Thinking Out Loud: My Career Planning

Thinking Out Loud: My Career Planning

On average I usually think about my career at least 1 time every year and do an honest and deep “career inventory taking”.  More often (sometimes 2-3 times a year) if my job or environment is changing a lot. Are the questions I ask myself each time the same?  No.  Why?  Well cause time has passed.  What do I mean by this?  This means that over the years what I’ve seen is that my 1 year plan, 3 year plan, 5 year plan and 10 year plans have changed as I have changed.

For example ~26 years ago (when I was 25 years old) my plan was to become CEO of IBM by the time I was 35.  LOL!   (But that is a whole other blog: What’s at the “Top” of Your Ladder?)   Obviously, between then (when I was 25) and now my annual “career planning inventory” questions and my focus on what I want as the “wins” in a job for me….. have radically changed.   🙂

What do I mean by “my focus on what I want as the ‘wins’ in a job?”    Well, again, when I was 25 years old my focus on what I wanted as a “win” in the job was pretty much focused only on my end goal – becoming CEO of IBM by 35 (my 10 year plan back then).  So this meant that my focus on what I wanted for me out of the job was anything that would get me closer to that: Promotions, raises, leadership opportunities, executive mentoring, etc etc.   What about “fun”?   Oh I had lots of fun back then. It’s just that my definition of “fun” has changed over the years.  🙂  For example, back then it was exceedingly “fun” to me if I could out maneuver you for a career opportunity.

I’m not saying that my behavior or view was “bad” back then.  I was who I was then… and I did what I did then… and as time past… I changed.  I’m not going to put a label on it and say I changed for the “better”.  That puts a judgement on it I really think gets back into the whole “let’s compare ourselves to each other with a measuring stick” thing that I really don’t like.  So simply put.  I just have changed.  Since I have changed it is logical to assume that what I want out of a job has changed as well.

Promotions and Money

The truth is that money and promotions just aren’t my “carrot” any more.  No I’m not the the promotion “top” of the ladder at Cisco.  There are a number of “rungs” in the ladder above me.  🙂   Cisco Principal, Cisco Distinguished, Cisco Fellow to name just a few.  For today… and for today only… I can just say that they aren’t a focus or a motivational carrot for me.

Below is my current “litmus test” for whether or not I’m in the “right job” for who I am today and what I want out of my work life.

QUESTION: What do I have the most fun doing?    happyDance_141509161

  • Learning
  • Growing
  • Sharing with others what I have learned
  • Technical challenges
  • Troubleshooting
  • Wireshark
  • CiscoLive
  • Networking with Fish Blogging
  • Working with awesome people that all want to help each other and share knowledge

Q: Am I doing these fun things I adore doing more than 65% of the time?  I say >65% of the time because… ya know what… my job for my company is more than about a win for me.  It has to be a win for my employer, my co-workers, my management, and my customers as well.

Q: The things that I’m learning – Am I having fun learning them?  Are they marketable skills?

Q: Is this the complete list of things I find fun?  Have there been side projects I’ve done that were really fun that I’d like to dig into that technology or that side project some more?

Q: Is my management supportive or at least neutral in relationship to “Networking with Fish”

Q: Is my management supportive or at least neutral in relationship to me being a CiscoLive speaker and Session Group manager for CiscoLive US once a year?

Q: The things that I’m learning – Am I having fun learning them?  Are they marketable skills?  What others things might I want to learn about?  How badly do I want to learn about them?  At what cost? Can I learn about them some in my current job?

QUESTION: In all of my years of being in the workforce….  what are the things I have disliked the most?

  • Silos, turf wars, in-fighting
  • Working with people that think they are better than other people
  • Traveling “too much” and not spending enough time with those I love
  • Sitting by myself writing large documents (hence why I don’t write books)

Q: Am I dealing with things in my work environment more than 15% of the time?

My Answers For Today?


  • I’m having fun more than 65% of the time
  • I’m having to deal with the things I don’t like less than 15% of the time
  • and I’m getting paid  🙂    ROCK!




  • Jake Williams

    Fish, I remember having this exact conversation with you about 8 months ago. Great blog post, and I’ll always remember to keep learning and make sure I am having fun at least 65% of the time in my role. Glad to hear you are doing well!

    • Denise “Fish” Fishburne

      Doing very well. Hope you are also. 🙂

    • Miss ya. 🙂

  • Great post. It got me thinking.

    It’s interesting that you said you don’t like to write, but yet you have all these great blog posts.

    • I like creating blogs, youtubes, and CiscoLive powerpoint classes. But
      to me these don’t feel like “writing”. They feel like taking some
      nuggets of knowledge and passing it on and sharing it with other