February 3, 2017

Personal Re-branding

Posted in Career, spirit tagged , , , , , at 1:06 pm by degyes

Here’s the talk that I gave at Megacomm 2017, as a participant in Reinventing Yourself—Expert Advice on Personal Rebranding and Transitioning, a panel discussion on which I participated along with Nathalie Garson, Charlie Kalech, and Sigal Abbatovi Shamir, and moderated by Sara Halevi Kalech.

On November 13th, I got fired.

It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

No, I didn’t say it was one of the easiest things.

It still isn’t. I’m still adjusting.

So what was so great about getting fired?

What makes you sure I’m not putting you on with overheated self-help hyperbole, or singing kumbaya for my own self-aggrandizement?

The answer is … opportunity.

To do what?

To develop professionally, to have new experiences, and to grow personally too.

Forbes magazine recently asked the question:

How many careers do we get in a lifetime?

The answer is we don’t know because it’s a moving target.

But we do know that for most of us, it’s more than one; likely it’s several.

And we can certainly expect to have more than one job.

So you may be wondering, how many careers has this guy had?

How many jobs have I had?

The answer–in the ultimate sense–is one; one career, one job. And this applies to all of us. Because …

You are the founder and director of You, Inc.

And I’m the founder and director of Me, Inc.

No, you won’t find these companies by searching Google or by looking on LinkedIn.

Because they’re not companies in the conventional sense, of course.

Rather they reflect an attitude, a mindset, or even better, a way of experiencing work, relating to your job, and managing your career.

But what does this really mean?

It means actively seeking out opportunities to do new things, take on new challenges, and grow in ways that you might not have anticipated.

I’ll give you the example I’m most familiar with … myself.

I made Aliya about 25 years ago.

I frankly hadn’t a clue what I was doing.

What was worse, I had hard time admitting that to myself … I certainly couldn’t admit it to others.

I started off teaching English. And then, a couple of years into the Aliya project, I got into hi-tech through technical writing. Some friends teased me that I’d be writing on the back of shampoo bottles. I’m still waiting for that assignment.

After about a year of technical writing, I was told I’d need to learn how to write macros, you know, those programs that automate activities in Word and other tools.

At the time, it was pretty scary. I hadn’t been one of those kids who took quickly to computers when they started appearing all over the place when I was in middle school.

I found a friend to teach me the essential control structures and syntax of BASIC. I got my boss at the time to order some books and reference guides (this was before the Internet had really taken off).

And I learned programming, or at least enough to get myself going on the job.

Eventually, I wrote and published some articles on Word automation, and became rather adept at the programmatic side of MS Office. Without calling it re-invention, I’d had my first taste of what would evolve into a set of adaptive habits that would come in handy throughout my career.

Some years later, at another job at a different company, a product management assignment came up. A whole new set of skills were needed. Another opportunity.

And then, some years later, project management. Followed by technical journalism and newsletter writing. And most recently, training teams in financial compliance, project auditing, and due-diligence procedures.

This last assignment was almost a four-year stint. What was special about it was that it took me WAY out of my comfort zone. Previously, I’d been quite phobic about anything having to do with money. Oh boy, did I have to get over that fear fast. In fact, I had to convey to others a sense of confidence explaining financial policies, processes, and procedures.

What’s the common thread in all this? Does there have to be one?

Not necessarily, though I find that identifying a common thread helps in placing some understanding and awareness around the process that’s going on.  

For me, that thread is communication. That’s my core skill, and the one I always draw upon, and tap into.

What do I mean by communication?

Beyond all the buzzwords, technical terms, tools, technologies, and industry jargon, what I value most is communicating with human beings. Knowing that about myself has been invaluable. But getting there has taken some introspection and soul-searching. It also requires patience and the ability to weather what might appear initially as negative experiences or setbacks.

For you, the core skill might be written communication; or spoken; or maybe it’s a love of technology, finance, product acceleration, information architecture, content design, or user experiences.

But these are really just examples of things that professional communicators do at various points in their careers to learn new things, to expand their skill sets, grow their knowledge base, succeed on the job, or at the next job, or at some point off in the future.

I’ve come to call this the Art of Reinvention. Or, a set of habits that helps you weather storms in your career, turn setbacks into growth opportunities, or simply to keep the faith and see the positive in whatever circumstances you find your job situation.

Embracing reinvention is not necessarily the easiest path.

But I believe it’s the right one.

Because if nothing else, it gives you a chance to tap into the best parts of yourself, to hear the voice that reminds you to remain calm, to draw upon your wellspring of confidence, and to be resilient.

I hope these last few moments have been helpful in some way, or at least provided you with some take-home ideas for things to think about.

I’d anyway be happy for your feedback. And that includes letting me know what you didn’t like about this talk. Maybe you’ll be helping me with my next reinvention assignment!

Thank you all.

