#192 – The Career Toolkit With Mark Herschberg

Imagine You’re a 25 year old and you have a job offer for $50,000. If instead of taking that job you learn to negotiate And you negotiate for 51,000 it’s just $1,000 more. That’s a tiny little lip. If you do nothing else, if you negotiate for 51 and you stay in that job for the next 40 years, You’ve just earned $1,000 more for 40 years, you earned $40,000 with one negotiation. But of course you’re not gonna stay in that job for 40 years, you’ll have promotions and raises and other jobs. So getting just a little bit better at negotiating can add tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars to your lifetime earnings.

Thomas Green here with ethical marketing service on the episode today we have Mark Herschberg. Mark welcome thanks for having me on the show. It’s my pleasure to be here. You are very welcome.

Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do? Sure, I’ve had a very interesting dual career. I came out of M. I. T. Back in the nineties and started as a software engineer early on I realized I wanted to become a CTO Chief technology Officer overseeing the engineering department. I realized that to get there, it wasn’t just about being the best engineer. There were all these other skills I needed leadership communication team building, networking, negotiating. No one ever taught these to me. So I had to develop these skills in myself and as I did so I realized these apply to everyone, not just c suite leaders. They applied down to the most junior person and of course to entrepreneurs. And so I began to develop them not just in myself but across my entire organization. Now as I was doing this, Emmett had done surveys of companies and they said these are the skills we want to see not just with mitt folks we hire not just recent grads but in everyone and similar research done by other universities have shown these are the skills companies want across the board but they can’t find because again we’re not teaching them.

So Emmett wanted to put together a program to help develop this in our students. I heard about, I reached I said I’ve got some content, I’m happy to share it. And they invited me to help co create the class. I helped create some of the early modules and then asked me to help teach the class. So I’ve been doing that for over two decades now. So I’ve had these two careers, my primary career building tech start ups as a CTO overseeing technology, product data science but in parallel also teaching at M. I. T. The speaking and now the book that I have on professional development there’s a lot to to ask you about there. So thank you for the introduction. You mentioned that you were you thought that you were lacking in certain skills because you had the tech skills but not so much the other ones. When did you first start to realize that was the case. And what was the the example of the scenario there? I don’t know if there is any one instant, but as I began to look into project management, I recognized the importance of some of these skills.

There’s a great book I read called people wear by tom demarco and timothy Lister is one of the best management books I’ve read. And the thesis is that most software projects fail, but not so much for technological reasons as sociological. It’s not that we can’t figure out how to make it work. You don’t need a PhD for most of the software that we build, it’s that people miss communicate, it’s that people don’t know how to lead, they don’t know how to engage with others. And I saw that I started saying, well I’m seeing pieces of this in my job, I see what’s happening at the company and realize the importance of these skills. So that put me on the path. And then as I was exploring different aspects of it, I recognize some of these other skills and even early on getting involved with M. I. T. In this program, they had much more formal research saying these are the specific skills and we’ve gotten them well defined. So you said you’ve written a book, would you like to tell me a bit about it, The career toolkit, Essential skills for success that no one taught you.

The book is 10 chapters in three sections Relating to these 10 skills that we see time and again in surveys of companies, section one careers. So chapter one Creating and executing a career plan, even if you’re an entrepreneur by the way and you say, well my title doesn’t change, it’s still about your development and growth that goes into your career plans, not just titles. Chapter two, working effectively. Things like managing your manager, understanding corporate culture or how to create one for your organization. Chapter three is interviewing not so much from the candidates side, but the hiring side, so many of us have to hire other people and yet got no training for how to do that. Section two, leadership and management. I break down the fundamentals of leadership and then the people side of management and the process side of management. And the third section, interpersonal dynamics covers communication, networking negotiations, and ethics. The topic I like to I like to discuss from a from a selfish point of view that is So what was it like to, to write the book?

It was I think I had a somewhat unique experience people ask, well, how long did it take you to write it? The writing was easy, it took me a little over four months I think, But in fairness I’ve been teaching this and speaking about for 20 years, so that’s where the content really got created. The writing was just getting it out of my brain and into a word document. The more challenging part was putting it together into a book and then marking the book and anyone who’s ever built a company, you know, you have to put at least as much work into marketing it, you can have a great Proctor service, but no one knows about it doesn’t go anywhere. And a lot of authors, I don’t think because they don’t have the entrepreneurial background, they don’t recognize you have to go out and market. So I put a lot more time into the marketing of the book And then it took me to write it, although in fairness, 20 years of producing the content also does somewhat count for how I created it. So how have you found um, you know, the promotional side of it and presumably you’ve been guesting on other podcasts.

