Live North of Center
Like many leaders, I’m passionate about work, and part of that passion stems from believing in the purpose of the business. Over the years, I’ve made it a point to work for companies with missions I believe in, and that offer solutions that truly benefit our customers (and society).
I call this “staying north of center.” If you imagine a continuum of purpose as ranging from south: profiting off others’ misfortune to north: curing cancer, I strive to always be north of center. In other words, at every step, I intend to do more good in this world. Essentially, I’ve committed not to slide backwards (south), and keep my eyes on a higher purpose (north).
Of course, career paths are rarely linear. It takes time, self-knowledge, and determination (and sometimes, mistakes) to find your “true north” and stick to it. In fact, one of my first jobs out of college was working as an administrative assistant at a small firm that didn’t have a moral compass or live its values.
At the time, I was grateful for the job and slowly worked my way into a marketing role. But, here’s the thing — the firm was not ethical in its dealings and while I liked the people, I had to move on because I was not comfortable with the company’s leadership nor its ethos.
Without realizing it then, leaving was the first step in “staying north of center.”
When I look back over the years, there were many more defining experiences. One of the proudest moments of my career was working on the Women Leaders in AI program at IBM. Artificial intelligence is an actual reflection of who we are as people. These systems are trained by human beings, but the field is largely dominated by men. As AI becomes more pervasive, there is greater opportunity for bias that could impact anything from HR and recruiting to customer service. Through our work, we gave voice to the importance of diversity of thought and experience in technology development.
Today, I’m fortunate to work for Skillsoft, which has been a true innovator in the corporate digital learning space. Skillsoft has a clear-cut belief, purpose, and vision:
• We believe every person has the potential to be amazing.
• Our purpose is to unleash human potential through learning.
• And, our vision is to be the most highly valued provider of learning solutions, preparing the workforce of today with the skills for tomorrow.
Skillsoft was built on a foundation of service leadership, and the conviction that learning is a human right that should be accessible to all. (A personal “true north” of mine, by the way.) We serve our Team Members by advancing a culture of leadership and learning. We serve the greater community through partnerships with organizations like Special Olympics, the United Services Organizations (USO), Code Like a Girl, Talent Rise, and Ellevate Network, among others.
And, I’m happy to say I’m able to continue focusing on the work I began at IBM by finding ways to champion women in the post-pandemic future of work. Recently, I had the opportunity to watch Dr. Ruha Benjamin spend an hour talking about inherent biases in technology. You can watch her amazing talk here or listen to our podcast interview here .
Here’s my challenge to you:
• Take a piece of paper and draw a line across it. That’s your center.
• Now, on the center line, write down the kind of work that grounds you and guides you north (Your middle ground.)
• Then, above the center line, define your aspirations. (Your north.)
• Below the line, define what you will not do. (Your south.)
If you find that where you are right now is slightly south of center, that’s ok. I’ve found that life is sometimes just a series of course corrections on a (very) rocky trail.
As George Elliott once said, “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.”
I’ll see you on the way up.