Venture For America Fellow Experience

Trial & Error: The Ongoing Experiment to Find My Career Path

I’ve always been a woman with a plan. At any given age, I could have told you where I wanted to go to school, what I wanted to study, and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. And while the answers have continuously changed, I’ve never shied away from giving it my best guess.

Dani Broderick

I’ve always been a woman with a plan. At any given age, I could have told you where I wanted to go to school, what I wanted to study, and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. And while the answers have continuously changed, I’ve never shied away from giving it my best guess. This has served me well in two ways: I haven’t allowed uncertainty to stop me from just trying things out, and I haven’t allowed pride to stop me from letting go when something wasn’t right for me.

By the time I was a senior in college, I had gone through dreams of studying architecture, pharmacy, and chemical engineering and had finally landed on mechanical engineering. I had also blazed through a variety of work experiences as a retail sales associate, summer research intern working with clean water systems in Panama, and quality assurance engineering at a huge manufacturing plant (to name a few). I had most recently started working at a small, non-profit consulting group helping local small businesses and entrepreneurs commercialize new technology. That internship opened my eyes to entrepreneurship in a way that I had simply never been exposed to before.

The energy and passion of the clients I worked with were unlike anything I had seen in any of my previous roles. So, when I was faced with the choice of pursuing a traditional engineering career or joining a fellowship with Venture for America (VFA), which would allow me to work in a growing startup in a city with a developing entrepreneurial ecosystem, the choice was clear. At the time, I was also grieving the recent loss of my father and spent quite a bit of my time ruminating over the makings of a meaningful and fulfilling life. Though I didn’t—and still don’t—have it all figured out, VFA spoke to my desire to have an impact on people’s lives and create something to leave behind in this world.

With my decision made, and awkward Thanksgiving conversations trying to explain what I was doing with my life out of the way, I began to focus on where I would actually work and what kind of role to pursue. I, once again, leaned on my experience and gave it my best guess. Taking what I had learned from my experiences up until then, I pieced together this list:

I enjoy looking at the bigger picture

I love tackling big, ambiguous problems and trying to make sense of them one piece at a time. I had always felt a surge of excitement reading through a problem on an exam, parsing out the bits and pieces that I knew how to approach in order to develop my strategy from there.  However, that excitement quickly faded once I had to actually perform the integration or write the essay based on my perfectly-crafted outline. Throughout college, I enjoyed learning high-level theory, but I knew that a career-focused day in and day out on technical minutiae wasn’t going to be for me.

I care about people and leading human-centered projects

My hands-down favorite class in college was called Art of Making: An Introduction to Hands-on System Design and Engineering which focused on the principles of human-centered design and rapid prototyping. This class opened my eyes to how I could combine technology, creativity, and empathy to create useful solutions to real human problems. The class culminated in a capstone project where 11 other students and I prototyped a wearable solution to empower deaf and hard of hearing children to more deeply engage with music. It felt incredibly gratifying to have a hand in improving someone else’s life, even if it was in a seemingly small way.

I crave variety

While interning in consulting, I loved that I never knew what our next client would bring with them. One week I was researching regulations for a liquor distillery, and the next I could have been completing a competitive analysis for new prosthetic technology. Not only did variety in my work keep me from feeling burnt out, but it pushed me to constantly learn and adapt to the changing needs of a client.

I feared that going down the traditional engineering path would silo me, inhibiting growth and exploration of other areas and roles I might find interesting. I had seen so many people who seemed to be “stuck” in roles at companies that told them to stay in their lane, and I resolved that I never wanted to feel like this. I’ve always seen adaptability as one of my greatest strengths, and I wanted to be in a role and company that would allow me to use it. 

When I found the Technical Project Manager role at Leverege, I knew it could be a great fit. As with most things in my life, I took a leap of faith with the knowledge I had at the time, and I’m so happy that I did. This role has allowed me to look at projects—and the company—as a whole while managing and executing on the ever-evolving needs of our customers. Within a matter of minutes, I can go from trouble-shooting system issues with our engineers to providing my input on a new app design that will be in the hands of real human beings. I look forward to seeing how I, and Leverege, continue to evolve in the coming years, but I can genuinely say that I’m so content with the choices that have culminated in where I am at this current moment.

Lastly, I’m incredibly proud that I wrote this entire post without ironically using the word “leverage” even a single time.

 


Dani Broderick

Technical Project Manager

As a mechanical engineering by education with a passion for human-centered design, Dani enjoys applying her technical background to help solve multifaceted problems. She also enjoys a variety of creative hobbies including watercolor painting, cooking, and writing (to the delight of her playwright mother). Her favorite genre of books is autobiographies and her backhand in tennis is pretty killer.

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