Some time ago, I was asked what got me in my career to where I am right now. I lead engineering, and I’m part of the top leadership team at Vinted, a company that was valued at $4.5B in 2021. It might be that the question asker was looking for some recommendations, expecting me to highlight some skills, traits, or habits.
Without thinking too much, I answered, “luck.” My response elicited a surprised smile, and the conversation continued. My intuitive answer made me curious to ponder why I gave that answer. This blog post attempts to expand on that intuitive answer by listing some of the significant ways I feel I got lucky in my life.
(for real, all those “top traits of successful people” articles should start with “luck”)
I got lucky to be born a white male. My life is easier because of it in all kinds of ways, most of which I cannot perceive. It’s not good that it’s how the world works. I recognize how privileged I am. My genes marked me in other ways too. I’m among the top 10% of tallest males, which affects how I am perceived, and might even affect how much I’ll earn over my lifetime. Again, it’s not good these biases exist.
I got lucky to be born healthy. I didn’t experience any significant injuries or sicknesses during my childhood.
I got lucky to be born at the time I did. While I was born in Lithuania, when the Soviet Union still occupied it, I went to school in independent Lithuania. And I went to university in Lithuania as part of the European Union. I didn’t have to experience life in the Soviet Union. The quality of life and opportunities increased quickly with my country actively engaged with the rest of the Western world.
I was lucky to be born into a family that was able to provide a safe and stimulating childhood. We were not rich. But we were also not poor, and I never felt we didn’t have enough. My parents would buy all the books I wanted. We even had a personal computer quite early at home.
(not that I used the computer all that productively most of the time)
I got lucky to choose software engineering for my university studies. I enjoyed writing code, but I was unaware that it was a good choice for a career. iPhone didn’t exist yet, and software hasn’t yet invaded every part of our lives. I was pretty unsure of what to choose. I picked software engineering primarily because of my friend. He made his choice with such high conviction that it won me over.
I got lucky to end up at Vinted. I played around with Ruby during my free time while working with .NET at my day job. I was brave enough to put Ruby as a skill on my LinkedIn profile. That’s how I got invited to the first interview.
Vinted is an anomaly in and of itself. It takes quite a few lucky breaks for a small Lithuanian startup to become the country’s first unicorn. At one point, “the business was completely burning down”. When I joined Vinted more than ten years ago, I was optimistic, but I never expected Vinted to make such a huge impact. And it still feels like the beginning of a journey.
I got lucky to be in the right moment at the right time when our CEO decided that it was time to create a role for someone to lead engineering. If the role was created a year earlier, I wouldn’t have been ready, and someone else would’ve likely have been the choice.
I was lucky to be surrounded by people who helped me in a million ways during the Vinted’s journey. Many were patient and kind with their support, knowledge, and feedback. I became a better human being and leader because of them. There’s the proverb “it takes a village”, which is apt here, even if, in this case, it applies to a grown man.
These are only some significant ways I feel I got highly fortunate. It’s impossible to name or even to know all my lucky breaks. While I recognize I have strengths that helped me get where I am right now, quite a few people have those strengths. My success was not inevitable. I don’t take my luck for granted, and I hope it offers a glimpse into my mindset.