Friday, June 23, 2006


Potentilla asked:

“Why did you end up doing the sort of job (managerial, responsible, commercial, long hours) you do? When do you think you might stop? What will you do instead? What would you choose to do with your life if you could go back to the age of (say) 20 but with all the knowledge you have now?”

For those new to the blog, I am what is colloquially called, “a boss”. I manage, and depending on how you count some hundreds of souls supposedly derive their direction and bread from me. In the ranking of such things I’m a middling manager, above the snow line, but not at the summit. I sit on the managing board, and am a non executive director in another smaller company. So…

Why oh why are any of us at this point in our lives? I could be flippant and say simply because I am genius (which I am (of course)), but that’s not all. This is a good question though, because the answer weaves many things together.

Partially its familial inclination. Though my father was a vicar, and my maternal grandfather was a vicar, around them on both sides of the family are inventors and business men. People who made built and ran things. Family legend is filled with stories of mercantile adventures, you soak it up and it runs in the blood.

Partially it is purely physical. I am a tall, white, non-ugly (that is, I would never be a model, but my face doesn’t break mirrors) male. In our society that matters. It most certainly shouldn’t, but its also self evident. If you disregard whiteness, which is an ugly, unspoken, but still massively significant factor in the board room, matters. Being tall makes life easier. You are assumed to be self confident, and in general I’ve found that allows most tall men to just relax and be self confident.

Its odd this one. I did an MBA, and we did a quick statistical study of the few hundred men in the various years of study at the school. It was a stark reverse bell curve. As ambition is a given in b-schools, it was interesting to note that there were almost no average height men. All where either short, and driven to prove themselves, or tall, and allowed by society to be driven.

A uniformity of face helps. I’m not so good looking as to be a threat, but I’m attractive enough that first impressions are generally good. So all these physical factors have helped to make opportunities easier. Its something I’ve been very aware of, and have allowed to help me along. In return I’ve consciously looked for talent and skill, no matter where the choice, and my teams are usually diverse (some day remind me to talk about a pre-op transsexual Project Manager I had some years ago (mad as a hatter, and a handful to manage, but one of the best PMs I’d seen)).

Then there is talent. The dice shot of genes gave me some base talents that in our age are advantageous. I have a good instinct for what makes people tick, and know how to massage them to make them more effective or understand an idea. A general geniality helps, I don’t crush under pressure, and help people stay calm and happy under that weight as well. My mind also balances detail and strategy sufficiently to make sure the right things happen along the road to an end point. As I always check these things, people like working for me. The feedback I get (which I actively seek to make sure I’m doing it right), it that I allow independence with a buffer of mentoring and protection.

Finally is training. Once I set my mind on management as a career, I’ve managed that career carefully. I’ve taken jobs that move me on, and both challenge me and let me succeed. There has been some luck in the jobs I’ve got, but I’ve also worked the system to get the jobs I look for.

Last but not least, I enjoy what I do. The timeframes I work to are generally years, but when I get a group of people humming in the same direction, pushed, but happy and effective, it is deeply satisfying. Occasionally my mind wrinkles at the fact I don’t make or produce anything, but I flatter myself that keeping others working well at making things is as important as the making.

So, family, society’s penchant for physical form, talent, skill and avocation, have all led me down the road to where I am. Where will I be next? Don’t know. I’m shooting for a time at the summit of the mountain. I may or may not get there. If I don’t, it won’t be crushing as I’ve enjoyed the climb. I’ll just change and do something different. We’re almost at the point where income is less important (though not quite, needs a few more years), so I’d likely change into something completely different, like architecture or history. Go back to school and learn a new trade.

As to the question of going back in my life and living differently, there have been times in my life when I’d say yes. Now? Emphatically, positively not. I would never, ever unwish my children and if my life was an iota different they would not be.


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