Tuesday, 17 August 2021

On Cloud Transformation, CTO reflections on scaling tech & people - Part 1 - Intro

In a series of posts this year, I plan to write on how I led a transformation of a technology platform and engineering team - and delivered results in scaling to 10X+ growth on KPIs such as user-and-device growth, user engagement, enhanced personalisation & content discovery, reduced platform instability by increasing availability from 97 to 99%; created a 20X+ reduction in core operating costs (saving R100m+) and simultaneously built a scalable leadership team to take over. All in 3.5 years.  

This draws on my professional work experience from March 2017 - October 2020, when I spent my time as CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of an OVP (Online Video Platform) for Africa's largest VE (Video Entertainment) provider. In this short period my team delivered end-to-end transformation (not just software development) that set up the IT/Engineering to scale for future growth. I also left a scalable leadership pipeline in place which allowed me to comfortably transition to my next role outside of video systems by leaving a technology roadmap delivery plan & sustainable processes in place for at least another 2 years. Since my departure, I remain in contact with the team who continue not only to thank me for the roadmap but also for the opportunities I helped create to grow their own careers as leaders, who are themselves on track to become CTOs & CIOs as well.


The business grew increasingly concerned about their online video platform's ability to scale to increased forecasted demand anticipated as more customers switched from traditional broadcast satellite-TV viewing to on-demand, on-the-go-viewing through streaming video over the internet. With incumbents like Netflix & Amazon Prime Video and others entering the African territory, we also needed a reliable internet-ready TV product that customers have come to take for granted. Until then, the video platform which was built largely in-house by a local engineering team, had an active user base that consisted mainly of early adopters, an internal start-up project, fledgling at best. 

This platform and product was still in its infancy, not-yet-ready for exponential internet growth, which could happen at any time. As such, this team operated on a shoestring budget of a constrained start-up for a number of years. The engineering team was also spread quite thin, working on multiple, incoherent projects, product and services not specifically focused on internet video. Rather, we were the "online people" that did everything from hosting websites, various content management systems, wrote media apps and ran operations for digital marketing sites across African continent. In short, I owned a digital IT shop that was a multi-armed, multi-headed hydra that needed taming.  Such constraints whilst bred out of necessity, unfortunately ignored the bigger picture, long-term strategic investments needed in the platform to scale for future growth were largely ignored because of budget constraints. The platform barely supported its early adopters in so far as providing consistent availability was never guaranteed or reliable. Customer satisfaction scores were very low, below 4 (<40%). Net Promoter Scores (NPS) almost non-existent. Outages due to platform stability was the norm, with on-call load on support engineers increasing as number of users began to increase. 

The business, unawares of the true state of the platform, had nonetheless planned increased marketing and awareness campaigns for its internet streaming product. Large events like the FIFA Soccer World Cup (2018), Olympics (2018) Cricket World Cup (2019), Rugby World Cup (2019) sparked much concern about the platform's ability to scale for increased load. Other events like UEFA, Premiere League, Game of Thrones and other popular video content expected to bring increased traffic to the platform. Apart from primary content drivers, the fear of not making a noise on the streaming side was high - we needed to take this fledgling product & platform and make it mainstream. Marketing increased. Along came a decent technology budget assigned to me to help turnaround & deliver a recovery. I could not pass up this opportunity to test my skills in technology, engineering, strategy, delivery and leadership...what a journey it was!

The ask: build and scale an video streaming (live broadcast and video-on-demand like Amazon Prime Video or Hulu) platform to work across 50+ countries on the African continent, with localisation. Build, stabilize, replace, buy, partner - do what is necessary, but we don't have time-to-wait a year for new R&D or migration, as we're going to make a noise in marketing, so the platform better be available. At the same time, build complementary services for "internet connected set top boxes" in addition to pure online play.

The current reality, i.e. existing state-of-affairs in April 2017 when I took over, did not bode well for the team or technical platform. In addition to this, the organisation was half-way through implementing a business-wide transformation program "Future Fit", radically changing its operating model end-to-end. This led to changes in structure, organizational operating models: competency and functional area "consolidation" that led to layoffs due to optimisations. Managing big people changes whilst planning to turnaround and deliver a technical strategy was no easy feat. Eighteen months later into the operating model transformation, our team was again reorganised and reconsolidated as the business decided to IPO, rearranging its operating model yet again. Not to mention wade through 4X changes in executive leadership, retain stability in people and still deliver results. Changing executive leaders four times meant I had to deal with 4 new bosses, each CEO having their own view of technology strategy (more on this later)...
Our Tech Stack

....and a sneak peek of under-the-hood, infrastructure/platform services:

Technical & Leadership Challenges

So the challenges & obstacles I had to overcome as CTO:
  • How do I bring structure into a chaotic engineering team, stabilise the platform and simultaneously scale to 10X++ MAUs, double user engagement, with a small team and still deliver a comparable experience like Netflix? 
  • How do I do this without micromanaging my team and build self-confidence in their engineering ability, despite being considered not “world-class” by sceptics (underdogs - I hate it when (international) folks doubt local African engineering talent - rant for another day)? 
  • How to change a slow corporate processes to innovating fast and taking chances to migrate to cloud - without having all the answers yet and tick all the due-diligence questions? 
  • How to maintain customer excellence when the stakes are high, and when chips are down, how to gracefully deal with a crisis (almost every weekend)? 
  • How do I build credibility back when the team’s reputation has taken a hit? 
  • How to maintain some level of platform stability where known bottlenecks exist that will cause an outage under high load or peak demand like a Black Friday event? 
  • How to decide whether the existing platform needs a full rewrite or be replaced by COTS or whether it is safe to continue existing platform through technical-debt re-engineering? 
  • How do you transform a "POC" prototype into an industrial-strength video platform that can stand the likes of the giants? 
  • How do I transform a mindset of an engineering team and change the culture to a high  performing, consciously customer-focused operations/security devsecops focus?
  • How do I create a technology vision & long term view that's credible & a practical roadmap for delivery?
  • How do I repair dysfunctional relationships between product-and-engineering teams where trust is low, cynicism high, unhealthy partnership?
  • How do manage business and marketing operations, building sincere relations to work around constraints and limits of the platform (shared context)?
  • How do I communicate the true state-of-the-platform to stakeholders without causing panic and have a credible action plan that instils confidence?
  • How do I build a leadership team when headcount is frozen and we still need to deliver? How do I remove doubt from senior stakeholders about engineering skillset and competency of managers?
  • How do I convince people about taking a chance on diverse individuals who may not be experienced or "qualified enough"?
  • How to handle political conflict, fears and uncertainty when merging two tech platforms, create a vision for the future and manage communications with non-technical platform why "it won't work" scenarios.
  • How do I leave a leadership succession pipeline in place seeing my goal was to leave after 3 years anyway?

