1. What is your current role? What was your first role when you started your career?
I am the General Manager of the Center of Excellence at SUSE in India, which includes our Engineering, IT, Services and Support functions.
I started my career as a Software Engineer at GE, developing products for their B2B platform.
2. Can you share one or two instances where you transitioned from one role to an unrelated or seemingly unrelated role
Here are 2 instances:
a. After completing my MBA, I started in a Business Development role, carrying a sales quota! It is seemingly un-related, but the connection was that I was responsible for selling the same services (product engineering services) that I had been delivering as a software engineer.
b. In Singapore, I joined the Consulting practice at PwC, which was a move from the Tech sector into Consulting services. This was a significant shift for me, both in terms of the market (target customers and services sold) and the work culture.
3. Thinking about the transition to an unrelated role, can you share the following:
3a. What was your motivation for the transition - was it self driven or was it driven by circumstance
In both cases the transition was self-driven: I wanted to try something new!
3b. What helped you the most in making this transition? Was it the power of your network, your prior working relationship with the line manager, your skills that were transferable or luck?
Transferable skills are a basic requirement i.e. you cannot make a transition if you do not exhibit them.
It was the power of the network alone in my case. The better your network (quality, not quantity), the luckier you will be.
3c. Once you transitioned to your new role, which of your existing skill was / skills were most helpful
3d. Did you have to develop a new skill or improve an existing skill in your new role? If yes, how did you go about developing / improving this skill
Yes, I definitely had a steep learning curve in both cases:
In my business development role, I had to learn the consultative sales technique, and I’m thankful to my then employer & management team who organized the trainings for us. This role also involved the need to learn quickly about how the organization works, especially with respect to billing, collections, etc.
In my consulting role, I spent significant time learning consulting methodologies and analyzing potential clients’ annual reports in order to have meaningful meetings.
To draw some general prescriptions out of these experiences, I’d say it definitely helps to talk to as many colleagues as you can, especially those in other teams or departments, and elicit their thoughts about your role and how you can be successful in that role.
3e. Did any training program help you either make the transition to the role or help you succeed once you transitioned to the new role
Like I mentioned above, the consultative training program was very helpful in preparing me for customer conversations.
4. Looking back, is there anything you wish you had done differently or had better support on when making these transitions?
At the risk of sounding trite here is what I would’ve done more of:
a. Be more collaborative, especially in reaching out to more people within my organization and elicit their suggestions and support.
b. Treat people with more kindness and empathy!
5. Any advice you would have for people who are exploring career transitions within or outside their organization?
Explore the career transition within your own organization first, for the following reasons:
a. You already have access to people in your target team / function
b. You have the opportunity to have a candid conversation about the demands of that role
c. You have the opportunity to understand the pros/cons of the target role – the grass is always greener on the other side! Use these conversations to prepare yourself.
d. You have already spent some time in your organization and know the processes, tools and people. This is a support system that you will not have if you change employers.