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Ambition

Now that we are hiring at Platform161 I spent some time thinking about values and culture at the workplace. There is one term that, in my opinion, is completely misunderstood. Ambition.

Warning: All the things I am about to write are my opinions and of course they are highly opinionated.

We had a discussion because of a candidate that came here saying that he aspired to manage a team of people in 5 years. In my opinion that is not what I’d like to see. Why? That is not the kind of ambition I want to see. That is climbing the ladder.

The question

What are your goals? What do you want/like to do?

I want to know what drives a candidate. What he likes to do with his life. I want to ensure that I am able to provide and he is aligned with us.

Not so good answer

I want to follow the career plan. I want to manage 5 people in X years.

You being in a position of having people under your responsibility is not a goal. Is a consequence. Also I’m hiring somebody whose goal is not what he is going to do. His efforts will be focused on switching positions instead of getting better.

Better answer

I’d like to learn X,Y and Z. I’d like to do A, B and C. All those things are supposed to be done here in the position I’m getting in.

I am able to say if am am able to make you reach your goals. I am able to see if you will be happy here. I am able to see if the company will get profit for you achieving your goals.

This is the ambition I love. You want to become better. It won’t be you against your peers. It will be you against yourself.

For me, finding a person that wants to become a manager is a warning point. Really. The best managers I’ve ever met didn’t want to become managers. Let me write it in a bigger font.

The best managers I’ve ever met didn’t want to become managers.

If you are responsible for a team the worst thing you can do is become different. The kind of management that always worked for me is the kind of role model you can identify with. As a “managee” you want to somehow become that person. You don’t want that person’s position. He wants the same kind of things you want. You are all in the same boat.

If a software developer joins the team I work in I want him to become a better developer. That is what I aspire too and we all can go in the same direction. We can help each other.

There is some funny thing about the wrong kind of ambition. I think that deep inside it is only that they want a better salary disguised in wanting a different position. There is nothing wrong with ambitioning a better salary. But why don’t people want a better salary by being more valuable instead of being in a more expensive position? Why don’t you start in the kind of work you want to do?

Maybe all this is because I am a software developer and I deeply love my profession. I can’t see myself doing a different thing. Maybe it is because of that that I like to be in a corporate culture where we all go together to the same goal.