We all have different motivators in our careers, and expectations of where we want to get to. For me, my passion has been to innovate and push for new ways of working. It’s a particularly exciting time as technology is disrupting all industries, while increased diversity in the workplace is bringing fresh ideas. With new entrants into the job market now needing to prepare for a 60 or even 70-year working lifetime, even those of us in our 40s could be planning a 30-year journey still ahead of us. To keep up with change, it’s important that you are flexible and learn new skills. How will you move out of your comfortable confines to equip yourself and to stay engaged by what you do?
In general, the desire to change things or re-invent oneself usually builds up over time, and then particular events trigger us to accelerate and embark in new directions. For me, it was the arrival of my daughter that sparked my decision to leave an executive banking career and re-invent myself as a non-executive director, and then launch my own startup, Rungway, which focuses on helping companies to better share knowledge and build cultures where everyone feels they belong. Coupled with my interests in innovation and new approaches, I’ve also had a strong interest in self-improvement and workplace culture. I’ve been fascinated by the emerging technologies now in existence that help people collaborate and learn from one another. So, it made perfect sense to launch my own company.
This move from boardroom to basement may seem unusual, but for me, I enjoy the blend of my C-suite and startup roles, and find that the two are more complementary than you might expect. My startup gains from my experience in big-scale business and people management, as well as regular practice on how to critically evaluate strategy, assess opportunities, innovate and take risks. It also provides rich networks of people to draw upon.
Conversely, executive roles can gain from some startup perspectives. We use the very latest technologies, we work with an agile mindset, and also benefit from much faster learning cycles. After every “sprint” (where we design, develop and release within very short cycles), we have a retrospective debate among the team on what needs to be done better next time – from the biggest to the smallest changes. For many bigger companies, this kind of self-critical thinking may only happen infrequently, sometimes as a token gesture, often not tackled openly at all. This leaves a less-than-optimal approach being repeated time and time again instead of learning and adapting.
I believe that deliberately taking twists and turns within your own career will allow you to build up new skills and ideas, and help you be a different kind of role model too. For me, I’m proud that my daughter gets to see me trying new things, taking new risks, and exploring different environments. There’s no rule book and no certainty when you’re running a startup. But equally, none of our careers have a rule book anymore. While some may have a more set path than others to begin with, we are still the sole navigators of our careers, and the straight path up the hill isn’t necessarily the best way through.
Perhaps you should detour on what first looks like the dirt road? Or take the next turn to a new destination entirely? The choice is yours.
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