Changing positions within a company can undoubtedly be daunting. The unfamiliar makes us nervous in a way that’s hard to describe. The act of leaving our comfort zone puts us in a vulnerable position, and gets questions running through our heads. “Should I be doing this? Can I do this? !?” While it may not feel like it, this is normal—and it’s good.

Most professionals have the path to success laid out from the start. This was not the case for Václav Pavlín, a principal software engineer at Red Hat. Václav’s career journey is a perfect example of how learning new things brings success and helps you become a better version of yourself. Learn why success is achieved by staying active and why you’ve got to adapt and overcome challenges around you.

To improve is to change

Before Václav graduated from Brno University of Technology in Information Technology Security, he was working in web development. After graduation he joined Red Hat as a Package maintainer and learnt how powerful open source is and how easy it is to contribute. Jumping from web development to linux bootloaders without previous experience was a huge challenge. That being said, it was also a great learning opportunity.

As we know, growth potential is an important quality in an employee and a willingness to learn demonstrates that capability. Every single project contributes to one’s professional development in its own way. According to Václav, the most exciting and memorable projects were those where he had to step out of his comfort zone and work on assignments that were new to him. 

He was passionate about working at Red Hat but his job as a package maintainer was not as fulfilling as he had hoped. After a year, he was asked to join a team of architects where he would just assist them with additional tasks. Change is difficult but it pays off in ways you might never have imagined possible, both professionally and personally.

Build partnerships

A couple of months later he attended DevConf with a colleague from the architect team, who was giving him the daily tasks that he had to work on. He was explaining to him all day how Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is put together but there was more to it than would appear at first glance. Turns out, his colleague was leaving the company and he wanted Václav to take on most of his work.

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to take on more responsibility is a great way to grow personally and professionally. It can be uncomfortable and hard at times but that’s what helps you make real progress within an organization. Václav thought the same and he never even considered declining the offer.

From a career point of view, it meant that he was promoted to a full time Architect. Until that point he was performing tasks that someone had asked him to do but since that day he was the one figuring out what is necessary to do.

Meetings do matter

Meetings are the backbone of businesses. They give important opportunities for team members to contribute their ideas and also let them know the expectations, needs and wants from them. 

Some time after Václav became Architect Engineer, when Docker entered the market and started to be popular, he attended a meeting about creating container base images for Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) distributions and this became Václav’s next assignment. Indeed he’d struggled for some time to figure out a way to do that because there was absolutely no documentation at that time and no one knew how to do it properly.

He did not retreat from the task because he believes that the only way to improve is to push yourself to the limits. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable and do those exciting things that you have always wanted to do!

Incidentally, the first Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) images that were put on DockerHub were built on his laptop. He was also responsible for improving Fedora and RHEL build systems to enable automated builds of their container images. This was another big step in his career that helped him move forward.

Always keep improving

Artificial Intelligence is everywhere and in everything, from manufacturing and production to our homes. Red Hat open source solutions are no exception.

Václav is currently part of the Artificial Intelligence Center of Experience team, which is under the Office of the CTO. His main responsibility is figuring out how Red Hat can influence the AI space and help customers by using AI and machine learning (ML). He also passes on knowledge to other people by working with universities and research centers in the Czech Republic and the US on various AI/ML related projects.

He believes that every once in a while you have to challenge yourself and no matter how much experience you have, there is always room for improvement.

“Never say no”

The most successful people are never satisfied with the status quo. They always have an eye on the next innovation, the next level of performance, the next thing to learn. They know the importance of continuous improvement in all areas of the business, and so does Václav.

“I worked on a couple of interesting projects and there are two parts to that: First, if someone had an innovative idea to try out, I never said no. Second, even though I did not understand the technology or knew the language I was sure that I could learn it.”

Trying new things is scary. It’s hard. It’s risky. But it’s also how we grow. It’s how we learn. It’s how we decide what we like and what we don’t like. It’s how we get better at being uncomfortable. It’s easy to say no to yourself. It’s time to start saying yes.