Topics Covered

In a series of posts starting August 2021, my goal is to share my strategy, tactics and lessons learnt on leading this turnaround as well as core topics on cloud transformation. As I post each article, I will update these bullet points with links:
  • Take time to understand current reality & publish to-be aspirations - get an independent opinion by way of a system audit & architecture review
  • How I designed the technical org with a view for future organic transformations in mind. There's the ideal and then there's the "play the cards you're dealt", but never lose sight of the bigger picture.
  • Being bold with data centre optimisations - down with data centres, embrace peering!
  • First things first, stabilise your infrastructure and networking, build in redundant routing
  • Sometimes you need to take a step backwards to move two steps forwards - enhance platform software for multiple datacentres. First principles matter, a lot.
  • Stabilize hosting infrastructure and step change your virtualisation model - move to containers
  • Embrace cloud content delivery networking (CDNs) - don't build your own, partner. Introduce multi-CDN strategy, experiment, iterate.
  • Have the leadership will to experiment, fail and re-invent - leverage experimentation with partners. Change the paradigm (cache-at-edge, build safe modes, borrow from metaphors from other domains).
  • Choose your cloud partners wisely but don't over analyse to death. Move fast, choose an appropriate cloud platform that aligns to your culture.
  • Factors I consider important for partnerships
  • Going cloud native - out with the old, in with the new, skip lift-and-shift altogether - content discovery & personalisation
  • Keeping the bean counters happy - Introduce econometrics - how I introduced a platform economics model for Total Cost of Ownership, cost per user, cost of networking per user to prove the logic of transformation. Speak the language of finance to finance people. A CTO without financial intelligence is limiting.
  • How to improve technical operations, introducing habits, discipline, accountability & ownership.
  • Nurturing a culture of automated testing, continuous testing on production, load & performance testing, chaos testing, failover & disaster recovery testing. Testing is a job not just for QA department.
  • Managing large-scale events, scaling for peak usage & crisis management when things go wrong
  • Leveraging off-the-shelf capabilities - don't reinvent the wheel unless you have no other option.
  • Willingness to learn from mistakes, taking responsibility for outages & setting direction on way forward - leadership.
  • Know your metrics - how to go from zero to 100+ (and perhaps overkill) in creating a command centre for monitoring issues in real-time. Why every technology platform needs its own Platform Intelligence Portal outside of Business Intelligence reports or a Data Warehouse team. Engineering teams must own their platform metrics, don't pass responsibility over-the-wall.
  • How to build a succession pipeline in place such that exiting CTO position behind is ready to be filled by your number one?

Results Delivered

Here's a dump of the results I delivered in my tenure as CTO - that I use as talking points in my CV, interview loops & coaching other IT managers:
  • Inherited technology stack with weak foundational architecture, massive technical debt causing instability
  • Successfully turned around a previously distressed, dysfunctional group, bringing clarity of focus & team cohesion
  • Redesigned the organisational structure & technical platform strategy aligned to future business growth
  • Introduced new leadership roles, set the vision, mission & objectives for the division thus bringing order to chaos
  • Improved relationships and working agreements with core customers by agreeing SLAs & metrics for performance
  • Improved platform availability from 97-98% (7-10 days yearly outage) to 99.8-99.9% (8.76-17 hours)
  • Scaled the platform to 10X+ on monthly active users, total active users/devices
  • Increased engagement at least 2X year-on-year
  • Increased network throughput 10X breaking internet streaming records for Africa, up to 800Gbps on one event
  • Expanded application device footprint 4X (introduced smart TVs, game consoles, new set top boxes, IP-only STB)
  • Enhanced project and release management processes, ways-of-working improved resulting in on-time completion of projects
  • Transitioned teams from textbook agile scrum methods to more fluid, generalised project execution tracks improving flexibility
  • Introduced Google’s Software Engineer in Testing capability, driving automation & completely removed manual testing
  • Instilled a sense-of-ownership and accountability for monitoring operations by upskilling & training programs
  • Celebrated people by winning group-worldwide recognition awards: Innovation in AI/ML, Test automation & App development
  • Improved overall people engagement of division scoring highest management metric as measured by OfficeVibe tool
  • Created architectural platform vision for the new technology stack thus managing expectations of journey timelines
  • Delivered on key project & product roadmap items meeting business objectives for all fiscal years to date
  • Introduced new operational behaviours & mindset changes, dress rehearsals, large event preparation management processes
  • Introduced new SOPs albeit manual, that resulted in improving platform stability & uptime, reduction in incidents raised
  • Transformed software engineering processes to full stack, paving the way for DevSecOps, removing silos across teams
  • Enabled development of in-house platform monitoring and intelligent dashboard tools improving NOC, 24/7 & command centre
  • Enhanced testing coverage driving load, performance & scalability testing, automated on production during off-peak times
  • Closed security gaps in architecture/implementation that reduced risk of revenue leakage & subscription management
  • Catalysed change in thinking in managing total cost of ownership: buy versus build, partner more, improving focus
  • Steered group's transformation to cloud services, improving stability & uptime e.g. Microsoft Azure Media Services delivery, AWS S3/CloudFront, Lambda, AWS Shield, R53, etc.
  • Reduced costs by up to 70% on core infrastructure, saving group in the order of R100m over three years
  • Resolved legacy technology components and services by offloading, de-supporting and transferring to other divisions
  • Demonstrated cloud innovation in streaming by enabling Africa’s first 4K/UHD streams over Azure media services for FIFA’18
  • Scaled platform capability doubling YoY to 10X+ MAUs with 50%+ increased engagement meeting KPIs
  • Introduced cloud transformation journey roadmap of at least 3 years: multi-DC app hosting, microservices, containers to AWS 
  • Managed a large budget excess of $30m, operating largely within budget as well as delivering cost savings KPIs
  • Created technical & financial model for forecasting platform costs, introducing cost per user economics never seen before
  • Introduced multi-CDN partnering capabilities for redundancy, cost & improving risk management for disaster recovery scenarios
  • Reduced total cost of ownership by moving away from in-house built purpose systems to partnerships & leveraging cloud
  • Instigated enterprise technology transformation by optimising and transferring people/skills to other departments
  • Made difficult technology decisions that negatively impacted team morale but nevertheless maintained best business interests
  • Deftly & tactfully negotiated contracts resulting in better relationships, support plans & drove additional cost savings
  • Grew & improved relationships with vendors to be partner focused, thus enjoying symbiotic relationships than before
  • Turned around governance for both internal and external audits, resulting in Green report within 12 months of a red report
  • Improved monitoring & execution of antipiracy initiatives by developing tools that enabled quick takedowns of pirate streams
  • Shaped the strategic direction of technical platform consolidation, at the risk of disrupting the status quo
  • Key contributor to enterprise-wide governance & steering councils: Risk, Governance, Architecture, Procurement & Cloud
  • Drove cross-group consolidation of competencies, tools & technologies promoting reuse and improving synergies
  • Drove modern application development methods like feature flagging, A/B testing & application logging as well as common cross-platform application development framework on React.JS

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Book Review: Leadership BS

Confront brutal truths and reality of #leadership or ignore at your peril!

