They say perception is reality. This is often true but not always. I was amused to discover that some of our business partners thought I had been demoted when I attended TPAC recently. For those of you who don’t know, TPAC is a small and therefore unusually intimate (professionally) conference for third-party developers who build add-on solutions for the Accpac. The conference is unique from a Sage employee and partner perspective as we get to spend much more time than any other event with each other. I made a name for myself with some of the attendees a few years ago when I introduced a program called Controlled Release into the Accpac channel.
As the new Release Manager my job was to liaison between R&D and internal\external stakeholders. At the time partners and customers were reluctant to install new releases early for fear of quality issues. Many partners prefer to have the product be released for six months to a year before they encourage their customers to implement it. The idea is that by then most of the big issues are discovered and addressed in the software by then. The Controlled Release program was designed to address this concern by pre-releasing the software to a select group of partners and customers for 6-8 weeks before general availability. We proved the software was release ready, corrected minor issues uncovered and then heavily promoted the live reference sites to prove that quality was there. It was a simple idea that we (Accpac R&D & our partners) executed well. The program was very successful in raising confidence in the product.
I was invited at the last-minute to join the partners on a cruise of the Fraser river one evening after the conference. People typically tend to relax after a few drinks. That night was no exception. Mixing business with pleasure makes it so much easier to get to know people and ultimately develop better business relationships. There are some real characters in the Accpac partner community. Don de Beer is certainly one of them! He says what he thinks. I find this refreshing. Don was convinced I had been demoted. He was curious and determined to find out what I had done to lose my high-profile job. At first I thought he was joking. When he asked others in our group what they thought the consensus seemed to be that I had been demoted. I was amazed and amused. (I wonder how I would have reacted if I really had been demoted.) Several pointed questions were asked. I did my best to answer them politely and truthfully. I spent around half an hour trying to convince Don I moved out of choice. Honestly, I don’t think I succeeded. Hopefully this post will do the job!
The Release manager role was a very high-profile role which I enjoyed. Although some partners viewed my transfer as a demotion: from an internal perspective a functional manager with reports is typically considered more important in the company hierarchy than a project manager. That’s not why I moved though. My experience is that too many people are only interested in their functional areas. This often leads to silos, turf wars, inefficient procedures and lower productivity. I enjoy “connecting the dots” and looking at our performance from an organizational perspective. I realized I had a great opportunity to learn more about the software development life cycle if I became a QA manager. I love managing people. I have an excellent track record building high performance teams in Customer Support. I wanted to test myself and see if I could replicate my success in R&D. My boss at the time was also transferred to QA. I enjoy working for him. I decided to join him in QA.
Eventually I would like to move to the business side. I think solid experience in R&D will be a huge advantage later in my career. As most readers of my blog know I am taking an MBA at Segal Graduate Business School to prepare myself for this transition. My ability to move to senior positions has probably been limited because I have moved across different departments in the short run. I have not done a very good job of negotiating raises when I have switched positions either. In the longer term I think the broader experience I have gained will prepare me for more senior leadership roles. At a minimum I have more employment options having proven the ability to successfully transfer skills across various roles and departments. My career decisions may not always make sense to others. I am prepared to take risks and know where I want to go though. I am the captain of my career….