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CIO Unplugged 1/23/13

January 23, 2013 Ed Marx 12 Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

The Long View

I proposed to Julie on February 1, 1984. I was 19. I’m not sure I really knew what love meant, but I sure enjoyed being around her. I loved listening to her practice piano for recitals as I stole second glances.

Despite our young age, everyone was pretty stoked about our engagement except her parents. Looking back 27 years later, with my own daughter that age, I can’t really blame them.

Julie defined their marriage. She was the apple of their eyes. They wanted to delay giving her away for as long as they could. When they did, they hoped for a doctor or lawyer. At least those were the types they had over to dinner so Julie could meet them on weekends home from college.

I recall pulling into their driveway one Friday. My Chevy Vega with the duct-taped hood cowered next to their lacquered Mercedes. Wearing baggy sweats and tennis shoes with holes, I was the definition of poor. While I grunted away in the Army Reserve as a private, her dad stood tall as a retired WWII naval officer.

They were against the marriage from the get-go and withheld their support. Then came the final meeting, one last chance to talk us youngsters out of a commitment that had failed them both previously. They hired an investigator who reported everything about me from teenage indiscretions to bank withdrawals to employment history. There was nothing new to Julie. 

Out of exasperation came the final plea came. They offered me a handsome amount of money to walk away.

I had no hesitation. I’d already counted the cost. Despite the fast and easy reward, I took the long view. I’d never had that kind of cash, but I knew money wouldn’t make me happy. I immediately said no. They walked away.

We face many temptations in our careers. Most are not so stark, but others manifest themselves in many forms. We all know of colleagues who took bribes from vendors to influence purchasing decisions. Eventually they got caught and lost their careers and reputations. The short-term gain never pays long-term dividends.

Reviewing hundreds of resumes over the years taught me to spot trends where applicants constantly jumped from job to job, each time trying to bank a modest increase. Although a person might receive payola by making so many moves in a short period, they likely won’t land the big one. Who would hire someone whose trend suggests he or she might leave in a year? At some point, all the jumping catches up to you, especially at the highest levels. Think tortoise and the hare.

I do believe there are times you must go to grow. Other times you need to grind through challenges so your character can form and your leadership can blossom. I see too many people run at the first sight of trouble.

Boy, I’ve been tempted myself. I recall one year a while back showing up at a new employer where it was clear I was way in over my head. Way over. Everyone was nice and it was a stellar advancement opportunity, but my insecurities got the best of me. After a few months, I humbled myself and called my former employer, asking to return.

The COO, who had previously served as my mentor, said no. He explained that I needed to stick it out, learn, ask for help, adjust, and succeed. As much as he wanted me back, he knew if I went in reverse, I would never reach my ultimate goal of CIO. I followed his counsel, and today I am living my career dream. Had I taken the short view, I would likely still be working in the same position today.

My in-laws ultimately had a change of heart and helped us with the wedding expenses. I appreciated the fact they wanted to protect their daughter from making such a huge commitment at a young age, not yet even a junior in college. I would’ve handled it differently, but again, I understood the motivation.

We got married and worked our butts off to get through school and start our family. Today we are richly blessed, having taken the long view.

Whenever challenges hits me, I’m tempted by the short view. But one look at my family and my career reinforces the lesson. The long view pays off.

Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook and you can follow him via Twitter — user name marxists.

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Currently there are "12 comments" on this Article:

  1. It is equally challenging when there are many leadership changes. It is a new partnership and commitment each time. Many leadership changes lead to very little investment in the growth and appropriate mentoring of staff. By the time a groove has been established, there is another partner (leader). It can be frustrating and it can be envigorating. New leaders can provide good growing experiences and sometimes it is time to, as you say time to “go to grow”.

    Leaders should remeber that others are also trying to stick it out, learn, ask for help, adjust to the change and ultimately trying to succeed.

  2. Ed, that was quite a story and so much to be learned from it. A move should never be only about $$$ but also about opportunites for personal growth and developing new skill sets. Your mentor was wise. Thanks for sharing! Cheryl

  3. As a young professional surrounded by other youngsters trying to ‘make it big, make it quick’ I appreciate your story. I try to keep the long view at top of mind, so I thank you for sharing your own experience.

  4. Nice article. I find it fascinating the different perspectives you bring. I’ve been the guy who’s always calculating and purposely chose to not date in college to focus solely on the degree. It turned out I met my future wife in college but we didn’t wind up seeing each other until years later.

    I do laugh at the perspective of job hoppers, I am the epitome of someone who looks like a job hopper from my resume and also the epitome of someone that has never intended to be. I left my first job to go back to school, only to have my funding fall through the same day I received a job offer. Then I wound up leaving that job after a year because I received a full ride scholarship for my MBI. Since then I’ve been consulting because its offered some amazing growth opportunities but looking over my resume the next time I accept a full time position I have to remain 5 years if I want to balance out the resume. It puts quite a bit of pressure on that next job.

  5. Awesome job Ed. It reminds me of a saying I heard from 12 step recovery groups: short term pain for long term happiness.

  6. Ed, I appreciate the wisdom and sound advice from this blog article. I am guilty as charged when it comes to jumping ship early because of advancement opportunity but have now found myself in a place where long term vision and growth is not only an opportunity but a reality. Again, thank you for the insight.

  7. I can tell you many many many stories of people who worked at the same place.. and got abused and neglected. working for no raise or a modest 2 percent…
    working 60+ hour weeks… only to find.. 30 years in they get laid off.. end result = massively overworked.. massively underpaid..

    the long run didnt pay off for them.. they started as an upderpaid engineer.. and ended as an upderpaid/overworked engineer..

    I can also tell you and show you many individuals that worked different places.. for shorter tenures (2 years).. those people are much smarter.. have much more depth
    of technical knowledge.. and can bring to the table things others with longer tenures cant.. for example.. best practices.. etc. Those types of skills are the skills that will actually
    move your team to innovate and excel.. not just ‘pump out a newer version of your same ole product’. Those people cost more. because quite frankly. those people are worth more.

  8. Goes to show you that if you believe in something, perseverance and faith will pay off in the long run,.

    What a great story, I had to read it twice!

  9. I just wanted to let you know how much I love your insight Ed. This article has so many angles – from “don’t just a book by its cover” to having perservence as you fulfill your dreams. I also wanted to thank you for sending your strategic plans – thank you!

  10. I would agree with a few caveats:

    Employment is a two-way street. It seems that you’ve certainly been blessed and lucky to have employers, leaders, managers and co-workers who take a similar long term approach to not only their business, but their employees/team members as well.

    Too often I’ve seen (and experienced) almost the exactly opposite. The “bait and switch” job offer, the often unrealistic (VERY) expectations and lack of support. And sometimes, the flat out incompetence of the organization as a whole and/or individual departments.

    I certainly wish we could all just “stick it out, ask for help, learn and adjust”, but sometimes no matter the individual that’s not possible and it may just be better to realize your mistake, lick your wounds and move on…

    If we were all lucky enough to serve under leadership like yours, knowing we had the support and commitment behind us as long as we gave ours it might be a different story for many.

    Where to draw the line? Very good question (as in all things!)…

    And, if you really think about it – it’s that sort of thing that brings success to the organization as whole, which in turns breeds more success. It’s one of the key factors to long term success in any business – think “Good to Great” stuff…

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