The quest to change lives and careers

James Gray Cal Berkeley Stadium

All of us are on some type of journey in life although we may not have consciously defined it.  A few recent events and conversations with friends have helped define my quest to change lives and careers.

In 2008 I started to challenge the status quo at Microsoft that career strategy was more than just who we are at work. I saw a need to help fellow colleagues answer important career questions and inspire managers to see that talent management was the single most important process to business success.   I had no idea where that passion would take me but it has become a big part of who I am today.

Over the years I would run career workshops, meet with people for lunch and speak at events to inspire fellow colleagues to take control of their career and life.  My journey to help others changed forever on October 23, 2013 when a fellow Microsoft colleague stopped by to talk at the Microsoft Global Women’s Conference where I spoke about the Career Strategy Framework.  She told me that it was a presentation I gave earlier in the year that helped save her life.  I was taken back and it has inspired me to continue my quest.

A few months ago I had dinner with a college friend that I had not seen in 25 years.  We caught up on friends and life over those years and at the end of dinner she curiously asked me if I was some type of career or inspirational speaker.  I said it was a hobby outside my normal job.  She kept on challenging me why I was not pursuing this more formally.  I found I did not have any good answers other than it was not something that I set out to do.   She challenged me to think differently and the potential impact I would have helping others.

A few weeks ago I had lunch with a Microsoft colleague who attended one of my first workshops in 2012.  She was one of the first people who had been pushing me to write a book but with the demands of life I could never mobilize myself to do that.  I joked with her that when I do an event out-of-town I tweet that I am making another stop on my world tour.  She asked me “how many stops are you making to what cities” ?  Again, I had no answers and it was more of something I did when opportunity knocked.

Following our lunch she sent me an email with a link to Chris Guillebeau’s book “The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life“.   The book helped me confirm that I have been on a journey for many years and by formalizing this project into a quest would make it that much more real.

During the Thanksgiving break I retraced my schedule over the last few years and found over 50 events and interactions with people talking about the concepts of the Career Strategy Framework.  I guess I had been on a journey for quite some time without really realizing it.  The passing of my parents last September was a reminder that life is not forever and it’s the people we touch that is the greatest gift of all.  I must get on with this quest.

 

As I gave it more thought how to define the quest I decided to pick a certain number of people who I would touch with my message through speaking events and community forums.  What would make it a tangible quest ?

My mind has been filled with excitement about returning to Berkeley to pursue a Master of Information and Data Science at the School of Information over the next 20 months.    I decided that my quest would be to speak, run workshops and engage with communities of people to fill the equivalent of 63,000 fans in California Memorial Stadium.  Wow, that is a lot of people given that conservatively I have connected with approximately 3,000 people in person.

Along the way I will see how I can use data science capabilities to help people realize true happiness in the one life we live.  Surely there are methods to use all of this ubiquitous data and algorithmic models to make predictions that automatically guide behaviors to realize our intended definition of happiness.  Life is too short to arrive at a destination that does not align with your idea of happiness and success.  I am also intrigued how to optimize human talent across a 100K person company such as Microsoft by aligning personal careers with the dynamic market for talent.

I can finally see it – a quest to touch 63,000 people.  I have no idea how I will do it but it will have fun on this world tour.

Over the last few weeks I have received multiple email requests to speak and run workshops at other Microsoft events.   It’s very challenging to make time in my schedule but I am inspired by a potential life that I saved in 2013 and how this person is living a happier life with a new spouse.

My curiosity has become a responsibility and not a hobby anymore.  What people don’t really understand is that I become a better person as result of this work and my life is more fulfilling as I hold myself accountable to what I preach.  I get to meet new people and learn so much from them.   One of the best gifts we can give in life is to share best practices and help others live a great life because it’s not forever. Helping each other raises the tide for everybody but it requires us all to think about how we can make others great instead of just ourselves.

The goal at the end of my journey is a book that I can give to my kids on what I learned through life as person, husband, father and leader to make others great.  If they are the only people who read my book that is just fine!

The are less days ahead than behind so it’s a quest I must complete.  Five new stops are now on my journey to 63K.   What quest will you start in 2015 ?