Coinciding with this proud career moment is an opportunity to represent Challenge Factory before the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs
“I love it when a plan comes together.” – John “Hannibal” Smith
By Lisa Taylor
On social media, I’m usually all about the work. I rarely mention my own career and almost never share personal details. This past week, however, some of the dots of my personal and professional lives came together, which I felt would be valuable to share. I hope this blog reminds you to notice the moments and people that make your own career story uniquely yours.
In 1994, I had just finished my second year as a political studies student at Queen’s University. Before leaving Kingston to start my summer working a great but uninspiring job in a call centre, I met with one of my professors, CES (Ned) Franks.
Ned was a giant in the Canadian political studies landscape, best known for his passion for and insights about parliamentary systems. He asked me to help with research after the summer break for a few projects he had focused on the role and accountability of parliamentary committees. I was thrilled. Knowing this work was lined up for the fall made my call centre job a bit less tedious. A great and, for me, very inspiring opportunity.
I spent two years as Ned’s research assistant, supporting him as he published articles and chapters on how the Canadian government functions, with specific emphasis on the role of committees in our political system. It instilled in me a deep respect and appreciation for the elegance of our political system, as well as an awareness of and vigilance for how it can be manipulated or fail.
It’s been a very long time since I thought about that research.
This work left a big impression on me that I didn’t understand at that time. I went on to earn an MBA in Public Administration and Strategic Management, worked in global organizations when the Internet was just emerging as a business tool, and started Challenge Factory, a B Corp certified research agency and consultancy focused on the Future of Work.
Looking back, there are many dots that connect throughout my career. Blending business strategy and policy in my master’s degree foreshadowed the many dimensions that Challenge Factory now navigates, from pandemic workforce recovery strategies to the labour market implications of demographic shifts.
Being part of the technology sector in the late 1990s and early 2000s meant I experienced wholesale disruption and revolution early in my career, gaining the expertise and instincts I needed to help in today’s turbulent world of work.
My career makes sense when examined in reverse in ways that I could not have predicted or planned.
February 13, 2023, is a special moment along my career timeline. I’ve been called to provide testimony in front of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, the very type of committee that Ned studied. I’ll represent Challenge Factory and share our knowledge about and experience with supporting military Veterans as they transition into civilian employment in today’s changing world of work.
I am one of about a dozen of Ned’s research assistants from the 1990s who are now mid-career and at a stage where we look both backward and forward in our careers. We keep in touch loosely and follow each other’s successes as our career dots create an extension of his.
When I take my seat before the Committee, I know I’ll feel the weight of being able to muster all the facts and responses that will ensure my testimony honours both the Veterans at the core of our work and the needs of the Committee. It is also a rare moment to shine a light on the importance of Canada’s career development sector and how it has the unique and under-appreciated ability to help governments and Canadians navigate complex career and employment transitions.
Before I focus on my remarks and testimony, as I enter the Committee room in Ottawa, I’ll take a minute to think of Ned and smile, knowing I’ve come full circle, back to focusing on the role of committees and their function in helping parliament get things right. In that moment, my professional experience, education, and personal perspectives will all come together.
What a gift.