Zach White | How to be the CEO of Your Own Career
Who is Zach White?
Zach White is a widely regarded coach known for changing the game in engineering career & leadership coaching. He has worked with hundreds of engineering leaders from top technology companies, to industry leaders in manufacturing and design. Zach is the Founder and CEO of Oasis of Courage, known as OACO, a fast-growing company with unique and proven coaching programs exclusively for engineers. He is also the host of The Happy Engineer Podcast.
Topics and questions discussed:
Forget Work-Life Balance, Get Out of your Comfort Zone!, Master your Mindset, Build your Blueprint, Do Less, Learn how to get into action quickly, What does taking full reasonability look like?, What makes coaching someone with an engineering background different? How is your approach unique from ordinary career and life coaching?, How do you figure out what we want? and What can spur someone into action?
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engineers, career, people, podcast, raf, engineering, action, question, life, mentor, listening, mentee, day, zack, creating, absolutely, listeners, moving, ceo, clients
Presenter, Aaron Moncur, Rafael Testai, Zach White
Aaron Moncur 00:00
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Hi, everyone, we’ve set up this being an engineer podcast as an industry knowledge repository, if you will, we hope it’ll be a tool where engineers can learn about and connect with other companies, technologies, people, resources and opportunities. So make some connections and enjoy the show.
Zach White 00:56
Everybody out there who’s building an engineering career, you are the CEO of your own career. And what do we list on the skills that it takes to be successful there? Mostly certifications, degrees, technical skills, we only talk about engineering. Nobody talks about the skills to build your career.
Rafael Testai 01:30
Hello, everyone, welcome to the being an engineer podcast today we have a very special guest, Zack white, which is he’s widely known and as regarded as a coach known for changing the game and engineering, career and leadership coaching. He has worked with hundreds of engineering leaders from top technology companies, to industry leaders in manufacturing and design where other of our listeners come from. Zach is the founder and CEO of oasis of courage, known as Oh, a CEO, a fast growing company with unique improving coaching programs exclusively for engineers. He also hosts a top rated show, the happy engineering podcast, everything that I mentioned here now will be in the show notes or the links, so all of our listeners can go and visit these resources. So Zach, welcome to the podcast.
Zach White 02:23
Raf What a pleasure, man. Thank you so much for having me and excited for the conversation today.
Rafael Testai 02:28
Of course, well, this, this question may catch a little bit off guard. But that’s the beautiful thing about having a conversation. This is not all scripted. There’s some questions we have. But also we fill in the gaps with some things that pop up in our minds. I wanted to ask you, if you reach out to us to be on the podcast, I looked at your profile, I thought you were a perfect fit. But what about us? What about the podcast caught your interest?
Zach White 02:52
Well, is there anything better than a title like being an engineer? That statement by itself, you know, captures the whole essence of my coaching my program? What makes us as a breed special? You know, people joke i Oh, you’re an engineer, that label comes with a lot of baggage both good and bad in society, right? And I thought, man, it’s just so simple. So brilliant, say being an engineer. What does that like? What does it take all the different challenges the ups and downs and listen to, I forget which episode it was way back and really loved it, you’re on my list. And then it was time said, You know what, I really want to take a bit of a podcast tour and spread what we’re doing with the happy engineer podcast, and you’re at the top of my list Raf. So I love what you’re doing. I think it’s a great show, having a repository of knowledge, and then helping people to apply that. I mean, at the end of the day, such a valuable service that you’re offering. So I love it. Thank you. Thank you for mentioning that and you actually give us an idea. We’re going to start advertising our podcast on other engineer related podcasts so we can cross pollinate some of our audiences. So if anyone’s listening out there that you think we should advertise the big energy, your podcasts and other podcasts, please let us know what that podcast is. We’re not abundantly wealthy, but some mid tier podcasts will be a good fit. So this is a step in the right direction also for us to grow. So now let’s ask you about your bio bio, your bio here that I read, you said that you help fast growing companies with you have a fast growing company with unique and proven coaching programs exclusively for engineers. So any skeptical engineers, analytical engineers listening to that statement will automatically think Can you define what you mean by unique and proven? Yeah, absolutely love the skeptical engineer and I’m the same way. You know, just as a quick you know, FYI, Raf, I have a couple engineering degrees myself. I started my career at Whirlpool Corp, mechanical engineer, leadership development program and I totally relate to the skeptical Starting point of life. And