Last week, I was in Silicon Valley and had the opportunity to have a beer with Ross Mayfield from Socialtext.  We had a great chat, and it reminded me that I hadn't yet written a blog posting about my recent career transition and how I got here.

Yes, I really did open a fortune cookie earlier this year that said, "You will receive a promotion in recognition of your accomplishments".  However, it was not exactly the endorsement needed to bring to my management team.  Instead, I spent the last eight months on a journey to decide 1) that I was ready to do something new and 2) what the right role was going to be for me.... and then had the fortune to be ready when opportunity arrived.  Results, serendipity, and sponsorship all played a role...in some ways a confluence of factors came together at just the right time.  I am very grateful that it happened that way, but I also would not have gotten here without a lot of support and encouragement.

My objective in writing this post is to highlight what I learned along the way.  

The biggest surprise of this journey for me was how incredibly willing people in my network were/are to have career-related conversations.  I learned that, while sometimes in life those conversations will come to you, this time it was up to me to decide when and what I was ready for.  When I started asking for advice, I got it -- in spades.  But the lesson learned was I had to ask.

Each of us has a large network of business acquaintances, people we've met a few times (live or virtually) but never really sat down and had a beer (or a coffee) with.  Eight months ago, I started asking some of those people in my network -- IBMers, industry analysts, executives at other companies -- what I should be thinking about for my future.  Starting those conversations was the biggest self-actualization moment of the journey.   In fact, it was a beer with Ross while at Lotusphere Comes to You in San Francisco that helped me get out of passive mode and start the conversations about where I wanted to take my career next.  

For most of my prior job changes, I found that new roles came to me, whether I was looking or not.  This time, after more than three years leading sales for Notes, it was up to me.  When I asked networking contacts the question of "what do you think I should do next?", it was like the floodgates opened -- a lot of people were ready and quite willing to have such conversations.  I am eternally grateful to a huge number of people in my network -- in addition to all my IBM friends and many of you in the community, people such as Ross, Jeff Nolan, Michael Krauss, Andy Sernovitz, Paul Rand, and others who basically dropped everything to spend 30 minutes talking with me. (Update: I neglected to mention numerous industry analysts who were also a huge help).

I am watching a few people go through job searches and career moves today, and the thoughts behind this blog entry played out before my eyes.  Over the weekend, someone asked me for a LinkedIn endorsement.  While I didn't exactly have a lot of spare time in my schedule today, I found the few minutes to write something.  After all, what I learned was that a few minutes of someone else's time made a big difference in my career -- and I enjoy helping make that difference as well.  When you take the proactive, active stance of deciding to own your future, anything is possible.  I encourage you to give some thought to where you are going, how you want to get there, and most importantly -- who are the people who are ready to help you.

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