Monday, May 11, 2015

History is NOT over! It is just beginning.

Not the same person who graduated from ISU.
It is a special anniversary of sorts.  Twenty-five years ago I walked commencement for my undergraduate degree from Illinois State University.  Five years ago, I received my Masters in Management from University of St. Francis.  I am very proud of those accomplishments but I confess what I gained from those educational journeys was not what I expected.  The web site LinkedIn has gotten into the act by having its major authors talk about what their current selves would tell their freshly scrubbed 22 year old selves graduating from college.  This week I don’t want to share advice but rather illustrate the radical changes which have taken place in the last 25 years.

Putting things in perspective, my senior year of college, was supposed to be “the end of history.”  The Berlin Wall had fallen.  Communism was in retreat.  The economy was in a downturn but we would not know how bad it was going to be until the college canceled the job fair.  Microsoft had just released widows 2.0 to the market place.  That did not matter to most of us college kids we had MS-DOS personal computers or Apple II computers to do our work.  The phone system in the dorms was so bad that we could not hook up a modem because each room did not have an individual line.  We were on party lines where if someone picked up a phone in another room it would disconnect the modem.  Silicon Valley made semi-conductors and not millions of start-up dollars.  Mark Zuckerberg was a six year old.

That was the world I graduated into.  My brilliant career in radio lasted 18 months and then I drifted around in retail and the casino business before finding my way at the age of thirty working my first entry level job as a Visual Basic programmer.  Over the last seventeen years, I have seen trends come and go.  I have witnessed the giddy and stupid days of the dot-com bubble.  I suffered through the economic downturn of the post 9/11 economy.  I saw the birth of Windows 95 and the flop of Vista.  I watched Microsoft transform from a smug master of the universe to the technical power house which wants to be loved.  All of this in my lifetime.

I think the most important thing I have witnessed is the birth and spread of the Agile Reformation.  It began innocuously enough with top project managers getting together at a ski lodge and to share ideas.  It ended with the agile manifesto.  Now fourteen years later, I consider myself to be a missionary of sorts spreading the word and trying to make business a little less oppressive.  Sometimes I feel like I am tilting at windmills and other times I earn a little victory.  As a whole, I am trying to change a business culture one step at a time.  I am also trying to build my own business at the same time.

I don’t think I could give any advice to my 22 year old self.  I doubt he would believe all the missteps failures and misfortunes he would experience would lead to the life I currently have.  I find it surprising myself.  At 22, I was going to be a disc jockey to rule the world instead I became a missionary quietly leading change in global business.  The future belongs to misfits like me and other innovative individuals who want to change the world.  I am glad you are along for the ride.

Until next time.