This book took me on a rollercoaster ride though highs and lows, twists and turns, free falling into the deep abyss to be yanked out suddenly again - what a ride! Throughout this book I experienced feelings of deep resonance as well as extreme dissonance as well! 

I've not felt this uncomfortable reading a book in a very long time!  At one point I put this book aside for weeks, resolving to give it a one star rating! I couldn't believe what I was reading. I refused to accept the evidence. The narratives conflicted with my own experience and deeply held beliefs of what leadership is.  Nevertheless I continued on, pushing through at a pace that didn't wreck my mood, working hard to disconfirm my beliefs which were in part, to be honest, largely influenced by the feel-good leadership industry I've become an avid fan of.  Moreover, I am myself a practicing leader, having held leadership positions for 10+ years, with a third spent as C-level and another 50% spent working very closely with C-suite customers. 

So I took issue with the Pfeffer's messages - at times became quite irritated with the evidence presented. My personal value system (vetted by my own workplace experiences and biases) didn't align which made me think the book reflected more a corporate America bias and definitely not a reflection on the global industry! Bias! I couldn't ignore the hard truths though, I've seen all types of nasty leadership behaviours as displayed in the book, we can't downplay the real-world corporate game exists, and therefore, must be played like any other game. It's the system for better or worse.

Nevertheless, this book is a must read if all you've encountered so far is the feel-good, warm-and-fuzzy side of leadership industry, this book provides a necessary healthy dose of reality, earning a 5-star rating in the end 🤷🏽‍

I'm also quite glad I stuck it out and read through all the way. This book re-affirms my own belief to be different, to be the kind of leader I wish I had. I refuse to accept the game as it is. I have walked away from engagements I didn't feel right about, I walked away from leaders that came across as egotistic, pompous jerks. Personally, I'm on my own path to leadership...however it's important to face the brutal facts, but still remain hopeful for change.

I'm reminded of the Stockdale Paradox: Retain absolute faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time confront the most brutal facts of the current reality, whatever they might be.

Curious to learn what other readers have to say about this book? 
Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Book Review: To God through money, by Mohamed Geraldez

I completed reading this book today, within a week of purchasing it. It's been a long time since I've read a book this fast, given my time constraints, so that alone should say something! 

Sharing my review on Goodreads and keeping the reflection notes from each chapter in this post for reference.

I was also smiling as I read Mohamed's views on value systems, knowing one's self, self-reflections and goals of living debt-free. These anecdotes tie in quite nicely with my RAGE framework I've been developing for the last 6 years now.

Goodreads Review

The title "To God through money" is what immediately caught my attention as I browsed niche book collection at my local coffee shop. That, and the author's name "Mohamed Geraldez". Who is this guy? How come I've never heard of him before? Is this yet another one of those self-made autobiography books I doubt?? Intrigued, I bought the book with mild curiosity. 

It turns out the purchase was a good call! 

I'm so glad to have learnt about Mohamed Geraldez. It's a book of hope, admiration, motivation and respect. It is also humbling. Why? Mohamed is an American, who found Islam (almost by accident?) and became a seeker of Truth that took him to far places on Earth, the deserts in North Africa, no less! For me, as someone born into Islam "it's what my forefathers always did", I am always humbled by stories from new Muslims. 

Whilst Mohamed writes his memoirs as an aid for his progeny and generations to come, being the first Muslim - this book should be read by anyone, religious and non-religious alike. Get a glimpse of Islam and how it attracted someone from the outside. Muslims can get a taste for balancing business and life. 

Learn about business and entrepreneurship. Reflection points are shared to trigger "discover yourself" moments. 

Mohamed Geraldez - thank you for courageously putting yourself out there by sharing your story! Well written and suitable for anyone looking to improve their life, seeking answers or anyone looking for inspiration from diverse perspectives. Highly recommended.

Useful Self Reflection Points for Life/Story Mapping

  • According to your parents, what was a particular characteristic you had as a child?
  • What did you accomplish as a kid that made you proud of yourself?
  • Did your parents' love story have an effect on your upbringing?
  • What trait from your childhood has stayed with you until now?
  • Do you think your early years had a massive effect on your current relationship with money?
  • What events from your youth indicated the type of person you would become?
  • Who were the major figures in your child rearing?
  • Did you grow up in an environment where you felt like you belonged, or did you feel like an outsider?
  • Has any death in your life affected you so much that you made a permanent change?
  • What are some of the biggest adjustments your parents had to make because of your birth? If they did not have to, why not?
  • Were you a bully or were you bullied as a child? If either, does this still bother you?
  • Is there something you regretfully did during your youth that you are embarrassed to think about now?
  • Were you exposed to an assortment of cultures growing up?
  • Did you yearn to belong to a group or were you content with those around you?
  • Did you grow up in a religious home?
  • How would you describe yourself in regard to religion? Atheist? Spiritual? Literal? Other?
  • What period in your life did you start questioning long-standing beliefs? How do you resolve them?
  • Are you still close to your best friend from childhood / high school?
  • Is there one person in your life who totally altered your life's trajectory?
  • How would you describe your relationship with your parents?
  • What is one thing you have done in your entire life that you wish you could take back? How have you dealt with it?
  • Are there people other than family members who helped raise you? If possible, give them a call to say, 'Thank You.'
  • Have you ever failed in starting a company? What were the lessons you learned?
  • Have you ever met a person or people that truly amazed you? What was it about them?
  • Have you ever conquered a great fear? What did you learn about yourself in the process?
  • Have you ever been culture-shocked? Where did this occur and why?
  • What has been the most transformative phase in your life?
  • Have you ever had a 'happiest day in my life'? If so, what caused it?
  • Have you ever had someone like 'Brother, Sisyer, Father, etc. I never had'? What made that person special to you?
  • What is one thing or event that if you did it, your life would be complete? What is preventing you?
  • Do you work well under stressful conditions? What helps you?
  • What are the different periods in your life that you learned a lot about yourself and the world?
  • Is there a dream or something of significance that you passed on in life because of barriers or difficulties?
  • Have you ever worked so hard at a job that you became sick? What kept you going?
  • What was one of the lowest points in your life? How were you able to bounce back?
  • What was the most fulfilling job you have ever had? What did you learn from the experience?
  • Have you ever been laid off or fired from your job? How did you deal with it?
  • What is the most expensive mistake you have made in your life?
  • Have you ever taken a risk, and it paid off? When did it not work out?
  • Has there ever been an instance where you went against your gut and regretted it? What about a time that you went with it and worked out?
  • Have you ever had mentors in your life? What did they assist you with?
  • Why is your best friend, your best friend?
  • Do you have any personal finance rules you live by? What are they?
  • From the list of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, which one(s) resonates with you the most? Why?
  • What are your "happy moments" in life?
  • Have you ever given any though about your legacy? If so, what you you want it to say about you?
  • What is your Happy Money monthly amount?
  • Has there ever been a time when you refused someone's advice, but later acted upon it? What changed your mind?
  • What helps you in making important decisions?
  • What habits or practices do you have for continuous self-improvement?
  • What events or decisions were not in your favour, but with time, you were actually glad they were not? Why?
  • When you think about the fisherman and the banker story, what things come to your mind about your own life?
  • What blameworthy personality traits do you have that you would like to rid yourself of?
  • Is there a particular friendship you no longer have, but wish it would return? What is holding you back?
  • What is your love language? If you are still blessed with one or both of them, what are your parents' love languages?
  • Who has had the greatest impact on your life?
  • Have you ever felt that pursuing success in this world meant jeopardising your success in the next world? If so, why?
  • Was it ever in your spiritual practice to think about your death? If not, do you think you will now incorporate it?
  • What spiritual program do you have in place to reconnect with your Lord and regain perspective in life?
  • What charity is dear to your heart? When was the last time you donated to it?
  • Are you debt-free? If not, is it your top financial goal?

