My Professional Growth Journey With North Highland

I’ve always been taught that my career is my own. There are no hand-outs. You work hard, build a support system, and surround yourself with people who are like-minded, ambitious and driven. You learn from them and you take that knowledge to experience and learn yourself. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt – Failure is the path that leads you to success. My biggest fear was failure. Before I joined North Highland, being a new graduate, I was hungry to learn as much as I could about the working world. I set myself goals to achieve, but soon realised that something was missing. I wasn’t enjoying my job anymore and certainly was not achieving the ambitious goals I wanted to. Reflecting on it now, I realise I was protected by other colleagues and hadn’t felt failure yet. I had no accountability.

When I made the decision to move to North Highland, I was accountable for that decision. No one made me apply, no one made the decision for me to join – I made it. A decision that made me feel like a real adult owning her career. I was excited to be able to join a company where I could help shape a capability. Though the concept of Project and Programme Management (PPM) was not new to North Highland, they had recently started up a delivery capability for PPM. I took the plunge, left my old job, took a risk that I would be joining ‘the unknown’ and have never looked back since. 

I wanted to learn as much and as fast I could. I wanted to make a difference, become extremely knowledgeable in the PPM market and eventually, start mentoring others. I wanted to become an empowered individual. I was feeling on top of the world (in my mind) and then I got hit right in the face within the first month of joining. Of course, I’m talking metaphorically. I remember the day so well – I was back from holiday and I got told that my client had let me go for underperforming. My first failure and it was devastating. I had a choice to make:

  1.  Do I give up and decide this is not the right path for me, go back to something comfortable where I will forever be in the shadows of others? Or...
  2. Do I learn from this and use it as motivation and a story I can share with so many other people who have and who will go through the same thing?

Don’t get me wrong – I thought about number 1 for a millisecond, but I was accountable for this decision. I had decided to take the risk and move. I wanted to grow professionally and take my career into my own hands. So I chose option 2.

I spent 3 months on the bench – 3 months where I utilised the people around me, learnt about the ways at North Highland, drove the shaping of the PPM capability and gained my confidence back. I leant that my colleagues are there to help me and share both the highs and lows with me. I used my experience at my next engagement and I continue to learn, leveraging the knowledge and experience of my managers, team members and fellow North Highlanders.

A little over a year later, I won an award at my account meeting, I got promoted and I’m on my way to mentoring others in my capability. I have the best minds and support system around me, the passion of the capability is so electric that I can’t help but feed off of others and I learnt my biggest lesson. I know I can be successful, but to be successful is to accept failure and learn from it. I no longer have the fear of failure – just faith (or hope) that failure will provide me with the lessons that will lead me to success.

My key takeaways which are lifelong lessons to me:

  1. It’s good to take risks 
  2. Taking accountability personally and professionally helps you to grow
  3. Failure is part of success. On reflection, albeit painful at the time, the experience makes me grateful that it happened
  4. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you don’t give up, believe in yourself, have supportive people around you and are part of a forward thinking culture like North Highland.