Office Hours: I'm the founder of Zeit, powering career path discovery for our multi-skilled generation, and previously led product at Bloomberg Media and led design at IDEO.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Ambika Nigam, founder and CEO of Zeit, building career path discovery for today’s multi-skilled generation. Prior to founding Zeit, I was Head of Product for Mobile Apps, OTT, and Connected Devices for Bloomberg Media, the Business Design lead at IDEO, and Associate Director at OgilvyOne. I have a bachelor’s from the University of Michigan and master’s from Columbia University.Ask me anything about non-linear career paths, pivoting from Finance to Marketing to Design to product, the emotional journey of pivoting and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @ambika!Elphas – please ask @ambika your questions before Friday, April 16th. @ambika may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
So many great questions, I'm so excited to dive in now!!
@ambika, thanks for your thoughts. I’m an early stage founder, and I know how important human centered design is in my customer development, product development, etc. However one of my weaknesses (for now 😉) is the ability to listen to what customers/stakeholders say, and translate that into business decisions. Any preferred resources (books, podcasts etc) that you recommend on design thinking , for a non expert?
Hi @ThereseLCanares, congrats on your start up! How are you enjoying the founder journey? Very thoughtful question here as insights are only good when they are actionable. I would separate these two a bit--design thinking and product prioritization/impact. For design thinking, I'm biased, but gotta go IDEO! Here's a link: In terms business decisions-great question. This is where you have to put your product hat on and ask yourself which of these insights are going to meaningfully drive the business? What's the single most important metric you are looking to impact? Is it customer acquisition ? Is it retention? Is it engagement? Then it becomes sequencing your product development process around these business metrics and acting on your customer insights in that order. For this, I would refer to a great Product management article on prioritization: this helps and best of luck on your journey...keep me posted!!
Hi Ambika! It's so refreshing to hear your story: we don't hear enough about people who pivot and succeed, without needing to "take a few steps back." I find that being a "Swiss army knife" (some design, some code, some strategy, etc.) is super fulfilling -- but that it can be hard to be taken seriously when you want to double down on being hired in *one* of those areas. How were you able to convince each successive team/employer that -- despite not having all of the traditional trappings (a UX portfolio, or a technical degree, etc.) of the role -- you were the right fit?Thanks so much!
Hi @hollyli great to meet you and thanks for the question!! You nailed, this is the single hardest part of pivoting. This is actually one of the main problems we're focused on solving with Zeit--how do you position yourself effectively. My main tips here are the following:1) Give yourself a leg up by minimizing the variables of the pivot--trying to pivot industries, roles, and companies all at once might be challenging--it's doable but could be challenging. So, if you are in healthcare can you pivot into a healthcare tech company and come in blazing with all that industry expertise? that differentiates you! Can you make a move internally first to leverage that to another industry? You don't know unless you ask/try!2) When talking to hiring managers or recruiters, focus on the transferable hard and soft skills only. Often times people dive into everything they've done and know. Sometimes that can only distract someone from seeing the patterns between your existing experience and a new one. Human beings don't have a large attention span to remember that! And most importantly, SHOW don't just TELL as much as you can to demonstrate you can do the thing you are hustling to do. Whether it's a portfolio, side hustle, or story.3) Be open about what you don't know and demonstrate how you are confident you can learn it by doing x,y,z. It demonstrates confidence when people own up to what they don't know!Go get them and keep me posted!!
Thanks so much for your thoughtful advice, @ambika!
During each pivot, what would you say was the biggest challenge/blocker you had to overcome to successfully make the transition? What do you think helped you succeed?
Hi @MilleighVo it's terrific to meet you! I would def refer to the above for some more details on this as well. But, to add to the above I would say my biggest challenge was developing networks in places I was looking to pivot and positioning my transferable skills.For network, I met with everyone--friends, friends of friends, cold reachout, you name it. In doing this, I was very specific to make every conversation multiply by asking each person if they could connect me to 1 or 2 other people. That was a big piece--growing my network in a focused way. This is also a big thing we focus on solving at Zeit--diversifying networks-so that people can get their foot in the door.For positioning, I def refer to the above responses. The crux there is focusing on what you bring the table and pitching that piece.Thanks so much for engaging here!! Please keep me posted on your journey!
Welcome to Elpha! I am interested in learning more about your pivots and how long it tool.
Hi @VictoriaGuscoff nice to meet you! I touched on this in the very first question, but let me build on it here!I like to think I'm on my 5th career! I was a financial analyst at Oppenheimer funds, then a marketing strategy role at Ogilvy and Mather, product design at IDEO, product management at Bloomberg Media, and now and now entrepreneurship!On average it took me about 6 months to make each of these moves in terms of building networks and positioning myself!!Hope that helps and good luck Victoria!!
