Breaking through glass ceilings ...


Picture this … you’ve reached the pinnacle of your career, a position no-one would have predicted for you ever let alone so early in your career. You love what you do, believe in what you do, have achieved more in 3 years than many would in 10 and yet something isn’t right, you know there’s more you can offer but not here, not now, not like this. 


Sound familiar? 

 
It was late 2011 when I realised I’d hit a glass ceiling. 

 

I’d started working at the University of Cambridge in March 2008, in 6 months I’d written over 30 different courses, established and delivered a full programme of skills training for over 1200 Postgraduate students. By early 2010 I had been promoted to head of Learning and Development for Postgraduate students and managed a team of 5 trainers and 2 administrators with a very substantial budget and over 6000 active participants attending and raving about our courses …  at one of the World’s top Academic Institutions … not bad for the girl who failed her A-levels fist time around! 

 
I loved what I was doing, I was motivated, driven, successful, flying higher than I’d ever imagined possible. the team I lead were fantastic, the innovation and opportunities were great but something wasn’t quite right … that nagging feeling of unrest was creeping up inside me again. 


You see, I’d made the leap from the research lab soon after completing my PhD having realised that I cared more about people than semiconductors but that’s another story for another day! I knew back then that I had to leave research Physics and here was that oh so familiar feeling creeping up again … “time to move on, there’s a bigger game to play” a little voice was whispering in my ear. 

 
Perhaps there have been times when you felt like that too. You might feel like that now … reached a glass ceiling, done a lot and love aspects of what you do but know there is more you have to offer. A gift you have to share and no idea how to sucessfully do that, after all you've played it pretty safe, done what's expected of you and "always been on track for a 'great career' in ......". Still there's that little light, a burning desire within you to take a different path, to brach out, to explore and adenture, to create something that trully fulfills you. 

 
I was grateful for all the opportunities I’d had. I’d worked hard to achieve what I knew was possible and there was more to do. My final project for the University of Cambridge was to secure ongoing funding for the programme and staff I managed and to design and develop a blended learning system to take the courses online -  something my earlier work with the Open University had prepared me for. 

 
In 5 short years I had transitioned from PhD Physicist, to skills developer and trainer, to learning development researcher and professional, to manager, to coach. I’d had rapid and massive success achieving credibility with a notoriously tough audience (researchers are always asking for the ultimate proof before they trust - it’s built in, it’s part of the job, your job is your life and your legacy!) and now the time had come to spread my wings. 

 
I was feeling frustrated, stifled,  held back, my job was to provide development for others yet my own development had become limited. 


I wanted to deliver cutting edge, world class services, I wanted to provide what I knew deep down was possible - a new paradigm, a shift in education, to empower people to make a difference by being themselves rather than what they were conditioned or expected to be … and I knew that to do that I had to leave what I loved and move on. It was time to create what I knew was possible and burst the bubble I’d trained, lived and grown in. 

 
I think, deep down,  I always knew that I would have to move on at some point. That I’d reach a glass ceiling I’d want to  break through, I just didn’t realise that would come so soon. 

 
I’m a big believer in serendipity, in fact it’s my favourite word and has played a big part in pretty much all of my major decisions … being open to new or unexpected opportunities somehow opportunities show up. That’s how I’d left the lab in France and got the job at Cambridge in the first place and the same was true now. The real trick is to get clear on what is right for you at any one time. 

 

Questions were flying round inside my head, tormenting me. I knew there was something but I couldn't put my finger on it, questiosn like .... 


What make sense of all you have done before? 

What is the tread that weaves through your life?

What are the unseen connections that somehow you’ve made to get you where you are now?

How do you use them now to create something that builds and grows with you to become your living legacy?


In February 2012 I handed in my notice at Cambridge much to the shock and surprise of my boss at the time. I gave 9 months notice instead of 3 so I could complete the projects which would secure the future and growth of the team and programmes I’d built. Those were a tough 9 months but it felt right and I left with all the ends tied up and a future for what I’d given so much to create and grow.


Deciding to make the leap was easy when it came to it ... I didn't really know my why, what or how for what I was about to do but I knew it was right so I lept! The journey from then to now hasn't all been plain sailing but is another story for another day …. 


So what to I do now … I figure out what’s unique about you and sometimes we turn that into a business, life and legacy that you love. 

 
I knew I was ready to stop working for someone else and start living the life I wanted to create. To use everything I had done until then to create the future I wanted. Perhaps you feel the same way….?

Is it time for you to stop working and start living? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts ... 

In one of my next posts I'll be talking all about rollercoasters and hicups ... 

Jessica xx