My Outlier Story

Career SpeechI was very privileged to talk about my career journey in my company recently. To make it captivating and interesting, I crafted it in such a way that I merged my career story  with  the concept I learned from one of my favorite books, Outlier, written by Malcolm Gladwell.

I am sharing my speech below and my hope is to inspire you and fan the fire within you to become a dream girl and be an Outlier too! Enjoy reading!

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Before I begin, can I see show of hands who was able to read this book by Malcolm Gladwell? This is one of my favorite book of all time, and for those who have read it, you will agree with me that this is such an amazing book. But for those who have not read it, don’t worry because I will be sharing with you how wonderful this book is through by career story, and thus ladies and gentlemen, this is my Outlier Story.

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Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the book, is journalist and such a great observer and story teller. In the book, he tells the story about those successful people (The Outliers) he studied and the commonalities among them. What is interesting is that, Malcolm did not talk about those usual common factors such as intelligence, wealth or good looks.   Rather, he talks about those factors that are invisible and subtle as we may think but very powerful in terms of bringing them to where they are now and this is what I will be sharing with you.

The most popular among those is the 10,000 hour rule. Gladwell is saying, that for you to really really be good at something, you should be able to dedicate 10,000 hour of doing and studying it. One great example of which is the Beatles.

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Beatles started out just like any other small startup band, doing small gigs, left and right. But unknown to many, they accepted one gig that other small band usually decline. This gig will require them to sing and play eight hours every day in Hamburg. That is tiring, you bet, but it made a lot of good for them… like building their 10,000 hour… by the time they hit the mainstream, they completed their 10,000 hour and they were already exceptional! Aside from that, it built those things that proved to be very advantageous when they were already popular: like their stamina of singing and playing even for unusually long hours, their confidence to sing to a great number and diverse audience and obviously, their talent and versatility because playing eight hours a day required them to offer different songs and genre (that why when they’ve gone into the mainstream, they have a good pool of variety of songs already).  That’s how Beatles become one of the testaments of the 10,000 hour rule.

My “Hamburg” experience started in this very place back in 2008, when I was accepted as an intern. I started out as a training intern, and then eventually become a recruitment intern. I rendered my internship for a year which was unusually long for any interns during that time. Like the Hamburg experience of Beatles, my internship experience was tough. While my classmates were just making coffee for their bosses, I was spearheading the summer internship program and required to hire x number of interns for the business. I was also tasked to handle the management trainee program and hire the future leaders of the company. Looking back now, I just realized that the purpose of that though experience was to make me ready to the next big thing for my career which was to build the Global Finance Services Center. My internship experience proved to be really helpful to this next role. Knowing the system, internal ways of working and organization structure gave me a significant edge in helping build an organization from scratch. Doing all the HR function for a new organization (with only my boss) provided a great opportunity to build my expertise in HR like no other; in Recruitment, Compensation, Payroll, Training and Employee Relations… And now that I am in a specific HR function which Employee Relations, my experience as an HR person with the business proved to be an advantage as it gave me a wider spectrum of HR perspective in resolving problems related to our employees.

So let’s do our Math now… From 2008 and 2016, it was about seven and a half year… then let’s say there is 250 working days in a year with 8 hours of working, that gives me a whopping 15,000 hours (overtime excluded!) Now, can you guess where I am really good at?

What can we get from this 10,000 hour rule?
1.  Success is not instant. We have to build a strong foundation of 10,000 hours where we can bank on to reach the success where we want to be headed. For my experience, my internship and business unit HR experience proved to be a very strong foundation to be successful to my new role now.

2.  We have to be conscious where our time and effort are going, because remember, we are building our 10,000 hour. And success entails dedication and time. The sooner we build this, the sooner we can succeed in our chosen field. I was lucky to have that internship because it laid out early the 10,000 hour I am completing.

3.  Say yes to opportunity that will make you complete your 10,000 hour: these opportunities will not be easy for you but you have to say yes just like the Hamburg experience of Beatles and the internship I had. Because it will do a lot of good for you on making you exceptional.

4.  In building this 10,000, there will be tough times like temptations to shift career. I was once confronted of this crossroad when I was once offered to move in Finance because there is a regular role waiting, because during the time when I took the role of building the Finance organization, I was only hired as a project consultant. It was a tough decision because I could actually do it because my degree is in Management and the benefit and security of a regular employee was attractive. I never knew about the 10,000 hour rule then but I thought, I don’t want to waste my effort building the hours I dedicate to HR, and so, here I am now.  So on those times, maybe it will be helpful for you to remember that you are building your 10,000 hour that gives you the capability to succeed, 1 hour at a time… so that when your own spotlight is lighted, you are ready as ever.

The second lesson from Gladwell is the Matthew Effect… this tells us that Outliers or successful people don’t rise from nothing. They are actually beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extra ordinary opportunities that allow them learn and work hard to make sense of the world in ways others could not.

The first time I read this, I thought it was unfair! I thought that the less fortunate people should be given more opportunity. But then I realized, we may be given equal opportunities… but the difference is how we deal with it. And do you know what successful people do with this hidden advantage? They take advantage! And that sets them apart from the rest.

And working with J&J, the most respected company in the world, admit it or not, is an extra ordinary opportunity. But do we take advantage?

I could site our gym to be the more obvious one that we have as an extra opportunity to be extra ordinary by being fit but how many take advantage? It is not related to building your career, but it is a classic example of the untapped opportunity that we have.

But here’s a classic example too. In your role now, I am sure you are working with great people who are successful in their own right. But do you take advantage of their presence in your life?

One thing I discovered during my years as a BU HR and working with leaders is their willingness to share their knowledge and wisdom to others. And it only takes one raise of hand and say, I want to have that opportunity, I want to be your mentee!

I am very fortunate to work with the best of the best in the HR world and shared services industry! The sooner I realize that, my interaction with them become different. I listen to their inputs and value their perspective on issues. I make time to attend meetings that will make me interact with them. I initiate meetings and phone calls to catch up with them I ask them questions related to expertise. I make them as my mentor for those areas that I want to be good at and I take advantage of their connections and linkages to expand my network too and learn more.

At this point I have a question for you. What else do you have as a hidden advantage? Do you take advantage of these hidden advantages?

The third lesson from the book is actually not explicitly said. Gladwell ended the book by telling the Jamaican Story – which it turned out to be his very own Outlier story. Though it is not direct, but I think Gladwell ended it in a very powerful manner. By telling his very own story, he is saying, that he is an Outlier, and so I am too! It is just all about tracing my path through my 10,000 hours and identifying my hidden advantages to begin with. And by this, Gladwell is saying, everyone is equal in terms of being successful and you could be too!

Knowing that you are an Outlier has a unfathomable magical effect in my opinion. In my experience, upon knowing that I am an Outlier in my own right, my perspective to what I am and what I could become has changed dramatically. You know the feeling after someone with authority telling you that you are special, that you are great; that you are made for something bigger is soo powerful that all you wanted to do is to do everything to succeed? That’s the effect of knowing that you are an Outlier.

So, when you get out of this room, I want to encourage you to trace your 10,000 hour and identify your own hidden advantages and take advantage and later declare to yourself that you are an Outlier too! And by knowing that, your career and your possibilities are limitless!

Thank you fellow Outliers!

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