Why I went from boardroom to basement start-up

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We all have different motivators in our careers, and expectations of where we want to get to. For me, in my career, my passion has been to innovate and push for new ways of working. It’s a particularly exciting time for me at the moment as technology is disrupting all industries and the increase in diversity in the workplace brings new ideas too. With new entrants into the job market now needing to prepare for a 60 or even 70-year work lifetime, even those of us in our 40s should be planning a 30-year journey still ahead of us. To keep up with change, it’s important that you are flexible and learn new skills. How will you move out of your comfortable confines to stay motivated and engaged by what you do?

Where my journey to transform workplace culture started

In general, the desire to change things up or re-invent oneself usually builds up over time, and then particular events can trigger us accelerate this desire and embark in new directions. For me, it was the arrival of my daughter that sparked my decision to leave an executive career and re-invent myself as a non-executive director, as well as launch my own start-up, Rungway. My app focuses on helping companies to share knowledge and build cultures where everyone feels they belong. Coupled with my interests in innovation and new approaches, I’ve also had a strong interest in self-improvement and workplace culture, and I’ve been fascinated by all the emerging technologies now in existence that help people collaborate and learn from one another – so it only made sense to launch a company like Rungway.

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This move from boardroom to basement may seem like a backwards one for some, but for me, I enjoy the blend of my boardroom and start-up roles, and find that the two are more complementary than you might expect. The start-up gains from my boardroom experience of big-scale business and people management, as well as existing understanding on how to critically evaluate strategy, assess opportunities, innovation and risk (and, of course, provides a large, existing network to draw upon).

Conversely, the boardroom gains from the start-up perspectives on the very latest technologies, the ability to work with an agile mindset, and also from the much faster learning cycles. After every “sprint” (where we design, develop and release within very short cycles), we have a retrospective debate among our team on what needs to be done better next time – from the biggest to the smallest changes. For many bigger companies, this kind of exercise may only happen annually as a token gesture – or may not be tackled openly at all, potentially leaving a less valuable approach to be repeated time and time again instead of learning and adapting.  

While everyone will have a varied experience to mine, deliberately taking twists and turns within your own career journey will allow you to build up new skills and mindsets, and help you be a different kind of role model too. For me, I’m proud that my daughter gets to see me trying new things and taking risks within a totally different environment – there’s no rule book and no certainty. But equally, none of our careers have a rule book. While some may have a more set path than others to begin with, we are still the sole navigators of our career journey, and the straight path up the hill isn’t necessarily the only way through. Perhaps you should detour on the dirt road? Or take the next left to a new destination entirely? The choice is yours.

Originally published on Forbes