While at coffee with a couple of friends, I was recently asked "Why are you in professional services? What's so great about PS that brings you back into that role again and again?"
That question made me pause the reflect. I have had over a decade of professional services experience, and over that time I've gone from doing to leading. What keeps bringing me back to professional services, and why do I feel leading services teams is the right fit for me?
Those who know me well would describe me as:
- A people person: I would much rather sit and chat with a fellow human being rather than sit in front of a computer all day
- A technology addict: As much as I love humans, I'm a nerd at heart
- A solution builder: I love solving other people's problems (even though I'm sometimes not very good at identifying problems at the outset... but I'm working on it)
The intersection of all three of the above is really the reason why I'm in professional services. There's no other discipline that allows me to exercise all three of my professional passions.
But WHY do I choose to LEAD professional services teams? I suspect my reasons are similar to most leaders and coaches:
Micro Reason: No Other Discipline Caters to My Career Indecisiveness
I enjoy working with people. I enjoy tech. I enjoy solving problems. I don't think there is another discipline that allows me to exercise all three of my interests at the same time. I could easily have gone into sales, but my tech skills would have been dormant. Product Management work is a great way to exercise my skills in technical problem solving, but I find that I miss client work. There's a reason why I've settled so well in professional services, and that's because it manages to keep me engaged in all three of my interests.
Somewhere between Micro and Macro: I Like Building Bridges Between Teams so We Can Strive and Aim for the Same Things
A common refrain amongst the companies I have worked at is "That's the other team's responsibility. It's not my job to do their job for them". This mentality absolutely pains my soul. We should care about our colleagues, not just because what they do affects us, but because we're all aiming to achieve the same goal, so if someone is experiencing pain, we all feel it one way or another. Actively ignoring this is a form of cognitive dissonance that pushes me to action.
One of my primary goals as a services leader is to build bridges with other teams so we can all deliver and achieve the same results. My colleagues may be focused on delivering for our clients, so it's up to PS leaders like myself to focus on inter-team communication and bridge building. My position is to ensure communication is clear, constant, and focused on problem-solving. I am often not the smartest person in the room, so where I deliver the most value is to help others who are smarter effectively communicate and solve problems.
Macro Reason: Develop a Community of Passionate PS People
I was mentored by some of the smartest and patient people in the industry, and without them, I wouldn't be on my journey to build great services teams.
It would be patently selfish to go on this journey by myself.
Professional Services as a discipline is not as well established as our adjacent teams. It's not a scientific study, but a quick Google Search makes my point:
- "Developers" returns 1.14 billion hits
- "Product Management" returns 720 million hits
- "Professional Services" returns 250 million hits
We PS folks are fewer in number, and our discipline is much less defined than our colleagues. I want to build a community so we can support each other and grow as we continue to develop our discipline into its own unique entity. Organizations often take the easy route on developing services teams by making them tools for other teams, and by growing our community, we can confidently stand up and help organizations see the positives in recognizing services teams as an independent contributor rather than as a dumb tool.
Those are my reasons why I'm passionate about Professional Services. What are yours?