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Some simple but powerful, useful reminders

A LinkedIn connection shared this post that resonated with me on so many levels, I just had to capture these for posterity on my blog. A picture is worth a thousand words, I could write so much about each one!

Monday, 18 January 2021

2020 review, major decisions & re-invention

Around this time last year in January 2020, I shared (in this post) how I tracked against my personal & professional aspirations of the previous year 2019, accounted for my time spent and narrowed down the major questions (and hence decisions) that remained open. 

This was all before Covid-19 happened, but despite that disruption, I remained committed to holding myself accountable for realising my aspirations. I track these aspirations through a framework I created roughly five years ago, aimed at lifestyle design, something that is always a work-in-progress and is never complete. This framework is called my RAGE (Reality, Aspirations, Goals, Expectations) model. It has seen multiple iterations and has remained my guiding compass, even as I enter 2021 - the year of massive change for both myself as well as my family.

Looking back to 2020, it started with these open questions:
  1. How do I get my work hours of the previous three years under control? What am I willing to walk away from?
  2. Where next do I take my career? Do I remain with Pay TV moving further up to Group CIO/CTO or should I do something else altogether at the risk of going down a couple steps in the ladder?
  3. How serious am I about working with, or starting my own NGO/NPO non-profit?
  4. What am I going to do with my growing list of product / business start-up ideas?
  5. Should I leave South Africa and return back to the UK; or should I relocate to another country whilst still working in Pay TV?
We all know how 2020 turned out - but - despite that black swan - I nevertheless wanted to be antifragile and took bold action to not play it safe! Instead I dove head first into uncertainty, however, I did lay out a detailed plan. Those questions I needed to answer were Type 1 decisions (according Jeff Bezos' types of decisions), which called for careful deliberation & planning. So, using my RAGE model as my guide again, along with inspiration from a few folks (authors, friends, mentors, coaches & critics), I was able to address those questions by taking the following BIG decisions:
  1. I quit my job, my own sabbatical with no return policy - thus creating space for me to rest, recuperate & reflect. This wasn't an easy decision to make, as I was walking away from some rather good monetary incentives due to cash out in early 2021, and as a result of Covid-19, the prudent thing to do would've been to stick it out until the world recovered. Yet, I left anyway, putting into perspective What am I willing to walk away from?
    • This was only possible because 5 years ago, when I started my RAGE model, one of the aspirations for my persona as an individual was "To be debt-free on the road to financial independence". Since I was debt free, and maybe 30% on the road to financial independence, I had enough saved up to afford a break for at least a year.
    • Life is short, we've lost loved ones unexpectedly in 2020. I have tweaked my life model somewhat to weigh more strongly toward living a life of meaning, purpose & enjoying the present more.
  2. I decided to leave TV behind - switch domains - do something else preferably in cloud services. I will use my sabbatical time to ramp-up and then land a new job. This too wasn't quite that easy:
    • I'd reached a peak in my career with a highly respected company in the industry, although I knew I had gaps to close to move to the next level. It took a long time to mentally let go, but I found my flame again that helped me remember my past as inspiration to change my future.
    • I even considered going to medical school - but that didn't make much sense financially in terms of my family responsibilities and commitments.
    • Being the practical guy, I ended up cutting my sabbatical short because I landed a job much sooner than I anticipated - and as a result - ended up making not only a new job decision, but also a relocation to a new city decision too!
  3. Not serious about starting my own NGO - I spent a good few days unpacking this topic. I even went through a "finding purpose" retrospective and mind-mapped the options. Lo and behold, there appeared a golden thread throughout my life on working with blind and partially-sighted people. So I planned to use my sabbatical to explore that option...but that was short-lived. So decision: NO, not financially feasible for me. Instead I'll join accessibility-related community meetups at work, continue to donate money to causes and look to committing some of my time as a volunteer (which has been difficult, since it doesn't appear anywhere in my Persona priorities).
  4. Not serious about being an entrepreneur because I don't have the time nor the resources to focus on it properly. I will rather focus my energy into innovating at work. I will still build and maintain my ideas repository because I'm an ideas guy - but if the timekeeping from the last five years has shown me anything - it's not that important to me - a wantrepreneur! I will still look at angel investing opportunities though. Thus "Being an Entrepreneur / Run my own product start-up" has been deprecated as a persona. It's actually such a relief to just let that go and leave it all behind! Shedding unrealistic aspirations reduces stress and anxiety, reinforcing a sense of perspective. A cup can only hold that much water before overflowing, the same with life!
  5. Decided to remain in South Africa but instead try a new city, Cape Town. I was lucky to meet a career aspiration and a lifestyle aspiration (to live in a coastal city & enjoy nature) at the same time, but I'm still a little far off from having my own beachfront holiday homes so a 20 minute drive to the seaside is a good start though!!
Now, as I begin my 2021 journey, having addressed those serious questions, some of which were the cause of much stress and anxiety at the workplace, home & personal well-being fronts - 2021 will simply be about appreciating new experiences cross-cutting both work and life, aiming for harmony, acceptance, learning and growth (spiritual, personal & professional).  My personas remain largely the same priorities, their aspirations and specific goals will be adjusted for the next set milestones. I have hit reset so the process of reinvention will take time, I'm not going to rush things by being overly aggressive in setting unrealistic goals!

