I think there’s two pieces of advice. One I learned right away and one, I didn’t learn right away. I learned it after, and it was through experience, but at the University of Tennessee, we had a course called executive in residence, and it was both at the undergraduate and graduate level. And each week an executive would come in and share their experience, different topics. And one of the executives. And I honestly don’t even know who it was, but this tip has changed, literally everything about what I do is follow this tip. He said, everything you do is either a pilot or a draft because it gives you permission to not be perfect. And I thought wrote that down and I use that from day one. Here’s a draft. What do you think? So, when you’re talking to your peers, if you got it wrong, it was a draft. If you’re implementing something, the first phase is a pilot. And by having that permission to not be perfect, but to try things, you don’t have to be the status quo, call it a draft. Here’s a draft of some ideas I have. It’s just some ideas. They may be far-fetched, but it gives you permission to challenge the status quo. And that’s really what we’re trying to do in supply chain. Isn’t it? Is get better, faster, cheaper. And if we don’t challenge the status quo, we’re never going to get there.
And so young people need to come out and realize they’re not just a button, a seat, but they should bring their brain power. And feel good about challenging it, but you don’t want to challenge people who’ve been in the job 20 or 30 years, right? Well, I’m just a young guy, but I’ve got some good ideas. I have got some drafts of some ideas. What do you think? It gives you permission to not be perfect and to try out new things and that’s going to get a lot of attention. As a young person coming out and going into their job and using that positive, youthful energy and all that knowledge, those hard skills that you learned in college.
Now, my second tip, I actually kind of learned along the way, and that was career surfing. I had worked at Proctor and Gamble and then Accenture and they had a very clear career path. I was on the path at P and G and I decided, for me, if I want to get to be a vice president, and this was one of my goals, by the way, I love telling people, come up with your goal. What’s your Mount Everest. Look at someone that you admire. You’ll pick out someone you admire and then go pull their resume, their LinkedIn career and go back and see, well, how did they get there? And what I noticed is that people didn’t have a career path, they career surfed. So, I learned some things at P and G and then I switched, I learned some consulting skills, then I went to work for Microsoft to do implementation.
And so, I actually funny enough in junior high. It was a true story. Was in a math class and I didn’t like math too much. It was algebra. And I thought, well, what do I want to be when I grow up? And I definitely don’t want to use algebra. I want to be a vice president of a company and I want to make $40,000. I thought if I’m a vice-president and I make $40,000, that’s it. I mean, I’m like loving life. And so even coming out of college, I said, I want to be a vice president now. I changed my expectations on the salary, just a tiny bit, but I still said being a vice president of a major company. That’s cool. And then I worked for P and G and I thought, wow, that’s going to take me a long time.
And, do I like that career path? Or is there a way that I can career surf and go think about the skills that I needed? What skills did I need to be a vice-president? And I thought, well, I like some of these skills. I loved my job but why did I leave? I left because it was an opportunity to get some skills that I couldn’t have in my existing career path. Going from consulting to implementing strategy, developing supply chain strategy, to implementing strategy. I needed those. If I was ever going to be a vice president, you need to have both. So what skills do you need for that end game? So think about your end game and reverse engineer, the skills and the company that you work with may not have those skills. You may have to career surf and even do a lateral. When I worked for Microsoft, I actually went backwards. I made less money. Who ever thought, you’d take a job, making less money, but I thought I’d have less money, but I’m going to do something that is tremendously impactful to my career and my skills and it paid dividends. No questions asked. It was absolutely worth going backwards. One step backwards to take three steps forward.
It is, right. And so, people have to think about their career as an investment, not just the school and getting a graduate degree and the money that you pay out in investment, in all those skills. So, think about where you want to be. And think about it surfing, unlike a career ladder, you know, people use this career ladder, you take a step, you take a step. It’s very linear and surfing is you get up, you have some fun and you fall down and then you go find another wave. And you get up and you have some fun and then you fall down. You’re really looking at your career as a series of things that give you both hard and soft skills.