From boardroom to classroom: pivoting in a time of uncertainty
2020 has been an unsteady year and, for many, things won’t magically go back to normal on 1 January. For regular FM contributor Dr Kaushik Sridhar, change provided opportunity.
Earlier this year, I made a temporary career pivot. Others may call it a major career change but I respectfully disagree. My reasoning lies in the definition between the two. To pivot, for example, means to turn or rotate. A change, on the other hand, means to be different, to transform. In other words, to go in a different direction. Take the game of basketball as a great example of individuals and a team dealing with shifting circumstances. Rules of the game demand that in certain circumstances a player can’t move one foot from a designated spot. But while holding the ball and keeping that one foot glued to the floor, they are turning and twisting in as many directions as they can, looking for an opening. Know all the angles. This is a ‘pivot’.
The job market shake-up from COVID-19 has seen widespread redundancies, business closures and big earning industries frozen. There have been pay cuts and reduced hours as businesses weather the storm. If your career has been irrevocably damaged or you are facing redundancy, you may feel the need to reinvent yourself professionally. Or you could pivot. Using the skills, knowledge and previous training in what was your chosen career could easily transfer to another.
I’ve been pivoting for more than 20 years. First, from being a professional tennis player into tennis coaching, then from athletics to business/management, then into corporate social responsibility, from management consulting into healthcare, and, most recently, from a corporate role into the world of academia.
COVID-19 created the perfect atmosphere for this temporary career pivot into academia. A corporate professional for over a decade, I was somewhat heartbroken as the job I was so passionate about was cut abruptly in the COVID-19 fallout. But no sooner than the event occurred, I was offered multiple lecturing contracts with some of Australia’s leading universities to teach three different MBA courses including Corporate Governance, People, Culture and Contemporary Leadership and Corporate Sustainability.
I spent a few years at university doing an MBA and a PhD before fully entering the corporate arena, so academia was familiar turf for me. I have also been (casually) teaching at various universities since 2009. For me, getting into academia was initially about adding another string to my bow.
Teaching at university on a part-time basis is completely different to my corporate role but it is complementary. When I talk to business schools, they are always seeking people coming from industry who have had operational and line management roles, because they know how things work in practice. This is particularly important for MBA students because these practitioners bring that real-world experience and many industry contacts to cohort.
I am not a full-time academic and I do not intend to be at this stage; I currently split my time between consulting, advising start-ups and academia – all while looking for that next amazing corporate role! With any luck, my next career pivot in about 10 years will be into coaching, mentoring and speaking on the development of sustainable, socially aware and profitable businesses.
This article part two of Kaushik’s three part series. Read part one here »