Author’s Note: Goal number #4 of our University System’s Strategic Plan calls for investment in the University’s human resources. To that end, the President’s Emerging Leaders Program was initiated to develop and hone the next potential generation of University system leaders. I’ve been privileged to have been selected for this opportunity and will share some of the nuggets of leadership gold I have gleaned from this program with you.
Part of the awesomeness that is the PELP experience is the opportunity to be paired with an Executive-level mentor and for me I am very fortunate to have struck Executive-level gold by being paired with our CIO, a person whom I’ve followed and admired for many, many, many years. Being a tech in a small department at a branch campus, being able to meet and interact and basically apprentice under our CIO for me is akin to a Corporal or Sergeant hanging out with a Brigadier General or something. I was quite giddy when I learned of our pairing 🙂
I had my first meeting with him the other week. In respect of privacy and confidence I won’t be sharing the details of what we discussed but I did want to share some of the general points we talked about which you may find helpful for you if you’re in the midst of developing your own career.
Ladder to the Top
The main thing we discussed was basically his career path and how he rose to the top of his profession. In sharing his story his path to the top basically consisted of the following:
- Hard Work
- Seizing his opportunities
- Creating opportunities
- Lady Luck
I’d like to speak to each of these points. I think most people will agree that success in life is a combination of both skill and luck. If you are skilled in something you will be noticed and opportunity will present itself. HOW these opportunities present themselves are often a combination of luck and circumstance, ie – “Knowing the right people, at the right place, at the right time.” Lord knows that’s how my life’s played out in my career. I have most DEFINITELY been the beneficiary of being at the right places at the right time and having the right people in my life to support/develop/advocate for me. The list of people I owe for my success spans a mile long and I can’t thank them enough for giving me a chance to prove myself.
People in the tech community, such as myself, all know and respect our CIO. In the PELP trainings both our President and VP spoke his praises. He is most definitely a VERY knowledgeable and skilled man at what he does. There is no question to his talent. In his story he spoke of the various roles and duties he performed in his various jobs on his climb up the ladder coupled with his doctoral work which he constantly postponed as he was very busy with his work duties. Obviously he is a man who knows first-hand what hard work is. Through his career because of his combination of competence and his work ethic he was always rewarded with, well, more work. Perhaps getting “more work” isn’t most people’s objective but his increased duties eventually came with bigger titles and bigger paychecks as he demonstrated he could carry the ball. In other words he seized his opportunities and at times created his own opportunities.
Shattering the Glass Ceiling
What I found most interesting about our CIO’s story is that it in many ways parallels my own as he started at basically the dead bottom in the University hierarchy, much like myself. (I started as a student employee who basically never left). Against all odds through both skill and luck (probably moreso skill) he basically shattered the glass ceiling to rise to become a top-level executive and one of the most respected men in the tech community. His story is definitely one that gives hope to every frustrated rat-racer out there banging there head on the proverbial glass-ceiling.
Work hard. Cream always rises to the top. You do good work, you will get noticed and you will get your opportunity — or you will create your own.