let’s face it, it makes engineers great at what we do we ask questions, we don’t take things at face value. So what do I mean by unique and proven? Well, just like we mentioned a moment ago, being an engineer, the training, and the fundamental personality and mindset that we bring into life looks different than people who come from different backgrounds and a different perspective. So when you talk about coaching, you talk about career development, there’s a lot of pieces of that, that have become very generic, you know, the area of life coaching, and not to discredit life coaching, if anybody listening has a life coach, it can be a tremendous asset. But building an engineering career requires a special set of experiences, skills, mindsets, tool sets, you think of it this way, if you if I asked you, hey, what would it take? For you to build an engineering business? You’re gonna list engineering skills, but you’re also going to list business skills, right? If you’re the CEO of your own company, you’ve got to know something about business. And yet, everybody out there who’s building an engineering career, you are the CEO of your own career. And what do we list on the skills that it takes to be successful there? Mostly certifications, degrees, technical skills, we only talk about engineering, nobody talks about the skills to build your career. And that’s not a course, at Purdue when I was there. Nobody ever talked about the fact that to build a successful career in engineering took more than great engineering acumen. And at the end of the day, the challenges that engineers face in their careers are many, and we’re not given what we need out of school to deal with them. So if you don’t get fortunate enough to learn those on the job, from a great mentor, and Coach, you know, around you, getting help is a really important way to short shortcut that. But you know, that’s what makes it unique is we are unique in our mindset, our personality, our training, and understanding how to navigate an engineering career looks totally different than, you know, sales or entrepreneurship.
Rafael Testai 07:15
That’s fantastic. You are the CEO of your own career that is definitely going as the title of this podcast. But let me follow up on that. Which is, can you give us some some golden nuggets for some of us that really focus on the theoretical in college, and we want to become the CEOs around career? How do we take the first step?
Zach White 07:36
The first step is absolutely to embody that statement. And, and take full responsibility. You know, if you’re the CEO of the business, the buck stops with you, you have full responsibility for the outcomes of that company. And it’s the same in your career, if you’re going to decide today, to be the CEO of your career, then you can no longer blame and complain and point to things outside yourself that are unfair or unjust as to why you’re not achieving the goals that you have for your career, you’ve got to take full responsibility. So I would say, if you know if that statement resonates with you, I am the CEO of my own career, the very first step is to embody that, to take full ownership of that and responsibility. Because without that, you’re going to keep falling back into the old patterns, you’re going to keep doing the things you’ve always done. So step one is own it, take responsibility you want step two, is then learn how to get into action quickly. If there’s one thing that I see consistently, especially with junior engineers, people who are getting their first start in the industry, it’s this tendency to hesitate to overthink to over analyze to let fear of making a mistake or getting the wrong answer, hold you back from really getting after to taking the necessary steps and risks, taking the actions to advance in your career. And, you know, that’s crippling for so many people. So learning how to strengthen that ability to be decisive, take action. You know, there’s a lot to that. But I would put that in as the first place to focus. Ask yourself, how good am I at really making educated but quick decisions and getting into action. Instead of doing the same thing I might have done in college all the time, which is go to the library and just keep studying. Just keep studying, keep trying to get smarter, just keep thinking. You can’t think your way to a great career. You got to act your way to a great career. And so that would be a couple of points on where you want to begin.
Rafael Testai 09:46
This is incredible value. I’m taking notes myself here. Thank you. So let’s see. Have you worked with mechanical design engineers in the past?
Zach White 09:55
Absolutely. And I hope my software and IT Clients are my civil engineer clients don’t get offended when I say this. But being a mechanical engineer myself, I’ve got a soft spot, rough for the mechanical design space, because that is exactly where my career started. And I love it is nothing, nothing quite as joyful to me as getting into some some good old fashioned product design conversations, man, it’s great.
Rafael Testai 10:23
So a lot of product design engineers listen to this podcast a lot amongst many other engineers. But let’s focus on the design engineers what’s like a typical thing that that you see, like a pattern with mechanical design engineers, people that use SolidWorks CAD, that they get themselves in trouble in their career, like in a row? What what’s their main complaint, when they come to you? What do they help with?