How has that been? Yes, that’s been my primary means at the time that you and I are recording this, this is I think 304 podcasts in. So I appeared on a number of podcasts around the world. A number of topics, podcasting is definitely the way authors promote books, social media, blogging speaking, but I’ve done a couple of other things to help promote the content. I created an app for my book. And so one thing I recognized is that when you read a book like mine and in general, business book or even more broadly, perhaps a self help book, you read the book and say, wow, okay, this is great content. And then you forget two weeks later and I know I get frustrated when that happens. So I wanted to counteract that and I came up with an idea that I really thought someone must have done this before and I’ll just go license to technology but didn’t exist. And here’s the idea I create an app, the career toolkit app when you download, it’s completely free available from the android and iphone stores, you download the app, you can use it one of two ways.

The first is it’s going to pop up each day, a notification on your phone at time, you set with one of the tips from the book. Think of it like a daily affirmation, but with the content from the book. And the idea is that this is going to help you retain it, help it stay top of mind using a technique, no spaced repetition, a very proven technique for how to learn. Think of it like a flash card except you don’t even have to open the app to do it. So that’s going to help users retain it. You can also say, oh, I’m about to go into a negotiation. What were all those tips? Will now you open the app, you start flipping through all the negotiation tips to get that refresher. And so I created this app from the user standpoint, great, you’re going to retain it from my standpoint, well now I’m top of mind now instead I read that book six months ago and barely really barely remember it now, you’re getting reminded of it every day and that’s going to increase the word of mouth marketing. And so I created that app for myself, interestingly, I realized this can help other authors, podcasters, bloggers, other content creators.

So we’re putting out a new version of the app called brain bump a couple weeks from now, so we’re recording in March, this will be out in april and brain bump will allow any content creator to put their content on this type of app and then the users can go access to content in this tip format to get that daily reminder to help keep the top of mind. So what turned out to be a marketing technique for my book spun out into a whole side business, That is really cool and when you solve problems for yourself, they can often end up in um in new businesses. I think plenty of examples of that happening. Maybe not the the app, but just the general principle did you did you do all that work yourself because you’ve got the tech skills. I didn’t code it myself when you’re an entrepreneur, you have to recognize what is the best R. O I on your time. And so there are some things like even my website, I could technically build a website, but I know my design skills were never good.

So I got a designer, I just said, you know what, for the money I’m paying you, you actually don’t just design it put together, build it for me. Likewise, with the coding, I’m a little rusty encoding these days, I could probably still do it, but it’s faster for me to go hire someone else because my time is used in my fractional CTO work or in the speaking and other services that I have at a much higher rate than what I pay. So I’m arbitrage ng in terms of my abilities and those who can do the coding for me, if the ceo is the quickest typist in the company, you still do not allow them to do the typing. Well said, um, what are your other businesses? Because you said you’ve got multiple business interests, I think. So, in addition to the book and speaking and now of course, the app I work these days as a fractional CTO have traditionally been a c actually, CTP. Oh, chief technology product officer in different startup companies. When the book came out knowing they had to market it, it was a good time in my career to step back from full time work and do fractional work.

So I would get drawn to companies most likely part time. So I work with companies anywhere from 5 to 30 hours a week helping them out either because they don’t need a full time CTO or CPO or because they have one. But there’s just so much extra work. They said, can you just cover a bit for me? And so I’ve been doing that with different clients and that’s allowed me the time and flexibility to go on 300 podcasts to go work on my app and do other things. So the 300 podcasts. Um, you must have some, are there any funny stories of, because you’re bound to get some some interesting ones in that volume of podcasts that you remember yet. Nothing. Nothing super crazy funny. It’s been great for meeting people. And by the way, as a networking technique, podcasting is fantastic both as a host where you have people coming to you and as a guest, you just meet so many great, fascinating people all around the world and certainly you have bumps along the way.

I’ve had MS, podcasts, a few of them my fault quite often hosts or just scheduling conflicts or confusion. So there’s a lot of overhand logistics, but nothing, nothing totally crazy. I, the closest I had was just right before doing one of the first live shows. The internet went down in my whole building and that just killed the show. I think they got rather upset because they did not invite me back. I had a power cut for a guest on one occasion. So we’re mid conversation and then the lights went out and then the internet went and that was it. Well, that was kind of a funny one. What makes your what makes a good podcast host in your view? Very good question podcast host. There’s a couple things. I’ll first talk about the logistics piece because I’ve seen lots of hosts and lots of ways how to get on their show. But good host has not only kind of a process for here’s how to apply to the show, but also information saying here’s who my audience is.

