Alice's Interview - Always try a job before fully committing to a new sector!
Current job title: Digital transformation consultant
Alice, tell me about your transition: what happened, what were you looking for and where are you right now!
I was working for my family business, an industrial SME of 35 people. I was heading digital transformation and innovation strategy for the business. Although I was working full time for them I was working as an independent contractor.
In November 2016, it had been a year since I had started this mission, and I could see that my projects weren't enough to fill a full time position. My mother and I talked about it and we came to the conclusion that I would have to think about the next step. Although I knew from the beginning that it would eventually come to that, it caught me off-guard to have to think about what I wanted to do with my life.
I first started to think about going a completely different way. I wanted something else, something different, something meaningful. I've always been an animal lover, and I actually thought about re-orienting myself towards animal protection services, more specifically on shelter management positions.
I looked what was available, and there were free positions in France, so I dug a little bit, followed some MOOCs on animal protection and education, and finally decided, before taking any more steps, to volunteer in a shelter to see how it was from the inside. I was still working for my family business but had some free time, so I committed to go every Thursday morning.
Within a few weeks, I realized it wasn't really what I expected! I knew it would be hard, but actually what drew me off wasn't the parts of the job I discovered - cleaning, taking care of the animals, etc. - but what I could see of the parts I already knew - managing people, a structure, resources, etc. I realized it was not at all what I expected and would thrive in . I then took the decision that if the day was to come for me to switch to animal protection, I would build my own thing from scratch, but then was not the time.
Turns out, at the very same moment, I got the opportunity to work on a week long seminar dedicated to students on digital transformation. I accepted right away even though I had no idea about how to make a seminar. I worked hard to make it, gave it, and it was a real success. I then realized that I had acquired a pretty solid experience in digital transformation at my parents' business, and that I could leverage this experience elsewhere. I transformed the seminar gig into a regular teaching position at the business school, and started in parallel to work on an offer of consulting in digital transformation.
Today, thanks to my work, my network, and little bit of luck, I'm sharing my days between my family business, for which I still run some projects, the classes I'm giving, and my very first new client, for which I'm doing a digital transformation mission. My weeks are very full, I'm saying yes to any work opportunity I'm given, even unpaid ones, to generate more business, more opportunities, more work relationships, and to beat the cyclical aspect of independent consulting. For now it's working out, so, fingers crossed!
What surprised you most about your transition?
That you might have a lot of skills, be very competent, nice, charming, in the end, it all comes down to your network - which is created thanks to all your skills :) I originally thought that I would go to people and present them with my experience and skills, but, so far, every opportunity I'm getting is thanks to my network. A good network is precious and I'm learning to nurture it, to help it grow and to help its members, because it might come around at some point.
If you had an advice to give to yourself at the moment you started the transition?
Don't listen to the people who try to point you in a direction because it's theirs! I've had very closed ones telling me that being independent is risky, that it's not the "classic" way to work, etc. I understood that they were trying to help, seeing my situation through their eyes, but in the end, they made me doubt about what I really wanted to do.
What skills have you gained in the process?
I'm working a lot on understanding myself and trusting myself. Exactly one year ago, I actually wrote down on paper how I wanted, ideally, to spend my weeks. I wrote pretty much exactly the situation I'm in now. And, even though I'm a little stressed out, I'm extremely happy about my current situation. I feel that each person knows, more or less consciously, what they want/need to have a meaningful life. The key I think is to be really honest with yourself. For me it was to sit in front of a sheet of paper and ask myself bluntly "ideally, what would I want to do during my week?"
I'm learning a lot on my networking skills, how to maintain relationships, make them grow, walk the extra mile for other people. I've read Give and Take, by Adam Grant, and it really changed how I see my relationships to others, for the better.
How did you navigate the stormy career transition times?
I am lucky, I have never been alone. I've had my family to rely on, both emotionally and financially, I have precious friends who would always be there for advice, encouragements. Surrounding yourself with people who want to see you grow, who pull you up, who are your biggest supporters, both in your personal and professional relationships, is really important, at least it was for me.
Keywords: digital transformation - innovation - formation - digital consulting