From Marine Corps to Facebook PM – Ashley MontgomeryFeatured
This week I spoke with @ashleymontgomery. After graduating from the United States Naval Academy, Ashley commissioned as a Marine Corps officer and trained as an MV-22 "Osprey" pilot. After leaving the military, she transitioned to a career at Facebook, where she works on the Network Program Management team. She lives in Denver, CO, with her fiancée Sequoia and their dog Kona.When did you know your career was your calling?I’m not sure I do yet. I love my job, but I made a huge career change less than two years ago, transitioning from my previous job as a military officer and pilot to a program manager in the tech industry. I’m still continuing to solidify my personal and professional goals after such a large life change. What’s your best advice not just for building networks but more importantly for maintaining meaningful networks?I wholeheartedly believe that a meaningful network can only be maintained by nurturing it the same way all other human connections are maintained. I don’t ‘use’ my network, but ‘connect’ with people I admire and can learn from. Take an interest in the advancement of your colleagues and they will return the favor. What is the most surprising thing you learned about leadership?That it is entirely industry agnostic. Leadership is not about being the best in your field or even just being an expert. It is about surrounding yourself with amazing people whose strengths complement yours. True leadership is about inspiring them to achieve something great. How did you identify and strategically utilize your main strengths?I have learned to identify my strengths by being more mindful of my own energy levels, not just what I’m good at. Certain things I am very good at really drain me, which means that I tend to burn out much more quickly. Conversely, there are some things that I am not yet good at, but I find mentally stimulating and energizing. It’s easy to say your strengths are the things you’re great at, but that discounts the impact of experience and runs the risk of preventing you from expanding your strengths. I find it important for my own progression to ensure that I am provided the opportunity to gain experience in the areas that energize me, even if they aren’t yet what I’m best at. How do you make sure your voice is heard, especially in teams where you were more junior in areas you were less familiar with?I’ve always found it best to spend a lot of time listening when I start in an unfamiliar industry or role. This allows me to learn contextual knowledge, sure, but more importantly, it allows me to learn about the people with whom I’m working. I’ve identified some fantastic technical mentors through this technique. These mentors have served as a sounding board and I am able to go to them with ideas or concerns I may not yet feel comfortable voicing to a larger group. Once I know my thought isn’t absolutely ridiculous or missing something glaringly obvious, I am able to enter the larger conversations with much more confidence. How have you felt yourself change through your career?My career path has been anything but ordinary. I studied International Relations, became a Marine Corps officer, trained as a military pilot, and then joined the tech industry. While none of these things seems to logically transition into my current role, I have been able to take lessons from each aspect of my past and apply them today. Over time, I’ve gained more confidence in my own abilities, independent of the subject matter. I’ve learned how to utilize my personal strengths and how to find others to help me improve where I’m weaker. Two years in, I’m still navigating the intricate culture adjustment from the hierarchical, no-nonsense military way of getting things done to the much more nuanced, bottom-up tech industry approach to management and communication.