Thank you. I appreciate it.
HI Ambika! How did you pick up these new fields so quickly? Specifically, how did you get hired into marketing from Finance, and then how did you know/learn what to do quickly? I'm personally struggling with the balance of learning and executing in this new field of marketing (I came from product management). Background: I joined a tiny startup and am now in charge of growth/marketing. We still need to find product market fit and are trying to figure out the best messaging to get users to try out our product (communication skills coaching and practice).
Hi @EllyLin nice to meet you! Good questions and congrats on already making a few pivots!I made the jump into marketing by focusing on a marketing strategy role that required analytical skills. This was the time that facebook, twitter, etc were born and digital analytics came to life. I made a case to Ogilvy that they needed someone who was both creative and analytical. The HR and hiring managers both started to see how critical my skills could be.I hope that helps and please keep me posted!!
Hi Ambika! Thanks for sharing your experience here. I have a non-linear career path, and I'm feeling really self-conscious about it as I'm applying for jobs (was laid off due to covid) and pivot into tech. How do you keep your confidence and own your nonlinear career path when it seems like people who have traditional paths have the advantage?Background: I have a master's in public health and had a few short corporate and government positions before following my dreams and becoming a scuba diving instructor and traveling around the world. Now it almost feels like people perceive a gap in my resume when in reality it was an extremely demanding job where I learned incredible teamwork and customer service skills. And I'm worried I seem overqualified for entry level positions because of my master's, but at the same time under qualified to rejoin the work force because I haven't been in an office since 2017.
Hi Kristen, Thank you for asking this specific question. I feel I am in a similar situation where I am overqualified for entry level but since I am a career switcher (nonprofit to tech) I am not as confident going for the higher level positions.
Maybe if you have project management experience or something similar in the nonprofit sector you could frame it that way and land a mid-level project/program management position. That's what all my friends in tech advised me to do. My plan is to start entry level in tech and move up since I'm also not feeling very confident.
Hi @KristineWagner what a cool path! can you teach me scuba diving?? that's something takes guts and lungs! Your comment about people having traditional paths having an advantage is the reason i started Zeit! Couldn't agree more with that mental model.Let me tell you some truth, people with non-linear paths have an advantage as well...a BIG one! You have a unique perspective on the world by doing so many different things. That is the secret sauce! You have to articulate how you see the world through a different lens because you have done things like scuba diving, and MPH and more---that's what's going to translate into a unique bottom line for the company. Might be hard to see that but when add up all your skills and experiences to someone with only traditional ones it could make for a more unique story. My advice is embrace it, and find a way to clearly articulate how it is super relevant to the job you are interested in.Also, see above I added more thoughts along these lines!! hope it helps!! Ambika
I would like to know about your journey. Can you talk about how you end up where you are today? As someone who is just starting out her career, I don't know what I want to do so I'm really interested in other people's journey. Are you happy where you are today? Thanks for your time!
Hi @KiLo Great to meet you! I outlined my path in the above answers if you are open to scrolling up below! The high level is, I really focus on personal evolution and have always asked myself what new skills can I add to my belt to be a swiss army knife of skills! Also, becoming an entrepreneur is the ultimate test of bringing it all together. It's extremely challenging but extremely fulfilling. Love that you are asking yourself this question at the beginning of your journey--can't wait to see where it goes!
Hi Ambika!I'm wondering what made you decide to change career paths. I'm currently a product manager but I find myself often interested in the work that some other around me are doing (like there is a position open in my company doing just internal product communications) or sometimes I think about dropping the whole thing and starting a sustainable landscaping business ( side passion of mine). I guess what I'm asking is how do you make that choice to stop going in the linear path you are currently on?
Hi @JillianRosa can we merge your sustainable landscaping business and my passion for gardening into one side hustle?! Yes! Love your honest and open question here!The catalyst for me to forge a non-linear path was not stagnating in my skill development. When I was in Finance, I wanted more creativity so I went into marketing strategy. i could apply my analytical skills in a more creative setting. When I was in marketing I started getting intrigued about developing new products, and IDEO was the place for me to explore that. From IDEO I wanted to own a product from inception to launch to scale, and working in product management at Bloomberg enabled that experience. I would say always asking myself, what do I want to learn next? How would it make me feel to add that skill on to my belt? And would it make me happy.I think side passions are a great way to explore those interests before you choose to double down! Can't wait to see you do great things, Jillian!!!
I so appreciate your response @ambika !! I'm in the middle of a career transition and the questions you mentioned will help guide my decision making!
Thanks so much for joining us @ambika!Elphas – please ask @ambika your questions before Friday, April 16th. @ambika may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