Have you found your passion yet? That thing that drives you to get up every morning and actually get excited about your job? That connecting thread that makes all of that seemingly random stuff you get jazzed about make sense?
My passion didn’t reveal itself completely to me until I was in my early 30s. Luckily, I didn’t have any false starts or missteps along the way due to this lack of passion recognition. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many, many people. What if someone had taken the time to really speak openly and honestly about their passion with you as a youngster, rather than just about their career? Would you have realized your passion sooner? What if we had “Follow Your Passion Day” in elementary school instead of “Career Day?”
My passion is empowering people to be great. That’s pretty vague, I know. But when you look at what I do for a living and how I interact with people in my spare time, it all starts to come together. Every day at work I help people solve problems, improve processes, and empower them to have great successes doing whatever it is that they do. I won’t get into the technical weeds explaining exactly what I do, but I genuinely derive pleasure from being the go-to girl in IT that people know can help – even when the problems are ugly or have nothing to do with things I control. If I don’t know how to fix it myself, I know how to find the people that can. I remove as many obstacles as I can and provide solutions that help make people successful. And I love it. This unique role that I play has boosted my internal and external network and has resulted in a respect from all levels from the C-Suite on down. Who knew that looking beyond yourself and striving to make others look good could, in the end, boost your own career?
Sure, I have a Computer Science degree and am highly technical by nature, but when I was settling into my choice of majors I didn’t know that I could merge into this social butterfly/ tech geek and really make a difference for people. I would have loved for someone to tell me that. It would have taken some of my fear away as a female entering into a male-dominated field.
In the last couple of years, I’ve had the chance to talk to kids about careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), specifically to young girls. Sometimes the girls are already super into technology or science and my job is just to give them ideas for interesting types of careers. But what I really love is when I get the opportunity to talk with girls who are at risk or who have zero interest in technology of any kind. I try to sniff out hints of their passions and connect the dots back to careers that might seem unrelated. I once spoke with an at-risk girl who wanted to talk about nothing but fashion. She wasn’t sure she wanted to design it; she knew she probably wouldn’t model; she wasn’t sure about marketing, etc. So I dug deeper. What did she like about it? She was drawn to how colors, patterns, and how silhouettes were put together. I told her about how technology is used all over the place in fashion. I described tablets that allow designers to sketch their ideas and software that is used to design fabric which is then printed on sweet fabric printers. I mentioned fashion tech companies like Rent the Runway and Polyvore. Technology is everywhere. I know that a job in a tech field isn’t for everyone, but dammit I’m going to plant seeds anywhere I can! And if I can inspire just one kid to consider a tech field because they can see their passions in there somewhere or if they simply start to identify their own passions in general, then I consider it a win.
My passion goes beyond work, though. I’m a co-founder and co-organizer of dsmHack, a hackathon where local technology professionals solve problems for non-profits. We’re empowering tech folks to learn something new and give back while at the same time removing technical barriers for the non-profits so that they can focus on their very important work.
Whether it be on or off-the-clock, business or pleasure, that common thread of my passion is there and I honestly believe that’s helped me be true to myself and to feel happy and fulfilled personally and professionally.
So, there’s my challenge to the world. Take your passion and share it with the people that will be our future entrepreneurs, leaders, and change agents. The rewards just may surprise you.
More about Kim
By day, Kim is a IT professional at Principal Financial Group. As part of a self-formed group called the IT Changineers, Kim and her group have helped harness employee passion and create opportunities for innovation, collaboration as well as personal and professional growth that have helped propel The Principal to #11 rank among large companies on the Computerworld 2015 Best Places to Work in Information Technology. Kim is also a co-founder of dsmHack, a three day charity hackathon where technology professionals solve technical problems for non-profit organizations.
Kim is also passionate about yoga, food, wine, travel and good conversation.