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My talent optimization journey: What happens when a company believes in you

It started in high school with a line of code on a computer screen:

cout <<  “Hello, World!”;

That single line of C++ code was my first foray into development—but I didn’t stick with it. Years later, I would take up Java for a semester in college to evolve my programming ability. Now my “Hello, World” program would be written as:

System.out.println(“Hello, World”);

But that was the end of my computer science education. Instead, I pursued a study and career in business administration and marketing. Throughout my career, I tried to stay close to tech, keep up on the trends, and—every few years—dabble in learning a little more code on my own.

The “oddly technical” marketer

Around the halls of The Predictive Index®, I became known less as our director of product marketing and more as “that oddly technical marketer.” I was summoned to work on projects integrating our marketing systems with the PI platform to provide a sneak peek to prospective customers, to build tools that calculate how much disengagement costs a company, and many other special projects I wish I could tell you about (but that will be revealed in time). 

These diversions excited me. They gave me a chance to build something novel while thinking through a business lens and flexing my creativity. I also got to tap my tech muscles without becoming an engineer. But, to be honest, they also became a bit of a distraction. My boss would often remark to me, “You love building things. Can you get as excited about writing me an e-book?” Yes, I was trying to have my cake and eat it, too. Could I be a marketer at the same time I was playing engineer? But from a career development standpoint, could I afford to start over, go back to school, and learn to code?

Rich on scooter

Where talent optimization comes into play

At PI, we say that we’re our own best case study. And it’s true. Every day we incorporate behavioral insights and appreciation into our daily actions. We follow the talent optimization framework to ensure we’re achieving our business goals. So when I had lunch with the SVP of sales and marketing this past January, and he asked me, “Do you still love working at PI?,” I replied with a resounding “yes!” while still knowing my role was starting to drain me. But when he asked if we were best “leveraging my superpowers,” I knew the answer was “no.” I could tell stories and make connections but I wasn’t building and innovating the way I desired. That kicked off a 10-month journey to better define my role.

In the talent optimization framework, inspiring employees calls for creating new jobs and career paths. We do this for a few reasons: 

  1. Organizations grow and change and have new needs. In order to achieve success in particular business strategies, an organization may need to create new roles.
  2. As organizations change, job duties can change. The job someone signed on to do might morph into a different job entirely. And if the employee isn’t behaviorally wired for that “new job,” they could become disengaged.
  3. Creating new and compelling career paths gives employees the opportunity to try new things when there may not be an immediate opening above them. It allows employees to move to where their behaviors and personalities fit best.

I knew it would take a shift in the organization for me to get to my next level—not because I didn’t possess the necessary skills, but because we have a highly capable senior team already in place. In short, there was not a business need for my career to progress on its current ladder. There was, however, the opportunity to try something new.

The projects that got me the reputation of being an “oddly technical marketer,” combined two elements. First, there was the knowledge I gained about our business systems through my years of building relationships and connecting dots as a product marketer. Then, there was my desire to geek out and tinker with things. But was the organization ready for that as a full-time discipline? It turns out the answer was “yes!” 

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Hire the right people, inspire their best work, design dream teams, and sustain engagement for the long haul.

The creation of a new role

The product and development teams are constantly innovating at PI. They also have an obligation to keep the lights on and provide an amazing experience for our customers—and rightly so. We call them our “factory.”  They create new things, become more efficient, and improve the user experience. But they can’t afford to spend all their time on major diversions that may fail. That’s where a new opportunity came to light. What if right next to the factory—say, in the parking lot—there was a tinkerer? Someone who saw the business as a whole and was okay building scrappy, “finished enough” experiments to see if we could move the needle? 

Thus the next step of my career was formed. Working with product leadership, we created a new role from the ground up—one that took my superpowers and our business needs into account to create a path forward.

My new role of lead product innovator focuses on:

  • Defining the business dynamics necessary to consider portfolio expansion, including market size, barriers, differentiators, and existing portfolio alignment
  • Leveraging user insights to provide market analysis to identify white space for product development
  • Developing and testing new ideas that demonstrate business value and report back on the findings
  • Setting proper expectations of both success and failure for every experiment we run

The next phase of my talent optimization journey

It should be an interesting experiment, and I’m excited that The Predictive Index has given me the opportunity to pursue my passions while still telling our amazing story. Rather than becoming disengaged by a role that no longer excites me, I’m looking forward to a role that challenges me and uses my strengths—both the creative and the technical. 

That’s what happens when a company believes in you. That’s what happens when you build career paths for your employees. That’s what happens when you use talent optimization.

Join 10,000 companies solving the most complex people problems with PI.

Hire the right people, inspire their best work, design dream teams, and sustain engagement for the long haul.


Rich is a software engineer at PI. Always a tinkerer, he's always been oddly technical (well, ever since he went to Space Camp).

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