This post is the eighth in a series of Q&A sessions with friends, former colleagues, acquaintances and other contacts who I consider both influential and inspirational. Each of these individuals possesses a skillset that I believe you will find valuable. They have each made an impact throughout my career path and I wanted to feature them in this series.
Name: Brett Myers (@brettmyers0)
Profession: Program Director in a Research, Innovation, Strategy capacity/role
I’ve known Brett for nearly 15 years now (time flies!). We met through mutual friends while in college and immediately formed a bond over Cardinals baseball, good laughs and good drinks. Brett has been there for me every step of my adult life as I’ve moved states, switched jobs, got married, got fired, got divorced, rediscovered myself, found peace, re-married and while making this latest move looking for new opportunities.
Throughout my life journey, I’ve had many conversations with Brett about a variety of things. He constantly challenges me to think differently about things. Whether it pertains to my career path, my personal life or even my sometimes overly passionate feelings about the Cardinals. Brett won’t let me settle for average. He won’t let me settle for a situation that’s overly comfortable. Brett likes disruption, but in a good way. He knows that’s not my personality, but challenges me to think differently.
I could write an entire post about my relationship with Brett. He’s been such an important person in my life. But, I should probably let him speak for himself. He was kind enough to answer my career questions and I’m honored to feature him on this little blog of mine. Brett is an inspiration to me and I hope you enjoy the following tidbits and advice from Brett Myers.
1) How does your current profession align with the degree you graduated with? If you have held other jobs, how closely have they been aligned?
My degree was in accounting, so most people would say it doesn’t have much to do with running a team that focuses on research, strategy, and innovation. I understand why people think that way, but my thoughts are very contrary to that. I went into accounting because I wanted to understand how businesses worked, and numbers made a lot of sense/were easy for me. As I got more into the degree in college, I realized I didn’t really want to do accounting in the traditional sense. Instead of changing majors, I realized it still made sense for me to study accounting. This is because I had the realization that my brain understood numbers very well and accounting increased my ability to understand business through numbers. So, my classes in college sharpened my natural mentality towards logic and data, which I think is a lot more valuable long-term than being an expert at accounting or some other specific topic.
2) What did you ‘plan to do’ after college and how close is that to what you’re doing at this point in your career? Were there any deviations along the way and did they help/hurt your path to your current job?
My plan after college was to help run companies at whatever level I was able to achieve in terms of success (still working on that part!). I think back then I had a lot of specific job roles, job titles, financial definitions of success, and so on. I think at a high level the big things have been directionally according to plan, but the specific journey definitely could not have been predicted. The biggest change between now and then, almost 15 years ago (sad face), is that when I think about my plan and how I define success. It is geared much more around a few things: my ability to impact people and companies. Whether I’m getting opportunities I desire, and whether I get the experiences I enjoy and/or need. Don’t get me wrong, money 100% matters and one should know their value. I even recommend talking to others in some form outside of your company to know your market value. But to me, I don’t focus on money or power as much because they aren’t really inputs or leading indicators of success. If I’m making impact, money and decision rights likely come. If I’m getting challenging opportunities, I’m likely doing something right and will continue getting those opportunities. If I focus on the next experiences I enjoy, I tend to be happier and produce better work. Focusing on the experiences I need helps me more than focusing on a job title.
3) What’s your best piece of advice for today’s entry-level candidates?
Getting the actual tasks of the work done is important, but if that’s all you’re doing early in your career it will catch up to you in your late 20’s or early 30’s. Think about it, assuming this is your best case scenario: you’re hired in and do better than all of the other new hires. You get a few promotions your first 3-5 years out of school. Most others your age are moving up just a little slower most likely. Now, at 27 your peers are 30-40 years old and much more experienced than you. You may still have a lot of talent compared to others, but at this point your talent stops being enough for you to be head and shoulders above your new 30-40 year old peers. Then what happens??? This is when your personal brand, habits, and processes become critical to make you more than talented. This will happen at different points for everyone, but at some point your talent will find a ceiling in the workplace. You can wait for that to happen, or you can start right away learning about yourself so that you don’t become only as good as your talent. Understand your core values before facing tough decisions or tough moments. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Study self-awareness. Don’t collect business cards, build relationships. Study the science of leading, and know how to be led by others.
4) What do like the most about your profession?
Problems and people. Which ironically, are more often than not very intertwined. I love identifying problems that are happening, creating an abundance of options for solutions, and then quickly testing and evolving the solution ideas. As for the people side, the more years I spend formally leading people the more I find deep satisfaction from being a part of their journey. Seeing people start families, achieve new career goals, etc. is just amazing. Knowing in some small way I am helping them achieve those things is a great feeling.
5) What is your favorite social media platform?
I’m all over the place with social media right now, here’s my current relationship status for each. I feel like Facebook is the girlfriend I know I need to break up with, I keep leaning on the good times, but it’s too much now and turns out she just keeps making up fake things. Instagram is the one in front of your face that you took for granted – nearly all good stuff, not complicated, and doesn’t bug you with a lot of stuff you don’t want. Snapchat is the girl that is either too young and cool or too weird to date…i’m just not sure which. I just know I don’t understand it so I haven’t really used it. As for Twitter, it’s in the friend zone and don’t see it getting out. So I’m currently in a move from Facebook to Instagram for the most part.
6) What was the last book you read? The last TED talk or other e-learning content you consumed?
A lot of my reading of late has been focused on empathy. I think empathy is going to be an increasingly valued skill across professions. With that in mind, I just finished two books back-to-back which really challenged me to empathize with how someone’s experiences shape them. 1) The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace; 2) Hillbilly Elegy.
Both books are about someone that came from a tough, disadvantaged upbringing, ended up making it to Ivy League colleges, and then much more. The irony being one is from Newark, NJ while the other is from small, factory town Appalachia. Would highly recommend reading either, and especially reading both. Great perspective building books without being apologists for circumstances.
7) Where do you receive your news and information?
I have a few network news online sites I’ll read regularly, some social media, and some television, including fun news/entertainment like The Daily Show. I find myself in search of diverse sources to hear different sides of most news items.
8) What are your hobbies? Do you wish you had more time to pick up a hobby?
Most of my free time is around my family and friends. Outside of that, I like to read more and more. I also love to travel. I haven’t seen near enough of the people and parts of the world I’d like to as of yet. I think I have plenty of time for hobbies and make time for the things I want to do in life. When people “don’t have time” on a long-term basis, I think they typically just aren’t making things a priority. You’ll rarely hear me say “I don’t have time…” because I just don’t generally buy into it is a cause of not doing things. One exception, parents with young kids I think is fair to not have a mix of energy and time for things. Even then, I would say there are probably some ways to find time or more strategically use time.