Taking the next leap in your career is never easy, but it helps to do it with the support of a great team.
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I decided to leave Undercurrent before it was acquired, but had a front row seat for its tragic demise while I stayed on as a contractor. During this same time I was trying to figure out the next step in my own career. I knew that in its pivot toward 21st century organizational design, Undercurrent had found a line of work with revolutionary potential. We saw a groundswell of change within organizations who were shaping the future, and we were beginning to create that change inside the clients we worked with. It was intoxicating work, and I knew that I wanted to stay on this frontier.
When I started talking to other companies and business leaders about this work I discovered just how new it really is. Even within companies that most people would identify as iconic 21st organizations, this new way of working was happening mostly by instinct rather than by design. To the extent that anyone in a leadership position at these companies had the responsibility (and authority) to think about the systemic aspects of how their company operated, those leaders more often than not were attempting to impose more traditional models, with the assumption that the classic models of the 20th century remained the only valid option for managing complexity at scale.
Even when leaders of these companies recognized that there had to be a better way, they still lacked the internal cultural buy-in (and sometimes board support) to take this change seriously enough to have a leadership position that was solely focused on it. Today, there is no established mental model for what exactly this work is (the work of how we work), where it lives in the organization (everywhere), or who’s responsible for it (everyone).
So after many great discussions with leaders and companies that I truly admired, I decided that if I wanted to be in a leadership role that lived on the forefront of this revolution, I would have to wait a bit longer for the right opportunity to present itself.
Cut to July 31, 2015. Due to Quirky’s financial difficulties, and an acquisition gone very wrong, Undercurrent and its incredible team was suddenly dissolved. And, even worse, the firm was shut down just as it had zeroed in on its best growth ever.
For all of us, the question “What would you do if you could start all over with a blank slate?” went from philosophical to inspirational overnight.
We all look at the world through our own lens. So, inevitably we were each going to answer that invitation in a different way. Personally, I’ve always been most motivated by feeling like part of a team. I like coming to work to spend time with people I trust, admire, and enjoy being around. And I’m motivated by an ambition to be part of something bigger than myself that can make a lasting positive change in our world. Looking at my options through those lenses led me to band together with some of my most trusted colleagues, who I felt would be best suited to pursue this purpose together, and to have fun doing it.
When I was just beginning my professional career I had a small epiphany that the quality of the career you create for yourself depends much more on whether or not you feel fulfilled by what you do along the way than it does on whether or not you know where you’re going.
Today, I have a much clearer sense of where I want to go, but I also know that the path to get there is even more uncertain than I could have imagined. So, I’m trusting that my travel mates, the like-minded friends we’ll meet along the way, and our shared mission will be enough to keep me fulfilled along the way.