Dean Homer Erekson at my alma mater, The Neeley Business School, asked several alums to contribute to a collection titled Major Moments for its 75th anniversary. I was honored to be invited and contributed below – I wrote it last year before my new book was out.
“I have had several mentors and major moments in my career, but the one I give most credit to is “Lady Serendipity” for what happened in October 1983.
I graduated with an MBA from Neeley in the summer of 1980, and went to work in the Fort Worth office of Price Waterhouse. Three years later, I had just received my first promotion, but I was restless.
I did not really enjoy being a CPA, and noticed an opening published in the firm’s newsletter. They were looking for staff in the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia office. Not a plum expatriate assignment by any definition…and the region was about to get very dangerous.
As I was getting to Saudi, the U.S. Marines’ barrack was bombed in Lebanon, and the Iran-Iraq war started soon after. Because the assignment was considered a “hardship,” we were allowed to leave the country every three months. It gave me a chance to see the world, and I have been to 40 countries.
Going to Saudi in 1983 was a major moment, because it honed my curiosity “antennae”.
Building on experience
My two-and-a-half years in Saudi Arabia allowed me to diversify my skill sets in a small office. I was allowed to work on technology projects I would never have done in a U.S. office.
I came back to the Dallas office, but jumped at the opportunity to go back to another assignment in Saudi. From there I spent two years in London (where I also met my Irish wife, who in turn had been to 30 countries on her own) and the Netherlands. My passport kept filling up.
From Price Waterhouse, I moved on to Gartner, an IT research firm, and then was an entrepreneur in a dot.com that failed.
The last five years I have been a technology strategy consultant. I also write two technology blogs, which has allowed me to write a well-received book on technology- enabled innovation, The New Polymath.
While the career has meandered, and the start-up challenged the family’s financial foundations during the technology meltdown of 2001-2003, each of these moves has brought a new set of industry contacts.
People are amazed when they hear I wrote my book -- which has interviews and profiles of over 150 innovators -- in just four months. My wide network allowed me to do so.
-- Take every opportunity to go out and shake as many hands as you can. I am part of every social network you can name -- Facebook, Twitter, Flickr etc. -- but there is nothing like breaking bread with people around the world.
-- Be curious about a wide range of subjects. Polymath, in my book’s title, is Greek for a Renaissance person like Leonardo daVinci or Ben Franklin, who were good at so many things.
-- In today’s society and workplaces, we are encouraged to be specialists. You need to specialize and be very good at what you are doing at that particular time. But…there is no law that says you have to do the same specialty over and over again, in the same exact location.”