How to do all the wrong jobs and still be a VP
Lisa Brummel did a key note at the women's conference 2006 here at Redmond. She listed 3 points characterizing her long career at Microsoft - 2 interesting ones being taking the non traditional roles and being broadly networked. She also added that by non traditional roles she meant that was always taking up the wrong jobs and broadly networked meant having too many managers!! :) The wrong jobs meant that when Microsoft had just released Windows, she moved to run the Mac shop, when MSFT decided to do the relational db business and ship Access, she moved to Foxpro team and when Office and Information Worker were the bleeding edge technologies to be in, she moved to run the consumer division business! But, she went on to explain how taking up these "wrong jobs" meant having a ton of responsibility and a chance to learn a lot of basic skills that would otherwise probably be divided between a lot of folks on the hi profile teams. How's that for looking at the positive aspect of a problem? Coming from Lisa, who has had a highly successful run at MSFT, it sounds pretty important that you dwell more on the oppurtunities at hand and convert them to your advantage instead of worrying over which even more high profile group might get ahead.
A little "controversial"(that's what he described it as) nugget that Sanjay Parthasarathy said in a panel discussion is that - "Most of the senior leadership team in Microsoft is not really from the mammoth Windows or Office groups at all - that is living proof to the idea that you need not be in a hi profile team all your life in order to get ahead". (BTW, I loved Sanjay's comments in a panel discussion called "Making big bets" - his views were usually so unpredictable and lateral, yet they seemed so obviously true when you really thought about it!)
Rebecca Norlander, interestingly was providing a slightly different perspective on working on the right activities - she was in fact asking the audience to participate in atleast one high profile activity that the team is doing so that you get noticed. BTW, her talk was titled "How to prove yourself as a technical member in the team". I have to confess I did not like the title much. I thought to myself - "Why would I need to prove that I am technical? I know I am techie enough to work for the company, else they wouldn't hire me." :) Well, Rebecca did say exactly that in the beginning of her talk, but went on to talk more about some best practices to whet your tech aptitude! :) Her talk was awesome and I really identified with a lot of her experiences. I will link to the videos soon once they are up.