Here’s how long we’re going for here are the things that will help you better orient yourself to the podcast now in the actual show. I think for a podcast host, it’s certainly it’s making it about the guest. And I don’t mean as I’m saying to you, like, come on, make this about me, this is what I want. But there are I’ve seen some hosts where the host is talking probably 2/3 of the time thinking, yeah, this is your show at the whole point of having guests is to bring in more variety. And when you’re doing more of the speaking, that probably defeats the purpose. You have your own podcast where it’s just you and no guests. So you want to craft around the guests Certainly want interactive as we’re doing now. I’ve had some who say send me a list of questions. I read off question one. This question to that. It’s like, all right, we’re just going through a list. Um, it’s okay to have a list, but you don’t want to be really just said, I don’t care what you just said. We have to move on to the next question as opposed to dynamic.

So I think those are probably good hallmarks of a of a good host. And coming back to the book just for a moment. You went through the chapters. Did you have a favorite chapter? I it’s hard to pick a favorite. It’s hard to you know, how do you pick among your Children? I will say I am probably maybe a little more passionate on the ethics piece. In fact my ed or noted that. And it’s always bothered me that all these business books do not even talk about ethics Ethics, even though it’s on that list of 10 that we get in the surveys of companies, ethics is on there. But I always feel like it’s last on the list. They don’t rank them. But when you look at what companies do and they talk about different things. Ethics just feels like, oh, yeah, yeah. And do ethics as well be ethical. It’s an afterthought. And if we can all work to be a little better, we can have such an incredible improvement on just our organization’s on society as a whole to be better and more ethical. So I think I’m particularly passionate about that only because it’s ignored by so many others.

So what’s the context behind the ethics? Information in the book around? Yeah, I’ll leave you with that. What’s the context then? Now, every chapter in the book has a mental shift how to change how you think about and then concrete things you can do to implement to execute on that particular skill with ethics. It’s emphasizing the importance of thinking about ethics, not just happy as an after thought about being proactive in how you think about ethics. The analogy I use is think of fire drills. If you’ve never had a fire drill before, if you’ve never heard a fire alarm and you’re in a building and you hear an alarm where someone says it’s a fire, you might panic, you might run for the doors, you might do, there might be a stampede. But of course we all grew up doing those fire drills in school and we learned to line up and we learned to walk calmly, we take the stairs, not the elevator, we know how to do this. And I’ve been in buildings where the fire alarm has gone off, there was no shoving, there was no stampede.

We all knew calmly go to the stairwell and walk out of the building. Great. We’ve been praying. When you think about the ethical situations, we face, there’s always some pressure. Now, it might not be the three minutes you have to get out of a burning building. It might not be quite that short or intense, but there’s some pressure because you’re thinking how am I gonna make payroll this friday or I just lost my biggest customer and I’m going to go under. If I don’t do something in the next two months, you think about some problem. You feel that pressure and it’s so easy at that point to cut corners and say well I’m just gonna do this not long term, but I just have to temporarily do this because you feel that pressure. If we have practiced ahead of time, if we thought about what are the boundaries, what are the areas where might we get into a gray area and where are the lines were saying No, really? We should not do that. Then it’s easier when that alarm goes off that we’re prepared that we say, okay, I know what to do. Use the stairs, not the elevator, don’t cross this line, but we have to think about ahead of time.

Now you can’t think about every possible issue. But just thinking about a little bit ahead of time gives you some boundaries, some guidelines talking through it with others means you’re not under that. That pressure, you don’t have that adrenaline going through your body saying, oh my God, fight or flight, what do I have to do? You have more clear head discussions to help you plan ahead of time. So using the analogy of the let’s say losing your biggest customer for example, um If you prepare for that in advance, then instead of having the conversation on your own or deciding what you’re going to do in the fire drill, there’s a specific process that you go down and that involves having a conversation with someone, which is the, you know, walking down the stairs instead of the elevator thing. Exactly, you have, just as you have your fire plan, your escape plan, you have a plan for these stressful situations. And so it again, if if you didn’t know where the, where the stairs were, where the fire escapes were, where the exits were and the alarm goes off, what are you doing?

