Issue #16: You SHOULD create your own Job Description
And while you're at it, make your Job Description aligned with your Dream Job.
Almost 3 years ago, my manager asked me to take on a new role: “Domain Expert”. Except she didn’t give me a job description. Just these words:
I would like for you to be the Domain Expert for Trust and Safety (T&S)
While in that conversation, the prospect seemed cool! New role, new mission. Always a good thing. At that time I was pretty obsessed with the topic of T&S (still am) so I was extra thrilled.
The following day, when the adrenaline rush has finally passed - the excitement turned to uncertainty, quickly escalating into a mini-meltdown.
“What the hell is a Domain Expert? What should I be doing? Who am I supposed to work with? “
I was clueless. I also didn’t want to ask my manager for help defining the role because of a feedback she gave me in our last developmental talk:
You need to expand your impact.
Which to me, at that time, meant - figure things out on your own. Which was not the case, in hindsight. But back then, I was feeling very insecure and I all I cared about was proving myself.
The first few months of telling people I was the “Domain Expert for Trust and Safety” was pretty awkward. I always got the question, “what does that mean?”. An engineering manager, who is also a great friend, dared to ask me “are you sure they’re not trying to get rid of you by giving you a fluffy job?” 😂
I wasn’t doing anything of value. I was getting bored. I even started looking for other work.
But the need to prove myself at that time was a stronger motivation to not let a “fluffy job” defeat me. I may not have the answers, but I knew hot to get them.
So I rolled up my sleeves, put my Product Hat on, and “got to work”.
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01. I Imagined An Ideal World - I created a Vision for myself
Eventually, reality dawned on me that if the job didn’t come with a job description, I might as well create one. People create jobs for themselves all the time. Why can’t I?
And if I was creating a job description for myself, hot damn - IT WILL BE AMAZEBALLS!
So I created my dream job.
I wanted to be the person everybody went to for anything related to “Trust and Safety” in the organization, because I knew anything and everything there is to know about the topic. (after all isn’t that what Domain Expert means?)
I wanted to elevate the understanding and importance of T&S for our product beyond what it currently meant at that time (i.e. ratings, content moderation, and customer service resolutions).
I wanted to make T&S a part of our company’s strategy, ensuring investment and prioritization for it across the organization.
And I wanted to be the person creating the T&S strategy for our entire organization.
And last, but definitely not the least, I wanted to enjoy what I was doing. ✨
At this point, I also started asking my manager for support again. I needed her to validate that I was going towards the right direction. So I set my ego aside -I was thinking that my next developmental talk would be worse if I was completely off-base with what I was trying to do.
I might be creating my dream job. But my dream job needed to exist in the context I was operating in. 😅
02. I Defined a Strategy to help me TAKE ACTION
Making a strategy for myself to make my dream job/vision a reality was just like making a Product Strategy.
I did my research and gathered insights across the organization about what was being done (or not) about T&S
I defined my goals and how to measure success
I identified my problems to solve and validated them. For example:
There were more T&S problems to solve than we had solutions for them. And Some of the solutions for T&S were seen as risks to the business making them impossible to prioritize
I ideated on winning actions and validated them. For example:
I did my research and independent validation exercises on whether or not T&S solutions were a bigger risk to our business model than them being an enabler. When I had more data to at least gain some confidence from my stakeholders, I started partnering with some of them to define a T&S strategy for their teams - smaller/simpler versions to see if they can follow through with them.
And lastly I learned from my actions and iterated on them. Some of these actions were successful. Some were complete failures. As expected. 😂
But what I did validate, most importantly, was that my dream job CAN EXIST and THERE IS VALUE I CAN PROVIDE in this capacity which I designed on my own.
03. I Reminded Myself - “WHY ME?”
While I started creating and validating my dream job, Impostor Syndrome also decided to take a permanent residence in my brain.
Questions like these disrupted my work:
Why would anybody come to me about Trust and Safety?
Why would top leadership listen to me about the importance of the topic?
Why would anybody trust me to create a T&S strategy that can potentially impact the organization?
😱 no words. just emoji.
But there was a vision waiting for me to act on it. And while my impostor syndrome was strong, my obsession with solving a mystery was stronger. So I went on a fact-finding mission to answer my existential question.
Before the Domain Expert role even became a thing, I was one of the very few people in Product and Tech talking about T&S, what it means and what it could be for our organization, at that time. I was already evangelizing.
I really did know a lot about the topic. Before all of this, I was always the person questioning in meetings when people started saying that we needed to build trust and keep people safe. My argument was we can’t build trust and keep people safe when we don’t know what it means for us in our context.
So I started defining what Trust and Safety meant for our product. And it spread.
These are only some of the answers to my ‘WHY ME’ question. I had more, because sometimes feeling one’s oats can be a healthy exercise.
Then the WHY ME transformed into → “OK. SURE. IT CAN BE ME” and eventually into → “OF COURSE IT’S ME” (but that’s much later and for another story).
I really believe that the more senior we become in our roles - our responsibilities can become more vague (or expansive); but the value we can provide can be bigger than what we’ve done before.
One day we’re planning sprints with our team, the next day we’re figuring out what our organization needs to succeed, why, and how to make it all happen.
And it can be daunting. To not know what we’re supposed to do to take action on the mission we’ve been given. Especially when we don’t understand what the mission meant in the first place.
But, at the end of the day, what I think is most important to remember is that:
We were given the mission because we are the best suited person to figure it out.
So dear reader, if you’re in a similar situation right now, don’t forget:
You can absolutely define your own ideal scenario. Go write your dream job description. Imagine your ideal situation. Draw up your ideal reality. HAVE A VISION.
Come up with a strategy to realize your vision. Find the challenges that are in your way. Take them out one by one. Measure success, learn, and iterate from there.
Remember why you. Other people trusted you to do a good job. Now it’s your turn to believe in yourself too.
Did you also have to create a job description for yourself too? What was your experience?
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