Many years ago, I was seated across my colleague at lunch and our conversation veered around surprises, when he said "You surprise me with your career choices." I always respected him for his candor and good intentions. "Can you elaborate more?" I said. He added "I have been wondering why you are in an analytical role for so long, it is about 8 years, another 2 years or additional 10 years in the same role would not add much." I countered, "I am comfortable with what I do and well regarded for it." He rallied back, "We all spend most of our active time in our jobs. You talk about traveling the world and understanding cultures during your vacations. How come your job is not an adventure of new experiences? Comfort does not guarantee safety. Job security is fairly independent of your comfort in the job- companies get acquired, you get new bosses, market forces may reshape your job - career destiny is not under your control even under the status quo." I paused to think about it, this dialogue was interesting - there was, at the very least, a modicum of truth to it. Further, he had moved into different roles, every few years. He always maintained that it was enriching. That causal conversation planted a seed.
My Pathway connecting analytics with human relationships
The following year, as a first tentative step, I threw my hat in the ring for a challenging project - coordinating the post merger integration of two companies. Lo and behold, I got the gig, which was foremost, a people operations (human resource) endeavor on tight deadlines. It had an interesting mandate - maximize both dollar synergy savings and people retention.
Necessity is the mother of invention- in order to achieve both goals- some out of the box thinking was needed. Both merging companies had common business units. But the acquiring company had more business units, which also meant more open job positions, but jobs were not a perfect match. So, I did what I knew best then- brought analytics into this puzzle. I created a layout - top two skills for all the people on the vertical axis and top skills needed for all the open positions for the larger organization on the horizontal axis. That layout provided vistas on the possible match, beyond traditional job overlaps. For example, a trader with market knowledge and communication skills could explore a sales job in a related business unit. This approach soon gained rapid attention with bigger impact. Nobody would have batted an eye-lid for creating a correlation matrix in a pure analytical job! It opened up my eyes and I have never looked back - the marginal return of your core skills is higher in new domains - domains that on first blush seem unrelated.
After that project, gaining in confidence and new found awareness, I had the fortune to transition into a sales role- an opportunity to expand application of analytics to more softer areas of human relationships and also to enrich my experience by working with assets (people) and customers. In the process, I even pleasantly surprised my friend with my move. After all, we live our life once, make the best of the rolled dice called "chance to be on this earth."
Overall, in life, there are some conversations that are turning point in terms of reorienting our thinking. That conversation with my well-wisher friend, is one of those defining moments. I really appreciate his wholehearted candor which had one beneficiary - me. It created a career pathway by connecting dots. My heartfelt thanks to him, six years after the conversation.
Interested in your stories about your career defining conversations that inspired you and people who made you think beyond your comfort zone.