Today changing careers or even industries are becoming increasingly common; especially for those in the startup world. While adherents to the previous ideology of sticking with one job might feel startled by this shift in career focus, new adopters in favor of a transitional career movement are finding more satisfaction in their current work.
One of these individuals is Andrea La Mendola. La Mendola has had more than a few titles on his resume: software engineer, CEO, film producer, and director. Today La Mendola is the Chief Global Operations officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a company leading the way on the development of the next generation of high-speed transportation.
At first glance, La Mendola appears to be the classic extrovert: friendly, talkative, and outgoing. Yet, he insists he grew up shy and self-contained. “I was always pretty reserved, growing up,” he said. “I always let everyone else talk first…I was very observant, though,” he adds. This perceptive mindset helped shape La Mendola’s curiosity early on, he would dismantle toys and try to reassemble them–a common trait of people who excel in technology.
It was his inquisitive nature led him to study coding, UX/UI design, software engineering, and business media while simultaneously starting his own movie production company. At 19 years old, La Mendola worked tirelessly as the owner of his production company in order to attain the necessary skills of a successful producer. After a few years, La Mendola felt he had acquired the key attributes of a top producer: vision, creativity, and negotiation. This accomplishment inspired him to try a new role: directing.
Directing turned out to be life-changing for Andrea and it gave him the opportunity to overcome his shyness. According to La Mendola, “I had to push myself to be extroverted…I had to learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable social situations.” This inner drive to push himself into frightening situations added to his growing collection of skill sets.
His new role forced him to become proficient at decisiveness, grace under pressure, and team- building. For La Mendola, he adopted a decisive mindset when he decided to become a lifelong learner, or as he elaborated, “You have to DECIDE you are going to remain curious for the rest of your life.” He revealed that the film industry unlocked his inner confidence to give others direction in a matter of seconds. As a young director, he was working with well known Italian actors- many of whom had much more experience than he did. He realized that he had to have a decisive mindset in order to convince seasoned actors to follow his lead. After a few missteps, La Mendola adopted the decisive nature used by great directors and soon had famous Italian actors believing in his recommendations and ideas.
Of course, decisiveness correlates with team building and grace under pressure, both of which were needed in La Mendola’s early days at HyperloopTT. Even though Andrea possessed a Master’s degree in engineering, many of the new engineers on his team had PhDs and were legends in their respective fields. Due to Andrea’s perceived lack of experience, some of the newer recruits remained skeptical which resulted in his utilization of the “grace under pressure” mentality. When he heard “I have been doing this for four decades, how long have you been doing this?”, he did not respond in anger. Instead, he replied, “I am here to make this team better. The only way I can do that is by giving you what you need to succeed. What do you need to succeed?”
His use of grace under pressure and situational leadership slowly began to appeal his team and he soon began implementing his own team building formula. Today, Andrea is the Chief Global Operations Officer of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, part of the board of directors, and is even included by name on some of their technological patents. The former film director/producer has harnessed his engineering and entrepreneurial roots, with most of his workday consisting of collaborating with the engineering and business teams.
His film background works to his advantage; It prepares him to not only be a visionary for his team of multicultural engineers but also to actualize his vision with talented people from diverse industries and backgrounds. The once shy adolescent who spent most of his time observing others now leads a globally diverse team of engineering PhDs on one of the most visible projects in the world.