Caution… rambling brain dump ahead….
I’m a month or so into my new job as a manager, and I’m finding out a few things about myself in this new position. I’m managing a somewhat large staff, over a dozen people, and it requires a lot or organizational and time management skills. So far I haven’t been fired nor as my staff formed a mutiny; in fact I’ve been getting a lot of compliments. Before I talk about what I’m learning about myself I want to give a bit of background.
A couple of years ago I was approaching the point in my technology career where I could tell I wasn’t able to keep up with the young guys who were totally immersed in new technologies. Nor was I a hardcore computer science person whose passion for the field would push me to more and more technical heights. I fell into technology because I had a knack for it, and it was a great career field to get into in the mid 90’s. For the past twenty years I’ve been slowly working my way up the ranks of the profession, but about 5-7 years ago I realized that my skills were starting to max out, so I moved over into the area of IT Architecture.
As an architect I had responsibilities for helping design and guide the building of systems, which worked well for me. I still had a lot of technical knowledge, and am a very good communicator. I continued to move up through the architecture ranks until I was an Enterprise Architect, which specializes in high level design, and in particular, how it relates to the business.
A few years ago however, I started to look back at my career, and realized something. No matter what field I was entering into, whether my original career path of being a pastor, or my time spent working photo retail, or my two decades career in information technology, I always sought after being the one in charge. My IT career actually started in management, before I backed off into being more technical for many years. I started to think that maybe my career goals weren’t so much about any particular area, but were more about leading and managing situations and organizations.
With this in mind, I decided to enroll in a Graduate Certificate in Leadership at an online school, and completed that coursework at the end of 2014. My current job is the first management job I’ve had since completing the certificate, and so I am thankful for the boost that it gave me in getting to my current position. That brings me back to what I feel that I’ve learned about myself in the past month or so, as well as reflecting on my entire career, going back to even high school jobs.
In my current job I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on what I’m doing. I’m presenting good ideas and finding positive ways to execute them. In my short time at this position I’ve been told multiple times that people are happy that I am there, and that they feel I am making a difference. From my perspective, I’m finding that the work I’m doing is, dare I say it… easy. I’m not saying that my days are not long, busy, or filled with challenges, but I’m finding that I am able to perform what I need to do with a lot of ‘ease’. I’m comfortable leading these teams, and I have found myself able to deal with the chaos without a ton of stress. I feel like I’m very capable in the role I’m performing, and that feeling is a really nice one to have.
This has also gotten me thinking about my life and career overall. If I’ve always been seeking leadership, then perhaps my abilities aren’t so much about a specific field, but more about being able to learn a field and then bring structure and guidance to that field. One of the things that I’ve always lamented in my life is the fact that I’m not a very talented creator. I’ve tried my hand at a lot of creative endeavors, including photography and music, and despite being able to maintain a certain level of competence, I’m not that talented in those areas.
I look at a particular friend of mine who is a very gifted creator type. Despite being the one to give this person some of their initial lessons on photography (f-stops and shutter speeds mostly), their raw talent surpassed mine within weeks of them taking up a camera. They were able to take my decades of knowledge on how photography works, and almost immediately combine it with their creative eye to create stunning works of art. They can also play circles around me musically, and let’s not even start to talk about drawing or graphic design.
I don’t have the raw talent to be able to compete with people like that. Perhaps I could keep up with authors, as I do seem to be able to write quite well, but the visual and auditory arts are challenge for me. Part of me grieves the realization that I’ll never be the creator-type person that I thought I could be growing up. There’s a sadness when you realize that perhaps you never had the capabilities that you once thought you had.
Yet, with this realization I’ve come to understand other things about myself. These thoughts are things that I’ve thought in the past, but my current job has brought them to the front of my mind, making them much clearer. Despite loving a lot of the creative arts, I could have been focusing more on being a producer and director of those arts. I’ve always loved giving constructive feedback to artists about their work, and sometimes when talking with them, I think to myself how I would love to help them really shine and grow in their talents.
My current job situation has shown me that my real talents lie in being a leader; being the organizing and guiding presence for people to help them achieve what needs to get done. It’s also made me realize that my abilities could apply to a lot of different areas beyond technology as well. As I consider my life in the future, when kids are grown and gone, I feel like I have a lot more options now, either as a vocation or as an avocation, because I understand what I truly bring to the table.