I run a team of engineers, analysts, and technologists for the American Thoracic Society. We’re responsible for the mundane technology that everybody knows. Yet to me, this is as exciting of a position as any. In my current role, the pace of technological innovation is as rapid as any of the startups I’ve experienced.
I started my career during the .com era. For anybody who worked on the budding internet during that period, it was a pretty wild ride. It was gratifying, was challenging, I learned a lot–and it was just really dynamic. At a startup, you have a feeling that you’re part of something larger, a grander narrative.
I found a similar environment at a nonprofit, where you can be on the forefront of tech, but in a more sustainable sense. Nonprofits focus on resiliency–not always driving towards perpetual growth like many startups.
As a tech leader, you need to be able to see what is ahead and anticipate the next stage of the organization. But on a tactical level, you also have to manage the day to day output, your team, and manage your management.
My advice: never be afraid of change because that’s what drives learning. The rate of change on systems is faster than most organizations can move. So, embrace the change, prioritize high adaptability, and focus on translating any shifts to the broader organization. This perspective served me well, all the way from the startup world, to larger organizations, to nonprofits. The moment you find yourself having a certain view about the world, and somebody teaches you something that’s opposite, is a profound moment. You can either dig your heels or just be absolutely amazed by how your world expanded all of a sudden because somebody taught you something new.
Every designer working today is trying to make the world a better place, yet it is often forgotten that we are not only designing for people but also for the planet.
Dan Van Tran (DVT) is the CTO of Collectors Holdings, a leading player in the collectibles industry. Tran talked through one of the most difficult challenges tech and product leaders must solve: building transformational technology on top of aging technology.
Our network, the relationships we build and maintain, is one of the biggest factors impacting our job, financial prospects, career progression, and even how we feel about the world around us.