I have indeed made Type 1 (one-way-door) decisions, making it very difficult to go back now. I have rekindled my flame and now it's up to me (as it has always been) to make my life more interesting and meaningful!

2021 is about re-invention
I believe it can be done!!

As usual, I share my RAGE metrics with you - see below for my 2020 time-keeping performance...
Hint: Click on the images to view them properly.

If you'd like to chat about my RAGE model, tools and other frameworks I use to help manage my personal & professional life, please feel free to reach out! I believe as human beings we are all striving to make sense of our life/work/world, regardless of our culture, belief systems, etc. I believe I have found a method that could be useful...and I'm happy to jump on a video call with you for free life/work coaching! It has helped a few people already, so maybe that says something??

Thursday, 2 July 2020

How I'm hitting the reset button again...

A recent post on LinkedIn that I casually commented on by sharing my own personal story about the time I hitch hiked a lift, travelling 600km overnight on a long-haul truck just to make a job interview on time. I commented on LinkedIn without giving it much thought actually. It nevertheless struck a nerve that made me realise I need to go back into my past, dig up the old memories to help ignite the fire-in-my-belly, thus provoking me out of a slumber zone that I found myself recently experiencing (even before covid-19). 

The theory: by reflecting on my past stories, building blocks that "made me ME", I would be encouraged to continue moving forward with a renewed sense of energy and purpose. To become that bold, daring & courageous individual again. Someone who always went against the grain, never one to follow the herd or play-it-safe. An owner of my path, unafraid of uncertainty or the unknown, with a sense of curiosity in all things life & work, not swayed by people be they corporate executives, colleagues, friends or family. Equipped with my reliance on God and my confidence in my own strengths & abilities, having a strong sense of faith and fine-tuned instincts...daring to be different! How do I find that guy again? 

After all, I have indeed successfully navigated through many challenges and obstacles in the past despite my background, to get to where I am today of which, I am immensely proud of, so why should I settle now?  Should the next 20 years not be filled with even more?? But it seems my flame was dying out, so  I began to ask myself whatever happened to that flame? How do I re-ignite it? Whatever happened to being that lion? Have I settled for a life of ease and comfort? Am I comfortable doing routine work? Why do I need to play the system, be under the radar just because I'm close to having made it? What's so important about job title anyway? Does my work really define my identity?

I needed to find my story again and was sure the clues were waiting to be found hidden in my past. I'm sharing this because just maybe, I'm not alone in this boat - that this exercise might be something others could find useful too, in helping you with instigating the change you seek. When I did travel back it time, it occurred to me how much my work or career defined my life!? Victim of circumstance or not, it was quite revealing that my profession which stemmed from being conditioned by the system of Life programming to work hard and survive - shaped my life's choices.

Still, I contend that over the years we tend to forget who we were (sometimes it could be argued this is a good thing depending on one's past circumstances). We also lose touch of our inner core. To some extent possibly even forget our own roots. We thus enter either a comfort zone of complacency or living life through wilful ignorance. That is, who we are today is not so clear anymore because we've forgotten our past!



My inner voice shouts!!

Have I really arrived? It can't be, but I'm still quite young!?

One of my greatest fears is to reach a point in my life where I'm resentful, i.e. of having regrets about missed opportunities. Taking the safe path instead of the uncertain, uncharted one. As we get older, start a family, climb the career ladder, the less inclined we are to taking risks, to upsetting the balance or causing disruption to our family's lives or to breaking away from accepted social/cultural or even professional norms. 

There are indeed times when we need to be patient, be wise, show grit and resilience by deferring rewards for later (delaying gratitude), but this tactic too if used too often or unwisely, may just only be a crutch that we hold on to - because actually, deep down, we're afraid to admit that we fear the unknown, so we often settle for the safety net of waiting for that retirement pension as an example, to only then start enjoying life. In another LinkedIn post, I described this as Life Programming.

We seek out excuses, governed by rationality or play the sacrificial card of putting our own personal interests last, ahead of the rights of our family, spouse or children. We may have created a personal value system that expects self-sacrifice. We may make our worlds larger than what we can neither control nor influence (like we should be so grateful because others have it much worse than us, why chase the world when you're got it good now, look at the trouble in other countries, better to be thankful and let it be, don't be too ambitious, etc?). Sometimes we use our religion and faith in a way that promotes static stagnancy than taking on risks (why should I be an ungrateful servant by chasing this world of "dunyah"?). Sometimes we compromise our core values and passions because the money is just too good to resist. Sometimes we place unusually high notions about rights of the companies we work for, or attach sense of loyalty to our bosses or the teams we lead or work with. In our minds, this sacrificial attitude conjures up feelings of goodness, almost a saintliness, that can be blinding us from the hard truths...self-preservation is not necessarily a selfish act, after all, this world is fleeting, and we must therefore not waste ourselves with our limited time on earth, we each deserve an experience worth living...and to do so, action, re-action & forward momentum is needed IMHO.

Personally, I've been riding this roller coaster for some years now, so I created a model called RAGE, to help provide guardrails to prioritise the various streams in my life & help with decision-making rules (I'm an engineer after all). This tool has served me and others (friends, family & colleagues) quite well, I've received some good endorsements...

My theories are also shared by others, take for example Bernadette Jiwa, author of Story Driven, what she has to say about this topic:
We're so busy trying to connect the dots looking forward, we overlook the opportunity to learn from the experiences, not just the mistakes, of the the past. We don't spend as much time looking back as we should. I don't mean just to reminisce about fond memories or to regret stupid mistakes. But rather, to reflect on the significance of our stories, remind ourselves of our resourcefulness and reinforce our sense of identity. History, heritage and hindsight are powerful teachers. But we're in too much of a hurry to reach higher ground to learn from them....
I started my thinking & writing on this topic long before reading Jiwa's book, I'm really glad I did though. There's much more work on self-awareness that I need to unpack, for instance, Part Three "Developing Your Story-Driven Strategy" is packed with some of these soul-searching questions. 
I'm still processing these questions in the background in the context of my RAGE model; and may just follow-up with another blog post, sharing them here for you to help your reflection:
What's the hardest thing you've ever done?
What did doing the hard thing teach you about yourself?
Who are the two people who have had the biggest impact on your life?
What did you learn from them?
What was your first job and what valuable lessons did you learn there?
What's your proudest memory? Why?
When are you at your best?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would that be? Why?
What's the one thing you wouldn't change about yourself? Why?
How can you bring more of that thing you wouldn't change into your work?
Go back in time five years. What's the thing your old self would be most proud that you've achieved?
How would you like to be remembered?

