I’ll admit it. Sometimes I just log into LinkedIn to see how many HistoryIT employees have affiliated themselves with the company. It’s thrilling. It’s like searching your own name on Google (come on, we all do it from time to time) and reading an article that discusses how you won the lottery. Over morning coffee (cup 2; I’m a coffee fanatic), racing through the mostly junk email that comes in overnight before heading out to face this Monday, an email alerts me to congratulate someone on LinkedIn for their new position at HistoryIT. More thrilling to me than the prospect of catching Santa when I was six.
That’s my way of introducing my team and how unbelievably proud I am to work with them. As of today, we’re a team of 39. A year ago we were a team of 3. Two years ago we were a team of me. We include historians, archivists, imaging technicians, metadata specialists, designers, software developers, business strategists, and sales leaders. Reflecting on my transition from PhD to CEO, I think the most glaring difference in lifestyle is the amount of time I spend in a day interacting with people. I’d always thought that the academic life was a collaborative one, especially one focused on teaching. One of the most surprising things I learned is how solitary a life that is. I have great respect – and sometimes awe – for my colleagues who thrive in that environment. I always thought I would. I know now, though, that I love a day that involves interacting with a wide variety of people and collaborating on a range of projects.
My Monday began in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. I had my third morning coffee with a member of my senior executive team, Judith. We strategized a series of pitches we would conduct starting 45 minutes later, introducing the company to a variety of prospective client organizations. Our pitches range from informal conversations to tightly timed and choreographed presentations with the accompanying PowerPoint presentation. This morning’s tended toward the former, which kept the day clipping along at a steady pace.
I spent my lunch with some very smart ladies from a PR firm (we’re currently seeking representation and so get to meet with lots of great people who understand the world of marketing and PR in a way that I never will). The most exciting thing about working in a company that is experiencing rapid growth is that we get to divide our time between doing the day-to-day work and strategizing how we will achieve, in short order, the big vision of the company.
The afternoon afforded me several hours to review the status of a few digital archive projects we are wrapping up and chatting with team members to get a better sense of how to improve our overall process for the next project. As I wrap up this day and reflect on the value of my team and the thrilling variety I have in my days, I realize that I rarely identify as that PhD who left academia anymore. I pretty much see myself as an entrepreneur through and through.