How It All Began for Me
It is hard to believe that I have worked for the same company for 23 years. A situation that is nearly unheard of in 2015 and nearly never in the technology industry. I am both proud and at times embarrassed by this fact.
My background was in accounting. I met Roy Singham, founder and chairman of Thoughtworks in 1986 when he hired me to help implement a lease accounting system. Later in 1992, Roy approached me to join a small team he was forming to create a consulting company. I had two young daughters and about as risk-averse as they come, but something made me do it. A gut feeling. A sense of trust.
Initially, it was a typical start up environment - funded by credit cards, no payroll now and then, working out of a basement, everyone performing both operational and consulting roles to keep the lights on.
Initially, the agreement was that I would work three days a week and travel was required. The travel, although exhausting, turned out to work well for me. I didn’t have the challenges that working parents have while at home, for example - rush home to relieve the sitter, pick the kids up from school, or prepare a healthy dinner. When I worked away from home, I could focus on work, the team and myself. I was fortunate to have tremendous support at home. We always had a sitter come to the house versus packing them up and taking them to daycare. My husband was supportive and a great father. My parents were close by and regularly helped out with babysitting, chauffeuring and meals.
My Career Choices
My career choices have been opportunistic. The initial work we did was assisting a vendor with implementing a lease accounting package. With my accounting background, this was a natural fit for me. The bigger learning curve for me was on the systems side. As Thoughtworks moved into software development and hired operations folks, I moved into business analysis and project management roles. A natural fit for my skills and capabilities.
Later, personal factors meant that traveling every week wasn’t an option for me, and I interviewed for an open Resource Management position. (Yes, I had to interview!) I was the first consultant to perform the RM function at Thoughtworks -- a tough job staffing hundreds of consultants and trying to find the best fit for both the clients and our Thoughtworkers.
Eventually, I went went on to work in our product group -- Studios -- as an agile coach and trainer. I truly enjoyed the teaching aspect of that role. My daughters were now in college and I had my first opportunity to live and work in another country. I went to London and worked on a large organizational transformation program in Glasgow. That experience lead me to Program Management and where I am today. The challenges of building a structure for coordinating and facilitating a large program of work have been another great learning experience for me.
I’ve never really had a career plan and as each project engagement ended or as something new was presented to me, I considered my options and took the path that would challenge and interest me as well as accommodate my life constraints.
Would I do things differently today? Not likely. Except for maybe taking a totally different path in college and pursue my other interest, which is nutrition and exercise. There is still time for that during retirement. But regarding Thoughtworks, the path I’ve taken has been both challenging and rewarding. I’ve gained domain knowledge in banking, finance, manufacturing, retail, gaming, government, rail transportation and the airline industries.
With my daughters out of college and soon to be leaving the nest, I have the opportunity to drive my career with fewer life constraints. A situation that is new to me. It is allowing me the opportunity to really reflect on who I am now, what I want to learn and do next.
Thoughtworks Has Evolved Too
It’s been exciting to see how much Thoughtworks has grown and changed! Although Thoughtworks started with five accountants and no technical staff, the organization has always been driven by Roy’s interest in technology and the desire to use it to solve our clients’ problems.
I am proud of the fact that Thoughtworks has grown to attract top talent and thought leaders, and I’ve seen my colleagues grow to become published authors and respected speakers. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak and write, sharing my experiences in project and program planning and management.
Another thing that I’ve loved watching evolve is Thoughtworks University (TWU), a 5-week programme which brings recently hired graduates from all of our offices together for a collective learning and cultural experience in India. The program provides the Thoughtworker the foundation and support they need to operate in a consulting environment.
As Roy has always been very socially conscious, it was only a matter of time until Thoughtworks participated, drove and worked to better lives with technology. Along the way, Thoughtworks defined the organization’s three pillars: a sustainable business, champion software excellence and social justice. Pillar 3, which is to ensure social impact using technology, has evolved from the occasional free work on a project for an organization that an employee may be involved in to having a fully operating vertical – Office of Social Change and Initiatives (OSCI).
Although we are much larger today, Attitude, Aptitude, Integrity are still the foundation of Thoughtworks. I can’t wait to see where my journey takes me next.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.