Sumeet Arora on moving on from a big company

Lead Time Chats: Season 2, Episode 4 Takeaways

In Season 2, Episode 4 of Lead Time Chats, Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range, talks to Sumeet Arora, Chief Development Officer at ThoughtSpot, about the challenges of moving on after a long stint at a large tech company.

Sumeet joined Cisco almost straight out of school and spent over two decades there, growing his career and the company. More recently, he made the decision and leap to leave for a different professional adventure.

Sumeet and Jean discuss:

  • The fear and difficulty of leaving the comfortable bubble of a large tech company
  • The importance of learning and adapting, and finding comfort and growth in being slightly uncomfortable
  • How his relationships with former coworkers has evolved after his departure from Cisco
  • Anchoring on the knowledge that as a leader, your skills are transferable across domains
  • Surrounding yourself with people who have growth mindsets
  • How to leverage your experience, and look at your new role and company with fresh eyes - and not just copy everything that was in place at the larger company

Takeaways from Sumeet

Leaning on learning and adapting helped Sumeet navigate the difficult transition

“Leaving Cisco... you know, I literally grew up there, so it was very difficult and emotional, but I think you know, Darwin said that it's not the strongest to survive, it's the ones who adapt. So if there are two other words that I have always focused on, it's about learning and adapting. And I think that's probably the key to why I made that change. Understanding that why is important, because then we can talk about how do you disentangle, and help your identity blossom by itself.”

Leverage your experience, and look at your new company and role with fresh eyes

“The biggest fallacy is not to just take what you know, and just apply it. The unlearning is to actually look at situations very objectively, very fresh, almost like day one principles, and then see what applies and what needs to be innovated, what needs to be different, what needs to be new, what could be better. So asking that question every day helps you almost go with the mentality that every day is a fresh day, right?

And your experiences and your knowledge is there to be applied, but you don't apply without conscious thinking. You actually first look at the problem statement and you then apply it.”

Working relationships can develop into long-lasting bonds

“Once I made the decision that I'm going to leave Cisco, I'll share openly, I cried a lot. It was four weeks - the decision to actual last day were very emotional and it's all because of people and you get attached to people, you get attached to their careers, they get attached to you. It goes both ways. But what I have found is that in many cases, the bonds turn into friendship that goes beyond work.

In many cases, bonds turn into mentorship type of relationship and advisory relationships. You go through a refinement of those relationships over the time that you have left the place and they become truly your mentors, advisors, or friends.”

There is a beautiful world outside of the big tech companies

“I was scared to even step out. It's a bubble. But I think the key is to focus on a growth mindset. So be in that learning and adapting mode. Know that you have skills, inner skills and muscle that will come in handy. Be ready to build new muscles. You have to exercise, you have to break muscle to build new muscle, right?

So you have to be in that growth mindset. That's one. Second piece: there is a beautiful world outside of all the big companies, beautiful world. It's full of opportunity. It's not like it's a land of ocean with sharks. No, it's not. It's a nice world, so surround yourself with people who have that growth mindset, who will support you, because they themselves believe in the fact that people can go across domains and do very well or even better in that domain.”

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About Lead Time Chats

Listen in on unscripted conversations between Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range and engineering leadership coach, and engineering leaders and other influential folks in tech.

Lead Time Chats is brought to you by Range. Range helps hybrid teams check-in asynchronously about what matters most. Know what's happening through status updates that pull from tools like Github and JIRA without scheduling yet another meeting.

Checking-in with Range creates more focus time for heads-down work, all while feeling a deeper sense of connection and belonging with your team. To learn more about Range, you can check it out here.

Season 2 Episodes

» Episode 1: Camille Fournier on making boring plans

» Episode 2: Tess Rinearson on early career engineering managers

» Episode 3: Kim Scott on building for systemic justice

Season 1 Episodes

» Episode 1: Will Larson on the path of the senior engineer

» Episode 2: Duretti Hirpa on mentoring junior and mid-level engineers

» Episode 3: Cate Huston on working with an external coach

» Episode 4: Juan Pablo Buriticá on common eng manager mistakes

» Episode 5: Gergely Orosz on the decision to go into management

» Episode 6: Lara Hogan on leading effectively in a pandemic

» Episode 7: Kaya Thomas on common early career engineer challenges

» Episode 8: Uma Chingunde on starting a VPE role in a pandemic

» Episode 9: Katie Wilde on supporting your team's mental health

» Episode 10: Akhil Gupta on navigating uncertainty in new roles

» Episode 11: Harper Reed on giving everyone a voice in team meetings

» Episode 12: Marc Hedlund on sponsorship

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S2 E4: Sumeet Arora on moving on from a big company
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