Keri Dooley left her job at P&G last January to join us here at The Garage Group, and she’s been an invaluable part of our team ever since in her role as Innovation & Growth Strategist. Here are her reflections one year after leaving the corporate world to take a chance on a startup.
Last January, I made the toughest decision I’ve faced to date and left P&G. You might be thinking, “it’s just a job!” and that it doesn’t really compare to many other tough choices we have to make in life, but I think about it differently–P&G is where I dreamed of working ever since I started seriously thinking about my career path. I still remember the day I got the offer and called my mom, jumping up and down. I gave my life to P&G for 9 years, and P&G rewarded and treated me so well. I grew up there. I remember leaving last January with more questions than answers, but ultimately with the faith that I was being called to explore a new path.
And, boy, have I learned a lot! As I reflect on the past year, there are many things I learned that I personally don’t think I could have quite appreciated until I left. Below are a few of my personal and professional lessons I’ve gathered over the past 12 months.
The importance of staying externally focused. I was really lucky at P&G. Big budgets and a wealth of experts across my function meant that I had access to an incredible amount of data and insights. Somewhere along the way, I probably got too busy and perhaps a little complacent, but I stopped reading industry-related books and articles and didn’t pay much attention to what was happening outside of my category/P&G. I knew my category inside and out, but didn’t really know much about emerging business models, breakthrough innovations and just little things like why McDonald’s is failing. Frankly, I was successful without it. Now that I’m on the outside, though, I think about how much more of an impact I could have had if I had gotten outside of my bubble and paid more attention to the world around me. After all, successful emerging business models ultimately move across categories; new innovations outside my category could have been reapplied to mine, and there are things to be learned from McDonald’s relevancy issues. There is so much happening outside of P&G, and had I paid more attention to it, I know that I could have influenced even stronger, more breakthrough innovation and growth.
The unexpected delight of networking. I used to hate networking. I skew introvert by nature, so I would use that as an excuse. Admittedly though, I always felt like I didn’t need to network (after all, anyone who I needed to “network” with was inside P&G). I barely had a LinkedIn account. This past year, I’ve been forced to network (it’s a part of building a business, obviously!), and I’ve completely changed my view on it. Aside from the obvious benefit of building a client base, I’ve been exposed to such different backgrounds, experiences and ways of thinking that are contrary to my own. It’s been quite refreshing to grow my network while leveraging the expertise of these individuals to expand my own thinking. For example, I’m working on a project with my church to drive awareness of the help available for those struggling with heroin addiction. Securing the number and quality of resources needed to complete the work (logo design, web design, social media strategy, etc.) pro bono would have been impossible a year ago because I only knew people inside of my company. The connections I’ve made in just ten months made it possible to form a task force with just a few texts and emails. It’s a basic skill I know, but one that I’m just starting to appreciate for the first time in my career.
Getting strategic with my finances. When you go from being a Senior Manager at P&G to working at a startup, your perspective on money changes. It has to. Even though I had my retirement funds set and was loosely operating under a budget while at P&G, I really wasn’t being strategic with my money… and mostly because I didn’t have to. When I left, I remember being fearful of the uncertainty that accompanies a startup lifestyle and how that would impact my finances. So, I took a 9-week Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course and learned so much about money (and recognized how little I knew!). Since then, I’ve made significant shifts in how I budget, spend money and plan for my future. My money is now working for me, versus the other way around, and I have never felt more financially free than I do today. What an incredible feeling.
Viewing situations as learning experiences and not trials to prove my worth. This is a tough one for me, even today. Just before I left, I read Mindset by Carol Dweck, and it blew my mind (I highly recommend it)! The truth is, I’m pretty good at what I do. Though in retrospect, I realize that I often determined my worth by how well I was rated and by how others perceived my equity. I constantly questioned how good someone thought I was, and my biggest fear throughout the day was being in a meeting and not knowing the answer to a question. While ratings and reputation are absolutely measures of worth, they are exhausting to keep up with and a distraction to the bigger picture. This is not something that is easy to correct, either! This year, I’ve cognizantly put myself in situations of humility (vs. comparison) and learning (vs. proving). I can’t tell you how much I’ve grown by just allowing myself to be vulnerable and to be put in a situation where I don’t know all of the answers… and focusing on learning instead of proving myself.
The decision to leave wasn’t as big as I thought it was. My biggest fear about leaving P&G was wondering what would happen once I left. I had my whole future planned out (which included retiring there) before I decided to deliberately create an uncertain future for myself. Now that I’ve worked for another company for a year, I’ve realized how big the world is and how many amazing opportunities are really out there. The reality is that I’ve never felt more confident in my skills and abilities and in knowing that God will provide for me. In my “goodbye” Facebook post last January, I referenced Jeremiah 29:11, and it has been amazing to see Him at work since then. Future risks seem less scary and more fun than ever before.
So, cheers to 2016 and all of the learning and growing opportunities in store!
What have been some of your biggest learning lessons after a big career change?