7Words and ContextBuilding a Solid Communication Foundation

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

—Albert Einstein

Some people know what they want to be when they grow up from an early age. Not me. I changed careers several times. Up until six years ago, I called myself as a systems consultant. With the notable exception of the lovable Martin Prince on The Simpsons,a does any kid plan on becoming one?

It’s fair to say that I kind of fell into the field, using the process of elimination to make the best out of an undesirable professional situation. In 1997, I was doing pure HR work. It was anything but ideal for me, and I needed to find something else. I couldn’t realistically make a clean break, though. I had to play the long game.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

From 1998 to 2000, I worked at Merck in a hybrid capacity. I spent about 60 percent of my time on a global PeopleSoft project and the other 40 percent doing more traditional HR work (recruiting, compensation, and general administration). Put mildly, I was much better at—and interested in—the former than the latter. After leaving Merck, I worked at Lawson Software as a full-blown systems consultant. My rationale for gravitating toward this type of work was simple: I liked it. I was good at it. In 2002, I decided to hang out my own shingle. I believed that I was disciplined enough to handle the challenges of self-employment.

In Chapter 3, I listed my issues with management guru s. (See “Consultants, ...

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