Last week I challenged you to #AskMeAnything. Eleanor Tan, Global Head of Corporate Communication at the China Navigation Company, based in Singapore, asked me a total of six questions (WOW). I thought I would focus this blog on two of her questions.
Eleanor's questions: Did you wish you had become an entrepreneur earlier, given your 20-year corporate tenure? Why or why not? Why Inner Strength?
Did you wish you had become an entrepreneur earlier, given your 20-year corporate tenure? Why or why not?
I started my communication career in 1994 and by the year 2000, inspired by consultants like Angela Sinickas, Shel Holtz, Roger D'Aprix and Steve Crescenzo at IABC World Conferences, I decided to focus primarily on Internal Communication. I think I also started thinking that one day, I would consider a consulting career.
In fact, in 2007, after leaving a full-time role at HP Canada, I chose to take a one-year contract role with Canada's largest private-sector employer. For me, this was a step into the consulting world and I hoped that once the year was over, they would consider becoming a client. The timing seemed perfect. We had health and stability and I felt it was the right time to take a risk....but life happens.
I left HP in December 2007, and in January 2008, my husband was diagnosed with Colon Cancer and started two years of treatments. With two young kids at home (5 and 2), and an uncertain future, I was quick to say yes when my employer hired me full-time six months later and then continued to promote me to lead and grow Internal Communication and establish the organization as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers and Most Admired Corporate Cultures. I was there for six years.
It was around year four that I started thinking about trying again. With a healthy husband approaching his five-year cancer-free anniversary, I had a series of heart-to-heart conversations with my boss and started putting my hand up for a work-force reduction. I thought it would give me a severance and some stability through my first few years as an entrepreneur; after all, I was a little nervous given what had happened the last time.
As I stepped into entrepreneurship, I was ready to succeed or fail. I remembered telling a friend that even if it didn't work out, and I decided to go back in-house, I would have no regrets knowing that I had tried (I also remember thinking it might be a little embarrassing but worth it in the end).
I think as you get older, and you become more comfortable in your skin, you realize that there is no right or wrong way of navigating your career. I am thankful that my last employer gave me an incredible opportunity and mandate when I needed it. I appreciate having the privilege of trying to live my dream - some people can't afford to take the risk. I also appreciate colleagues of mine who after years of consulting have made the decision to go back inside organizations and are thrilled and enjoying the experience.
For those wishing for a career as an entrepreneur, start planning for your risks and focus on what you will learn about yourself along the way.
If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.
Why Inner Strength?
I had originally wanted to call my business Saraswati Communication - Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge and wisdom and maybe I was trying to channel my East India roots. A colleague mentioned that my company name should be intuitive and explain what it is my company stands for and does - which is funny because that's the advice I always give to others.
I remember Inner Strength sneaking into my head (kind of like Elizabeth Gilbert mentions in Big Magic). I immediately googled Inner Strength Communication and could not believe the domain was available.
Inner Strength is ...
- my belief that we are stronger on the outside, when we value what's inside - personally and professionally.
- my focus on building the bench and teaching communication professionals and leaders how to approach communication solutions strategically to solve business problems.
- ensuring all of the parts of an organization are working together and focusing on the same goals in order to become stronger.
- about what is possible versus what is wrong. People know that I am forever the optimist and prefer to focus on strengths while helping improve the weaknesses.
It's been fun to see how the organization's name really resonates with communication professionals and executives alike.
Stay tuned for the next blog where I contemplate Susan Martin's question:
1. Do you have any experience or insight as female leader who consulted on a project in a male-dominated industry that might be helpful to professionals working / leading internal communications at such companies?