Gaining Clarity as a Leader with Amanda Prince

In this episode of the B2B Leadership Podcast, best-selling author and leadership coach Nils Vinje speaks with Amanda Prince, VP of HR and Admin at Carbon Five.
In this episode...

0:21 - Amanda's background - Amanda kicks off the podcast by outlining who she is, where she is working, and what type of work she is involved with currently, including the progression during her nine years with Carbon Five.
1:56 - From admin work to VP of HR - There are core beliefs that are critical to progress from base-level work to a significant leadership role.
3:47 - Critical turning points - What key milestone in personal growth made Amanda say, "Okay, I get it now"?
9:07 - The leadership eye - CEOs bring very specific characteristics to the table that enable them to build a culture of employing people from different backgrounds while seeing all of their individual potential.
12:43 - Growing in a tough environment - Not everybody has the benefit of being around good leaders. Without proper guidance, how do you navigate difficult situations?
17:02 - Software engineer growth at Carbon Five - How does Amanda approach the growth and development (from a leadership perspective) of the people who are working in this very technical field?
19:50 - Unusual hiring process - Carbon Five has a hiring process that includes elements that may be different from that of other companies.
21:36 - A handful of promotions - Which previous promotion stood out to Amanda as giving her a huge sense of accomplishment?
23:55 - Overcoming imposter syndrome - This audience experiences this to varying degrees on a day-to-day basis. What can you do internally to overcome these feelings?
30:36 - Advice for minorities - In addition to imposter syndrome, there are social and cultural elements to deal with for minority groups such as women or people of color.
32:20 - Amanda's advice to her younger self - Trust the process, and hang in there. It'll come together. Life can only be understood backwards, but it must always be lived forwards.

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How long did it take you to figure out the career path you wanted to pursue? 0ne year? Three years? Five years, perhaps?

As for Amanda Prince, it took ten years for that clarity to unfold.

Read on to learn more about Amanda and her leadership journey.

Amanda's background

Amanda Prince is the Vice President of HR and Administration at Carbon Five, a digital product consultancy company.

She has been with the company for about nine years. She started as an office manager doing admin work then worked her way up to the VP level.

From admin work to VP of HR

Amanda spent the first ten years of her working life figuring out where she fits in the professional world. Over time, it became clear she wanted to be a therapist. But it took time for that clarity to unfold.

She became a psychotherapist and had a clinical practice so she has a very particular lens at how she looks at things.

She said you have to be grounded in your personal development by being honest with your skills and what you really want to do and achieve. This was one of the core beliefs that were critical to her career progress from someone who was initially hired to do admin work to the VP of HR.

Critical turning points

The major milestone that became the turning point of Amanda's career progression happened when she was doing some volunteer work at a women's jail where she had to counsel the women in their solitary confinement cell.

During this time, she had an aha moment about psychotherapy and she thought "This is what I want to do".

Amanda went to a therapy school and got a master's degree in clinical psychology. She thought of leaving Carbon Five and having a totally different career path.

When the time came, their CEO gave her an offer that was better than what she had expected to make her stay, which was not what she had planned at all. This was not her goal. The goal was to continuously learn to develop herself and build skills.

Carbon Five is a growth-minded company. Their CEO and the partner team at the company had a willingness to see skill. They employ people who come from diverse backgrounds that may not fit into the role but have incredible potential.

It's important to have a leadership team that is willing to see you in a different way.

The leadership eye

The leaders at Carbon Five have built a culture of employing people from different backgrounds while appreciating everyone's individual potential.

Bringing out the best in their people is one of the things the leadership team brings to the table. They are very accessible to the people at the company. They give employees the benefit of the doubt which means there's a lot of trust and that makes a difference.

Being able to tolerate the strain and pressure as the leaders of a company, who sometimes do things that people don't like but are the right thing to do is another characteristic of good leadership.

Growing in a tough environment

Not everybody has the benefit of being around good leaders. Without proper guidance, how should you navigate difficult situations?

If you are working in an environment where there is a lot of skepticism, a lack of focus on personal and professional growth, and you are struggling with your boss, you have to hang in there.

Do what you can to make self-improvements, look out for yourself, and see where you can keep advancing or how you can change that environment.

Be honest with yourself. Know when to call it if you cannot change things that are outside of your control and accept that. Get out of that situation and keep your resume current, stay marketable, stay relevant, and have some money in the bank.

Having other options puts you in a position to be able to make a choice.