You’re panicking, your adrenaline’s high, you’re trying to look around, but it’s hard to focus. It’s hard to think of course you have the exit signs, you know where the stairwells are. So when you lose your customer instead of saying, oh my God, I’m under a lot of pressure here and what do I do and how do I make up for this? And how do I deal with things in the meantime? So hey, I’m just gonna pull up that plan for when I lose that customer, whether it’s a formal written plan or whether it’s just things you’ve thought about ahead of time, You’ve got that plan that you created when you weren’t under that pressure, when you didn’t have that adrenaline rush, you can pull it off and follow it calmly and have a much better outcome. So by doing all that, you’re helping people become more ethical because they have a procedure to follow, essentially. Exactly. You’re less likely to make mistakes. Now there are still some bad actors will say, I don’t care, I’ll raid the pension fund to make up the lost revenue okay. But you clearly know what you’re doing, you clearly don’t care, but for those of us who want to do the right thing, this just gives us those guidelines, those boundaries to help keep us on the right path.

It’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about it that way before. I mean, typically when I, when I speak about ethics, I’m trying to determine even in the funny scenarios that you might get what’s right from what’s wrong. Um and your focus, at least in the book, as I understand, is how to guide other people to be more ethical. Exactly. Because I only get one chapter in my book and I can’t possibly go through every scenario you could face as a business person. So it’s less about, hey, here’s what to do in each situation and more. And this is true for every chapter, here are the tools, here’s how you’re going to execute in this situation for a better outcome. So are you happy with the sales of the book? Generally? Yes. Now the generally is because I have friends who are new york Times bestselling authors and I’m always a bit of a competitive person and think I’m not one of the top books on new york times best seller list so I always lost try for more but certainly for how I did my book and how I’m marking my book and I’m not spending $100,000 on a national media campaign for it.

So I’m certainly happy with the results and the R. O. I. Has been fantastic. Good glad to hear. And it’s you know once you you referenced it once you’ve got a book out there your your your job or your second job is now starting. So I’m glad that you’ve been able to to say achieve your goals there when I am prepped for the episode today um I saw M. I. T. On your profile and I was like that’s kind of cool. You know there’s M. I. T. Has got a very cool reputation. What do you think about that preconceived opinion that I have about M. I. T. Uh Yes thank you for thinking we have a cool reputation. I think we do we’re certainly known for a lot of good things. It’s interesting. So emmet people here they think okay smart technical does some really cool stuff but it’s a double edged sword because I’ve also had I talked about this in the book when people meet me they never think oh is this math gonna be too hard for Mark is this gonna be too technical for him?

Okay Mark went to M. I. T. Multiple degrees. He’ll get the technology, he’ll get the math I think. But he probably doesn’t have people skills. He probably don’t really emphasize these other skills. That’s the other reputation we have is where those hardcore nerds and nerds don’t have people skills. And so I’ve also had to overcome that in some of these preconceived notions. Generally it it’s helpful but it’s a double edged sword for M. I. T. S. Reputation in particular. But I will say M. I. T. S. Reputation is generally well deserved that we are smart that we are innovative very technical. Our people skills may not be as strong as we’d like. They’ve certainly gotten stronger in the last 20 years I’ve been teaching there because that was our goal with the program. Have you got a teaching philosophy that you could share at all? The I have a philosophy for what I teach and so I want to talk a little about how you learn these skills and why it’s different from how else you might learn when we think back to high school or college or most of our learning.

It is information transferred. Someone who has the knowledge standing up front and just passing on that information that could be. Here’s a quadratic equation. Here is here are the dates of a certain war or just other facts that you memorize and we sat there we wrote them down we memorized it on the test we gave those answers that’s most of our education, but in the real world, that’s not how it works. And particularly for these skills, there is no formula for leadership. There’s no three dates to memorize and then you can communicate with anyone, it’s a lot more subtle and so these skills I like into learning a sport. If you are, let’s say trying to learn cricket, I could in theory teach you the rules of cricket. In reality I barely understand the game, but someone could sit you down and say, here are the rules of cricket. You don’t just say, okay I get it now, I’m ready to play now. You actually have to do it. You need to drill, you need to scrimmage, you might watch a tape of yourself or of other people to learn and improve.

