Throughout my career, I have had the great fortune to meet and work with so many fantastic people from across the globe and take on some exciting and challenging projects. In fact, it is that passion for challenging and exciting projects that has guided my career along its path, and this past week marked two milestones for me on this journey: 1) New Years Day marked 15 years since I first joined Microsoft and 2) Wednesday, January 7th, marked two years since I made the move back to the Microsoft U.S. subsidiary and my current role.
As the new year approached, I found myself reflecting back over the past 15 years and how this journey has unfolded. As I followed the journey (below), it was also refreshing to see how my career path has stayed true to the approach I have always tried to take, which I admit can be a little unique, and the “personal brand” I have worked to build for myself. When it comes to the approach, I’ve always approached my career path looking for an experience, not a specific job or title. So when people have asked, “Where do you see yourself next?” I have always been able to describe my next role, but didn’t know the title or if it even existed yet (and many times it hasn’t). My next role will be:
Challenging – I love a challenge and thinking strategically to solve problems or develop solutions that either don’t exist today or someone has said, “we can’t do it and need someone to figure out how.”
Impactful – The role has to provide me the opportunity to make an impact on the business I am in, the leadership I work with, and the people I work with.
Educational – I always look to grow my skill set, so I look for roles where I can learn new skills, new businesses, new geographical impacts, new perspectives, etc.
Flexibility – I love to try new things, things that others haven’t before, and the ability to think and work outside the box and beyond the current limits, so having the flexibility to go after that strategic goal and do what needs to be done to accomplish it.
Great people – Who you work for and who you work with make an incredible difference in a role. I always look to surround myself with great people and to have the opportunity to meet and work with great people, as well as to be able to help others be successful and grow.
From a “personal brand” perspective, I’ve tried to keep mine direct and to the point. For those not familiar, a “personal brand” is the way you would have others answer if they were asked, “Who is X,” which in my case would be, “Who is Eric?” This answer should be based on their knowledge of you, experience with you, and what they have heard about you. For me, this “personal brand” or answer to describe me that I strive for is: “Eric is the one you want in your corner… He just makes things happen.” Now for those of you thinking, “Wouldn’t you want people to say things like: Trustworthy, dependable, high-energy, driven, passionate, leader, etc. in that statement?” The answer is simple… Those words are descriptors of me as a person, but they are not “who I am.” Think of it this way, when someone says, “Who is Eric?” My goal is for people to say, “Eric is the one you want in your corner… He just makes things happen.” Then if people drill further and say, “Why is he successful making things happen?” or “Why is he the one you want in your corner?” Then the answer should be, “Because Eric is Trustworthy, dependable, high-energy, driven, passionate, leader, etc.” What I have also found with this approach to my career is that the phrase, “I/we have a need,” has often been the catalyst to finding my next great opportunity and it aligns very closely to the “personal brand” I have worked to develop for myself over the years, and oh what a fun 15 years it has been at Microsoft:
The first, “We have a need” was when I still owned my partner company and the people I spoke with at Microsoft said they had a need for someone to teach the partners to do what I do, sell Microsoft solutions and better understand and utilize Volume Licensing. Many months later, I began my career at Microsoft and working with our fabulous Microsoft partners in the Midwest District. During this time, the team I was on developed a concept we called, “engaged partners,” where we would work closely with high-potential partners to grow their businesses (think of “Managed Partners” today). At the end of the year, I remember presenting a partner video case study at our WPC Conference and internal Microsoft Global meeting showing how we grew one of our engaged partners from $67,000 in Volume Licensing sales to $1.1 Million in under 12 months utilizing our model.
The next, “We have a need” was when our Midwest leadership team said they needed someone to find a way to connect with our broad SMB focused partners and build a community to help them grow. I gladly jumped at that opportunity, and shortly afterwards, the Microsoft Small Business Channel Community was launched in our Midwest District. The community started small but in a very short time, it exploded onto the worldwide scene after the launch of the Microsoft Small Business Channel Community SharePoint site was picked up by press across the U.S. and internationally. I still remember that I didn’t actually get to formally launch the site on the planned day because the launch was scooped by one of our SBS MVPs, so I spent the entire day doing press connections and answering questions about the new community. For a trip down memory lane, some of you may recall the promo video for the community: