'Feel the fear and do it anyway' [1]

I’ve written this post time, and time again over the years. Write, re-write, and never felt it was finished. Oh well, here goes nothing.

‘Security is not having things, it’s handling things.’ ~ Susan Jeffers

I’ve often wondered to myself how thin the line between arrogance and confidence (in my case, read: ambition) really is, and I think it’s all finally becoming clear to me only now, nearly 8 years into my “professional career”. [2]

I have always felt like what I’m doing isn’t necessarily, for lack of a better word, “it”. Lying awake at night, I ponder what my reason for being on this Earth is, always coming back to the fact that whatever it may be, it’s something greater than what I’m doing now.

When I was growing up, rather naïvely, I thought my calling was to be a surgeon. The idea of constantly working under stress, solving problems and fixing people, the most complicated thing we as humans deal with, was my idea of heaven- no matter how much blood there would be. As time progressed it emerged my talents were clearly science focussed, but I would not, in fact, make a good surgeon (my eyesight was, and still is, incredibly poor).

From a very young age I had always turned to computers to learn, focussing mainly on how they worked and how I could manipulate and program them; at the age of 9/10 I was building on ‘the web’. I remember at the time the esoteric idea of many computers joined together, such as an intergalactic spider had spun silk between them, was entirely fantastical. Reflecting back now, knowing how far we’ve come, at the time ‘the web’ was an awful place; there was no Google or Twitter, and no free, available Email services out there (some were emerging but I don’t remember it was particularly impressive). I also remember ‘internet directories’ were the thing of the time - massive pages of lists that really didn’t help at all and most of the time made it feel more difficult to find anything than any easier. I realise now why, as a child, I fell in love with the idea of the Internet and Computers: it felt like no one was doing anything with them; publicly that is - obviously large corporations were behind iron doors, but as a 7/8 year old child the corporate world had never crossed my innocent mind and I had a chance to do something. I always had a slight affinity too, feeling that my ability to connect with machines was natural and incredibly logical. Machines didn’t, and couldn’t, answer back and, if instructed correctly, would do what I told them and not a single thing more.

The years went on, I dipped between this and that, computing always on the side: Music was my big thing, I thought. I play several instruments and have always been a confident performer so naturally why wouldn’t I just do that? Frankly, the music artist market was always saturated, and I remember vividly being told at the age of 15 that ‘[I] wouldn’t bother entering such a competitive field.’

And so the dream killing began. Surgeon? Eyes failed me. Barrister? Application rejected. Musician? Why bother, I was told. But one thing stood by me always, computers.

I drifted through university, not particularly caring; working as hard as I needed to, to ensure top grades but barely a morsel more. I left everything to the last minute and got into more scraps than I should have as such a high achieving student: my passion for what I was doing wasn’t there, but my love for technology remained, something I would come to recognise as my internal “moral compass” if you will.

I left university and dropped straight into my first full time, ‘corporate’ technology job at Burberry. It was fascinating. Such a fast paced, amazingly inspiring environment; it was incredible to see and work with such amazingly talented people.

Time, after time, after time I would work on the most brilliant, and often ‘first time’ experiences and felt passionate about what I did.

Then something inside me changed.

I’ve wrestled for about 18 months, and I think to those around me it was clear; I wasn’t the same person I was before. Once smiley and positive, now frowns and pessimism, I dragged myself in every day, sat at my desk until 10pm (note: I was, and still am, deeply passionate about my work and what Burberry was doing) but that feeling, that calling had come back again. How am I going to change the world? This had nothing to do with Burberry and for the first time in a long time I felt like I had to do something for me.

And so my journey begins. As someone who feels they must always move forward, I am taking the steps I need to take to change the world. In 3 weeks time I will be leaving Burberry, and the many friends and family I have made, on an adventure so exciting I can’t even begin to describe. As I venture into the startup world, the opportunities to shape a vision, learn and explore are vast and enticing, and although heavy-hearted about leaving Burberry I know that I worked as hard as I could.

I look forward to sharing this adventure with you.

P.S. We are looking for some awfully talented fellows in the Data space, if you’re interested, why not look here?

[1] The title, if you’ve never heard of it, is from the most incredible book, and it is one I got from many ‘Executive training’ esque reading lists, but my word, is it an awesome book. You can get it from Amazon here: Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.

[2] For the record, I say “professional” because of all the times I have been given the excuse of not being able to progress and learn because of the notion of a career only being defined of when you have worked for others, ignoring how long you may have worked for “yourself” not necessarily because I believe it to be the case.