The exercise: How to find the flame again & then make it stick?

  • Go back in time, rewind the clock to trigger memories that you think have shaped & molded you...just write whatever comes to mind...then study, analyse and look for common themes. 
  • Take those themes and create affirmations (this is where it gets private and personal).
  • Write those affirmations down, keep them with you wherever you go.
  • Start your day with repeating those affirmations out loud to yourself.
  • Whenever you're in doubt or feeling glum, use your affirmations to get you out of that funk.
  • You should notice a change, soak this in, observe yourself in this moment.
  • Use this energy to immerse yourself in solving/creating your next challenge / opportunity.
  • Do this together with keeping track of your RAGE plan & journal your experiences.
Does this thing work? Is this some mumbo-jumbo new age thing?
Maybe, but all I can say this has certainly worked for me - so much so that I'm now out of my funk. This has helped me create yet another defining moment in my life that I'm living through right now as I write this...

My affirmations

I trust in God, have hope in God's Mercy & Generosity always.
I am always thankful to God. With God by my side....I...
I love my parents and am grateful to them, love my siblings and my family.
I love my wife & 3 children, my anchors in life. 
I am driven, self-motivated & brave.
I choose courage over comfort.
I hustle.
I am a survivor.
I don't blame anyone for my circumstances.
I am not afraid of the unknown.
I am comfortable with uncertainty.
I have overcome many challenges in life.
I have shown grit, patience, perseverance.
I am determined to succeed.
I make calculated decisions.
I am bold. 
I take chances. I dive in, sometimes in complete darkness, but I go anyway.
I am always moving forward, never looking back to "what ifs".
I break stereotypes.
I dare to dream.
I question the status quo.
I remain curious. Curiosity is a good thing.
I have taken chances in my life that paid off.
I tend to go against the mould.
I persevere.
I am relentless.
I keep going.
I have never depended on help from anyone unless help is extended.
I hold myself accountable for my own life.
I don't seek hand-outs, ever.
I value my relationships with trusted friends.
I seek their council & can count on when in trouble or difficulty.
I am grateful to all who played a part in helping me.
I help others in need whenever I can.
I have a responsibility to pay it forward to my family, friends and others.
I have always been responsible for my future.
I take responsibility for my life.
I fear no man.
I believe Nobody owes me anything.
I contend that Not everyone needs to like me.
I am comfortable with myself. 
I am only in competition with myself.
I hold myself accountable to high standards.
I loathe mediocrity. I am always learning to improve and grow.
I remind myself often: The only one keeping score is myself, no one else.
I seek counsel from people but take full responsibility for the final decision.
I have confidence in my abilities.
I become an expert in a subject in a short time. 
I know that every new endeavour will at first be uncertain and difficult.
I gain comfort in past memories.
I have what it takes to accomplish anything I set my mind to.
I trust my gut instincts and intuition. 
I have initiative and drive - my past speaks for itself.
I have proven myself more than capable on many fronts life-and-work. 
I am world-class.
I am an innovator.
I have walked away from many an opportunity when it just didn't feel right.
I started from zero a few times in my life, I can do it again if need be.
I do not hang around for the safety of a pay cheque.
I have walked away from many a past opportunity with no regrets. 
I pave my own way, make my own path, with the help of God.
I strongly believe: Taking the safe, comfortable path has never been my way.
I alone am responsible for shaping my future career. 
I cherish and nurture the networks I've created.
I look deep into my past to shape my future - adaptability is key.
I love and respect my roots, no matter humble.
I am who I am, my past is mine to own, my future is mine to create, my present is mine to act. 
I know the only obstacle blocking my path is myself. 
I hold myself accountable to my own value system, not other peoples'.
I am self-aware.
I am mindful of my ego & keep it in check always.
I am humble but I don't tolerate nonsense.

