Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Time for a Career Checkup

"Do a health and sanity check on your career at least every two years." That is the advice I give many of the people I career mentor and advice that was given to me at an early stage of my career in IBM. It has been almost two years since I did some career introspection and I have no one to blame but myself. But, it was time to start this past May and I thought I would give you some insights as to how I do this health and sanity check.

Step 1:  Review past notes (if you don't have past notes, take good ones this time for next time)
 First, I have gone back and read some of the analysis I did in the past some of which was in public and some of which was in private. About three years ago I decided to make a career shift within IBM and started working towards something new. That something new led to the job I have today. After about a year of pursuing that, I did some analysis in early 2010. First I read through my private notes which started in the January of 2010. Some of these made it into blogs which I thought I would link through here in chronological order:

  • Decisions at the Crossroads  -- Introspection and decisions have to be made and the process I was going through to make them.
  • Life in the fast lane  -- Sometimes when you have to get out of the fast lane to realize how fast you were going.  I changed jobs and realized how fast I had been going.
  • A lot to like about working at IBM -- This was an explanation of my introspection about what I like about my employer. 
  • Choosing family over career  -- Discussing the tough choices that fathers like me face every time we check our own fast paced intensive careers and the effects on our families.
Step 2:  Check your resume
People often don't understand this one until they think about it.  Ultimately, you are responsible for your own employment.  Often if you work in the for profit industries, you are only valuable so long as what you contribute to is making the profit that the owners expect.  Corporate loyalty is something that has waned in the past 20 years as we have seen things such as long term pension plans disappear.  That is why you are doing a health check. So, I'll say it again, YOU are responsible for your own employment.    Looking at your resume, answer some of these questions:
  • What has recent work added to your resume?
  • What have you done outside the workplace to improve your resume?
  • What holes do you have in your resume?
  • Of the things on your resume, which are you strongest in and which are you weakest in?
  • Have you spent enough time in your job to be considered senior and loyal but not institutionalized?
"I’m not staying become a lifer.  [...]  6 years is fine.  12 is getting long unless your company is totally rocking!"  - Mark Suster

Step 3:  Write down everything you like and dislike about your job
But spend more time on the things your like.  Don't get me wrong because I know it is important to get all your thoughts on the table.  However, one can get into the weeds of cynicism and frustration if you do not focus on the positive elements.  The goal of this is not to emotionally get yourself in a bad state.  The goal is to evaluate what you like and dislike without emotion so you can do the proper analysis.  If you have not yet, read my A lot to like about working at IBM article.  This is the focus on the positive.  There is also a negative list of things, which I did not post as to not focus on it.  If you need some help getting your heart set straight about work, I would recommend you listen to this great sermon from Tim Horton. (Also found here:  At 3/4/12, "Work Fit in the Lord" Colossians 3:22-4:1 )

Step 4:  Dream big and work backwards.  Where do you want to be in 10 years, 5 years, 2 years.
Now that you have looked into your resume and your current job, its time to dream big.  It can be a big reset, but what do you want to do in 10 years?  Do not settle in your 10 year plans.  Where should you be in 5 years to get to your 10 year plan?  Then where strategically should you be in 2 years?

When you are doing this, keep in mind that the more detailed your plans and dreams the more unachievable they could be.  Think slogan, not short story.  If your 10 year goal is to "make executive" or "own my own business," it will simplify your focus and help your goals become more achievable.  If you make your goals too extensive, you can lose focus.

You do not have to be 100% certain as to your goals.  You could be 51% certain.  You could be 99% certain.  The idea is to conclude this is where you want to go.  Time, experience, and execution will determine the your real path.  And, you review this every year or two in order adjust your goals and execution path.

Step 5:  Create an actionable plan to make your 2 year goal and Commit to execute it
"Vision without Execution is Hallucination."  This is a quote heard in IBM  attributed to Steve Mills and I have seen it play out time and time again.  Build an execution plan to drive towards the vision of where you want to be.
  • What is your resume missing to make your 2 year plan?
  • What are ways you can improve yourself outside of the workplace?
  • What can you change in your workplace to improve the climate?
  • How can you become a better employee?
Commit to your plan and execute it.  Do not assume all open doors are the right doors to walk through and all closed doors will not open.  I personally commit to these plans through prayer.  I continually ask God to help show me the right way and close the wrong ways.  If I hit a closed door, I begin to review my plans  and expectations again.  Some closed doors are meant to be opened - even if you have to put your shoulder into it to get it open.  Do not get discouraged too quickly.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


My letter to our NC state Senators based on the PROTECT IP Act:

Senator Burr and Hagan,

As a technology professional who works at IBM in North Carolina I appreciate the importance of intellectual property. In fact, in 2011 I filed the most patent applications in IBM in the state of North Carolina and as you may know, IBM leads the US and world in patents issued every year for the past 19 years. I do not write this representing IBM however but instead representing myself as your constituent. So let me share my thoughts with you which do not represent my company.

Protecting intellectual property is a large concern of mine. I want to be able to innovate freely and protect those innovations which are difficult discover. I was very interested to read the PROTECT IP Act but once I did, I was appalled. The full text of what I read was from Senator Leahy's website here:

While it is important to protect intellectual property, it is not worth opening the door to censorship this great. It is my understanding that the text in this bill will allow those with the most lawyers and deepest pockets to potentially demand that free speech be censored from the American people. This Act alone is not worth the worldwide damage it could cause to the cause of freedom of speech. In fact, there is no intellectual property that is worth the loss of freedom of speech.

Furthermore, in a worldwide economy, censorship in the United States of the Internet alone will do little to stop the bleeding of our intellectual property into products and services abroad. Foreigners may still freely access and share another's intellectual property regardless of whether the US people can see it. It has more potential to hinder US innovation due to less information being available and more legal troubles being possible within the US. For example, individuals and institutions overseas may choose to stop publishing materials such as research papers to sites available within the US because of legal fears.

As your constituent, I urge you to oppose the PROTECT IP Act. These bills will risk censoring the American Internet, ultimately stifle innovation, and provide a way for limiting freedom of speech worldwide.

Erik Burckart

Read more about this issue at these places:
Google's site about the issue
Stop American Censorship
Fight for the Future