Embracing Change: When Your Career Plan Takes an Unexpected Turn

Five years ago, if someone had asked me if I’d be embarking down a different career path, I would have answered ‘No way, I’ve worked hard to get to the level of CIO and this role suits me just fine’, and if I was also asked if I would be changing companies to work for one of the largest firms in the world, again I would have stated ‘No, it just isn’t in my career plan’.

It’s true; that sometimes life throws you a curveball and I clearly didn’t see either one of these changes coming. When the company that I was working for headed into financial woes, I headed into a job search and found much to my amazement, just how many CEO’s had no idea what they wanted or expected from a head of technology. During interviews, I was asked if I could present to the Board of Directors and about my opinions on how to run a business, then to my surprise, if I could program at night and fix iPhones in my spare time. Seriously? These firms didn’t need a head of strategy and technology, what they really needed was a senior engineer. During my search, I turned down three CIO positions that were all doomed for failure (and the people that took these jobs, did indeed fail).

My foresight regarding these roles was spot on, and my search continued. When Microsoft called, I wasn’t expecting it and honestly, it just wasn’t in the plan. How could someone who ran IT departments and helped to run businesses work for one of the largest software vendors? They were to big, and had a reputation, but there was a new person at the helm and he seemed to be shaking things up in a positive way. Also, my days of managing a team would change, as there wouldn’t be a physical team any longer, rather a worldwide virtual team and a very large global account. How could this company fit into my long term plan? Taking this role meant that I needed to be completely aligned to a major career shift and understand that it may mean that this course change could be the path for the long haul. This was much bigger than just having a conversation with myself about change, it also meant that change needed to be embraced. On many occasions, I had called myself a change agent, and even spoke to my teams about the need to embrace change. So, why was the potential of such an enormous change so uncomfortable? While I put the position out of my mind, the background noise kept saying ‘shouldn’t you consider this opportunity’ and ‘a door has opened, shouldn’t you even peek inside’?

As my search continued, the companies that I met with, had the same story. The incumbent CIO had taken technology to a level and the business couldn’t grow any farther. IT wasn’t quick enough, nimble enough, strategic enough – they spent a lot of money, but weren’t meeting the needs of the business. Many of these firms weren’t moving to the cloud, they were stuck in the intricacies of their data centers and wondered why IT was costing so much. So, when Microsoft called again, and started to talk about the cloud and the impact that Azure was having on their customers, I decided that the door of opportunity needed to be opened farther and joined the firm. Working for Microsoft suddenly became a part of the plan, and the journey continued to spread to new paths that have become synonymous with change.

Having worked at large companies before, I was able to co-exist easily with so many people. I found that no matter where I turned, there were smart people who were willing to help, no matter what the topic was. Expertise in technologies were yours to find and I found myself getting more and more involved in cloud technologies – something that had been a part of my past, but not on this grand scale. I was able to use my background as a CIO and technology strategist to help customers move from an on-premise environment to the cloud and give them sound advice to get there.

This article is not about Microsoft and isn’t a pitch to convince you to come onboard, rather it’s about embracing change when it presents itself; to see the possibilities before you. Today, I am a certified cloud architect and I still work at the C-level to champion and foster ideas. Since I have my own C-Level background, I am credible with my customers, as I’ve lived through numerous migrations, acquisitions and implementations and they know that I have the experience to help them through their own initiatives.

In a side interest, using my C-Level experience and coupled with my cloud skills; gives me the credibility to work with startups and young businesses, as a technical and business advisor. This work is engaging and continues to provide me with the ability to help grow and run businesses. When I started on this journey, I had no idea where it would take me, and I am happy that I was able to embrace change when it presented itself.

This is the first article that I’ve written for Money Inc and I hope that you’ve enjoyed my journey. Subsequent articles will focus on a multitude of topics and into deeper content.

Sue Bergamo is a former Boston area CIO and a Technology Strategist at Microsoft. She can be reached at suebergamo@yahoo.com.

© 2017. All Rights Reserved.

*The content within this article are the opinions of the author and are not sponsored by Microsoft.

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