You have to learn by doing and it comes to the skills in the book, leadership, networking, negotiating, team building, communicating. You can’t just read the book, you can’t just hear me speak about or anyone you have to actually do and try. So the class that we have at MIT it’s hands on experiential and the best way you can learn these skills, the ones that cover in the book is not just to read the book, I hope you do. So I think there’s value in but create a peer learning group. Now you can do this if you’re at a big company, you can do this with others in your company. If however you might be on your own, what you can do is go and create your own group. Maybe it’s a local meet up group, Maybe you find other entrepreneurs, other people, you know, get a group together. And when you engage with the content, let’s say you read these 10 pages, you then sit around and discuss it and talk about when you get out of that leadership. Well, here’s what I got and let’s talk about if it made sense or if you have a different thought, I might say, hey, I have a leadership challenge, Here’s what I’m thinking of doing and you’re going to chime in and say, well, you know, here’s what I did in a similar situation.

Here’s what worked and did and that’s how we’re going to learn. And by the way, if you don’t want to use my book for this, use articles, use videos. Use a great podcast like this one. Use other books, it’s about the discussion of the content and not that I have the magic content. So yes, you can use my book, but feel free to use other content. It’s that peer learning, it’s that discussion which really helps you learn and understand one of the things which I think you’re happy to talk about is achieving success in your job. What does success mean for you? Success for me personally, is about achieving my goals. It’s whatever your goals tend to be, For me it has to do with family with my own career and financial success and then with helping others through the book and through the nonprofit other people may have different specific goals in what they want to achieve, but it’s setting out goals and achieving them at a fundamental level.

And what are your goals to have a wonderful, happy healthy family? Two in my direct job, just achieved more success, build more interesting companies and products. And then in terms of my teaching and books and speaking to help more people be successful in their own careers to help people with their professional efficacy. Very clear. Thank you for that. Is there anything that I should have asked you about today? I think we covered the key things I’ll mention where you can learn more about me on my website, the career toolkit book dot com. You can learn more about the book, you can see where to buy it, amazon other places. You can get in touch with me or follow me on social media. You can download the free app which is linked from the website and goes to the android and iphone stores. There’s new content I put out every week and there’s an entire resources page where I recommend other books. If you want to go deeper on these topics, links to free online resources and a number of free downloads, including how to create that pure learning group.

That’s the first download on the page. So all of this is at my website, the career toolkit book dot com. I was very polished. That was very impressive. That that last bit. It almost seems like you said it 300 times before you do it. The the app, incidentally, can anyone download that or do you have to buy the book? Anyone can download it. You don’t have to buy the book. We don’t look for proof of purchase so you can go download. It’s also a good way if you want to check out some of the content of the book and see is this something you want to learn more about? Don’t know really why I asked that because I’m quite happy to buy the book and I probably will, but I will probably I’ll tell you why because I’ll be able to get the app immediately straightaway. But he got any closing thoughts for us today. It’s that remember this is a long journey, but you don’t need to get to the end to start to be successful. So here’s how I think about let’s take negotiations as an example. Now I use employment but This will apply to other types of negotiations. Imagine you’re a 25 year old And you have a job offer for $50,000 if instead of taking that job, you learn to negotiate And you negotiate for 51,000, it’s just $1,000 more.

That’s a tiny little lift. If you do nothing else, If you negotiate for 51 and you stay in that job for the next 40 years, You’ve just earned $1,000 more for 40 years. You earn $40,000 with one negotiation. But of course you’re not going to stay in that job for 40 years. You’ll have promotions and raises and other jobs. So getting just a little bit better at negotiating. Can add tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars to your lifetime earnings to say nothing of when you deal with customers and partners and suppliers learning to get just a little bit better. Has this massive R. O. I. Now we can do the math with negotiations. But it applies to everything. If you are slightly better at communicating slightly better at leading at any of these skills, No 1’s going to say well I’m going to pay you more for your product or I’m gonna pay you more way hire you. But it will bring more opportunities, It will help you stand out more. It will lead to more customers to more success.

So it’s not about being the best in the world as a leader, as a negotiator, as a networker, it’s about getting just a little bit better. And it has a massive R. O. I. On your career and success. The principle of compounding maybe. Exactly. So I think based on what you just said regardless of the price your ebook is too cheap. Can we establish that? Yes, indeed, because the money you pay for it, you’re going to earn that back in your first negotiation. There you go. Well, um yeah, can you just remind us where’s the best place for people to find you, the career toolkit book dot com? And again, you’ve got the app. The content. Follow me on social media links to amazon where you can buy it and all those free resources at the career toolkit book dot com. Okay, well, so for people who are listening, please review the links in the description and Mark, thank you very much for being a great guest. Thanks for being a great host and having me on the show.