Warning: extreme statements of happiness contained within this post
As 2009 winds down and 2010 approaches I have had the opportunity to reflect on how lucky I am. 2009 was definitely a tough year for a lot of folks, and I feel very fortunate to have worked at a company that is enjoying the excitement of growth, and the glow of being in the middle of a technology hot spot. Since college I have been fortunate enough to love all the jobs I have held. Not that they were perfect by any means, but they have all involved great technology, people, clients, and experiences.
When I graduated in 1996 I didn’t have any specific direction or industry in mind, I just knew I wanted to be in business. Fortunately for me the wireless industry was exploding at the time, and employers were hungry for anyone with a degree! Ericsson was my first career stop, and I learned a really valuable lesson about business – it’s not like anything they teach you in school. A business is only as good as the sum of its people – and people unfortunately are not perfect. In fact companies are very often made up of the same spectrum of people you went to school with (and you know how that went). Naively I had envisaged that large enterprises were efficient and perfectly oiled machines that I would be awe-inspired by - made whole by it’s perfectly functioning team members. In reality I found out what can happen when a technology based company wins an extremely large fixed bid contract which involves a lot of non-technical “real world” factors that can significantly impact and delay the build out of a wireless network. A network build that was meant to take roughly a year ended up taking more than two and a half, and unfortunately for Ericsson they ended up losing a big chunk of money. I loved my job at Ericsson for many reasons. The first was the people – who loved to drink – all the time! Second was the flex-time structure which afforded me over 50 days off my first year out of college (never to be repeated). The only problem with having tons of vacation I found out was having enough money for vacations. Third was the opportunity to start managing a team of people at the tender age of 21 with zero training, the only thing going for me was that my team was even younger and inexperienced than I was. Finally was the opportunity to interact with clients and make a difference to their business. My clients simply wanted the most lucrative wireless towers handed over first which typically were located in urban areas (and were therefore more difficult to build), and we wanted to fast track the rural wireless towers which were fairly easy to build but did not necessarily convert to a lot of revenue for our clients.
My second job was with Cheetah Technologies in Florida who later became Acterna, and now exist as part of JDSU. I exaggerate a little bit when I say I got the job purely based on my English accent, but I genuinely believe they thought it would be cool to have an Englishmen representing them on the phone with international clients. Luckily for me (and unfortunately for the company’s owner) the company was quickly sold shortly after my arrival due to an untimely but not fatal plane crash. The new owners had a lot more money and quickly approached me to ask if I’d be willing to travel extensively in the Asia-Pacific region. Being single and 24 at the time this sounded a great idea. The job eventually evolved into a global international business development role which was even more amazing. All the travel was in business class so I was fortunate enough to rake up crazy miles. The biggest lesson at this job was when my travel itinerary changed last-minute and I fatefully avoided a plane crash on November 3rd 2000 – the lesson: life is short and people will steal your stapler at the first opportunity. Another lesson I am happy to share is I always try to plan a litte extra time when I travel on business so I can actually enjoy the places I visit. Having said that it took me 12 visits to Beijing before I was man-handled by the local manager to visit the Great Wall of China.
Next I worked at a startup called PassTime which grew from 5 of us sharing a room to a multi-million international operation over the course of five years. Again I was blessed to find a job that afforded me the opportunity to rotate through multiple departments at the same time I completed my MBA. At different times I was enabled by the company to run marketing, technology, and sales. It was a fabulous place to work with trips to far-flung places like Romania, New Zealand, and more established places like Las Vegas (6 times a year), Amsterdam, and one time to the Masters in Augusta. The personal lesson I learned at PassTime was the importance of team work – in order to achieve greatness you need to find common ground and work towards a common goal – a group of individuals can only go so far. PassTime is also the first company I left which hasn’t collapsed or disappeared through merger, so I finally have a past employer to point to.
Finally I get to EffectiveUI, my current residence. 15 months in I am really relishing the task of optimizing our company’s marketing efforts. The people heare are ALL first-rate (everyone is intelligent and grounded) like I had initially expected coming out of college. It is so refreshing to work with team members that “get it”. They are smart, reliable, and responsible. You can really count on them for just about anything. The clients are also amazing - a fine collection of who’s who across every industry. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever get the opportunity in the future to work at a company with such a prestigious list of industry leading brand names. Every week our industrious sales team seems to land another whale. Then we have a diverse set of technology partners across the internet and mobile space. It is fantastic to work with the likes of Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, and Sun as they help shape the future of user experience through their technology innovations. It is fair to say EffectiveUI’s future is really bright and cheerful as we enter 2010.
In the past couple of weeks alone I have been fortunate enough to research where the interactive TV space is going, what the smart-phone/mobile world will look like in 2015, the future of touch screens, the role 3D will play in 2010, how to produce interactive videos, how to optimize an online media campaign in the B2B space, and finally how to sustain company-wide social media activities. There is so much potential and opportunity out there in 2010, it is exciting to be at a company so uniquely poised to take advantage. The lesson here? You can always learn more, and that continuing to learn is exciting!
I hope wherever you are in your career that you are equally situated for happiness. Remember happiness is a state of mind and as 2010 approaches there is no reason why it can’t be the best year ever for everyone. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!!!