Zach White 10:48
The complaints are, are all over the place? You know, there’s 1000, different versions of why people are stuck in their career. And rough, they all do boil down to a few core themes and challenges that people face. But let me for the sake of this conversation, make it as absolutely simple as possible. Every problem in your career is a people problem. Every single problem you’re facing is a people problem. And where I see my clients coming in with the wrong mindset is that we spend so much time focusing on on the product, the technology, the systems, the tools, and we always want to look to those things as the source of what’s not working. And we approach our career the same way. You know, and sometimes the quote unquote systems might be something like blaming HR or blaming the the toxic culture or these other things. But at the end of the day, we think about all of these ideas as, as systems where we conceptualize everything, and at the end of the day, if your career barriers are people problems, all of them, even if you say to me, but Zack, I’m I’m really stressed because we have a project deadline. That’s really, really tough. And we’re having to put in extra hours and work the weekends. And that’s my problem. Like, that’s not a people problem. That’s a project or you’re not. So that’s something on the product. That’s the problem, right? Well, let me ask you this. Why is there a deadline? Who put the deadline there, some humans, but the deadline there, right? Like, if there was if there was no deadline, solving the problem would be awesome. Like, you love to solve problems. You’re an engineer, that’s why you signed up for this is to go solve gnarly problems and do hard things. Like we love that we geek out on that shoot half of our hobbies, like wrenching on cars, or motorcycles on the weekends or doing the exact same types of things that we do in the office. But there’s no deadline because there’s no human on that org chart, who’s setting some constraint around how the work needs to get done. So you know, all of the problems that you’re facing boil down at the end of the day to a people problem, and learning how to navigate that, in all of its different facets. is so so important. And then Raf I’ll add one more thing. The biggest people problem you have is yourself, nobody else yourself. All leadership begins with leading yourself. And we often want to point at something else outside of ourselves first, and I remind all my clients, hey, let’s clean up our own house. Before we go point and everything else around us that’s not working.
Rafael Testai 13:36
Sounds like this is coming straight from the Bible almost the way that you frame it. That’s pretty cool. That really resonates with me. Let’s see.Do you have a book or a resource that people can read and learn a little bit more before they reach out for a consulting call?
Zach White 13:56
This is a tricky question for me, Raf. I’m going to tell you why. I used to be and I still am. Okay. I believe wholeheartedly, Leaders are readers. You know, reading is so important in your life. I don’t want anybody to hear this the wrong way. But I used to be a person who was addicted to passive action. And, okay, what is that? We’re engineers, let’s get this define the term passive action. Contrary to or in distinction with massive action, I want you to understand these are two different things. The passive action feels like progress. But it does not actually move the needle on the results of your life or career that matter. reading, listening to this podcast, even, you know, thinking about things, all of the consumption of knowledge, consuming knowledge and this that massive addiction to input of knowledge. That’s all passive action. It can be important. You do need to read and learn and grow through knowledge. But you can read every single book in the freakin bookstore, and not change your life at all. If you never take massive action, massive action is when you actually get onto the court into the arena of your life. And you apply what The Book says, you know, Raf, you’ve given your listeners, absolute goldmine of information on this podcast. But my guess if I was a gambling man, is that very few have actually, at the end of each episode made immediate and meaningful changes in their life. And so they’re, they’re great at passive action, but they’re still struggling with massive action.
Rafael Testai 15:47
So how do you transition?
Zach White 15:50
Great question. How do you get into that point? It’s a muscle. The ability to get into action is a muscle just, I mean, literally take the metaphor of working out. If you want to get a bigger bicep. What do you do? Do you look at it and think about it and dream about bigger biceps? Right? Do you do you read 10 More books about how to? Absolutely not, right, you got to get over to the frickin dumbbells and start curling, put in the reps. Okay, if you want to get better at transitioning from learning and passive action into actually getting results and massive action. It’s something just like going to the gym, you start today, you make that easy, low hanging fruit decision. Start small start simple. Okay? Don’t Don’t boil the ocean, pick the simplest thing you can do. And do it right now. Get into action immediately. Get that first rep. Awesome. You know, you curl the dumbbells. Well, guess what? One rep doesn’t turn you into Schwarzenegger, right? Like, you gotta keep going back. And just practice and practice and practice and your, your nervous system, your psychology will learn in your subconscious. It’s so good, just paying attention to what’s working in your life. And suddenly, you’re taking action, you’re getting results, you’re getting this practice, you’re getting these reps, all of a sudden, you have this neural pathway that strong, your neurons that fire together, wire together, and boom, like you’re reading something and you’re immediately asking yourself, like, oh, how can I apply this right now? Like, oh, I’m going to call that person, right now. I’m going to make that change on my calendar right now. And you’re like, oh, wow, who? Who is this person? Like, how did I become this wild, decisive action taker in my life? Well, it’s the same thing as you go to the gym every day, consistently, you know, in 30 days, you may not notice much, in 90 days, you’re gonna start to see a change. And in a year, you may look like a completely different person. It’s no different here.
