For a process that is ostensibly about building a new future, a career transition is an exercise rooted to a surprising degree in history.
We go to interviews and talk about our past, in that eternal if misguided human belief that it will give both ourselves and our audience a sense of our potential for the future. Siri Hustvedt, in her writing on the brain and identity, explores the idea that imagination is rooted in remembering, that the same neural pathways are activated, strengthened and even built when we remember the past as when we are imagining the future.
I’ve spent the past six months or so in a place of active remembering, of putting together the facts and the narratives and the communities of support that can help me effect a broader imagining of a still-emerging future in which I can best be of service through the framework of my career.
After the sale of the AOL Industry business to Breaking Media, I stepped back from the day to day in a way that was novel in my working life. As a Founding Editor I continued to write, advise and contribute to strategy and business development as well as editorial management, but I was no longer responsible for daily process and fulfillment. I took the time to remember, and to involve others in helping craft an act of remembering so that new opportunities, new pathways and new partnerships could emerge.
I am pleased to note that the process has gone well, and has been less in the way of navel-gazing than I had worried. Trusting oneself to value the quality of one’s own time and process is a luxury, and a luxury that isn’t always easy to employ, but I feel a sense of real gratitude for having been able to take this time.
I am now also happy to note that the next stage of my journey has begun, that I am pivoting toward the future. That future, in a career sense, will have three component parts:
I recently signed an agreement to become CEO of The Energy Agency, a full service branding, marketing and communications agency for the energy sector. The Energy Agency is supported by Advent Integrated, a global branding agency that does some of the most truly creative work I’ve seen for industrial, consumer and public sector clients. You can read more about The Energy Agency on our site here.
Secondly, I also recently accepted an appointment as an Adjunct Fellow at the Center for a New American Security as part of their Energy and Environment research program. CNAS is a Washington, DC based independent and nonpartisan research institution that “develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies that promote and protect American interests and values.” Please read more about the Energy and Environment program here and about my involvement in the Center here.
Finally, I was also recently named an Entrepreneur in Residence for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, a state government organization that – among a host of other valuable activities – supports the emergence of energy sector startups in New York through incubators and accelerators. As an EIR at NYSERDA, I am giving strategic advice on a part-time consultative basis to start-ups supported by the Authority. You can find out more about NYSERDA’s EIR program here.
One of the obvious challenges of wearing multiple hats is managing potential conflicts of interest. In all cases I have signed legal noncompetes, and more importantly I am personally committed to the highest possible level of ethics when dealing with potential conflicts, even when it means turning down business. It is just easier and more restful to do business the right way from the beginning.
So I’m turning to the future, and developing new tools to manage a new set of challenges. With career strategy taking its shape, the new decision sets in my life will increasingly be around prioritization, implementation, action and measurement. It may seem strange, but I keep remembering the final lines of Fitzgerald’s great novel, which I’ve come to view as an ambiguous call to American action rather than a limited testament to jazz era despair:
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…And one fine morning….
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”