January 5, 2017

NDS-Cisco: Moving On

Posted in business networking, NDS-Cisco, Torah tagged , , at 1:34 am by degyes

Miketz, the Torah portion that was read last Shabbat, begins with a dream, and is followed moments later by an abrupt awakening; into the reality of impending famine. Pharaoh is not a particularly noteworthy leader. However, he is able to acknowledge his limitations. He does this by delegating management — in this case, of the Egyptian empire—to Joseph, who for all the imperfections in his family life, is clearly possessed of a Divine spark, and a deep wisdom that affords him a view into the future.

Pharaoh’s dream doesn’t only portend famine; it foretells also a period of abundance. We can learn from Joseph to see the purpose in both—times of scarcity, and times of abundant plenty—and to tap into our deeper wisdom and act with intelligence, so that we can aim to stay —despite external circumstances—in a place of abundance.

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Gathering to bid farewell to me and to friend and colleague Batya Neppe

As Beresheet winds down, and we transition into Shemot a few weeks from now, it’s always with a pinch of sadness that I feel myself saying goodbye to a family story—not always a family without problems—but what’s clearly a series of family narratives in Genesis—as we enter into the wider world of nationhood that we emerge into during Exodus. I experience this latter book as perhaps less personal, but nonetheless a necessary step in growing out of our previous confines.

To borrow a phrase from Cisco management, it is with mixed emotions that I’m talking with you here today. On the one hand, I’m sad as I face leaving so many dear friends and fabulous colleagues of many years. At the same time, I realize that this is a necessary step; that only by blowing the dust off of skills, talents, aptitudes and abilities long dormant, do we really extend ourselves beyond merely surviving … only in doing so can we truly stay alive.

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Passion? Excitement? Energy? Focus? It’s up to you!

I’ll share some personal examples that I believe could be informative for us all.

During recent weeks, I’ve done things that I’d only imagined doing over a period of decades.

  • Attending professional networking events and startup gatherings; not just to passively sit back and watch slides and listen to lectures, but with the aim of approaching strangers, pitching them ideas, and really hearing their feedback.
  • Participating in more general networking events like meetups sponsored by NBN. Some have asked, Why would you want to meet with Millennials, with people half your age? Well, one of them might be your next boss!
  • Taking a good look at your resume; and if you haven’t got one, write one. Send it around for feedback to the people who scare you the most.
  • Doing some pro-bono consulting, getting a sense of what running a business and managing clients is like.

Rabbi Nachman says “כל העולם כולו, גשר צר מאוד, והעיקר לא לפחד כלל”, that the whole world is a narrow bridge and the important thing is not to fear at all. I don’t fully agree. Fear is an emotion that all human beings share, and in fact, it’s part of our humanity. The important thing is not to allow that fear to take over and get the better of us. I hope we can all use it as a springboard to enable and inspire us to take proactive steps to prepare for any eventuality.

Yes, we’ve certainly been exposed to a lot of jargon and standard motivational phraseology these past several years at Cisco; and it can sometimes be a bit off-putting. But the important thing, I believe, is to ask what we can do to stay positive and true to ourselves.

Passion? Excitement? Engagement? Laser-focus? Well, that’s up to you. Because only you can decide what parts of yourselves you’ll bring to work. Though what I can say with near certainty is that the future direction for SPVSS won’t come from the top-down. Rather it will come from grass-roots efforts to chart a course for the business unit and making a convincing case to the leadership. Will Cisco succeed in selling subscription-based, cloud-hosted video and security products? I don’t know for certain, but I sure hope it does; and what I do know is that if it does work out, it will come down to extending ourselves beyond our comfort zones, taking some calculated risks, and reaching into the best parts of ourselves … in a word, being like Joseph.

Will you do it? I believe you will. And I’ll tell you why. I’ll tell you what I believe sets you apart. Four words, all beginning with “I”.

Will you innovate?

Will you be inventive?

Will you improvise?

Of course you will! You’re Israeli!

… you know how to make things work. You’ve all done some great and courageous things in your lives, and there’s room for more.

The takeaway message here is that, like Joseph, you have the power to decide how to respond to circumstances. There’s the option to remain a prisoner. And there’s the option to reach into yourselves and find the resources that make you special, and that give you a sense of limitless freedom. What’s more—like we learned in Knowledge Sharing—you can collaborate to make those special qualities exponentially more powerful.

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A parting gift for Batya

Folks, יהיה בסדר, it’s going to be good.

You’ll make it good.

That’s the NDS spirit. That’s you at your most real.

Thank you all, and God bless.

December 28, 2012

Gamification and LinkedIn Endorsements

Posted in business networking, Commentary tagged , , , , at 7:16 am by degyes

OK, I get it. Endorsements are LinkedIn’s way of gamifying its platform. Frankly, I’m finding this constant stream of endorsement notifications a bit pesky (though thank you to those who’ve taken a moment to endorse me). Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I’m more a fan of written recommendations. Even a terse one — provided it’s sincere, honest, and well-written — is far more meaningful and valuable than a point & click ‘endorsement’. Though naturally fewer in number, since they take effort to proactively request, and time for the recommender to sit down and write, wouldn’t an actual recommendation mean more to a prospective employer seeking intel on a job candidate? While I can see why some folks might get a kick out of seeing their endorsements stack up, would a recruiter even take them all that seriously? Is there something deeper or more significant that I’m not getting here?