I've been talking quietly for some time with personal friends and mostly with my wife about an impending career change for me. It's been several years coming – and it has taken several years to reach this decision. So, let me explain.
When one turns 50, there is a tendency to go back and assess the quality of one's life (read Seasons of a Man's Life by Daniel Levinson). You look back on things you've done wrong and right, people you have helped and hurt as well as the successes and failures you've experienced. You'll want to take some parts of your life and build on them in the future. Other parts need to be discarded and new parts need to be grown. It's a process that if truncated, will leave a person hollow and void. You begin to realize that your time on earth is limited. You realize that you're not a young person anymore and that it's time to focus on significance rather than success.
This is the journey I've been travelling. It's been both enjoyable and frustrating. There is risk in changing careers. There is even more risk in not growing and changing. Perhaps you saw my announcement earlier about attending Notre Dame for their Executive MBA program. This is part of the risk-taking and part of a larger decision to change careers. I decided to move into business leadership and for now, to further my efforts at business ownership for several reasons:
- I am very tired of travelling and it was evident that my family needed me at home. I missed both of them taking their first steps because I was on the road. I've missed birthday parties, holding them when they are sick, attending sporting events and plays. Missed a lot of it for a business. It's time to change.
- I'm burned out on writing books. I'm working with Ben Curry (who is shouldering the major share of the work) on the next Best Practices book for SharePoint 2010. I wrote two chapters for this book and it about killed me. In the past, I could have cranked out two chapters in about 3 weeks. I had stamina. I had endurance. I had ideas. I had what it took to write good material consistently. But I've run out of whatever it is that I had in years past. I simply don't have anything left inside me to keep writing and to do another book. So this SharePoint 2010 Best Practices book will be my last technical book.
- I really want to be home with Kathy. I love my wife. I want to be with her. So getting off the road makes a lot of sense.
- I honestly believe this is what God wants me to do.
Over the last few years, I've realized that I need a solid vocational or professional plan for the next 30 years. I need a set of skills that will be in demand for as long as I'm able to work that I can deliver on consistently while growing professionally. Being a technologist simply doesn't meet these criteria. I don't want to be 70 years old and having to learn another version of a software product, spending countless hours reading technical white papers and writing books. No thanks. In addition, I hope to work until I'm 80 – another 30 years. I'm positive that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will not be there for me or for anyone else. Those programs will be bankrupt or the benefits so watered down that they will have little real positive effect in my life. So, I feel that I need to set myself up to work for another 30 years so that I can pay for at least some of the bills I'm sure to receive. Besides, I want to be productive and relevant for as long as possible. Moving into business leadership and then, over time, mentoring others in business ownership and leadership is something I can do well into my 70's and I think I would enjoy it. Business leadership seems to be a career path that makes more sense than teaching technology. Moreover, moving into business leadership is about getting into a career where I can focus on several areas outside of technology that I'm interested in. Learning how to successfully turn around failing businesses is one of those foci for me. I'd like to grow to the point where a failing business can be entrusted to me to get turned around and be made profitable again.
So at the Mindsharp company meetings in January of this year, I defined my role as having four foci:
My job now is to manage and grow Mindsharp. My job is not to know the technology or teach classes. My job is to entrust the technical parts of our business to Todd and Brian and have them ensure that we remain at the forefront of technical leadership in the SharePoint community. My focus is on ensuring our company is following a clearly defined strategy, that we're growing our products and services, that I reduce our exposure to liability and that our finances are manages as well as possible. I'll continue to have an interest in SharePoint and to the extent that conferences or user groups will have me come and speak, I'd enjoy doing that. I'll be applying what I'm learning in the MBA program to the business aspects of a SharePoint deployment, so I'll be able to add value to SharePoint consultants and deployments. But my value will now come from the business side, not the technical side.
So, that's my story. I'm changing careers, but I'm not changing employers or industries. You'll find my blog will be focused on the business layer and may, at times, not even be focused on SharePoint. As I've come to realize, I've learned more about SharePoint by reading the Harvard Business Review and taking certifications at AIIM than I have learned from reading white papers published by Microsoft. SharePoint customer's pain points are not about the technology anymore. It's about the proper use of the technology in their environments. Customers need to connect the technology to their business needs and culture. That's the real rub. And I hope to be active in that space moving forward.
I've made a number of great friends over the years in the SharePoint community. I hope to continue those relationships for the rest of my life. You'll still see me at conferences, so this isn't "good-bye". It's just an explanation that needed to be made public. Thanks for listening. Take care and God bless.
Bill English, CEO