I worked at Accenture as a technology consultant from when I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997 to when I left to pursue my MBA at Texas A&M in 2008. That 10+ year period was a very fulfilling time in my life when I implemented complicated enterprise software solutions across several industries and multiple geographies. I travelled to projects in many major U.S. cities as well as international locations like Egypt, Nigeria, Germany, and Dubai.
Around the mid-point of my career, I worked on an enterprise customer relationship management (CRM) project for a large telecommunications project. I recently received a Linkedin message from a colleague on that project:
Hey Anjuan! I hope you remember me. How's it been? I'm loving how you've totally transformed yourself after leaving Accenture. I would love to reconnect and learn from your experiences.
I absolutely remembered this colleague because I enjoyed working with him, and I look forward to reconnecting with him soon either over the phone or in person. However, I was surprised by his use of the phrase "totally transformed" to describe how I have changed since I left Accenture. I've always been me, right? Well, that's probably not true.
It's not surprising that humans are bad at observing the passage of time, especially for objects viewed on a regular basis. You know this to be true if you know anyone who has small children. Have you ever noticed how fast they seem to grow over the weeks or months that pass between seeing them? Yet, the parents of these children don't perceive their growth at the same pace you do because they see them on a far more frequent basis.
So, the various ways that I have changed since this colleague last saw me in person are almost imperceptible to me. He gets my Facebook and Twitter updates, but I experience myself every day.
However, I can try to imagine the person I was when I worked with this colleague at Accenture, and I can think of one word to some up my personality at the time: consumer. I consumed large amounts of content about technology including news articles, books, magazines, podcasts, and conference talks. I loved learning about cutting edge technologies and finding ways to apply them to my professional and personal life.
I can't point to a single event, but I eventually moved from a consumer of tech content to a producer of tech content. Over time I came to realize that I had a voice to share with others and my background and experiences provided a unique lens through which I could see insights that others may miss. So, I began to be quoted in articles, contribute to books, appear in publications, be interviewed on podcasts, and speak on stage at conferences. I realized that I was every bit as worthy to contribute to conversations about tech as the writers and media personalities I followed.
A lot of the transformation my colleague described was the change from the person who worked in the cubicle farm with him all those years ago to the writer and conference speaker I am today. He has seen the emergence of the articles and talks that I have added to the software developer he knew a decade ago.
I'm not sure if "transformation" is the best term to describe what my colleague has observed. Transformation implies an intentional and discrete activity like the way the smartphone manufacturers try to make big changes in their products every few years. My journey has been more like an outdoor sculptor slowly chipping away at a block of granite where random weather patterns leave indelible marks on the progressively revealed work.
Anyone can transform themselves from consumers to creators by finding ways to insert themselves into their passions. Life is a long journey through change, and contributing to what you love is a great way to mark your path.
I am a software developer, writer, and speaker because I wanted to create more than just code. I wanted to lend my voice, thoughts, and perspectives to the industry I love so much. Who knows what other contours of my contributions will emerge next?