Ten Things I Learned Early That Shaped My Future Career

Walking in to my very first "real" job in 1991, I was bright eyed, bushy-tailed, and green— so very green. I felt lucky to be working at one of two major publishing companies in Birmingham and couldn't wait to set the world on fire.

The building was beautiful and carved right out of a mountainside on Highway 280. Even the driveway and parking lots were constructed to leave nature undisturbed and as many trees as possible in tact. The grounds were mesmerizing and offered views far beyond the city.

I was still working to complete my degree and had no idea how much this new gig would end up impacting my life. I was hired as an editorial assistant in the publishing division and spent my early days editing library reference material for publication. This was 1991. The computers we used were actually referred to as "dumb terminals." Imagine trusting anything with the word "dumb" in its name with the thousands of edits our team made daily. The "brain" and our data was stored on a gigantic super computer that resided in a very cold room in a totally separate building. 

That was the beginning. Five years and several job titles later, I found myself with a personal computer, the internet, a chance to travel around the world installing PC networks, and training people to use them.

Times were changing and I was fortunate to land right in the cusp. Al Gore had just "invented" the internet (insert sarcasm here), and people would now do business in ways they had never before imagined.   

During these five years I produced a 3-volume book with software that pre-dated QuarkXpress and InDesign, reported to work with a sleeping bag during heavy production times, was introduced to my now beloved Mac, learned to configure a file server and assemble the rack it was stored in, developed my first web page, managed an editorial team, branded a new product, trained hundreds of employees, and traveled to Canada, Australia, and most major cities in the United States spreading the news of this new thing called a PC.

These five years changed me. They shaped my future and the opportunities that would come my way.

Ten things I learned early that shaped my future career: 

  1. Be curious.

  2. Question systems and processes.

  3. Find a trusted mentor or be one.

  4. Be intentional and learn something from every experience.

  5. Always give more than expected.

  6. Volunteer to take on new tasks.

  7. Actively engage your team and value their input.

  8. Acquire new skills— even when you can't readily see the benefit.

  9. Work more than is required.

  10. Do not be afraid to fail.