My Backstory

Here's some stories that are helping me re-ignite my flame...
  • I grew up not rich, not middle-class, not poor and not in poverty either. My ancestors came to South Africa from India as indentured labourers most likely to work the sugar cane fields in Natal, I don't know where from since there's no paper records to trace back to. 
  • So I was exposed to the reality of the system of economics & social inequality as I grew up in apartheid. So I was always reminded about the reality "unfairness" of life, practicality, hard working humility, from an early age. We could not afford a car until I started working professionally, neither did we spend our childhood enjoying family vacations away from home. We sometimes didn't have the means to enjoy even the small pleasures of school excursions, school photos or even attend my final year farewell party of high school. Despite the lack of financial means, I can't fault my parents, family & friends for not sheltering us from these realities and filling our house & hearts with love, warmth & protection. My childhood was a blessing upon reflection, our elders did a great job providing psychological safety & groomed us to survive whatever challenges came our way.
  • My late father was indeed a blue collar shoe factory worker, a machinist, one of the best actually, who won many awards for his craft. Although earning just above the minimum wage for much of his life - he taught me so much about hard work, dedication, setting goals, patience, humility, honour, respect, bravery & frugal money management - that I never really had a chance to thank him in this life though.  I was much too hard on him. In fact, I was quite naive! To the extent of living my life with a purpose of "never to become like my father" as I saw his lack of ambition and drive as a weakness not a strength. How naive was I!? I went through life with blinkers on, driven to be better than my father, to never become that guy who settled...alas, how ignorant was I, only to realise years later that I've got so much to thank my father for!!  
  • Despite our financial difficulties growing up, I honestly can't fault my parents for not providing a safe, secure, humble, warm and loving home. Home was always our sanctuary, it still is - every time I go back to my parents home (which is now taken care for by my brother and I), I am reminded of where I started: the tiny room I spent my life studying in, the small house that was never really empty, always bustling with visitors, our food table always welcoming to many guests, the wonderful conversations I'd have with my elders about their past, discuss world politics and life...one should never forget one's roots, home is where the heart is...whenever I need to recharge and remember who I am, I find solace back home...
  • So I grew up with a practical head, my eyes wide open to the realities. I knew I needed to study hard, do my best at school. I started working part-time in high-school (following my elder brother's lead) whilst my friends were enjoying their teenage freedoms. At the age of 11/12, I was responsible enough to do grocery shopping & pay the bills, I knew what my father earned and the total running costs of the household. I grew up knowing that my duty was to take care & support my parents, siblings, etc. That I needed to pay it forward for my siblings and their children as well. I helped my father get his drivers licence and bought him his first car. My parents have been overseas, an idea that would've been impossible to even dream about growing up. 
  • During high school, I had applied to hundreds of institutions for bursaries and scholarships, consistently for four years since grade 10, all through facing rejection but I never once gave up trying. I did this on my own, without help from anyone. I went to the library, enquired about bursaries, photocopied all the forms (there was no internet then), and I would send letters and apply to literally hundreds of companies (back then we just transitioning out of apartheid, the companies were not as diverse as they are today, and most of the bursary/scholarship forms were still in Afrikaans and had conditions like military service). I tried my best in high school, although I thought I could have scored more As, but I couldn't afford to send my papers for remarking and so settled with my grades, it was an A aggregate which was still nevertheless excellent. Even with these grades, it was a proud moment to be accepted to medical school...
  • I learnt through persistence. I taught myself computers by reading books even though I did not own a computer at the time. In high school, students were only allowed one computer lesson starting in Grade 9, I on the other hand, camped out the computer room everyday until the teacher granted me access, from Grade 7/8, break times, afternoons, etc. Later in high school, I would persistently complete the maths syllabus in advance, and learn new concepts in programming too. I demonstrated the same curious energy when I worked part-time at the retail store. Starting in sales, moving to finance clerk then made my way to the IT department, to being given freedom to run POS installations in branches by myself. Took the same persistence wherever I landed - be it in Dublin, where I closed the gap on my computer science, or in UK where I innovated a Talking TV EPG for the Blind, a personal project of mine. I took initiative, met with customers & spread the word inside the company, throughout the 4 continents, later landing the best, highly coveted technical position in the advanced technology division. 
  • At the end of high school I was successful in getting placed at Wits medical school, but had to turn the offer down, because I lacked the financial means, couldn't get financial aid not even a bank loan. 
  • At 18, that was quite a defining moment for me: A phone call determines my fate in medicine, I realise I really have no one to back me up, I had to do things on my own. That was the first major turning point in my life, bringing it all home - that I'm alone in this fight, it's up to me to work my way out. There were no adults in my family or friends that ventured to stand guarantor for a bank study loan for me. So I thought I'd just continue working and try to find a way to study part-time.
  • I had worked part-time at Asmalls in Pietermaritzburg as a teenager growing up selling shoes, clothes, working for retail, doing finance admin as a clerk and IT support. This hard work and "not standing still", got me noticed by the owner of this retail store, interviewed me and agreed to finance my studies when he learnt I was not studying. He took a chance on me. I am forever grateful. I chose engineering not because I had tinkered in building stuff growing up, but because it was the sensible degree to choose on paper as the next best thing to medicine, better than computer science (which was really my passion), providing the best of both worlds. Also, engineering jobs paid more, and I could start earning money sooner...so as usual, with no one else to guide me, I made what I thought as the practical sensible realistic choice.
  • I never gave up hope for bursaries or scholarships. This consistency of purpose paid off that in my 3rd year, I got through and landed a bursary from Vodacom. This enabled me to live independently and experience freedom (which wasn't always a good thing). I moved out of boarding with family to sharing a flat with fellow students, and thus learnt what it meant to live responsibly. 
  • Eventually I would work for Vodacom during vacations setting up mobile base stations and doing drive-by quality of network experience testing. Vodacom was great in supporting me, unfortunately there was no automatic placement post graduation.
  • As much as I did not quite enjoy half of electronic engineering topics because my intended software courses dropped away, by that time I was very much fully committed to seeing the degree through in four years, so no turning back. I couldn't whine about it, just get on with it. I was thankful for the bursary and committed to work for the company even though broadcast/radio was not my thing, and assumed the job would naturally follow upon graduation, but it didn't. Even on completing my engineering degree, I turned down three jobs before landing a job in the field I'd studied! I did not want to waste my hard slog of four years by not at least experiencing the job of an engineer! 
  • Eventually I would land a real engineering job with UEC outside my home city. I would bunk in the lounge at my student friend's flat, later would end up boarding at a distant family's residence, closer to the work. Ever ready to adapt to changing circumstances. UEC experience was great, no limitations as long as you took initiative. It was fun, stressful and sometimes quite intense. UEC set me up to take the leap to my life overseas.
  • After just one year of engineering training, I took a chance - responded to an advert in Sunday Times for engineers in Dublin, Ireland. I applied, without thinking what it actually meant, all I knew was that my best chance of earning money was overseas, and best chance of knowledge to work on core software engineering was definitely not South Africa. I left my home with one suitcase and R5000 in savings, landed in Ireland without having any contacts there, absolutely zero, apart from support from the company, S3. I was on my own, first time out of the country away from home, unknown everything and I started from scratch. In one year, I had made a life in Dublin, made new friends from all over the world, my eyes opened up to life, I wasn't the introvert I thought I was. I also adapted to a new lifestyle in Dublin very well, best social life experience, honestly, I never felt like leaving Dublin, ever! 
  • Working in Ireland, in the "first world" was a real eye opener for me. I became consciously aware of my incompetence. My knowledge of software engineering was lacking compared to the "first world", I was a little behind my peers and lacking some depth of computing principles I either would've learned at university if my courses hadn't been dropped; or if I had studied Computer Science.
  • I had to ramp-up and teach myself all the things I should've learnt at university (if the courses weren't dropped). I ended up on a project that really stretched my ability, but I did not give up. Instead I dug in deeper and through this I had also secured a placement to study my Masters in Computer Science, from a world-class university, that would then bolster and take my South African education to another level, I hoped.
  • I also experienced my first-and-only layoff in Ireland, made redundant, something I wasn't expecting it. I was gutted. My world was about to shatter. I was just settling down to a nice routine, enjoying my work, good social network. Without much opportunity left in Ireland, I applied to UK since I did not want to return back to South Africa. Using my savings wisely, I remained in Dublin until I found a job in UK. 
  • In between I got married. I completely funded the wedding myself, including the relocation to UK, etc. It was a simple, down-to-earth wedding, but I do take some pride that I did this all by myself, without asking anyone for any financial help.
  • One of my proudest milestones has to be raising my engineering skills to become recognised as a Principal Engineer in the UK, as a result of my innovating text-to-speech technologies to make a Talking TV, as a side off-the-work-books project. 
  • Following closely behind was gaining my Masters in Computer Science from a world-class international university. These are important to me because coming from South Africa, it certainly means a lot. I remember some colleagues in Ireland and UK just scoffing sarcastically when I shared I worked for an SA company which they had previous interactions with (they held SA engineers in low regard at the time). The UK being  a serious meritocracy where competition is tough, meant getting that job as a principal engineer for me was quite vindicating! 
  • To know that I could hold my own amongst senior engineering peers, architects and managers who - I felt small compared to them - who had also applied for the same job as I, felt really good! Working with a small group of engineers, who's day job it was think up big ideas disrupting the market bootstrapping start-ups, was a dream come true for me. 

