After my first week as Chief Product Evangelist at Aternity, it’s clear that a career transition isn’t like a triathlon transition. Triathlon transitions are executed efficiently and calmly. You lay out your gear neatly so that you can peel off your wet suit after the swim, pull on your cycling gear, and get going. Spread a towel next to your bike to dry your feet. Put your sunglasses in your helmet, and your helmet on your aero-bars, upside down, so you can put them on quickly. Clip your shoes into your pedals, so you don’t waste time. It’s logical, methodical, and predictable.
Starting a new role at a small company is more like kayaking a class 5 river. Exhilarating, exciting, and exhausting. All at the same time. So many areas to investigate, each seemingly as important as the next. As I’ve started at Aternity, I’ve tried to use structured learning, outlined by Michael Watkins in his book, The First 90 Days. Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve learned.
The Recommended Approach to Structured Learning
In his book, Watkins details a systematic approach to structured learning that helps new executives determine where to focus their efforts. The structured learning process helps you gather and analyze information from a variety of sources so you can build a plan for adding value to your new organization.
Creating a learning agenda with a focused set of questions relating to your company’s past, present, and future helps you identify how and why decisions were made, the current state of market opportunity and challenges, and possible vectors for future growth.
Four Areas to Focus Structured Learning
In my first week on the job, I’ve focused my structured learning in four key areas.
The business: Current customer base and growth, new product development areas, current and future competition, primary partnerships.
Stakeholders: In the first week, I’ve met not only with management team colleagues, but also selected members of the sales and customer support teams. These sessions have been helpful for me to start to understand our sales process and how we engage with customers.
Expectations: In all of these meetings, I’ve asked for input on what the stakeholders need from me. By asking this question across all of the major functional areas, I hope to get insight into consistent themes, and potential deliverables to generate early wins. Watkins discusses the importance of generating early wins in building credibility, momentum, and on-going trust.
Culture: Even by the first day, it was clear to me that our company has a very strong culture. Priorities include effective and timely communication, clear assignment of action items and due dates, and mutual respect. Not to mention a real work hard/play hard mentality!
Accelerate Learning in the Field
Actually, my first week in the office wasn’t my first week with the company. Rather than wander the halls of our corporate headquarters, I wandered the halls of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. And, with 1800 exhibitors and 80,000 attendees, the event provided me plenty of opportunities to get in my mileage!
More important than mileage, attending the event allowed me to accelerate my structured learning plan. Mobile World Congress is the largest gatherings of operators, vendors, and pundits in the area of mobile. One of Aternity’s strategic priorities is to expand into mobile application performance management. Attending this event fast-tracked my understanding of customer needs, competition, and partnership opportunities. These areas are far more important to accelerating my structured learning plan than was filling out HR forms and firing up my laptop!
In the coming weeks, I’ll be using Watkins’ book as a guide as I complete my structured learning and prepare my 90 day plan. I’m interested in feedback from others in a similar position. Any guidance or suggestions for me?