By any standards, I have had an amazing career in business. My career path is unique and when I reflect on my career, I am in awe of the journey I have been on. This is not to boast, as I feel like I have been given opportunities and had doors open when I was completely unqualified to do the job. By the favor and grace of God, I moved up the organizational ladder. I voraciously ready every management and leadership book to get the keys to success in the corporate world. I tried them out. The ideas that worked, I put in my skills basket and drove my career forward.
I started out in manufacturing, learning how to manage a warehouse, build production plans and supervising the manufacturing process on the weekends. I thought my career was going to take me through the manufacturing ranks. With a twist, I end up working in a large Accounts Payable organization. Seeing it as a paper manufacturing line, I brought a manufacturing mindset to finance and transformed a struggling organization into a leading organization by all standards.
I was asked to lead the efforts to automate Accounts Payable on a global basis and that began a three year journey of IT project management. Leading an international team we influenced governments, built processes and connected thousands of vendors to a industry leading process. It was an exciting time in my career. I was in my late twenties and saw my career trajectory going straight up. It was during this time when Jesus really captured my heart. I was a prodigal come back home and made the decision to focus on family instead of career. To the surprised of many, I chose to move to Human Resources instead of taking a prestigious position working for the Chief Information Officer.
I was offered an opportunity to work for a previous manager and use my new project management skills to help the global HR organization while being available to my family and my faith. I learned the ins and outs of HR, which started me down a fourteen year path in that field. I also began to go deeper with God and was asked to be the Elder of Kingdom Collaboration at the large church I was attending. My life seemed perfect. Promotions, recognition, and success lulled me into a false sense of security. It was easy to fall into the complacency trap of work, family and church. Wake up and do it again. Don’t get me wrong, God was moving, great things were being accomplished at work and the family was thriving. But God had other ideas.
I remember the call when my manager asked if I wanted to move to Malaysia. It would be a two year assignment to parachute in, stabilize the organization, find a local replacement and then back home to my comfortable life. My wife and I talked and we decided that we could live anywhere for two years. Our kids were still small, five and six, so it became a no-brainer to have this little side adventure in life. So I packed up the family and move to Malaysia to run the Human Resource Operations for all of Asia. Two years turned to four years. The kids grew, my understanding of God grew, but work continued to be the primary focus. While the travel was glamorous, spending half of my time away from the family did not help with the commitment to spend more time with my wife and children. But God continued to use this time to teach us new things about Him, even if work was still my passion.
After four years, we moved to Japan and we faced completely different adventures and challenges. I took a role as head of HR for the Japan business. We left a vibrant expat and church community and landed in a very isolated place. It was a challenging time personally, but professionally it was a great job. I loved living in Japan and I was able to build great relationships with the employees at the office. Since work continued to be my god, I was less concerned about not finding a church to attend. Besides, home churches were all the rage. So we would spend time as a family watching videos and sharing with each other. We met missionaries and would worship with them from time to time. God used this time to take give us new insights and to continue building a relationship with Him.
When it was time to move back to the US, another company came calling and I made the decision to leave after a seventeen year career. Feeling God was leading us to Atlanta for a new adventure, I started a job at a global Human Resource Director. This moved me into a very lonely time in my career. The work was not as exciting and the whole family struggled with the repatriation to America. But God was there continually chasing me to have a deeper relationship with Him. No sooner had we settled when I was asked to move to Russia to lead the HR organization in Central and Eastern Europe. Our family was on the move and I continued to add skills and capabilities to be the best employee possible. A year into the assignment the geo-political situation started to spiral downward and when the opportunity opened to move the family back to the US, I took it.
Moving back to Atlanta after a year and a half to take on the Chief Learning Officer role was a good career move. I was positioning myself for a bigger role and was getting corporate experience. It was a small team, but we accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time. Until a previous manager recruited me to a new company in Dallas. I was finally getting the recognition I felt I deserved when I was offered a Vice President role. I packed up my family again, this time only a year later, and moved half way across the country. I told myself it was ok since it was not halfway across the world. I had finally arrived and decided this would be the place I spend the rest of my career. I had been brought in to change the culture and to bring in new ideas. Everyday was exciting and new, until it wasn’t. Nine months in, everything changed.
God had other plans. I had made my career and job my god. While I was a follower of Jesus Christ, I had never giving Him all of me and my life. I gave Him some of my life, but I held on to my job and my finances. So Jesus decided to get my attention. The manager who hired me left the company and shortly after that the company decided they really didn’t want to transform the culture. On a sunny Tuesday morning, nearly ten months after I joined the company, I found myself without a job. I had a peace about it, but it was a completely new situation, as I had always had a job I was moving to. I figured I was fine. I was given a severance package and was living in the hottest job market in the US. Surely I would find a job quickly.
God had other plans. He had a desire to seek Him first and to give Him everything in my life. It was during this time being unemployed where God showed me I was looking at work all wrong. I was looking at work as my identity and where I found satisfaction in my accomplishments. I looked at work as a place to put my hopes in financial security. I looked at work as a place to fulfill emotional needs. While I knew God had given me favor with leaders and had opened doors for me, there was always a part of me which believed I achieved success on my own. My work ethic, my learning agility, my perseverance, my drive and my risk taking were hallmarks of my career.
By taking my job away, it stripped my identity in a title so I could see how meaningless it was. He took a steady salary away to show me that He is my provision. The irony in this lesson was God did something without a salary that I could never do making a six figure income. He got us out of debt and got us out of our mortgage. He showed me work is important, but I had the work picture of what work was all wrong. I began to ask the questions:
- Did God give us a blueprint for work, being successful and satisfied in our labor in the bible?
- What would it look like for a person to follow God’s plan for success as an employee? How might it be different and would it bring people more satisfaction?
- What are the biblical principles for Human Resources and Management in the bible? How can that insight help everyone be successful in any job?
This month, I will explore these questions and provide the foundational building blocks for anyone to be successful at anything they put their mind to. I hope you will join me on this new beginnings.