Rafael Testai 17:47
completely get it from person. No, it’s almost like the face recognition on your phone may not even recognize you, when you try to unlock it.
Zach White 17:55
You know, it’s funny, but it’s true. I’ve got clients who will literally get feedback from their bosses or from their peers after a 90 day coaching program. And they will say like, what Who are you what happened? Like, you’re, you’re acting in such a different way, you’re leading at such a different level. They what’s the difference? You know, and it’s just 90 days of consistent action, along, you know, proven systems and tools. It’s so it really isn’t rocket science. But man, it is hard, right? Like, most people don’t go to the gym every day. Why not? Well, it’s not because it’s hard to go to the gym, like, are complex. It’s just hard mentally we have a comfort zone that we’ve lived in and is working for us. And to make those changes takes a lot of discipline and a lot of effort.
Rafael Testai 18:40
All right, this is wonderful, I think is a great moment to take a quick pause to remind our listeners that that being an engineer podcast is brought to you by pipeline design and engineering, pipeline partners with medical device and other device engineering teams who need turnkey equipment, such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation, equipment, assembly, jigs, inspection stations, and more. You can find this on the web at Team pipeline.us. So we’re here with Zach white and in continuation with a real conversation. This is kind of a deep question. How do we figure out what we want?
Zach White 19:20
Wow, Raf we are cannon balling into the deep end?
Rafael Testai 19:25
It’s who I am.
Zach White 19:27
I think it’s such an important question. And here’s the truth that I find with 100% of my clients is that it’s so rare that we actually take the time and the level of introspection and care to answer that question fully, to bring full integrity to the answer. What what do I want for my life and career and, you know, I’ve got a 90 day coaching program to answer this question. Of course, in one conversation on a podcast, we’re not going to be able to get the answer for you But let me give you a couple of keys in terms of how we move towards clarity, real clarity on what we want. And clarity is power. When you feel clear about your vision, and you know exactly what you want, it is 100 times easier to move quickly towards that outcome than when you sit there and, and really, if you’re being honest with yourself, you’re unsure. Because if your energy is you know, defrayed across all these different ideas, and there’s no clarity, there’s no power, it’s just like a laser, we’re engineers, we get it, you concentrate that energy, and you can make so much more happen than you can if it’s diffused. So one of the key principles about creating clarity is the principle of contrast. And again, I love talking with engineers about this, because we understand, you know, what contrast is, think about the display on your computer, you know, your your 4k, OLED, televisions, all these amazing technologies around creating better contrast. But what is contrast allow you when we when we create contrast, we can see the distinctions, we can see the lines, we can see what is separate from something else, in any particular picture? Well, in our lives, that’s something we need to begin to be aware of, and intentionally do is go create contrast. And we do that through broadening our experience, and creating awareness of how we actually feel and respond to those experiences. So, you know, widen the aperture, do more experiment, taste test, be an engineer, go test some things, you don’t have to commit to change the whole trajectory of your life, to go see if something resonates for you. But if you really have a lack of clarity on what you want, one of the first things you can do is go get some clarity on what you don’t want, right? Try some things, test that out, go shadow, somebody, have a conversation, learn some more about a different area. And as you get these experiences, we want to start paying attention. Well, is this one really resonated for me? Do I love this? Or was that pretty boring? Or did I hate this? You know, this is an absolute No, for me, well, both are valuable. Something that you like, creates some contrast towards the direction you want to take your life and things you don’t like creates contrast and the opposite end. And the more we can build out that picture. It’s like we’re going from an old cathode ray tube to, you know, that 4k o led, where now you actually have the contrast in your life to see with clarity, oh, you know, this the sweet spot for me, my zone of genius. And the vision that I have for my life looks a lot more like this. Here’s what I don’t want. And here’s what I do. So I think, you know, the work that we do to get there. There’s a lot of tools, there’s a lot of approaches that we use to accelerate that process. But that’s one of the core principles about how we really discover with integrity, and clarity. What is it that I want?
