Consulting has been a career choice for me since 1990. I had no idea what I was getting into when I made that choice. I was fresh from university studying business and working at an incentive marketing firm when I met the owners of the consulting firm I started my career with. In the various full and part-time jobs leading up to this point I had discovered I had an aptitude for technology and the owners saw some of my potential and offered me an opportunity that changed my life.
The firm I started with employed 7 people. During those early years, it was easier to take big risks on unproven technology platforms, more bleeding edge than leading edge some days. As my knowledge grew, my passion and thirst for more experiences grew. Consulting quickly turned into the best feeding ground for my brain. It fed my creativity and desire to solve puzzles. Everything is a puzzle, how do you make this system talk to that system, how do you improve a business process, how do you find value in the data being captured, and the list goes on.
As my knowledge expanded and my career grew and the company I started with grew I found many successes and of course some failures. I discovered I mostly enjoyed designing solutions that were about making things better for businesses and people. There would be no business without people and getting the buy-in of affected people was critical to the success of any project. Many people are resistant to change and sometimes cannot or will not see the value of a solution begin implemented. It is important as a consultant that this resistance is managed through communication, both listening and coaching. I was thankful for my business education as it created a strong foundation that allows me to create a bridge of understanding between business and technology.
One of the most stressful times during my career was when the first firm I started with was bought by a large organization. At this point we were over 100 people and were merged with several other small consulting firms into this larger organization with offices in several locations around the world. It was a culture shock to say the least. It was very political and had a culture that did not put the value of their people at the top of their priorities. There were many layoffs that were poorly handled such as letting go an entire team by cell phone just before Christmas. By this point I had worked with many different clients of varying sizes and industries and saw many different organizational cultures, some positive and some negative. But to see such a negative culture in the very organization I worked for reinforced my belief that to be successful you needed a positive organizational culture. Within 2 years I had left this organization just before they were bought by another even larger organization who practically decimated much of the management. At this point I went to work for a global firm in the insurance industry for 2 years. During that time I was evaluating what I wanted to do next in my career. I had discovered by the end of those 2 years that working in one industry just wasn’t for me in the long term. I needed to keep expanding my knowledge not just in technology but in different businesses and industries. I also desired the flexibility and less structured culture of a smaller organization. Thus my return to consulting in 2004.
I work in a small firm again with people I value and trust. Some of whom I’ve worked with before. We have the same fundamental beliefs. Our success is based on our clients’ successes. That it’s not just about the technology but also about being that trusted consultant in helping our clients discover new ways of doing business. It’s exciting to work with intelligent driven people and on interesting projects. It’s stimulating to be able to learn new businesses and their cultures and processes.
I have met a lot of fascinating and some challenging people along the way. I’ve worked with an amazing array of companies in almost every industry you can imagine. I’ve travelled to some interesting locations such as Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, England and all across Canada and the U.S. There was a time when I travelled so frequently that I lost the desire to travel abroad for vacations. In late September 2013 my desire to travel abroad returned and in the past 6 months have braved flying again and visited southern Ireland for 2 weeks and taken a week long cruise around the Caribbean in March 2014. I am already planning my next vacations, a trip to Scotland and a cruise through the Grenadine Islands on a sailing ship.
Consulting is a journey of life experiences full of ups and downs and twists and turns. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always fun, but it was and is after nearly 25 years still challenging and creatively satisfying.
We hope you have found this edition of “To The Point” by Jan Crowe to be helpful and informative. Look out for our next installment as we continue to explore unique topics from business to the latest technology.
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