This week, I transitioned to a new role at work. My title is now Partner Enablement Lead. I am in charge of designing and executing the workshops, slide decks, online tutorials, and overall training pathways for people aspiring to become my company’s qualified partners in sales and delivery services. I am entering a realm where many of our assets and processes are prosaic, paltry, or plain non-existent—and it is my job to figure out and dictate how it all should work.
With our recently closed acquisition by one of the most well known companies in the world, this is kind of a big deal. I don’t mean that as a sardonic understatement. It is big because we anticipate having to teach tons of our new colleagues, and those colleagues’ partners, all about our platform and how to implement it efficiently and strategically. At the same time, our parent entity is so enormous, with so many employees and product lines generating so much revenue, that our own partner network is a drop in the bucket. Thus, “kind of.”
Those who have been following my career—all two or three of you—may know that this is my first time changing jobs within the same organization. (I am still in the same department, so it doesn’t even feel like a real change.) This is my fourth company in the eight and a half years that I have been working full-time. The other moves I made were driven by disgruntlement, a desperate need to jump ship when something went awry with the management. So this is my first time taking a different position without bitterly hating my old one. In fact, I was quite content where I was, with both my manager and my responsibilities. My (now former) manager assured me that, if things didn’t work out with the new gig for whatever reason, I would always be welcome to return. I find this comforting. For someone used to burning bridges with no regrets, this is novel.
When I was discussing the move and its expectations with my manager-to-be, she mentioned two colleagues who were also passionate about this domain. Those two, whom I’ll call Bill and Ted, would be expected to dedicate a sizable fraction of their time to the tasks that I, as the lead, would delegate to them. I wavered when I heard this. First, Bill and Ted have both conducted partner workshops, while I haven’t (though I’ve done many customer ones, which are very similar). Both of them have lots of feedback and ideas for our partner enablement program. And Ted has been at the company longer than I. Surely they would be interested in this lead role. Maybe Ted would even be more qualified than I, given his longer tenure. What did I have to offer? I was in talks for the job only because I had reached out to the head of our department about some gaps that I had perceived in our current program and offered to help out. Help out, not lead.
But you know what? At the same time, I thought, I do deserve this lead position. I took the initiative to chat with our senior VP. I saw issues and spoke up about fixing them. That’s got to count for something. Plus, I have to stop being so self-deprecating. I bring plenty to the table. I have ideas, too. I have handled dozens of projects at my company and can confidently mentor others to be great consultants. Clients trust and respect me. I have an encyclopedic knowledge of resources, and I am persistent and shameless in getting answers I need. I have years of product management experience, which allowed me to develop transferable skills for building and realizing a vision for this program.
Initiative is so important for career development. If you spend your whole career sitting on your hands, waiting for someone to notice and reward you for your skills and work ethic, you aren’t going to get very far. If you want more or different responsibilities, you have to ask for them. I was initially inquiring to my department’s senior VP about a manager position, which even I admit was a little out of my league—but hey, it landed me this lead role. Express your ambitions, if anything to start a conversation and plant a seed in someone’s mind. I have never been shy about requesting a higher salary and asking what I need to learn or achieve to earn a promotion.
After accepting the position, I confided in another coworker that I had felt a bit uncomfortable about taking it over Ted. I said I felt awkward knowing Ted would have wanted it, if only he had known about the opportunity. His response? “That’s a weird way to think.” It hadn’t occurred to me there was anything weird about it, but I immediately saw his point. Why did I care about possibly abdicating something I wanted to a coworker who had never really gone out of his way for me? Even if he had, why would I contemplate such a sacrifice? I don’t know if I had those thoughts because I am female. Those people who research workplace and HR statistics would probably say yes. Though I don’t identify as a woman, there is no denying that I present as one, and our thoughts and actions are inexorably influenced by the way others perceive us. I want to say it’s simply because my default motivation is what’s best for an overall collective, not necessarily myself—but who’s to say that itself isn’t rooted in gender?
Regardless, it would have been folly to let that stop me. When I later spoke to Ted, he confirmed that he would have been interested in the role had he been aware of it. I couldn’t help being apologetic in response. That’s one thing I’ll have to work on for next time: I need to own it, not be sorry.