I would like to share a story about changes I made along my career. I started out as a control systems engineer doing consulting work on communications satellite tracking stations. The systems I worked on at the time had a real time computer controlling the antenna. That was my first exposure to computers after my university training. I then got more involved with engineering applications of computers in the control of nuclear power stations. I was a assembly language programmer. I develop a language to control the on-power fueling machine which really was a robot controlled by sequences programmed in this language I developed. The next step in my career was going on-site in Trois Riviere to commission the complete fueling machine. A great experience and very successful. I had also had been involved in programming the CRT display systems for the control room. Another first using CRTs instead of conventional instrumentation.
After that I designed to displays systems for the control room for the Bruce Nuclear Power Station. I then took more management responsibility for the real time computer control in the consulting firm. I then decided to evaluate the direction my career was going and make some directional decisions. I had really enjoyed all this technical work but wanted to move on to new challenges.
At this stage I decided that I really wanted to be a consultant more than a manager and decided I needed to become a consultant to management rather than a technical consultant. I considered that the young fellows coming along would be able to run rings around me so I needed to move up the food chain.
At that time a Strategic Planning consultant, a friend of my partner, was looking for an alliance with our firm. We decided I should work with him to learn about his approach and work on creating a new practice for the firm. We formed a Strategic Management Group. We did some really good stuff together but I could not get access to any of our traditional IT clients. I did not understand as I got lots of encouragement about what we were doing. I discovered that my colleagues in the firm thought I was turning my back on our IT consulting practice. I had cut off my support system.
I then made a switch and moved back into our traditional IT practice offering support for IT management issue. Coincidentally I was doing strategic planning services to these clients. It worked out really well for me and the consulting firm.
The lesson I learned was, if you want to alter the direction of your career, do not turn your back on your strengths but build on them to take you in a new direction. If I had taken the approach of offering strategic planning services to the IT community, the transition would be much easier.
Another important lesson is that making a transition creates a great motivator to learn new things. All through my career I have found every client situation was a great learning opportunity and opportunity for personal growth.