toward a satisfying future
By Beth Barela
or the past two decades, I have been fortunate to enjoy an exciting career in IT infrastructure in the Denver area. I have held a variety of technology jobs during those years and today I operate my own consulting firm.
In recent years, however, I was compelled to reexamine my career options and chart my next “five-year plan.” That’s why I joined the Denver IT Executive Focus Group. DITEX is a support group that helps technology executives find new opportunities.
I started my career as an accounting clerk at US West, then moved to a computer operator position in the company’s Denver data center. In the years that followed, I served in numerous IT infrastructure and applications roles before I was recruited as a director responsible for five large scale corporate mainframe and midrange data centers.
I gained valuable experience leading a team of excellent technicians. Later, I joined TriZetto, a healthcare hosting company, where I led teams at one of the fastest growing data centers in Denver. After a promotion to Vice President of IT Infrastructure, my responsibilities widened to include overall business management.
In 2009, I struck out on my own and started WWC Ltd., a consulting firm focusing on infrastructure strategy and effectiveness, as well as leadership and team-building. Creating my own firm had been a longtime dream. It has given me the opportunity to serve numerous customers in Denver, Chicago, and San Diego.
I joined DITEX to expand my network in the Denver IT community and to assess the future. After five years running my own company, I was ready to reexamine what lay ahead. I was open to continuing the development of my consulting business, or perhaps to moving back into an IT Infrastructure leadership role for a technology company. But I needed a wider viewpoint to determine my options.
Everyone has a different process for exploring career changes and new directions. But for me, here are the three most important lessons I learned during my time with DITEX.
What happens in 'Vagueness' stays in 'Vagueness'
When I joined DITEX, I was open to a number of different career paths – returning to a permanent position in corporate America, continuing my current work with IT Infrastructure projects, or even a contract-to-hire position. But as opportunities flowed to me through the generosity of fellow members and hosts, I became very picky about what I really wanted to do. When I looked at leadership positions recommended to me, I kept finding reasons why this company or that company was not the right one for me. None of the opportunities was quite right.
Eventually, I realized they were not right because I simply didn’t know what I wanted. I had a story for each week’s elevator pitch, but I didn’t have the conviction to follow through when the opportunity arose. I had to examine what I wanted to do with the next five years, not just settle for something I would not enjoy.
I examined what excited me about my work. I recognized the satisfaction I derived from projects like a data center migration or implementing an incident management plan. While providing these services, I built lasting relationships with team members, which improved my ability to help them identify and attain their career goals. Once I knew what I wanted to do, the opportunities started flowing my way. I am currently providing guidance for a data center relocation, as well as providing organizational development with a local team of educators.
Pay it forward really works in the Denver IT community
When I joined DITEX, I was skeptical of the willingness of high-level, competitive leaders to share freely and openly. I was surprised, however, by how eagerly many of the members did all they could to help their peers. It was easy for me to join in, based on who I am and the models who were presented to me by members who preceded me. The more I offered my own insights, or shared opportunities that I had discovered, the more I received the same treatment from others. It was also rewarding to help others with their own “vagueness” issues.
'The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off' — Gloria Steinem
As our careers progress, particularly as we rise through the ranks, honest feedback becomes scarcer. When pursuing a new position -- often competing with other intelligent, experienced people vying for a limited number of posts – some of that honesty returns during interviews, networking and coaching. Hearing that feedback or advice for the first time can be harder to take than you expected. Once your discomfort subsides, however, you will find it to be one of the most useful experiences you can have.
As a result of my experiences with the group, I have refocused my consulting company with new enthusiasm. I am also now an addict of the “pay it forward strategy” and a firm believer in the law of attraction. I continue to actively participate in several groups that promote getting more women in technology.
If I can do anything to help you in your current search for a new job, a new level of effectiveness, or a new approach to your job, please let me know. Connect with me on LinkedIn or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.