Seizing the Opportunity

While at dinner one night, a colleague and I were talking about our careers. He made a comment that although he loved his job, he really doesn’t know where his career is going. I told him that for most of my career I never knew where mine was going either. I went “with the flow” and seized every opportunity I could to take on more responsibility. I never said no to a new task or project. This conversation reminded me of one particular moment that ended up shaping where I am today in my career.

In 2010, I was an accountant with a local community based nonprofit mental health agency. At that time, Information Technology (IT) fell under the CFO. We were implementing a technology infrastructure through an outsourced IT vender. Our CFO asked me if I would take the new IT vendor to our sites to complete an assessment. This task would not normally fall under that of an accountant but of course I jumped at the opportunity to interface with an outside vendor. I accompanied the owner of the company and one of his technicians to evaluate all of the sites. The owner, technician and I developed an instant rapport and I enjoyed learning more about technology. A few days later, the project manager from our new IT vendor called me to discuss the implementation of our new technology infrastructure. The owner requested she call me and she assumed I was our internal project manager taking the lead on the implementation. This discussion was a defining career moment that I will never forget.  At that time, I had not been asked by the CFO to lead or even coordinate the implementation of this project.  The project manager asked me a question and I had a few seconds to make a decision. I quickly contemplated whether or not I wanted to take the lead and work with this IT implementation or respond “Sorry you need to contact the CFO.” I was already managing a full work load and was not confident that I could fit in this pivotal implementation. Like many non-profit agencies at this time, we had very little technology – there were staff members who did not have e-mail or exposure to Microsoft Office. By taking the lead, I would essentially be placing my reputation on the line and coordinate the training of agency staff.   This contemplation caused both anxiety of being successful and excitement of learning something new – a career building task. Did I want to let this fleeting opportunity pass me by? Before another moment passed, I was made the decision to proceed with the phone call.

What seemed like a simple decision to some who would have passed off the call to the CFO believing “I do not have time for this” or “this isn’t my job” turned into an opportunity that led to various career promotions and my confidence to become a founding partner at PragSpective Business Advisors. The knowledge I gained learning about IT infrastructures has served me well. My educational background to this point had been in accounting. I would have lost this career building opportunity if I had said no.   This experience taught me more about technology then I could ever learn in a traditional classroom.

Several years after this implementation, I was looking for a new job opportunity and was offered a position with this IT vendor which I accepted. I would not have been offered this job opportunity if I would not have accepted the IT implementation.  After a little over a year at this IT vendor, I was recruited back to the nonprofit agency as the Chief Compliance and IT Officer. When the opportunity to become the Chief Financial and IT Officer became available, I quickly seized that opportunity. After returning and spending an additional four years at this non-profit, my business partner at PragSpective Business Advisors, Peter Briden, who was the owner of the IT vendor PC Network Services that I worked so closely with so many years ago on that IT Implementation came to me with this business idea. If I had said no to the IT implementation, I would have never met Peter and we would not be in business together today.

The moral of this story, and what I relayed to my colleague, is to seize every opportunity you get at work to make a difference, take on more responsibility, and learn more. You never know what opportunities will come out of it. Do not sit back and let additional work or projects pass you by – take ownership of your career. You will be rewarded for your efforts. I am living proof of this.