What Comes Next?

At work we have a cultural of growth. And by that I mean, for most roles, if you’re in them too long, you’re seen as not growing. In general, I agree with this philosophy – and my resume proves it. Every 3 years or so I’ve changed jobs. For some employers that rhythm is problematic. For this one its expected. Year one you learn the job, year two you rock the job, year three you look for the next job. I’m coming to the end of my second fiscal year. My manager wants to know where I’m going next.

For the first time in my 12-year professional career, this is an issue for me, because I’m resolved not to have a plan. I realised, somewhere along the way, that God’s been in control despite my plans, and I’d do better to just surrender to that.

That said, I’m debating modifying my “railroad theory” a little bit to allow for high-level goals. Goals aren’t plans –  and they mustn’t be allowed to become idols. Instead they’re a rough idea of what direction you’re facing, and a framework for pursuing equipping and preparation, informed by others who have gone a given direction.

However loose I’d like to leave that, my manager still wants an answer, and at the very least I think stewardship requires an idea of what to work on. With that in mind, I’d like to record both my goals and what I think my next stop might be…

Many of the leaders in the space I work in – the ones I respect the most, anyway – were former engineers, transitioned to a commercial role (read “sales”) successfully, then to leadership of a company. They’ve covered the gamut of roles, earned their stripes in each of them, and now lead from a position of wisdom and insight. Some of them then made an even better transition, and took what they learned about functioning globally, leveraging technology, working with people, influencing people, and finally setting a vision and leading groups, and moved from helping business to helping others.

Christian business leaders who become influencers and partners in helping developing nations can bring to the international table both God-honoring, compassionate, healthy discipleship practices, and clear, ethical and impactful tools and ideas for growth and development – but even more exciting than that, they get to be pushed and reshaped and informed by people and concepts beyond their experience. They get the opportunity to both lead and learn.

This, then, is where I’d like to be some day: using the equipping and experiences God has blessed me with to partner with others who seek to help the hurting, build up the weak, and point toward the One who loves greater than we can comprehend, while learning and experiencing new things, new ideas and new places that reflect the creativity and majesty of the Creator God.

Which means the next step looks like technical sales.

That may seem like a big jump of logic, but I’ve earned my chops in software development. (Canadians don’t seem to agree with that, but the rest of world seems to express no hesitation in respecting my resume.) I’ve moved, with reasonable competence, into a more commercial role in the past year and a half – one that bridges the technical realm with leadership and influence without too much pressure. My choices from here are to drill back down in product development, and work toward a leadership and vision-defining role for product development; certainly an attractive option, but one that wouldn’t seem to lend itself toward the aforementioned longer term strategy, or to move to the next level of abstraction above the raw tech, and sell what others make, expanding my efforts in influencing and working with people, rather than code.

This comes with risk, of course. If my current role has performance based stress, sales would be even more so. The pay would be better, but at this point money isn’t a big push factor. The reality that I could fail at this, and having abstracted myself from engineering, made myself unemployable in a less commercial role is certainly a scary notion. But staying put comes with risk too, and I’d rather gamble on growing and exploring, than on complacency and boredom.

Of course all of this is dependent on an opportunity, on continuing to mature within my current role (and this year is shaping up to be a stressful one for that!), on God’s leading in our lives, on the growth of our little family, and on numerous other factors I’m sure we’ve yet to consider (and some we will not entertain that others might.) But this, along with my part-time Seminary pursuits, seems to be a logical set of efforts to work toward at this time. Where that takes us… well, we’re happy to leave that up to Him.

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