An Unlikely Journey
I do quite a bit of coaching and mentoring of technology professionals and women in business. One of the first questions I usually hear is some form of “did you always know you wanted to be a CIO?” My answer is a simple “no”.
I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was good at math, and I was fortunate to attend a high school with classes in introductory accounting and basic programming. I enjoyed both. Thanks to my dad’s wisdom and influence, I pursued a degree in Business and Computer Science. Today it would be an MIS degree but those degrees weren’t available then.
The CIO role didn’t exist and neither did the term C-Suite.
When I started my career the CIO role didn’t exist, and neither did the term C-Suite. My first job was as a software developer (actually called a Programmer Analyst). I found I wasn’t the best computer scientist despite my degree, and I didn’t love the bits and bytes. What I really enjoyed was being a translator and liaison between the business groups I supported and the technology teams I was part of. The role would be called a Business Analyst now, but that position hadn’t been formalized yet.
I didn’t have a five-year or ten-year plan to land in a significant leadership role. I never returned to school for an MBA or a secondary degree like many of my peers. I was shy, quiet, and often told I needed to be more assertive. And frankly some of the leaders I experienced didn’t inspire me to want to sit in that chair.
Nothing jumps out in this story to indicate I was an aspiring leader headed up the chain. So how did it happen? Maybe I was naïve. Maybe I got lucky. Maybe I was in the right place at the right time. Maybe I was a hard worker. There’s probably some truth in all of those.
I kept doing what I was good at doing…
Mainly I kept doing what I was good at doing, and that happened to be: paying attention to the details, following through on my commitments, bringing order to chaos, and helping others.
As I look back, I recognize those skills were with me from my earliest memories. My mother would say these traits existed in me even as a toddler. One of the personality assessments I took early in my career used the descriptor “supportive organizer.” They nailed it. With the benefit of hindsight I know I have been a supportive organizer since I arrived on the planet.
What Is Your Purpose?
I eventually left the corporate world and I am a business consultant and certified executive coach. One of my favorite techniques I learned during the coaching certification process is how to lead a client through the process of finding their purpose.
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
Like my story, your purpose is something that has been with you all along. It may not be obvious to you. A great deal of reflection is often required before it can be articulated. But once you see it, it is powerful. Understanding your purpose is freeing and brings clarity in many areas of life, including careers.
I’ll leave you with a few questions to ponder.
- What have you always loved to do?
- What has been with you from your earliest memories?
- What are you doing when you are in the flow?
- What would others say is your essence?
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