Name: Javier Castellanos Jr.
Current Title: Strategy Manager at Accenture
Professional Experience: 3 years at Accenture; 2 years at Stryker; 2 years at Univision; 2 years at Cisneros
Education: B.A., Economics at Harvard and MBA at The Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
What is the greatest lesson you've learned in your career thus far?
The most successful people I know are great storytellers, and my greatest successes have come from those times I spent the most effort thinking about how to tell the right story. Most of your efforts, especially early in your career, will be focused on getting to the right answer. Doing the analysis, the research, racking your brain to find a way to solve a problem. When you finally do, you beam with pride, and you want to make sure everyone knows how hard you worked and how hard the problem was to solve.
Sadly, your boss, your client, your customer, they don’t care about how hard it was to solve their problem. They just want the answer. More than that, they want an answer that they are confident in, that they can act upon, or go sell to their boss. Getting there requires telling a simple story, that is interesting and easy to understand. Good stories get people to act, and in turn, deliver good results.
What has been your greatest professional failure to date and what have you learned from that experience?
I once criticized a direct report for a mistake in front of the team. It was late and I was frustrated at our lack of progress but I immediately realized that there was a better way to handle the situation. I also realized that the public criticism only put more stress on our entire team. The next day, the first thing I did was apologize to that person for publicly criticizing their work. I then took some time to provide more constructive and actionable feedback that would help them avoid similar mistakes in the future.
As a manager, and a leader, I want people on my team to feel safe to make and learn from their mistakes. As I would like the same from my own managers. When you need to course correct, provide feedback that is specific and actionable, anything less is simply criticism and not constructive.
What issues have you dealt with being a person of color in corporate America and how have you overcome these challenges?
What I find most surprising is the lack of honest conversations and engagement with people of color about issues that impact us. I can imagine how uncomfortable it might be to ask a person of color how they feel or what they think about things that are happening in this country every day. I can even understand that people might not want to have those conversations at work out of fear of saying the wrong thing. But I believe that we can only begin to address those issues through mutual understanding, which requires open and honest conversations. In my experience, these are rare and I think that is a missed opportunity.
What resources, professional or personal, have you leveraged to ensure your career is progressing?
I advise clients in the tech industry, so I read everything I can about what’s going on in tech to stay up to date. Sites like Techmeme, Product Hunt, and Stratechery are great. Many VC’s publish various state of the industry pieces that are interesting. I also try to learn as much as I can about what the people around me are working on, and how they think about problems in our industry.
Do you have a mentor? If so, how did you select this person or people?
I don’t have a mentor, but I have a few people I go to for advice. When I seek advice, I’m usually not looking for an answer, but for a different perspective to the problem I’m looking at, and a different way to think about potential solutions. I know that I won’t see every angle to a problem, and you shouldn’t expect to either. What you should do is get a good sample of different perspectives and ideas to inform your own decision-making process.
What advice would you give an undergraduate who is about to start their first job post college?
Spend time thinking about how to make those around you successful. Identify your boss’s, client’s, or customer’s goals and make them your own. Depending on the situation, go ahead and ask them outright, “What are your goals? How can I make you successful?” That way, when you are asked to do something, you don’t just run out and do it. You can think about why it is you are being asked in the first place, and then think a few steps beyond your immediate task. This helps you make your boss’s life easier, which is ultimately good for you.