (hello recession) with a BA in Theology. Looking for a career in a downward spiralling economy that has little time for idealistic grads, I applied to everything and anything. In an interview I was asked, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” An optimistic me replied, “As COO of a multi million dollar company in California!” to some scoffs from the hiring manager. The role was for an entry level telesales assistant at a water waste firm in Devon. When I finally landed a grad scheme (paid graduate training program), I knew I was lucky to get it.I started my mortgage advisor training in 2008, just before everyone stopped granting mortgages - perfect timing! When I failed my mortgage exam, the only exam I’d ever failed (other than my driving test 3 times) I realized I didn’t care. My heart wasn’t in it and I knew then it was time to leave. One of my biggest risks was leaving that job with nothing to go to in 2009. My second big risk was moving to London from the countryside with nowhere immediate to live. In summer 2010 I’d taken a chance interview with a corporate media firm whilst visiting a friend. I had to buy an outfit for my interview as I only packed flip flops and jeans, but my investment paid off. I got the job and moved to London the very next week. I was on my way up as a Personal Assistant to the MD of an events company. It was a good job that introduced me to many new friends (like @Abadesi) and an exciting new life in London. Although I enjoyed it, the role didn’t stretch me and I was hungry for more. After 11 months I applied for an internal promotion as a Metal Trades Event Producer and got the job. My parents were thrilled. I was reading the Financial Times, talking about commodities trading and knew the price of copper. I’d landed a stable job in a traditional industry. I’d finally made it!Instead of accepting my stable job offer, a friend (hello @Abadesi again) reached out about a new company I should check out, Groupon. Startups were pretty new to London in summer 2011. New grads were flocking to them and early twenty-somethings were landing great roles with lots of responsibility - a far cry from the grads of 3 years ago. It was exciting and new so I took a pay cut to accept a job as a Partner (Account) Manager and entered the world of startups. My third big risk! (Sorry Mum and Dad - I no longer knew the price of copper but I could get you a discounted haircut if you could wait 3 months for an appointment).Not happy in Partner Management, in 2012 I took a career side step into the PR team, - risk number four. I loved the challenge and thought a career in communications could be for me. I learnt a lot in the role, from putting out fires with the Advertising Standards Agency to working out with celebs for media campaigns. After discovering there wasn’t room for me to move up in the department I decided to move again. Time for risk number five. My biggest yet! In 2014 I left Groupon to start over in a tiny unknown startup as assistant to the founder. Everyone said I was crazy. This was an ‘anything goes’ type role from securing investor meetings to PR and event management and setting up offices in London and SF. It was fun to begin with and a steep learning curve, but ultimately we ran out of funding and I ended up out of work and without 2 months pay. Everyone who had told me, “don’t do it you’re crazy” was apparently right. Just as my tech career appeared to be stalling, I caught up with Corley Hughes. Our paths had crossed during my time at the ultimately doomed startup, and we’d hit it off. Corley asked me to consult for her at her new company, Product Hunt, where she had recently joined as COO. I was excited by the opportunity and accepted a permanent role within the community team in 2015. Fast forward 3 years and I am Head Of Operations at Product Hunt, now a part of the AngelList family, a multi million dollar company in California. If only I could tell that water waste hiring manager now!Over the last 10 years I’ve realized there's more than one route to achieving your goals, and you don’t have to know (or land!) your dream role right at the start. Even when things don’t look like they're working out, you can learn a lot from exposing yourself to new and challenging situations. I’ve also learnt to not always take other people’s advice. Even well-meaning folks with your best interests at heart can’t always see the bigger picture. Sometimes you have to take the biggest risks for yourself and make the most of the consequences. Ultimately the biggest risk can be not taking any at all, as you could end up missing out on some pretty amazing opportunities. Emily Snowdon is Head of Operations at Product Hunt where she is responsible for business operations, business development, community and partnerships. She has been with Product Hunt since June 2015, joining as part of the early community team before Product Hunt was acquired by AngelList in December 2016. Previously Emily worked at Groupon’s international HQ in London joining a year before the record breaking IPO. Originally joining the company in UK account management, Emily later moved into the global team as International PR Coordinator working directly under the Head of International Communications.
Hi Elphas – as a reminder – this is part of our public posts series sharing conversations with women across tech on the topic of #careergrowth. Emily, thank you for sharing with us.Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Found a lot of comfort in this post. Thanks for sharing.
What an incredible story @emilyjane! Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Pooja 🙏
Such an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing, Emily!
Thank you for the kind words Kavitha 🙏
Thank you, Emily for sharing your journey and more importantly being transparent! An amazing reminder to put ourselves out there and learn to trust our own advice/ instincts.
Thanks Whitney. Trusting yourself isn't always easy, but sometimes it can pay to listen to your instincts.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Emily! Love this quote, "Even well-meaning folks with your best interests at heart can’t always see the bigger picture."
Thanks Kuan 🙏And big thanks to you, Cadran and Aba for building such a powerful platform. It's great to be able to freely share career and life experiences in this way.
Thank you for taking the time to share your insights, Emily! This story is truly inspiring. I loved how you took risk after risk and continued to seek learning opportunities that stretched you. You never settled for complacency and I'm sure you built on your learnings and experiences through each phase. This is a super inspiring journey and grateful to hear it!!
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Emily! Really powerful, thought-provoking and inspiring. Excuse the cringe, but I'm reminded of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" - Congratulations on all you have achieved and overcome to get to this point!
Ah I love that! Miley is great.Thanks for the support Rachel 🙏
My pleasure!
Thank you for sharing this Emily. I've had quite the twisty and strange journey myself, and I really appreciated reading your story of career risk-taking.
What an amazing post Emily ! I so look up to you right now :) It is so inspiring for me since i took the risk to quit my corporate job a couple of months ago and explore the possibilities and different paths. I am in a research institute now - which i hate - so it seems time for the next big risk . It is scaring and i feel uncomfortable but stories like yours lift me up :)Hug to you <3
"My parents were thrilled." -- Great illustration of a careers lesson I've learned over time. When my parents are thrilled, it's a sign I need to do the exact opposite.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, parachute jumps & all!
What an amazingly inspiring story Emily. So many nuggets! Thank you so much for sharing!
Thank you for sharing, Emily! I found a lot of comfort in this piece. My background reminds me of a fireplace where every tile is a different style and sometimes size - fitting everything together to make the larger piece work can be frustrating and discouraging. It's so important to see other women making theirs work. I'm also a huge fan of reaching out and offering help where I can so I'm thrilled to see that Abadesi was able to help you.
Thank you for sharing Emily! I've gone from being an English teacher at a private school in Nigeria, to being a personal trainer, to working as a Marketing and Communications executive at a number of Fintech startups and companies in Nigeria to currently taking on a product management role, as a challenge. I've never believed that my career path should follow a straight line and I'm always looking for new challenges in different industries. Your story has inspired me to keep moving and take risks as they come. Good luck with the rest of you career.
Thank you for your sharing you story! As an artist, I've been told that we are risks. (Which isn't the greatest feedback to hear) When the thought was broken down, it does make sense as to why patrons or otherwise would see us as "risks". Reading how you found resilience in taking leaps of faith and trusting that things would work out is very grounding.Thanks again for your transparency.