Amanda recalled one of the concepts that stood out for her when she took a management course and it was the idea of shock absorbers for things and people that you cannot change in an organization.

You can give them feedback, you can make a suggestion, and that's all you can do. They can either take it in, respond and do something different or you remove yourself from the environment when it's costing you too much emotionally or psychologically.

Be the CEO of your own career. You are in control. Make sure that your single most valuable asset, which is you, is increasingly more valuable over time. And that will produce more opportunities.

One of Amanda's big principles is personal development. Your own continued personal growth is like the wellspring of expansion, development, and prosperity.

Be engaged with yourself. Be honest with yourself. Be committed to growing, and trust what unfolds from that. Trust that it might be bigger than the plan that you have for yourself at the moment.

Be open to new possibilities. Each door will open up different doors that you didn't even know existed before.

All you need is a vision and the next step. You'll figure everything else out as you go. You can have ideas but who knows what's going to unfold, so take the next right step and see what happens.

Software engineer growth at Carbon Five

Carbon Five is an engineering-focused company. They have a well-rounded staff because they have a design team and a product management team but they have more engineers than anybody else.

There is a lot of grassroots engagement and intellectual curiosity which is not a part of the hiring checklist during the recruitment process but is an element of self-selection as part of the company culture.

Top-down development doesn't happen a lot to people at Carbon Five. Instead, people tend to pick it up themselves.

The nature of the way the company works fosters an environment where people can constantly learn and grow their careers.

Unusual hiring process

Carbon Five has a hiring process that includes elements that may be different from that of other companies.

They screen applicants not just for technical skills and discipline, but they also do behavioral interviewing and assess people for their ability to work as consultants. These elements are fundamental to their company's way of doing business.

In behavioral interviewing, they have a core set of questions that talk about how you work with other people, touch on diversity in your experience, and educate yourself about people who might be different from you.

At the end of their interview process, they do a 360 review of the candidate, and they were usually well-aligned on the decision to either pass or push for the candidate.

The behavioral screen helps with cohesion in their decision-making.

A handful of promotions

Which previous promotion stood out to Amanda as giving her a huge sense of accomplishment?

Amanda had a number of promotions to get to the VP level. The one promotion that stood out the most for her was when she went from manager to director. It happened because there was buy-in from the leadership team.

When she became the director, she started having a voice in a very consensus-based executive team. She got her "sea legs" in terms of confidence which helped to shake off imposter syndrome. She was willing to say the things that she felt like nobody was saying in the room.

It is important to have a supportive place like Carbon Five where you can make mistakes and be open about what's going on.

Overcoming imposter syndrome

People encounter imposter syndrome to varying degrees on a daily basis.

As Amanda got to work more closely with people who had titles or responsibilities that she felt intimidated by, she realized that nobody has a rulebook that they're consulting every morning for how to do their job.

Everybody is figuring out how to solve the problems that they're facing on a day-to-day basis with or without the tools that can support them.

Believe in yourself that you are adding value. Do whatever work you need to do to get to a place where you feel confident about yourself. Believe that you belong in any room and that you're adding value to the conversation because you have something to contribute.

Recognizing that your contributions are valuable in that audience with people who you held at a different place is very important. Remember that they are all just people too.

Shift your focus to important things that matter because it's more valuable than worrying about whether or not you belong someplace, or worrying that somebody thinks you don't belong someplace. These are not true and you are wasting time.

If your company still pays you every day to show up and do work, they believe that you should be there doing that work. If they didn't, you wouldn't work there anymore.

Advice for minorities

Imposter syndrome affects anyone including minority groups such as women or people of color who struggle with social and cultural discrimination.

For those who are in a minority group, before you go into a room, set yourself up for the best possible chance of success by knowing that you have a different mountain to climb than a lot of the other people. Do whatever work you need to do to believe and trust yourself.

Find mentors that are supportive and understand all the nuances of what you are dealing with in your environment.

Know when to get out of the environment if you feel that you are not valued because there are some things that will not change anytime soon.

The economy in our world today is filled with opportunities which means there are many other people who would love to have a conversation with you.

Amanda's advice to her younger self

If Amanda could go back to the time before she went on that 10-year journey of figuring out where she fit and could have the chance to advise her younger self, she would tell herself to hang in there and trust that everything will make sense over time. It will all come together.

She believes in a famous Søren Kierkegaard quote that says "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must always be lived forwards".

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