Career Advice for Our Younger Selves

Career Advice for Our Younger Selves

Posted 5/14/2024


Career Advice for Our Younger Selves: Lighting professionals speak from experience

By: Paul Pompeo

We’ve all heard the old adage, “If I knew then what I know now….” Hindsight is 20/20, but it’s still a fascinating concept to many of us—if you could speak to the younger version of yourself, what advice or counsel would you impart? I posed the following question to a group of well-respected lighting professionals: “What single piece of career advice would you give to your younger self?” I’m grateful to everyone who shared their responses below, and I hope that we can all benefit from their wisdom and insights. 

Alessa Aguayo, LC, WELL AP, director of sales, NYC, Lumenwerx: Be yourself—build genuine relationships with colleagues, customers and those around you. Many people focus on their resume or title and often underestimate the importance of personal connection.

Jim Benya, principal illuminating engineer and lighting designer, Benya Burnett Consultancy: Walk the fine line between confidence and a strong desire to learn. If I could do anything better, or differently, it would involve learning more about running a small business and finance. 

Jeff Croskey, chief executive officer, ALW: Have a personal vision for your path. Where do you want to be in three, five or 10 years? Your actual career path will most likely not match your initial vision, but your vision will motivate you to continually expand your knowledge, skills and sphere of influence. You alone must earn your success by working hard, going beyond expectations and always looking to serve others. 

Steve Danzig, president, Lightspec: Start working toward your career or personal goals as soon as you can. We all have dreams early on about where we might want to go or what we might want to do. Those dreams turn to goals, and to reach those goals, you need time for the puzzle pieces to fall into place. 

Cindy Foster-Warthen, principal marketing consultant, CFW Communications: Have faith that everything happens for a reason. It is the truest of advice to note that usually when one door closes, another opens. Have faith in the process and trust your gut—it usually isn’t wrong and will save you a lot of anxiety over time. Also, don’t dwell on past failures—learn from them. 

Absorb as much as you can from the most successful people around you in the corporate world, take full advantage of training, 401(k)s and tuition reimbursement.

Jaret Goforth, executive vice president, Saylite/Mobern/Vantage: Brand yourself. Develop a personal brand that you are known for that is outside the logo on your business card—for example, “always answers the phone,” “controls guru” or  “AGI 32 wizard.” 

Ben Harrison, vice president, Emerging Technology, Korrus: Take the time to think about why I’m doing what I’m doing. It requires deep and honest introspection. This is general life advice. There is often a meaningful difference between why we think or say we are doing something and why we are really doing something. It’s not easy to do, but you will ultimately achieve greater happiness and satisfaction.  

Kraig Kasler, president, Cooper Lighting Solutions: Find a great manager early in your career. You will learn a ton and progress your career as they progress theirs. Focus on overdelivering on your commitments in the job you are currently in and making your manager successful. Lastly, always work on developing a successor on your team to take your job; it removes reasons you cannot be promoted as opportunities present themselves.  

John LaMontagne, vice president of Sales–Lighting & Controls, Leviton: Invest in yourself. Give yourself every opportunity to learn. That includes your career, health, wealth and any experience that affords a chance to expand your life experience. 

Darren Lapsley, regional sales manager Central–North, Sensorworx: Take your passion where there is a vision you can get behind. Leadership matters. The direction of the company must align with your personal values. Once misaligned, you need to make a move. 

Maria Mullen, chief executive officer, Hubbardton Forge: Focusing on your career is commendable, but it’s crucial to recognize that making time and space for yourself, your relationships and giving back enriches your professional life and overall well-being. Striking this balance makes you more effective and fulfilled in all areas of your life. 

Joe Raines, vice president of Sales, Canman Lighting: Absorb as much as you can from the most successful people around you in the corporate world, take full advantage of training, 401(k)s and tuition reimbursement—get your MBA. Then go be an entrepreneur; start your own business before you turn 30. I would not let that young man let his dream slip away just for a salary increase and bonuses.  

Randy Reid, publisher and editor, Edison Report: If I could go to my younger self, I would have left the corporate world for the independent world much earlier. At the time, I didn’t have the self-confidence, but that fear quickly evaporated as I began to see success with my own businesses. 

John Austin Lewis, chief executive officer, Capital Lighting Fixture Company: Embrace adaptability and continuous learning. Focus on work-life balance—life is short. A good quote from Dolly Parton: “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”  

Geoff Marlow, principal, Smart Lighting Solutions: Listen to diverse points of view, be patient, persistent, appreciative, collaborative and confident. Celebrate milestones. Make your bed, and don’t swim with sharks. 

Kelly Roberts, principal, Primary Arc Design: Jump in and immerse yourself in networking. Each conversation holds the potential to unlock unforeseen paths to success. Building relationships not only expands your horizons but also cultivates a supportive community to propel you forward. 

Scott Sorensen, Ph.D., executive vice president, Sales & Marketing, BEGA North America: Clarify your personal values, align your actions with those values, do not waver when adversity strikes and be brave enough to evolve as your understanding of the world deepens.  

Francois-Xavier Souvay, founder, president and chief executive officer, LMPG, Inc.: Take the time to understand who you are [and] your best skills and abilities, then match them with the appropriate positions where your skills will be the most needed and you will develop a passion for what you do because you will excel in your role.  

Tejal Thakur, founder, LightSpek: Stay in the deep end—always at the intersection of discomfort and growth—and put in the work. Never let others’ limited ideas of you keep you from pursuing your dreams. It’s okay not to have all the answers. Be the solution, not the problem, in any organization as well as life. Always maintain a grateful attitude and embrace a mindset of resilience, even when fearful or facing the unknown.  

Dirk Zylstra, vice president, Strategic Innovation and Product Development, Axis Lighting: Trust your talents and celebrate thinking about things in a different way than the mainstream. Work hard, deliver at all costs and take any chance to “steal” responsibility—since nobody will simply give it to you. Most importantly, keep challenging yourself. If your mind is working, your life will be interesting.

Reproduced with permission from LD+A. Published by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America.


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