Are you a risk taker? Some people are, but I’ve never been one to take big risks without looking at an issue from all sides, getting input on it, and praying about it. I remember one IT department leader telling us (about implementing changes into our infrastructure) that if we do our homework (testing, etc.) and something went wrong, he would be right there to support us. However, if we had not been diligent, and something went wrong (the change took the system down, for example), we would be dangling in the wind without his support (as he slowly waved a piece of paper back and forth).
One time, about a third of the way into my career, a mentor suggested a consultant position to me that if I was chosen, would have resulted in a promotion. However, the position would have resulted in a significant amount of travel. After my wife and I discussed this, we decided that the downside offset the advantage of the position, and thus I did not pursue it.
One of the risks I did take was when I applied for a leadership position that was a step up from the one that I was in. The position would be a challenge for me, and I would have to take a lot of difficult classes. On top of that, I loved the position I currently had (leading a group of Planners). I remember praying about this decision, and not getting any clear answer one way or the other. I decided to make the move and it was one of the best decisions I made in my nearly 38-year career.
But the biggest risk I took was changing departments exactly halfway into my career.
I had worked the first 19 years in the Administrative Services department (support services – facilities maintenance, communication, security, food service, travel, etc.). I enjoyed the work and the people in that department and figured that I would spend my entire career there. But when I moved to prepare the opening of a new two million square foot campus, I began to work with the leaders in a large IT department. It was a much different world, and they were very progressive, not only with technology (laptop computers, for example), but also things such as flexible work hours and attire.
At that time, I was the prime contact between my department and the IT department leaders. Darrell was the leader of the IT department. I liked his leadership style. He was approachable and I remember telling Mike, a friend in a gathering in the complex’s atrium that “I could work for that man”. Not long after, I asked Patty (my contact at the time) about how I might pursue a position in the department. We soon met and she explained the different manager positions in the department. Although they seemed quite different from what I was used to in Administrative Services, I told her that I was interested. She said she would share my interest with the leadership team.
I was concerned about telling Dave, my leader at that time, about my interest in changing departments. I shouldn’t have been. Dave was completely supportive. And it wasn’t too long afterwards that I found myself in an interview with Jim, who would later become a good friend.
The risk that I took in changing departments turned out well for me. I wouldn’t say it was easy – no, far from it. I had to learn new terminology, processes, develop new relationships, etc. It certainly helped having Jim as my first leader and a familiar face Sharon, on my first team (both of whom I had gone to high school with) to help me make the transition.
I’m sure I would have had a good career had I remained in Administrative Services. However, in the IT department, even though there were difficult times along the way, I continued to grow as a leader and later began to fully integrate my faith and work. As I reflect back on the risk I took, I realize that I have people that I owe thanks to, two of whom are sadly no longer with us (Darrell and Dave). I know Patty was supportive as she took my interest back to Darrell and the leadership team. And Jim took a big risk in taking me, with no IT background/experience onto his leadership team.
How are you at risk-taking? Also, are there people who have helped you along the way in your career (and life) that you need to thank before it’s too late? Why not do so today?