Forget Like and Subscribe, Could I get a Recommendation, Please?

Hi my extended family, friends, and colleagues.

If you're one of the dozen or so fans of my blog or had the chance to work with me, you might know that I've had the fortune of accomplishing more than I ever dreamed of when I started this blog. #humblebrag

This is a personal post reflecting on how I ended up with the dream job and an ask for your help in shaping my next Big Thing.

I started my IT career in late 2005. Over a year later, I kicked off CreateAndBreak with this Hello World post. And then a small research project for a "CMS that doesn't take over your website" changed everything. The support of an amazing software community, inspirational mentors, and lots of lessons learned let me enjoy the dream job of creating the best user experience for managing content for multi-site, multi-language, multi-region, multi-channel, and multi-device experiences. Did I say, "multi?"

Jack-of-all-trades as a Strength

Not dramatic enough to be an aspiring actor, nor technical enough to become an engineer, I've amazingly found roles that combine the right amount of communication, technical skills, analysis, and customer focus. Growing up, I thought I might be some kind of scientist or engineer. As I got older, I found I also loved physical performance, regardless if it was martial arts, theater, or dance. My eventual jobs of web business analyst, IT project manager, and my most recent favorite, product owner, weren't quite viable or at least visible options as a kid. But now I enjoy both technology and the chance to present to various audiences as we apply science to design (by designing a scientific approach to product development).

Not a Hero's Journey

The biggest surprise and reward to me, however, was that I'm not quite the subject matter expert that I assumed I needed to be, in order to improve our product experience. Having seen us attempt to improve the page and content editing over-and-over again, I was tempted to despair over the Ground Hog Day aspect to the process. Honestly, I suspect the first proposal each iteration is an improvement to banner image management because it's the first element on a typical web page wireframe.

However, I got it backwards. I am not the Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker in a hero's journey. I've enjoyed that kind of path through some of the largest and most challenging projects and releases we've delivered. I actually have the opportunity to aspire to be some variation of Dumbledore, Obi-wan, or both...

AbsurdlyNerdly's JamiZehr doesn't know who started this meme either.

My contribution isn't about the how to solve the problem. Perhaps it's a bit about the what and why as well as the who as in we're improving the editorial experience for content editors because of consumer expectations of enterprise software and shifts in who buys our software (or something like that). However, for me, now it's especially about supporting, guiding, and enabling others to do more than anyone could accomplish on their own.

What's Next?

The biggest professional milestones and cross-roads for me, were shifts from internal to external projects, including moving from:

  • Desk jobs into information technology
  • Analysis to leading projects
  • Internal projects to customer projects
  • Consulting with enterprise products, to managing the product itself

I've enjoyed the challenge to help and guide my technical community, reinvigorate our customer feedback and research programs, and share product vision while leading and guiding the teams delivering on that vision. However, this path to leadership is perhaps more unfamiliar territory where I'm self-aware and self-deprecating enough to recognize my newbie status. Perhaps I can avoid the Dunning-Kruger effect in the same way you helped guide me in our product community, by simply asking.

And that's the perfect transition to ask you to not "like and subscribe," like I hear from the influencers my kids follow, but to share your thoughts about "Alvin as a leader" on my Linked-In profile. In order to help me make a bigger impact, it's not enough to be familiar with technology, projects, customers, or product. I need to make it clear that I can lead others on their understanding of technology, projects, customers, and product. Yes, it's quite meta indeed.

So please save the recommendations for improvements for private messages. :-) Here I'm asking to connect professionally if we haven't already, and if you think you could help me change yet again, a recommendation (more on leadership and less on expertise) would be greatly appreciated!

For a bit of transparency, I moved into my current role and location with product management in Amsterdam to better scale my contribution and learn more about of our products and services. This 2-3 year goal delightfully grew into more than I hoped for, though I'm preparing for my return to the US for personal, family reasons, focused on opportunities within my current company. For details of that journey, read about the move to the Netherlands, year 1, year 2, or the change in year 3 that made me want to stay until our next big release.

Update (2020-04-16): due to the global situation, we'll have to take a more "agile" approach for the move back to the US. We'll see when and where we end up. I hope everyone is safe and thanks for reading! 

Update (2020-05-18): we've chosen a move date in August. Thanks so much to friends and former colleagues who've reached out to me and left me that recommendation. It definitely helps build up my profile but also gives some much-needed warm fuzzy feelings while hinting at what my next adventure could be!

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