Rafael Testai 22:55
This, this is wonderful, the value that you just keep on providing is amazing. So let me ask you this, let’s say that one wants to shadow someone because we think that we may like this career. But we don’t want to be annoying with the person. Maybe we find them on LinkedIn, this person seems to have the job that I want. They want. How should the outreach be done? Any advice?
Zach White 23:19
Yeah, first thing is, pay attention to your own mindset about that question, you know, implied in even the way we ask it and Raf I would do the same thing. You know, I don’t want to bother anybody. So how should I go ask them? Well, look, you’ve already begun the question from the premise that doing this is going to bother them. And I would just ask you, you know, turn the tables for a moment. Imagine yourself, you know, you jump on LinkedIn. And here’s a more junior engineer, or maybe a peer, you know, somebody at your level, Shoot, maybe they’re above your level. And they send you a really genuine, really authentic note that just says, you know, Hey, my name is Zack. And I saw your career path. And if I’m being completely honest, I’m truly inspired by the work that you’ve done. And I know that you probably have a ton on your plate, and you’re super busy. But if you’re willing, it would be such a tremendous gift. If you’d be willing to jump on a quick 15 minute phone call with me. And just share a little bit and answer a couple questions about how you’ve created the results that you’ve created in your career. You know, Would you be open to that if I, you know, shared a link or you know, could be available at a time that works for you.
How would you feel if you got that? No.
Rafael Testai 24:33
Probably pretty hard to say no.
Yeah, it’s like, wow, that’d be really great. Okay, so now you’ve got 15 minutes. Awesome. You know, we start with a small ask, have a phone call. Be curious. And then at the end of that phone call, here’s what I’m gonna do. Say, Hey, Raf, this has been awesome and I can’t thank you enough for being so generous with your time. I know that you’re busy, and you have a lot to do. But there’s so much more I would love
Zach White 25:00
To discover about what you do and and this really confirms for me that this might be a direction, I’d love to take my career in the future. So would you be open to spending a little bit more time together? Or maybe even, you know, letting me see some of of what you do if there’s any context or any way that that might be able to happen? So I’m asking that question on the call. Well, let’s, you know, the person has already demonstrated by getting on the phone with you that they have that generous spirit. And if there’s one thing people love, it’s to talk about themselves. It’s the opportunity to let their own successes and story be the subject matter of, of somebody who wants to receive mentorship and coaching for them. It feels amazing. It really does. You know, anybody listening who’s a mentor, you know how good it feels, when you have a mentee who just genuinely needs the help that you have to offer, and they take your advice, and they go change their life, it feels awesome. So, again, it doesn’t mean everybody’s going to have the time or be willing to spend the time. But be courageous to go out there and ask, because if you don’t ask you, you already have a No, right? If you don’t ask, it’s never gonna happen. But if you’ll go and just start doing this, I guarantee you, you’re going to find people who are more than happy to create those opportunities. And I’ve seen it happen for my clients time and time again, they just get started. And within weeks, they’ve got multiple opportunities to have really meaningful connections with people just because they lead with generosity, authenticity, and didn’t have the fear of bothering someone in the way of, of reaching out.
Rafael Testai 26:39
Now, that’s fantastic. You’ve given us a template that we should all craft and modify. And by all means, a lot of people may be listening to this, but who actually takes action, like we discussed, maybe not a lot of people, and hopefully that comment, incentivizes people to actually do take action. But you’ve taught us to reach out in a polite manner that may open the door for us. I’m a big believer in relationships, especially with mentors being a two way street relationship, like I want to offer value to the mentor, I don’t just want to take so what some advice and in how a mentee could offer value to a mentor, in addition to making the mentor feel good about themselves, because they’re giving back.
