One Word for Your Career

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Published on: February 15, 2016

In my post entitled Focus your Energy and Launch this Blog I referred to a question that was once asked of me. The question “If you had to boil down your professional skill sets and/or professional value into a single word… what word would you choose?” is one that we evaluated in light of specialization. Specialization allows you to focus your energy and identify what sets you apart from everyone else. This singular focus will allow you to perfect your skills in your area of choice and really begin to master your specific trade. It is often difficult for someone to choose such a specialty because we as humans have many interests and skills, but choosing a single specialty will allow you the focus necessary to become the expert in that area.

It is often said, especially in the age of technology and highly available information, that with enough time you can become an expert in anything. It is my belief that this is true and I am a firm believer in lifelong learning; however, it is also said that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice on a particular skill to become a master. Given that there are 8,760 hours in a year, it would take you a full year plus 52 days to master a particular skill.  If you are getting the recommended amount of sleep (does anyone do that?) of 8 hours a day, then you would spend 2920 hours of that time sleeping, which will require another 122 days to compensate. Therefore, you will realistically require at least 1.5 to 2 years to master any specific skill, if you spend every waking moment perfecting that skill. In looking at these numbers, it becomes clear why it would be extremely difficult for your average person to truly master a range of skills in their lifetime, since it will be extremely difficult for them to dedicated that much time to refining multiple skills, especially if there is any balance of life in the equation to add additional realism to the timeline.

After much consideration of these facts, I decided on a word that I believe is a good depiction of what I have identified as a particular niche of interest for me and have worked to achieve so far in my career. I derived my specialty through significant effort and study and defining this specialization is not something that has come easily to me, as I expect that it won’t for others, and required that I consider not only the range of projects throughout my professional career, but also in studying the nature of business and which organizations and products have been successful in the market. I have spent the time to break those projects, products and ultimately the businesses that support them down to look at the fundamental aspects of each one and only in doing so was I able to identify the root of the underlying need and use this to define my specialization. Although these projects have spanned technologies, organizations and industries, the concepts defining their success were similar. It is this fact that excites me so much to launch this blog and offer up the insights that I have been able to gather in my career in hopes that it facilitates some level of communication and sparks thoughts and innovations in others. It is an extremely powerful idea to consider the most generic of concepts and evaluate your vision through such a lens. My interests and passions have always straddled both areas of business and technology and it has been through this lens that I was able to view the underlying factor linking my two interests to my ultimate specialization. For me, this word is “Automation”.

The dictionary definition of “Automation” describes the word as “the use of various control systems in a system of manufacturing or other production process with minimal or reduced human intervention.”. It is clear that achieving the desired levels of automation have occurred using various methods in various industries and various platforms throughout history. This is not a new concept; however, I believe that it is truly the underlying principle that when properly applied has led to a number of significant successes throughout history.

“Automation” as a core principle serves to enhance productivity and efficiency with the major benefits being the ability to save labor and improve quality, accuracy and precision. These benefits ultimately lead to the business goals of achieving return on investment and competitive advantages; however, it is important to understand how automation can bring value and how to apply Automation across the business coupled with the use of technology to really make an impact. Throughout this blog we will explore how to leverage automation to enhance your business and how the use of technology can facilitate these areas. It is arguable that this principle is what has fostered the rapid implementation of technology across enterprises throughout the world; however, it is important to note that organizations still continue to struggle with being able to efficiently use this technology in which they have invested millions and that is exactly the challenge we seek to resolve. The need to continuously upgrade to garner the added benefits of technological advancements enhances this challenge while taking focus away from the businesses core challenge of meeting the continued changing demands of their business. The solution for this challenge requires a return to the fundamental mindset of “Automation”. Although throwing technology itself at the job may solve certain challenges, as discussed previously, it will also introduce others. In order to successfully implement the concept of “Automation”, the enterprise will need to buy into the value as part of the organizational culture and the concept will require that a choice be made to optimize each component within the organization to reduce the amount of effort required to achieve optimal output with minimal required input. It is in this area that I have spent my career working with organizations to implement this concept and an area that I expect will continue to become more important in the years to come. The successful implementation of these techniques will significantly enhance an organizations competitive advantage and help build a moat in their market as the organizations begin to spend more time focusing on the core challenges instead of having to become experts in every area required to keep operating.

I’m interested in my readers thoughts and ideas around this concept and I welcome you to join in the discussion and post comments and questions. I have a number of specific topics that I wish to discuss as we consider the more generic topic of Automation, but I hope to get feedback from others as well as you think through how these concepts can affect your business and your personal life. As previously mentioned, evaluating the challenges you face through the lens of specialization and simplification will not only help in the exercise of identifying an area of personal focus, but in being able to really step back and evaluate any of the challenges you may face and may just lead you to the answer you are seeking. Although this is only the first step in a longer journey, it is important that you begin by evaluating and considering your areas of specialization in hopes that it will also lead you to focus and identify areas outside of your area of mastery. For these areas, if they are truly necessary, I’m happy to discuss how automation can help get the job done such that you may focus on what is important.


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