This post is courtesy of greyzone Guest Blogger, Andrea Goodwin.

One year ago, I took a leap of faith.

In fairness, that leap was more of a slow crawl to the edge because I’m not the sort of person that leaps freely without doing a lot of thinking and planning. Regardless, I did it.

I left my “Fortune 500, 401k matching, predictable annual bonus” job and took a position on the management team of a 20 person tech startup.

Those previous years in corporate America were full of growth for me in all areas of both my professional and personal life.  While at my previous employer, I became a mother (twice) and my father’s caregiver (thrice) while pushing hard at work to deliver more value, bigger projects, and navigate the political atmosphere that comes with driving in that direction.  It was a supportive environment for me to learn and grow as a professional, and as a person.

Unexpectedly, my internal compass shifted and I craved change.  I realized after much thought and discussion (God bless my patient husband) that what I wanted next was not to continue to grow within that large company, but instead to have a change of mission, in a new industry, with a new environment.

“When you come to the edge of all the light you have, and must take a step into the darkness of the unknown, believe that one of two things will happen. Either there will be something solid for you to stand on – or you will be taught how to fly.”Overton

And then, just when I was really ready, the right opportunity showed up.  What a gift!

The company vision, the management team, the staff I would manage, the company culture and atmosphere – all a giant breath of fresh air.  Better yet – they wanted me!  I HAD learned valuable things; I did have a lot to contribute to a new growing company.  This was going to be awesome.

It’s been one year since I took that step forward and I wouldn’t trade in this journey for anything.  I’ve been able to teach and…boy oh boy…I have been able to learn.  Upon reflection, my top three take-away’s are:

  • Leading a small company is different work than leading a large team.  As the leader of a large team at a large company, I had a lot of autonomy and authority to figure out how to hit the goal line.  As a member of the management team of a small company, I share the responsibility to make decisions with my colleagues that benefit the greater good of the company.  It’s both more authority and less autonomy.  Instead of all eyes on me to get it done, I now experience more creativity and collaboration on how to hit the goal line than I ever had before.
  • Leading through intense growth creates unique challenges.  I have learned that in a small growth stage company, there are changes every two weeks, and significant adjustments every two months.  Because I’m responsible for ensuring that we’re operationally efficient and scalable, determining how to create the right type of internal structures, processes, and communication that is flexible enough to allow us to grow and adapt is critical.
  • Managing a high energy team eager to learn requires the same amount of effort as managing a been-there-done-that team of experienced staff.  The energy of the team at a tech start-up is absolutely contagious.  The “we can change the world – let’s get after it!” attitude is what drew me in from the beginning.  But this team has also needed more coaching on the fundamentals of items like project and portfolio management than I anticipated.  I hadn’t initially factored in my teaching time into my timeline of moving the work forward.

One year ago, I thought that the hardest thing about this change was going to be leaving the security of a large, stable organization.  But the truth is that the desire to grow a company is far more motivating.  Like all great life experiences, this change was not a one-to-one replacement of one thing for another.  Instead, it’s been a joy to experience how one phase of life has evolved into something fresh and impossible to anticipate.

Bio: Andrea Goodwin has successfully navigated the jungle gym approach to career management, developing skills along the way in public speaking, project management, product management and leadership.  Andrea gravitates toward work that has a high social impact, including her work digitizing curriculum for public school systems, building systems to facilitate high quality low cost healthcare and making local government more personal and responsive for it’s constituents.  You can find Andrea on LinkedIn.

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