Zach White 27:16
Raf I’m so glad that you brought this up because I agree 100% every connection you make, we want to approach it from the position of generosity lead with value. And so when you go to somebody who’s more advanced in their career than you know, truly, you’re approaching as the mentee, it’s easy to think, what do I have to offer for this person? You know, and maybe feel like, well, I can’t connect with them, because I have no value to give. And I just want to tell everybody, that is not true. Okay, that is a belief that is in your head is not true. And let me just give you two quick tips on this. The first one is so radically simple. It seems like it should be obvious, but people don’t do it. Just ask. Just ask them. One of the most powerful questions in a networking call is, hey, you know, this has been really tremendous. I’d love to know, how can I help you? What do you need? Like, does it get any dumber than that? Like, it really does. But here’s the thing, if you’ll do it, if you will just ask a good number of those people are going to say, hey, thank you so much for asking that. That’s really kind, I’m good. You know, there’s nothing you need to do for me, but they’re gonna feel the energy of that generosity. Because you okay, you got to be sincere. Let me back up a step. If you don’t actually have a generous spirit, then you’re going to struggle in the networking game. Okay? Because you have to be real you. I mean, this has to be from the heart. But if you sincerely ask them, and just let them answer, okay, if they say something, and you can do it, you actually can help them, then follow through, right, take the action make it happen. So that’s, that’s one thing. The second thing is offering another connection. Right? Connections are super valuable. The old adage that your net worth is equal to your network is super true. And so if you have somebody at your company who’s more senior, or you have another mentor that you think this mentor that you’re connecting with, might enjoy meeting, or your neighbor happens to be a rockstar, whatever, like, make make an offer, you know, hey, you know, this has been so helpful. I really appreciate your time. And you know, I’m wondering, this person that I know, I think you’d really enjoy connecting with them. And the two of you may have a lot in common or be able to add some value to each other. Would you be interested in me connecting you with so and so. That’s another really easy point of value you can make, and then I’ll throw out a third. I said too, but I’m gonna give a bonus freebie if this one’s on the house. So, third thing as a mentee, one of the most powerful acts of generosity and value that you can give your mentor is to go, absolutely crush it with the insights and the advice that they gave you, do it, take action on it, get the result, and then go back to them and show them. Hey, Ralph, I did exactly what you said, it worked awesome, I got this amazing result. And I can’t thank you enough. That act of just really being a great mentee by taking action and doing it and then giving them the feedback that they made a difference in your life. Honestly, that might be the most valuable thing you can give them mentor, because so often, they’re just giving and giving and giving to all these different people who want advice from them. And people don’t actually do it. Or they don’t ever come back and say thank you. So that’s another really fruitful thing to do.
Rafael Testai 30:57
That’s, that’s fantastic. You’ve ever have you ever done something really well in life by instinct, and then somebody explains to you the science and the logic behind it, and you’ve been doing it right all along? that’s ever happened to you in certain?
Zach White 31:11
You know, yeah, there’s a couple of places where that’s true for me, the some of my sort of social intelligence skills, I feel pretty fortunate that, you know, my upbringing or whatever, it just kind of worked out that I had a good style in those ways. And I’ve been blessed. You know, as an engineering leader, that was a huge asset as part of what makes me a great coach. But, you know, I think, Raf at times, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for how many things we have instinct about. And, frankly, you know, if we would just trust ourselves and take action and get out there and do things, you’re often way better than you think you are in some domains. Now, of course, we say that immediately, we’re going to point to an exception, right? Somebody who’s overconfident and cocky or arrogant and whatnot. But, again, be careful letting an exception or some area maybe where you’ve been burned in the past, then get painted across your whole life? raft? I think it’s an interesting question. You’re asking it, a lot of people probably have those experiences. Thank you for answering because as you were answering the question as to how to give value to a mentor. I’ve had a lot of mentors in my career. So the mobile application, the world of being a founder, you do need a board of directors and mentors. And I’ve been doing this right the whole time. I’m kind of like patting myself in the back, I always ask how I can help them mentor, I come back with the advice that they gave me and how I did well on it. And the third one, which, which that’s actually the second one that you listed, which is making introductions, I do that too. So I’ve been doing it well. And at the end, even while the results have shown to be good, but it reinforces that so thank you. Hey, Rafi, you’re welcome. And I’m not surprised. You’re absolutely the kind of guy who clearly is crushing it in these areas and keep doing what you’re doing, man, it’s working. There is one thing that I am not, I’m sure I’m not the only person who needs help with, I have somewhat of a clearer vision of where I want to go. But I don’t have a crystal clear yet. So how does one come up with that map? In addition to trying things, what we discussed previously on the call, what can we do to really zero down and what it is that we’re wanting to go after? And have a map, maybe Raf to help me add more value in the answer. Can you describe? What’s the difference between, you know, a general sense and crystal clear? How do you actually see the distinction? What would crystal clear look like to you?
