All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my mother — Abraham Lincoln
Each time I read Lincoln’s above words they have quite the impact on me. I reflect about my mother and the choices she (and in some aspects my dad) made along with the implications on my life; particularly my career. Since this post will go on my blog and potentially LinkedIn, I wanted to focus on the professional impact of these choices and reflect on how they have positively impacted my career. I have picked three of the major impacts in particular - education, traveling and my first career job.
Before jumping into each area it is important to set the stage. My mother is Australian and grew up in Brisbane. My father is British and grew up in London during WWII. Both my parents have traveled the world extensively given their respective careers. Dad was in the Royal Airforce (RAF) as a military policeman for 22 years. He spent the majority of that time as a detective before changing careers when moving to Australia. My mum on the other hand worked for various roles around the world for Australia’s Foreign Affairs department. My parents met in England, married in York and settled a few years later back in my Mother’s hometown of Brisbane via a few years of living in Hong Kong. Whilst my brother was already born in Hong Kong on route, my parents wanted to settle in a city where they could raise a family and give them their best shot at life. My parents were not wealthy however my brother and I had a decent life and never wanted for anything.
Education (Schooling & Travel)
The first impact on my life was based on a newspaper article my mother read during one random weekend in 1984. It outlined a scholarship offering and process that would allow her children to attend one of the best private schools in Brisbane. My brother applied and was successful. Three years later in 1987 I met the same success. The next ten years saw my brother and I benefiting from the education of a lifetime. This established a solid foundation for our upcoming professional careers.
It would be remiss of me to say that I detested going to this school. It wasn’t the education but my peers who I detested. I wasn’t one of the rich kids which meant I was always challenged at keeping up with the latest trends and the embodying the attributes of being one a cool kids. Whilst this had a short term impact, the long term benefit of this education has set me in good stead. I learned what it meant to be a man, how to treat people well, how to make sound decisions, how to learn and unlearn the right way. Last but definitely not least I developed strong emotional intelligence which has served me well throughout my career.
My parents (mum in particular) were really good savers despite the school fees etc. In 1988 we embarked on our first overseas trip as a family to Hong Kong and China. We were away for three weeks and were immersed in the world of Asia. I was only 10 at the time and I look back at the experience fondly yet with some regret as I didn’t make the most of the trip. All I wanted to do was eat take away food and play with toys / watch movies in the hotel room. What I missed during that trip I have made up for with each and every subsequent trip I’ve taken ever since.
Purchasing a computer
It was the early 80s when I laid my hands on my first computer; the Commodore 64. We had the keyboard/console connected to a small TV along with a tape drive. Subsequently we bought five and quarter inch floppy drive unit. I learned everything I could on this computer and of course played the occasional computer game.
Closer to the mid-80s my mum won a lottery award for approximately $6,000 AUD. That was a lot of money back at the time. It forced my mum to really think about how to make the most out of this money. She could have easily put it into the home mortgage or made an investment in the stock market. However, mum decided the future was the intersection of technology and her children. Within a few weeks we had our first 286 Personal Computer (PC). It was state of the art machine at the time. Yet, today we would laugh at the minuscule amount of processing power and storage it had.
The family computer was my favourite thing and I was using it as much as I could. I learned how to touch type (80 words per minute at the time) and I learned how to code. I inventoried all the components and understood the connections they made with each other. I ultimately developed a strong passion for technology which has held steady to this day. If mum had of not bought that computer I’m not sure where I would have ended up in my career.
Getting a full-time job while still doing my bachelor’s degree
Mum and I did some serious talking about my future during my third year of university. I was studying Information Technology and hadn’t really thought of what I would do next. Mum worked at Honeywell and at the time secured a small internship for me at Honeywell to learn the ropes of the corporate world. It was an insightful time however Mum had more advice to give. She asked me about my first job. What do I want to do? Who do I want to work for? Where did I want to take my career? When am I going to start looking and applying? Mum insisted that I should start now and not wait until I finished my bachelors degree as there will be hundreds of other graduates doing the same thing.
With that advice on board I took to the newspapers and library (note that LinkedIn didn’t exist at this point - nor much of the Internet as it does today). I wrote letters to a number of of organisations asking for a job. I secured an interview with Boeing Australia as a Business Systems Analyst at the beginning of 1999; this was my final year at university. I ended up working for one of the best managers throughout my career who I’m still in contact with today. Whilst I began my career in a hybrid business / technology role, I took the direction of going deeper into technology. After a few years I did an about face and started to build my business skillset.
Starting my career at Boeing was a fortunate experience. I have former colleagues who I’m still great friends with. I also became a member at Toastmasters while at Boeing and am now a confident public speaker and leader. Getting a job early has set me up with a flourishing career and this is because of the insistence of my mum.
What does this mean for you?
Whenever mum and I are out at a restaurant, we always debate on who is going to pay for the bill. Mum begins with her typical opening argument (e.g. this is what parents do for their children). I retort with my argument that she spent the first 18 years of my life paying for the roof over my head, the clothes on my back and the food that went into my mouth. Therefore given I have a good career and am successful it is now my turn to pay. Mum insists with her follow-up that this is what parents do and that I owe her nothing. Whilst this is true I’m eternally grateful for the three lessons on traveling, education and introduction to computer technology. They have made such a difference in my life.
Whilst I’m not a parent I feel it is important to watch your children and see what talents they have. How you can develop their skills and bring those talents to life. I’m not a believer of just following your passion, but rather to leverage and double down on your talents. Nobody should be surprised that I have a talent for learning, traveling and technology given my upbringing. This started at an early age and I just cannot get enough. This was instilled primarily by my mother and I’m eternally grateful. Thanks Mum!