career advice

ophelie harbonnier business solutions & briefing manager

Work is an interesting word. We’re confronted to it and understand the importance of it early in life, and even as little kids, we know it’s going to play an essential role in our lives. While at school, while at home, listening to our parents talk about their days, playing with our friends, when alone in bed, we dreamed and thought about all the great things we’d like to be when we grow up. Work carries different meanings at different times of our lives. It carries so many promises, but so many fears as well.

At an early age, we know we’ll have to work, do something, earn money, and we’re being often asked: “What do you want to do when you grow up, what do want to be?”

The question is: how can you make that important decision intellectually only? How do you know what you want to be when there are so many possibilities, little time and so much uncertainty?

When trying to sort out the possibilities, you can find answers with two different vectors: what you like, and what you’re good at.

But finding what you like to do, what you crave, and desire is a work in progress. As you live your life, experience different things, shape yourself and get in tune with who you are, meet people, travel and grow up to be who you are, it takes years to finally figure out what it is you really want to do and give you that flow, the holy grail, happiness at work.

As the daughter of an English teacher, being French, I started travelling a lot to the UK. My mom lulled me with English and Irish lullabies, and some of my earliest memories reside in sailing through foggy mornings in the Northern seas, meeting people of the coast of South England, in Cornwall, eating tomatoe beans on a buttered toast.

Naturally I fell in love with England, its people, its language. As an adult, even now, speaking English in the work place is essential to me. That was one of my passions, and something I was good at.

In college it was an evidence to me I would study English literature and become an English teacher. I graduated in the Montclair State U. of NJ where I graduated cum laude, and my career seemed all set out for me. I was going to follow my mother’s steps and be an English teacher. But it dawned on me I had disregarded a part of myself that needed something more than teaching. I needed a challenge. I needed to be somewhere where women were not expected. And that, for me, was technology.

When I returned to France I happened to be asked to help training and demonstrating technical products. That was something I had never done before, but as I’m curious, and slightly geeky, that appeared as a great challenge to me. So, I went from managing a team of engineers in the telephony business to managing a demonstration centre in Paris, talking about Unified Communication, to video and headsets solutions, and Microsoft architecture.

I love my job. I get to speak English, I train and teach and guide. I challenge myself every day.

I give myself credit for what I know and what I do.

So, my advice is this: think outside of the box. Transfer your skills. If you like to challenge yourself to a world of exciting and new possibilities, technology is it.

Give yourself a chance.

ophelie harbonnier business solutions & briefing manager

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