Hi. My name is Ruth, and I left IBM 6 months ago after working there for 4 years. While
I was there I worked alongside Ethan who is now managing the IBM alumni
effort. He asked me if I’d be interested in a little blogging, so here
I am! We weren’t sure what I’d blog about at first, so he sent me
these two questions. As you can see below, I’ve tried to answer them
to get the ball rolling.
What did you expect your career to
look like when you joined IBM?
To be honest, when I joined IBM, I really needed a job! The offer came on the heels of 2 years of scattered freelance work and part-time grad school after the dot-com bubble burst. I was just thrilled to have been invited to work at a company like IBM. My first role was as the lead information architect for ibm.com’s content standards; when I left I was the business owner for ibm.com’s taxonomy standards and processes.
Once I settled in at IBM, I started to look for that vision of my career, but didn’t figure it out. I did learn a lot about what I enjoyed doing — the kinds of problems I liked solving, the kinds of relationships I was good at cultivating, the kinds of change I was capable of effecting. But I never really figured out what my future would or could look like. I could see a universe of possibilities — both near and long-term, but I had trouble seeing a path.
Now that I’m outside of the IBM bubble, I see that I didn’t really need to figure anything out. That’s not to say that I’d be happy floundering in the same spot forever. I can just see that things can move forward in a positive direction, even if you’re not directing every event. This is a good segue to the next question.
The conventional wisdom says that
people in your age group will have many careers, not just one. How
are you preparing for that?
It’s funny. I feel as though I’ve already had a few careers — experiences at a handful of companies, each distinct in my mind. But when I read my resume, it sounds as though I planned the whole thing as a natural progression, all focused on some aspect of working with web content. On many occasions, I have tried to get away from this niche — to move towards product development or business development, but it seems to stick to me. What I’ve realized is that by starting in a young field, my career has had room to grow as the information and content industries have grown — or, more to the point, invested in internet technologies, creating the need for people like myself and many of my colleagues. I feel a bit like a pioneer in web content strategy — I can carve out space for myself, rather than migrate among predefined roles.
So to answer the 2nd part of the question — everything I do to "prepare" for future career situations I do by garnering skills, expertise, and experience. I have stopped trying to look too far ahead, setting goals to inflect my career path. For me, attaining personal goals has become underwhelming. I’m trying to focus more on getting into a good mindset, and getting things done in my current job — those accomplishments are the ones that lead to the next opportunities, which can’t be foreseen.
Well, that wraps up the Q&A section of this blog post. I’ll just say that I am so grateful to have been exposed to IBM’s culture, and it’s great to stay connected — not just with my good friends, but with the broader community. Thanks, Ethan!