  • I am grateful I was able to climb up both the technical and management career ladder in the UK and not in South Africa. IMHO this is because it is somewhat difficult in SA to decipher if your promotion was based fully on merit or whether a "previously-disadvantaged background quota filter for equity and diversity" actually influenced the decision making process. Despite South Africa being "free" for 25+ years now, there's still so much to fix in the corporate world. Let's just say, there's still a lot of biased perceptions going on in this country. Non-white people are still doubted here which is sad really, actually quite frustrating at times! So yeah, I actually derive great personal satisfaction and comfort in knowing I actually made it entirely on my own in the UK, based on my own merits, in what is probably the hardest parts of the world when it comes to high-performance "world-class" output. So this achievement is still my story worth cherishing.
  • My career was spent learning-on-the-job and through self-study. Whenever I started a new role, I would become expert in the subject matter, by reading & learning from others. I was not afraid to jump in the deep end, challenge status quo and be different. Always self-aware, I had a sense of what I needed to improve, but I never doubted myself. I remember a few internal interviews where I shared my ambition of being a Jack of All Trades, Master of Some, of running my own company one day, I was told I had too high ambitions, but that feedback never deterred me! I can indeed claim to be a generalist with specialist skills, I am indeed a Jack of all trades, master of some!
  • After 10 years overseas, I decided to return to SA. It was a scary decision to make - leave the life we were building that promised a good future for our kids, we had given up SA citizenship (the thought of returning to SA was alien to us for many years), then we made a U-Turn to return back to SA!! 
  • I had zero savings, no private pension to cash out, which meant starting from zero again, but this time in debt, with a wife and three kids to support. To boot, the job I landed in SA was a junior one as well - but I returned anyway, I embraced the uncertainty nevertheless.
  • The decision was emotionally biased as well, dispelling much logic or rationale. I recall coming close to a nervous breakdown realising missed opportunities in SA as one example. So I felt we needed to return home to be closer to family. I also wanted to allow my kids to open there eyes to real world problems and challenges they wouldn't normally be exposed to had they continued to grow up in UK. At the time UK felt boring and perfect, whereas Africa felt more vibrant and alive!
  • After experiencing work in South Africa, I soon realised that my education, training and work-experience was on another higher level compared to the local talent. I could provide much more value working at higher levels, close to director / CTO level. I thus quickly gained respect and credibility to get promoted to running pretty much the entire project end-to-end. Yet another personally rewarding experience for me, since in the UK I would've been a couple levels below  that of program director, but in South Africa, I became THE CHIEF Program Director - how exciting!! I realised that whilst I sacrificed financial rewards in UK, my knowledge, skills, experiences gained there, paved my way forward to own and confidently perform senior roles in SA that would've taken me a few more years to reach had I been in UK. It was also quite eye opening in terms of the skills gap and opportunities in South Africa. Equally revealing was that I could in fact, return back to the UK with senior management/executive experience, something that would've taken me far longer to break through had I not left the UK in the first place. 

  • After a couple years working in SA, I was not happy with the work. I felt I needed to operate at a much higher level really. The work began to feel very routine and no longer challenging, because I was operating on skills & expertise from UK on autopilot. The projects I was running, whilst "state-of-the-art" for South Africa, was quite old news to me since I'd done them before, years ago. I considered myself an expert in that field of work (set top box engineering) and therefore I needed to change. 
  • Me being the hustler I am, I convened a meeting with the executives, pitched my offering to them, explained I could provide so much more value to the group if I was set free, used the "tamed lion" analogy - and successfully negotiated an exit agreement that saw me start my management consulting gig. It was a win-win for both sides, as I'd continue to support the business as a consultant, and be free to branch out to other technology & business projects within the group & external non-compete companies as well. I took a chance, was brave to leave comfort of a secure, stable job...but it paid off!
  • So I decided to leave the comfort of a permanent, secure job and good career progression; to become a management consultant into unknown territory! This opened up a few opportunities, expanded my network and also exposed me the the bigger world of business. In a relatively short-period of time, I cleared my ALL my debt, and our lifestyle started to surpass that which we had in the UK, although I've remained very disciplined not to let my lifestyle follow the gains made. So leaving the comfort of a permanent job, trusting in my ability to venture on my own, taking chances, building professional credibility did pay off. 
  • I would again later leave management consulting and rejoin the collective again to take up a challenge of being CTO, yet another change that stretched my potential. Why did I do this? I had a safe consulting gig, with a good pipeline of work, in control of my own time, working at times a four-day week, and earning good money. I was relatively independent and free. Then I decide to join the matrix again, become part of the collective. Why? Because I wanted a new challenge and was becoming bored of consulting. I also wanted to prove to myself I could switch career tracks again, go back into technical, and prove myself & the sceptics wrong. I am very glad I did so, got to work with a great bunch of people, learnt so much & achieved very good results. The experience provided everything that was missing in terms of my next career jump - and in terms of the original goal I'd set myself, i.e. to be a Jack of All Trades, Master of Some, equipped with the tools to run my own start-up company one day, I believe I've done it. I have the ability to run a company if I wanted to, or lead very large teams as CIO/CTO...so what's my next challenge then?
  • I tend to get bored once I feel I have acquired mastery or proficiency in an experience. I usually give the job a minimum of 24-30 months to acquire a high level of competency, anything longer ranging between 3-5 years (depending on the project or requirements of the role), I consider  optional or sufficient time to reach a higher level of mastery. I do try to finish what I've started or at least aim to leave at a point in time where I know it is safe to let go and pass the baton on.  
  • I do take care not to burn bridges, this is very important. I've learnt that having the courage to leave it all behind and walk-away is actually not so bad, in fact my experience has taught me it is  quite a healthy thing to do! I've hit reboot a few times already and it wasn't so bad. Life & work goes on - one should never feel one is indispensable, that's just pure hubris! Life is about exploration, standing still can't be an option.
  • As I've recalled these stories from my past, I felt the energy build up creating a burning desire to do something different yet again! I have accomplished many feats in the past, so I can definitely accomplish much, much more into the future! I decided again to not settle nor to stand still. The next twenty years I have left in my life can definitely be as interesting, if not more exciting and rewarding than my past twenty years!! It is indeed time for another change! I'm about to fill in the gaps in my life/work plan that I shared previously.... 
continue reading here.