By Jessica Yenser
By nature, I am a person who is highly driven by the need for growth. I am constantly searching for new ways to improve my skill set and add to my mental database. This desire sometimes takes me on paths that, from the outside, look quite unusual. While my actions and path make perfect sense to me internally, many from the outside seem determined to put me into some sort of group, box, or category that makes sense to them. They would prefer that I get back in line, onto some neat little path that they are already aware of and comfortable with.
Over time my reactions to these outside suggestions have been quite varied. There was the young, impetuous version of myself who would quickly tell you where to stick your opinions. Then there was a stage where I tried to keep my opinions in and go along to get along to see if that improved things. Unfortunately, this lead to a point where I found myself in a life that was not genuine. Today I am someone who has learned to adjust the response to the environment, but would like to politely remind the outside world that, while some millennials seem to be floundering for purpose and we may wonder if they will ever move out on their own, "Not all those who wander are lost..."
DAMN IT PEOPLE! Just let me color outside the lines!
Seriously though. I mean it. At a recent leadership conference I had the privilege of listening to customer experience expert and author, Jeff Tobe, speak about "Coloring Outside the Lines". He explained that being innovative and creative is something that EVERYONE should do to improve their personal brand, business, and interactions with customers (internal and external). This kind of behavior is what drives someone's career forward, ahead of the pack.
And then I realized....all this time, I had felt like my choices to go off traditional paths were EXACTLY why my career has been so successful. Technology and data isn't just a bunch of 1's and 0's. Being creative and innovated in a tech-related role is just as important as it is in a marketing role. Being able to understand my customer's needs and thinking of new ways to solve business challenges and apply our data solutions comes from all of my broad experiences put together, giving me unique view points others in my field often lack. I don't see data as data. I see this awesome complex interaction of life & business represented by and tied together by information. I approach my work as half science and half art.
I share this with all of you because I feel like women are often pressured to be neat and tidy and to fit back into our places. We are made to feel like we are doing something wrong and are going to ruin our lives if we don't make the sensible choices in career and education, if we don't follow paths that make sense to someone else. I still feel this pressure, too, and I know it can feel like going along with their opinion is easier. It can creep up in the form of internal pressure, or "impostor syndrome", or as external pressure from peers, friends, and family. But I want to remind each of you that your path is your own, and you are brilliant and capable. Trust me - it's not you, it's them.
It's your life. Your career. Your piece of paper. If you want a purple cow with orange spots and you want to draw your name on it backwards - have at it!
is a Senior Program Manager / Data Intelligence Engineer for EMC, and the VP of Programs for PMI Metrolina. She has perfected the art of working remotely and getting things done. Find out more about her at LinkedIn.