Friday, July 02, 2010


My Three Biggest Career Mistakes

I deeply believe in the importance of sharing experiences in one's career in an open manner, sort of an open source model for mentorship. I hope that in sharing what I believe to be my three biggest career mistakes, others can see things through a lens that they may have never considered, learn about alternate perspectives and ultimately figure out how to improve their own careers...

Mistake Number One

I firmly believe that in order to be considered a great leader, you need to have people who are followers. The opposite of this is to recognize when you should be a follower of others. Earlier in my career, I had the opportunity to work directly for a great CIO whom recognized my talent and more importantly my potential. The independent thinker in me always wanted to do things on my own without any assistance. Misdirected pride kept telling me that if I ever got a job, all of my coworkers would know that it was 100% based on merit and not just because I was "alumni".

As I look at my current employer, our enterprise CIO, the P&C CIO, The Enterprise CTO, the VP of Architecture and so on all have the same "alumni" relationship. If my stubborness wasn't an impediment, maybe all of these individuals would now be reporting to me and instead of me reporting to them. We all know the ramifications of alumni networks and its impact on those who are outsiders, but one should ask yourself whether some of your negative thoughts in this regard is not just about the convienent need for diversity and inclusion but also has a component of jealousy, kinda like wanting to be the cool kid when growing up.

Mistake Number Two

I have always had a fear of moving. Some of this is rooted in the comfort of the neighborhood where I grew up (I live three blocks away from my parents) while the rest of this has to do with purchasing a home at a very early age. Most kids when the move out of their parent's house tend to go to an apartment setting. For me, I moved straight into a house; the same house I live in today. Being the handyman type, it is not just a place where I live, but is actually my home. It is part of me. Knowing every nuance, the work that I did throughout the years and seeing the results every day makes it difficult to leave.

Other than vacation and a brief stint in the United States Coast Guard, I have never lived anywhere else. I had the opportunity to live in New York City, to experience the city life and even several opportunities to live in San Francisco working for various Internet startups, but I never could find it in myself to move. Sure, I am game to travel but always look forward to being at home. Where else could I do things such as Organic Gardening or go out in the middle of the street any time of day and embarass myself in practicing with my three sectional staff?

The town I live in is very close to work, yet as some level it seems as if many of my coworkers choose to live elsewhere. This robs me of the opportunity to network in a face-to-face manner with peers after hours. Is my addiction to blogging and Twitter a mere crutch to make up for lack of social components I desire?

Mistake Number Three

Busta Rhymes has a quote about people who are savage in the pursuit of happiness that I often reflect on. I have never really cared about having a big house, a new car or most material things. We are a one car family where my wife doesn't even want a car. Last year I bought a new car, a 2009 Dodge Journey not because of American overconsumption but because my fifteen year old SUV broke down twice and stranded me with my kids. If this didn't happen, I would have been even happier with a 20 year old car than I am with my new one.

Living a simple life and having no worries regarding money since I am debt-free, no mortgage, no car payments, no student loans, no credit card payments, etc means that at some level I have less pressure to go up the ladder. Many people are in debt beyond anyone's wildest imagination. Their only choice is to attempt to grow their careers as fast as possible in hopes of getting more money so that they can take care of debts. There's comfort in being debt-free but it has the side effect of making one a little less motivated.

Fiscal responsiblity is beneficial to all, yet each person regardless of financial condition needs their own stimulus and I have yet to figure out what pill do I take such that I am stimulated to the point where I am comfortable with infectious greed or should I say a savage in pursuit of happiness...

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