The Cab Ride–Part 6

Back in July, Gill Rowley (blog | twitter) blogged about the year that had unfolded for four folks who happened to share a cab back to the airport after Summit — one of those four being yours truly.  Looking back on it, it has been one heck of a year.  Erin, Gill, and I each changed jobs (Erin and Gill’s announcements).  Jes changed jobs twice (first to Blue Door Consulting and then to Brent Ozar PLF).  I had thought Jes was just the outlier (if you’ve met Jes, you definitely know she’s a recipe-wielding, marathon-running, coffee-guzzling, SQL-sharpening outlier) of the group, but that has not proved to be the case.

In January of this year I joined Autodesk, a software company primarily known for engineering products like AutoCAD.  It was an amazing opportunity, and it came with a hefty pay increase and some of the best fringe benefits I’ve seen in Michigan.  Alas, though, it was not meant to be.  Within a few months, my department had taken on a new direction – a completely different RDBMS — and I was left with a really tough choice to make:  follow the direction and continue my career there, or begin looking for other options.

Recently, I saw Buck Woody (LinkedIn | Twitter) live-tweeting some professional development advice from a seminar he was giving at the University of Washington.  One of the things he mentioned was having goals for your career.  It reminded me of one of my favorite presentations from the 2010 PASS Summit.  Buck gave a lightning talk entitled “Your career is your fault”.”  At the time, it caused me to examine my job performance and my attitude toward my job and take some action, but I fell short of really putting thought into where I wanted my career to go.  Once I figured out what my goals were, the choice I had to make was pretty clear – even if it meant leaving a pretty amazing place.

When I formulated my career goals I had a couple of things in mind.  First, I wanted to be somewhere I could learn a lot and share that learning with others.  Second, I wanted to be in one of two positions:  either working toward a leadership position or working as a consultant.  Both of those options ended up available to me.  I had to do a lot of soul searching and discussing with my family, and finally we came to the decision that the travel demands of the consulting life while the kids were still so young (5 and 9) would put too much stress on us all.  I did something I never thought I would do:  I declined an offer from an amazing company, working with people whose names are instantly recognizable in the community. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that I accepted an offer to work at a local company (Plex Systems) with some amazing people who are relative unknowns in the national community, but where I will feel like Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic with all the heavy knowledge that’s going to be downloaded to my brain.  There are also opportunities for leadership positions there, so I’ll have plenty to keep me busy and some opportunities for growth.  For now, at least, I have postponed living the glamorous life of a consultant in order to lead the fulfilling life of a family man.

I really want to thank Buck Woody, though.  His lightning talk came at a pivotal point for me and really connected.  I’ve carried that tagline – “Your career is your fault” – since then and try to revisit it occasionally to see if I feel like I should be praised for my career so far, or blamed for it….either way it’s my fault after all.  If you’re not thinking about your career that way, as something you plan instead of something that simply unfolds, I would encourage you to start.  Maybe you’ll be an outlier, too!