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At ChannelCon 2017, I hosted a main stage breakfast session on career development. The session was billed as, “Great Eggspectations 3.0: The Best Career Advice Ever.”

It was the third breakfast that Penton/Informa has participated in at ChannelCon. The first year we zeroed in on emerging technologies. Last year we debated business trends. This year I thought career development was the right way to go. In advance of the session, I recruited five thought leaders from the tech industry that I knew had something definite and insightful to say on the subject. They were:

  • Greg Dixon, CTO, ScanSource
  • Ryan Walsh, senior vice president, Pax8
  • Dawn Lindsey, head of partner marketing, BigCommerce
  • Elizabeth Hyman, executive vice president, Public Advocacy, CompTIA
  • Jill Chapman, senior performance consultant, Insperity

Dixon and Lindsey are members of the Channel Think Tank with me, while Chapman is a colleague of Nate Olsen, one of our newest members. Before asking the panelists to share their best ideas, I had them single out tired tropes and clichés that they have found over the years to have outlived their usefulness or to be simply ineffective. The team identified several, including:

  • Build your network at every chance possible. (Too time consuming and unproductive, Hyman says. Instead, pick your opportunities carefully.)
  • Never go home before your boss. (Fastest way to career burnout, Dixon says. Work hard, but have a life, he adds.)
  • Develop an office persona distinct from your authentic self. (A game face is one thing, but a separate persona? Bad idea, says Lindsey. Be the real you in every setting.)

As for the best ideas, the panel came up with the following:

  1. Meticulously prepare so that when an inevitable surprise or contingency arises, you can improvise with great aplomb. (Dixon)
  2. Don’t let what you cannot do get in the way of what you can. (Walsh)
  3. Trust the universe to help make things work. (Lindsey)
  4. Put yourself in a position to be lucky. (Hyman)
  5. Never forget that simple acts of kindness or generosity can pay big dividends down the road for you or, more importantly, someone else. (Chapman)

Greg DixonAs they shared their words of wisdom, each offered an anecdote that buttressed their point of view. For example, Dixon (pictured right) told a story about the time he tried to convince Pomeroy IT Solutions to sell his company’s bar code technology. During his preso, the bulb on his overhead presenter burned out and the foil-slide deck he carried fell to the floor and scattered far and wide—and completely out of any sensible order.

Walsh shared how growing up the son of a college basketball coach taught him the value of teamwork and the worth of every player who can contribute.

Dawn LindseyLindsey (pictured left), meantime, told audience members that there are times that you simply have to let go of what you cannot control and “trust the universe to come through for you.”

Then Hyman shared a story of the time she agreed to a job interview in Washington on a lark. Not only did she not know with whom she was meeting, she didn’t even know if there was a real open position with the organization. As it turned out, she interviewed with Janet Reno and, afterwards, accepted a job with the former Attorney General.

Finally, Chapman reminded attendees that small acts of kindness can pay big dividends down the road. To buttress the perspective, she shared a personal story of how one act of kindness opened the door for one fast rising star. Later it was rewarded when that employee became the mentor’s boss years later.

As a kicker, Ryan shared one more gem worth considering: “Instead of standing at the front of a room demanding to be understood, try standing at the back first and take a moment to understand what everyone else is sharing.”

Good stuff.