Herman Von Keyserling said that “the shortest path to oneself leads around the world.”
If I had come across this quote in my youth I likely would not have understood how truly profound it was. I used to think living abroad was an opportunity to reinvent myself - a way to escape from everything I knew (and everyone that knew me) into the chrysalis of another world and emerge transformed. But it has been over 15 years since my first experience living abroad, and I like to think that I am both a bit older and a bit wiser now. I stumbled upon the words of Von Keyserling a few months ago – as I prepared for yet another international move – and at this point in my life, the simplicity of the quote resonated with me.
I have learned from my past experiences (a study abroad in Hiroshima, Japan and a two-year work assignment in Naples, Italy) that immersing myself in another culture enabled personal growth. But rather than see it as a way to redefine who I am, today I see it as an evolution and part of the journey to discover my true authentic self. Exposure to new ideas forces me to question what I already know and challenge my view of the world; and while some things, particularly those that were normalized by the environment around me, may evolve and change through this experiences, there are many aspects of who I am that remain constant. My core identity is unchanged; the fundamental values that are integral to I who am will remain intact, if not be strengthened, by the experience of living abroad.
I am someone who believes that these types of dramatic changes are necessary for personal growth. And so, after 10 years at the same company and a career in aerospace that has spanned even longer, I finally decided to take off my training wheels and throw myself out into the world. Last month I left my job (as well as my friends, my family, and the comforts of home) behind to pursue an MBA at London Business School (LBS). Change is good, but the uncertainty that accompanies this magnitude of change is simultaneously terrifying.
After a few weeks of exploring the area, I launched into my coursework at full-speed. A week-long orientation provided inspiration, practical advice, and an opportunity to connect with my classmates. LBS organizes students into “streams” - groups of 80 students who complete all courses together for the first two terms - and “study groups.” Both try to serve as representative examples of the diversity that exists within the class, mixing people from various cultural and career backgrounds. My study group is no exception, and consists of Ege (a Turkish consultant), Tom (a British analyst), Elva (a Chinese banker) and Ashu (an Indian who worked in tech) – we will complete all group projects together for the next two terms. To jump-start our relationship in the first week, we were bussed an hour outside of London to participate in a full day of team building exercises - and true to the area’s reputation, it poured the whole time. After the second week of immersive courses on leadership, ethics and management theory, including a full-day simulation “running” a company with my study group, I am finally settling into a new normal.
So far, it has been an amazing experience and nothing could have prepared me better for this adventure than EDI. Although I was sad to leave my class early, I truly appreciate the opportunity EDI gave me to develop a foundational understanding of who I am - as a leader, a team member, and an individual. EDI taught me the value of vulnerability and opening up about who I am, rather than trying to be someone that I am not simply because it “fits” some people’s view of what a good leader is.
EDI allowed me to step into this experience with the aim of improving upon my authentic self, rather than trying to reinvent myself. It has taken me a long time to distinguish between the two, but I think that I am finally there. In a way, I am hoping that my experiences at London Business School have the same impact on my professional identity. I hope that as I am exposed to new industries, concepts, and ideas that I am able to evolve and expand my horizons, while simultaneously identifying the fundamental values that are important to me in my career. I don’t know where this journey will lead me, but EDI has given me the tools to succeed no matter what the next step is.
After 11 years at two medical device manufacturers where I held multiple roles from Communications, Marketing, Operations, and Leadership – I'm moving forward in my career. I accepted a position as the Labelling Specialist at Natus Medical in Georgetown, south of Seattle. I'll be helping drive improvement and compliance with medical device regulatory and industry changes that continue to evolve. A lot of these efforts will require a paradigm shift within the organization that has been in place for years, so there will be plenty of challenges ahead.
As many of those currently attending EDI or the ones that have graduated from the EDI programs, we all know what I've just stated truly means. A change will be required. New processes and procedures will need to be implemented. I'll be the "new guy" shaking the tree, going against "the way we used to do things", and questioning "how we did it before."
After a career in Advertising and Marketing (leading creative teams), I'll be transitioning to the client-side and medical devices was a welcome change. Skills and training from the years of high-stress, fast-paced creative teams, were valuable tools to have to go to an industry and a side of the business I had not been exposed to.
Attending EDI Navigation in 2016 brought new tools for me to employ, as well as a great reinforcement of the skills I had developed over the years.
The individualized coaching is one of the best benefits of the program that I actually continue today. Having a coach that checks in with you, providing feedback and helping to reinforce the training is huge. Running through EQ scenarios, being aware of yourself (and your authenticity) and commenting on your responses with your coach is always a learning experience. EDI Navigation reminded me to pause (shout-out to Vanna), always take the time to collect your thoughts, to acknowledge the types of individuals you are dealing with, and how best (and sometimes when) to communicate with each individual.
During my career, I've been fortunate to have good mentors, who have supported and encouraged my growth. These people helped instill in me a desire to "pay it forward", as I grew into each leadership position I held. EDI Navigation strengthened my belief that you don't need to be titled a leader to be one.