Managing director, Solutia SDO, a Canadian technology consulting firm focusing on data and digital transformation
I was in Tel Aviv on vacation a number of years ago with my wife and was so inspired by the city. It’s miles away from all of the major business centres, yet it transformed itself into one of the hottest startup hubs in the world. It is the David who is showing the well-financed Goliaths what innovation is all about.
Surrounded by all these risk-takers, with their can-do spirit, made me question my career and reflect on whether I still had the skills to thrive in the digital era.
I spent 20 years in banking. And, while I expected economic cycles, I did not anticipate two key global events: the financial crisis (no ordinary cycle) and the digital revolution.
This disruptive change pushed banks to accelerate their efforts to become digital-based companies and demanded new employee skills. I knew I had to sprint to the next chapter or risk being left behind.
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau echoed my sentiments two years ago when he shared the government’s outlook describing a future of job churn and job loss owing to automation. Royal Bank of Canada further drove home reality with its report titled Humans Wanted: How Canadian Youth Can Thrive in the Age of Disruption. It projected Canada will add 2.4 million new jobs to its economy by 2021.
But these opportunities would require a new type of worker with skills mobility, or in other words, digitally literate with strong business skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.
My challenge: I needed to take the business skills I had developed over the past 20 years (sales, strategy, operations and marketing) and blend them with new skills that would help me stay competitive (data, digital applications). My goal was to move into digital data transformation. This would be a big leap in my career and would require the “anything is possible" attitude I saw from entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv.
A year on, I am proud to say I have successfully made the transition. For others contemplating a career change in the new year, here is what I have learned.
Deciding what you want is not easy. You start to ask yourself questions such as, where can I thrive and spend the next decade growing my professional skills? What are my core strengths to support this new leap? To help me answer these important questions, I turned to my most trusted colleagues for their feedback on my strengths.
Create a personal board
I started flipping through my contact list to see who I could approach about being part of my “personal board," a group of trusted advisers who knew me well and who I could call on to provide solid, sound advice. My personal board was a bit a motley crew: one of the original Oracle employees, an advertising executive, an entrepreneur who owns a cloud computing company and a venture capitalist who has storied history in Canadian politics. But they had one thing in common: They had reinvented themselves and gave me similar advice. Take the opportunity now to apply your experience and skills in a sector where you can grow for the next 20 years. And they did not sugarcoat the challenges. Each said it would be one of the hardest challenges I would face, but it would be worth it. There were days when I fought the temptation of falling back into my old world. My personal board helped me focus on the future.
Curate a strong support network
I set out to expand my network to include people who have curiosity, drive and hustle – people from whom I could not only learn, but also have fun, celebrate successes and overcome challenges. I set myself a personal goal of expanding this network each and every day, no matter how small.
Develop a personal brand to get hired
Once I articulated my new career goals, my next step was to reach out to the decision makers who could hire me. Whether it was face to face or via LinkedIn, I kept reminding myself that I was not defined by a job but the value and expertise I could provide. I summed this up succinctly in a 30-second “elevator speech.” I used my LinkedIn page as my platform to amplify the value I could provide, clearly outlining related experience and achievements with samples of my work.
Today, I am running a fast-growing data and digital management business, and I have an expanding network of friends and business associates who share the same goals: to grow, learn, celebrate successes and have fun in a fast-paced, technology-driven world.
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