SANS FRONTIERS: My Career Story (Part 2): Never Done
It is tempting to wait for a ‘worthy experience’ to happen in your life to share it with the world. After all, who really wants to know about ‘regular’ and ‘everyday’ stuff? Right? Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with riding the fame of a job well done and achievements such as national accolades etc.
However, the point is that I was me long before any appointment, promotion, or award. Before Serena and Venus ever started winning Grand Slams, they were playing just as great – so should we not allow and be allowed to celebrate the journey as much as we do the destination? I think we should. The thought that crossed my mind when I started preparing this series was, ‘what exactly
are you celebrating?’ – so my response to the voice in my head, as well as everyone else: I am celebrating my no-limits journey, the anything-can-happen-at-the-carnival life that I am forging – and the fact that the deeper I dig, the further I travel – the road continues to open up, there are no borders, la vie sans frontiers, there’s no end – because regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, family status, nationality – it is never ‘over’ and I am NEVER DONE.
Telling my story Once
I asked my dad if he thought my love for writing was evident as a kid, and he said, “I don’t remember if that was the case, but boy – you loved to tell stories. Whenever you announced that you had a story to tell, we all sighed and held our breath because your stories were looooong!” I want to share the story of how I created the variety and assortment of experiences I can report in my CV. You’ll be pleased to know I have a word count limit, so you won’t be stuck reading a never-ending chronology, and it will always be ‘To Be Continued.’ Not all experiences are resume-worthy, but it is important— to me— that I can share how and why I was able to move from one large corporation to another and why this may be the option for some of my readers.
For me, I make decisions to change roles by viewing the situation of the industry and my company’s situation— how many new projects did we have in the EPC world of Oil & Gas? And if we didn’t, who (other EPCs) won the jobs? In addition, which of the Customer companies were busy? In some cases, the new and shiny is better, and it is possible that while your current company’s situation is to ‘lie fallow’ – the grass is sometimes, for real, greener on the other side. The truth is no matter how often we change, move countries, jobs and relationships, there is always some level of hesitation triggered by fear, fear of the new, the unknown, failure and sometimes success. The fear and foreboding we sometimes feel are sometimes with good reason because we watch the world around us.
So and so moved to this department or this company or this country and had a bad experience, and naturally, we are sceptical. I have come to learn two things which I must be master of: My Fear and My Destiny. My first most dramatic change was leaving staff employment and moving into technical consulting, especially after my Head of Engineering in the previous role told me, ‘they won’t even touch you if you’re not chattered’ – I promise he meant well; he was just a little light on the tact and charm. Needless to say, I moved to France, enjoyed a role with that organisation and then got a second role with the same organisation in Nigeria. From that role, the client picked me to continue the same project for another four years. I don’t advocate ignoring advice, but it is important to understand your unique situation.
None of the people who advised against moving or changing roles meant me harm. I am confident of that. However, they lacked a unique qualification: they were not me. The longest stay in an organisation is eight years, and it is with my current company. The first time I started to look out for a new job, I spent three years with that organisation. In that time, I had built alliances, and I began to understand my industry and what makes for a good engineer (technical savvy played a role, but not as big a role as you might think), but I also started to learn vital lessons.
So now, 20 years in – and remember, I am not even close to being done, I continue to see myself as the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Decision Maker in my life. I know that there are many factors that we believe play into whether we get a role — and there are, but I find that sometimes we have focused so much on the parts that we have zero control over— and that has been to the detriment of honing the aspects that we control. I am not oblivious to how being let down affects my self-esteem or how I approach the next challenge. However, I maintain it is still mine to own, mine to learn from, and also mine to rise from. I also am not a denier of prejudice that we may face based on our gender, skin tone, the way our hair grows out of our scalps, the way we speak, what god we worship, or if, at all, we are religious.
All of this said: the world is ours. I am usually saddened by the efforts a lot of us must go through to be ‘likeable’ – doing things that we’re not super comfortable with just to fit in. There is a place for charm and being liked – but it can and must never be to the lessening of who you are or your self-respect. The simple rule is ‘don’t be a jerk’; it is not much else we can control. We all have stories of people we have been kind and generous to who turned around and threw garbage on our faces. Therefore, I focus on having a career strategy that is informed by my goals— my alignment, my current and potential capabilities, and what makes for my ultimate joy and fulfillment— this is
where I focus my energy.
For today I will end with a part of one of my favourite poems: It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.
(Invictus, William Ernest Henley – 1849-1903).