Rafael Testai 33:36
Well, for me, instance, is and being specific helps, because we can be specific about the feedback. I want to do design engineering for products, consumer products. But I’m also interested in medical devices, because I really care about people’s wellbeing and health is the most important thing. If we don’t have health, we have nothing else. What good is it to have all the luxuries in the world if you have no health? So it’s like, okay, I want to do both. Which one should I focus on? And I’m not sure I’m not crystal clear about that yet.
Zach White 34:09
So perfect example, you know, some people might call this the fork in the road moment, you know, I’ve got two paths. They both sound exciting. Which one? Should I go down and we build this model in our mind Raf that to the left, or to the right, hmm. And in the back of our mind, there’s this little voice, there’s this fear that says one of those two is the right path. And one of those two is the wrong path. And I don’t want to make the wrong choice. Well, here’s the reality of life. It’s not a series of forks in the road. It’s a single path, and you’re going to make some right choices and you kind of make the wrong choices. You’re going to hit speed bumps of failure, and you’re going to hit these amazing celebrations and moments of success, but between you and your ultimate vision Between you today and your ultimate success is going to be a series of wins and losses. And we just keep moving. And here’s the metaphor to help answer the question. I’ll come back and get to your so how do we do this? Think about it like a cybernetic system, your feedback system, and we’re engineers, so we understand feedback loops and systems and control, right? If we don’t have error, that we can feed back into the algorithm, then we’re not able to make proper adjustments, and get back on track. So imagine a torpedo, you lock on to a certain target you, if you can imagine your career at its ultimate peak of success? What would you want to be doing? Oh, you know, I want to be a vice president of engineering and making a huge impact in the world in these areas. And I don’t know exactly what company but I did. Okay, this is the picture of ultimate success, I have this vision that I’m locked on to. Alright, well, you’ve got this torpedo, and you want to go hit that target? Well, what do you do you, you got to launch the thing. If you don’t start moving towards it, you’re not gonna get any closer, just sitting there in the hole? The submarine. Okay, so you got to launch it? Well, what happens when you launch it? At the beginning? You just start collecting data? Are we on track? Are we off track, right, and we take that error, and we feed it back into the system, we make an adjustment? Well, you can imagine any missile or torpedo situation, what does it look like lots of gross, coarse adjustments at the beginning. And then as you get closer to the target, it starts to hone in you make smaller and finer adjustments that eventually bang your head? Well Raf, it’s the same way in life, we need to just have a sense of what’s that ultimate aim? What’s that longer term vision, what’s the thing that’s true about what I really want to create in my life, and there’s going to be lots of little decisions between here and there to make. But if we stand still, and just think about it, it’s like you’re that torpedo and the whole of the sub, you’re not going to be able to make more clear distinctions. By just sitting there thinking, you can’t think your way out of it, you got to start moving, you got to start moving. And here’s the beautiful thing wherever you go, as far as you can see, you know, you may not know exactly the next step, but you are how to get like all the way there. But you just take the next piece, as far as you can see, from that place, you’re going to be able to see to go further. Right? So just make sure you keep moving if you have these two paths, like Alright, how could you get a taste of both? Like, can you go shadow, you know, things we talked about earlier. And ultimately, you may have to make the scary decision to pick one. Guess what, just pick and when you get there, if you don’t love it, if you feel like you know what, my torpedoes off course, then make the gross course correction and change. That’s a beautiful thing about decisions. It’s not your last one, you get to make another one. So you know that that’d be the way I would approach it is we got to get out of that mindset of this is the last decision and it’s left or right. Let’s just keep moving forward.
Rafael Testai 38:00
But the idea also is to expedite when you get to that point that you realize that you may want to change trajectory, you don’t want to do that for 10 years, and then realize you should have changed, right?
