The following is the transcript of a talk given on September 13, 2017 for the Women’s Leadership Network at Slalom LLC.
I want to talk about how to design your life.
And I’d like to do it by drawing a picture of my career…so far.
Many people I know have had careers that look like this:
They entered college without necessarily having a career destination in mind.
But they explored some options and ultimately pick a major.
Which led them to their first job…and then another...
And ultimately they developed an expertise that took them deeper inside an industry or a company.
I refer to this as the CONVERGENT career model.
And it’s completely respectable!
Only recently did I realize that my career has been THE EXACT INVERSE.
It looks like this! This is the DIVERGENT career model.
And the weird thing is, I don’t think it has a top to it!
It all started when I was 12 and decided I wanted to be an architect.
And I became an architect.
But after 7 years of school, 2 degrees, 8 years of practice, and a professional license something unexpected happened on the way to “the rest-of-my-life-as-an-architect”.
In a nutshell, I realized there were other kinds of problems I wanted to solve.
So I made the FIRST OF THREE CAREER PIVOTS
And after all the investment I had made to become an architect, this one was the hardest.
The first one always is.
I left architecture to go to business school – and to go into debt with no clear career options in front of me.
But I was on a mission to better integrate design and business, whatever that meant.
I landed in product development and the innovation space – first with a boutique management consulting firm and then with design consultancy IDEO, where I stayed for almost 10 years.
But I began to wonder why most of the innovations we envisioned never made it out into the world.
And this led to my SECOND CAREER PIVOT - also difficult because I was essentially leaving my dream job.
My goal was to get out of consulting and being on the outside, and go inside of organizations to understand the innovation process from that vantage point.
Over 8 more years I worked in a wide range of organizations: a nonprofit, a professional services firm, and an enterprise software company among them.
And ultimately these experiences led to my THIRD AND MOST RECENT PIVOT, which is focused on the interpersonal dynamics associated with the creative process – specifically how to develop individuals and teams to perform better together.
Last year I augmented my skillset with a degree in mediation and conflict resolution and am in the middle of training to be an executive coach, while also fulfilling another professional goal of designing and teaching a college level course for designers on communication skills.
I led off by saying this talk would be about “designing your life”.
The point being that you should have a purpose to whatever it is that you do, and that career paths can take many twists and turns in pursuit of that purpose.
To paraphrase Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, two Stanford professors who wrote the fabulous book called Designing Your Life –
“We don’t stop designing our life until……we die.”