I had a very bold audacious goal early in my career.
I wanted to be the VP Marketing before I was 40 years old.
You may not think this was bold, for today there many CEO’s and executives much younger, but a few very short years ago, working for a monopoly telephone company with the executive ranks replete with mainly engineering professionals, it was very ambitious.
Marketing was, at that time, thought to be a fluffy discipline as compared to the hard engineering sciences. In fact many believed that marketing wasn’t necessary in a monopoly market.
After all the company decided what services to provide its “subscribers” and the prices to be charged were approved by the regulator. That was it; not much of a role for traditional marketing to play. Technology was the driving force.
Therefore the Marketing VP position was not viewed as one of great strategic value to the organization and was typically filled by one of the engineering brethren.
So my audacious goal was not only a stretch, it was “impossible” given the circumstances of the day.
But that’s what I wanted, so I declared it (to myself) without any idea of how I would achieve it.
I had no plan. I just “put it out in the universe” and went about my duties as Group Product Manager.
I knew, however, that if I were to be successful in achieving my objective I would have to consciously deviate from what I had been doing in the past .
I had to step up my game if I were to successfully break through the engineering glass ceiling, be noticed and win the prize.
That was my plan. Step up. Step out. Raise my game. Be a force to be reckoned with.
Make my move to VP so compelling to the executive leadership team that when the opportunity availed itself there would be no other logical conclusion that I would be the ideal candidate.
The audaciousness of my goal drove the strategy that was necessary. A HUGE challenge demanded a revolutionary approach. An incremental more modest approach would not yield the outcome I coveted.
I looked for opportunities to be different. To do things differently than others. I did more of what was required. I did the unexpected. I went in the opposite direction to the thinking and trends of the time.
I voraciously learned what had to be done to make the move from a monopoly telephone company to a highly competitive enterprise.
And I talked up internally the moves we had to make in marketing new services that would enable us to stand out from other competitive suppliers and in customer service where we had to lose the tag of treating customers with a monopolist’s attitude derived from being the only game in town.
I stuck to my game plan.
The regulatory rules changed and competition arrived.
Marketing and customer service became key components of our competitive strategy.
A new marketing VP was required.
I competed against many external candidates.
I was 39. I beat my audacious goal.
My message to young professionals is to declare what you want.
Keep it in your consciousness. Do BIG things.
Do different things.