Zach White 38:10
Yeah, and raft, that’s where doing deep work to truly understand the vision, that clear picture of the distant future, that’s important to you really helps because there’s only two things that are true. The vision, and what I’m going to do in the next 90 days, everything in between is just a wild guess, on how we’re going to get there. You know, I know what a waco my company, what it looks like five years, 10 years from now, I know the big vision. All right. And I know what we’re going to work on in the next 90 days, everything in between is just a wild guess I have no idea how it’s actually going to play out because there’s a million factors that are outside of my control. And so to your point around, how do we expedite? Well, the biggest thing that causes people to bounce back and forth and back and forth, is the fact that they don’t actually have that Northstar, or there’s no north on their compass. And so as they start taking actions, they’re never actually sure if they’re going in the right direction or not.
Rafael Testai 39:09
That’s wonderful. Well, it’s we’ve come here to an end, is there something else that I haven’t asked you that I should have asked you?
Zach White 39:16
Well, how I you know, I’d love to, I’d love to explore something, something off in the weeds, something different. You know, one of my favorite things about engineering leaders that I meet and coach is that each one of them has that cool part of their life that they don’t talk about that much. But it’s really really interesting. And we were pretty technical today. So I guess like the question you didn’t ask that might be fun for somebody listening to this is you know, who is Zack not the coach.
Rafael Testai 39:47
Okay, tell us
Zach White 39:49
love it. So, you know, I’ll share one side of my life there are multiple, but I I like to dance. I’m a dancer. So Most most engineers do not spend a huge amount of time on the dance floor. But when I was at Purdue, in college and undergrad, I joined the competition ballroom and latin dance team. Which, if you knew my upbringing, and that’s sort of the story of my household where I came from, this is the last thing on the planet that my mom ever expected that I would do. And I’ll just leave it at this. If it weren’t for Monica, I would not be a dancer. But Monica got me hooked on the idea that I could become a ballroom dancer and ever since undergrad have dabbled in competition and doing Ballroom and Latin and swing dancing. And I’ll tell you if you’re looking for a way to get out of your comfort zone. You know, strengthen your body and your mind and build relationships. I’ll tell you, dancing is pretty awesome. So as the world kind of comes back to a sense of safety and normalcy after COVID here and dance floors open back up, I’d encourage you go check it out.
Rafael Testai 41:00
Absolutely. I danced, bachata and salsa, myself. I’m better at bachata. And my main thing that I’m best at dancing is hip hop.
Zach White 41:09
No, Raf, you’re a hip hop dancer. Come on, man. You, My, my, my my love for you just just doubled. I already thought you were a rock star. Now that I know that CCS is why we need to cover this I love that you’re a hip hop dancer, you have to send me a video sometime of you hip hop dance.
Rafael Testai 41:27
So there’s one on my website for anyone for you. And anyone listening. If you go to Rafael testai.com, just my first and last name.com You scroll down not too far down, you’ll see a little bit of me dancing hip hop.
Zach White 41:38
I am so there after this interview. Amazing. Well, everyone, how can people reach you? Yeah, I really appreciate the offer. And the best way to connect with me. And the work I do is over at the happy engineer podcast. You know, for podcast listeners, you can find it on your favorite platform, whatever that is, you could also jump to the happy engineer podcast.com And you all the bonus content and ways to connect with me and my team. And also would be happy to set you up with some free coaching just as a thank you for listening to this great conversation and extending that offer to your listeners. So jump on that website, we have a link there to book a quick call to get some basic info and then my team will set you up on on my calendar or one of our executive coaches and give you some some free guidance and see what you need next to build your career. So the happy engineer podcast.com and be an honor to have you check us out get to know me and our team and listen to the show.
Rafael Testai 42:34
Fantastic. So when people reach out they can say I heard you on the being an engineer podcast and I like to inquire about a little bit of the free coaching something like that.
Zach White 42:42
Yeah, it’s all set up right there on the site. Super easy and just mentioned you heard heard about me here and we’ll get you all set up.
Rafael Testai 42:49
Amazing. Zach, thank you for being on podcast.
Zach White 42:51
Raf. I really appreciate the invitation such a pleasure. And again, for everybody. They already know this if they’re listening, but what you’re doing the value that you’re creating for so many listeners, it’s awesome. Keep doing it and just appreciate you brother.
Aaron Moncur 43:09
I’m Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please share the episode. To learn how your team can leverage our team’s expertise developing turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines and with product design, visit us at Team pipeline.us. Thanks for listening
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