Have you ever experienced a career pivot?
Sometimes we graduate college with a Geology degree, but we end up practicing real estate. We launch a tech startup but end up at an ad agency. Life is funny that way in that every day we are faced with choices, some of which are not only career changing, but put us on a completely different path. It can be because of life changes or choice, but not all business leaders were born in the role they are presently in.
We asked six respected business leaders if they have ever experienced a career pivot, and all six had gone through the transformation. Here are their tales:
Saying adios to a cushy corporate job
Scott Lerner, Founder of Solixir said, “If you call leaving a comfortable job in corporate America to the start-up world pivoting I would say yes. Before 2008 I was working for large CPG firms like ConAgra, Kimberly-Clark, and Pepsi. I decided to leave that all behind and launch Solixir by myself in Sept. of 2008. It was a scary yet exciting time for me and I haven’t looked back.”
I realized I was in the wrong place
Sanjay Sathe, Founder and CEO of RiseSmart said, “I have pivoted across several industries, from information management to telecom, from banking to travel, and now HR. At the beginning of my career I was on the accounting side, and within a few months I realized I was in the wrong place. I quickly switched to sales, where I established my early career. I then moved into marketing.”
Sathe succinctly calls it “more of a career lattice than ladder,” adding that it “seems to be the name of the game in the corporate world today.”
Life after startup success
Donna Horton Novitsky is the CEO of Yiftee and is proof of a unique path in her career pivots. “Sure – from big company to start-up. From start-up to Venture Capital. From Venture Capital back to start-up. From all that to professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at Stanford.”
From volunteer to CEO
Nancy A. Aossey, President & CEO of International Medical Corps offers a very inspiring tale. After graduating from college, she worked as a sales executive at AT&T and dreamed of running her own business some day, but knew she wanted it to be meaningful. She moved to L.A. and learned about International Medical corps, a humanitarian relief organization that had gotten its start training Afghan medical professionals during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
“I met International Medical Corps’ volunteers and its founder, hoping I might volunteer in some way,” Aossey said. “They told me they were looking for a C.E.O. I was only in my mid-20’s at the time, but I loved the organization’s mission and never doubted that I could do the job. I told them that I would be committed to the organization, work hard and do whatever it took to get the job done. So they hired me as their CEO in 1986, two years after its founding. I later asked them why they hired me for the role, given that I had no experience in humanitarian relief, and they told me that they were looking for a deep commitment to the mission of the organization and for qualities that could not be found in a C.V.”
“When I started, International Medical Corps was comprised of a handful of volunteer doctors and nurses,” Aossey added. “I had to be very hands-on in war-torn countries like Angola, Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda and more to reach those most in need with lifesaving medical care. But as we’ve grown—International Medical Corps now has 4,500 global staff and a network of thousands of volunteers—my role has shifted and I now focus on bringing in the right people to lead those programs, and continuing to foster our entrepreneurial culture.”
Ditching corporate life
Paul Aitken, CEO of borro spent eight years working for large corporations, but in 2004, he and a friend decided to start their own company. Aitken said, “Movota provided interactive mobile solutions to Europe’s leading TV and Radio broadcasters. It was financed by private investors, and the company was sold to Bertelsmann in 2005. After this, I founded borro in 2008.”