I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
- Nelson Mandela
I am not totally sure when I thought the idea of giving up my career and the security I had built for my family over the last twenty five years was a good one, what I do know is that this idea is now about to become a reality.
You don’t need to be employed by Cloudera to know just what a great organisation it is, evidence can be seen from the high calibre staff it employs and retains. The high profile customer successes it announces in the press. The reputation among the analyst and press community and so the list goes on.
As a marketing professional living in Europe, you may be forgiven for thinking I may have slightly lost the plot if I share openly that as the senior director of marketing in EMEA for Cloudera, which is quite possibly one of the hottest marketing jobs in IT right now, I have made the surprising decision to move on. You may ask, why?
If you love something, set it free if it comes back it’s yours if it doesn’t it never was.
- Richard Bach
Three years ago I received a letter from the Bishop of Winchester that was to change my life forever, I had been recommended for training to be Ordained Priest in the Church of England. Since September 2013 I have been undertaking studies part-time at Ripon College, Oxford. This has been a mix of Tuesday evenings (when not travelling on business), six or so residential weekends a year and a week residential each summer; in addition I have undertaken a residential placement with the Royal Air Force and about to do a parochial placement at Winchester Cathedral. I have also spent time in hospices, hospitals and nursing homes. It’s a far cry from the five star hotels and beautiful cities I come to visit as part of my day job. I am now entering my third and final year of studies and found myself becoming more concerned that I would not be able to give all of myself to either my studies, the associated formation in readiness for ordained ministry and my job. It was a difficult decision, but I needed to release one of them.
In a world where religion for so many people is either at one extreme completely irrelevant or at another so full of hate, distrust and competition to see who is most right, my decision can to some seem a rather surprising one.
If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you.
If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.
Back in 2008, whilst working as senior director of marketing and alliances for Riverbed Technology I embarked on an Open University degree. In this I explored Social Science aspects of the British society and its multi ethnicity, it is a richness in diversity that I am proud to be a part of. My studies then took me on to take a closer academic look at Sikhism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity. It gave me an opportunity to get a slightly better understanding of some of the underlying cultures I came to spend time with on business travels across Europe, Middle East, Africa and the US. What I also came to understand was not so much the differences we have but the similarities we share. I have friends in all of those faiths mentioned above and many friends of no faith at all; we all share so much more in our values than where we may differ. At times we all struggle, we all love, are loved, we all get some things right and other things wrong, but we are all always learning. As I embarked on these studies I came to realise just how little we may ever come to fully understand, such was the depth and breadth of each and every faith. But what it did leave me with was an ever-growing desire to learn more and fully engage with my own faith.
I have read of many people who have embarked on journeys of discovery, some I’ve met while others I’ve read about, for some it’s climbing Everest or to sail around the world, for others it’s to write a book, a spiritual journey or follow a dream, perhaps performing arts such as composing, to become a professional musician or even to act on the stage or on TV. But whatever the journey, they all share one thing in common, the willingness to let go of what has become normal in their daily lives and take risks by going into the unknown. When I started on my journey, I never believed it would one day lead me to make a decision to resign from a very successful company in a secure job.
Whoever sits in solitude and is quiet has escaped from three wars;
those of hearing, speaking and seeing.
Then there is only one war left in which to fight,
And that is the battle for your own heart.
- The book of mystical chapters
As I come to my third and final year of studies and formation before being ordained, it is time and space I need to help me theologically reflect not just a better system of time management. And for me it wasn’t a case of simply getting various tasks completed, but needing to allow myself to be immersed in the experience of my faith a little deeper, this is mostly found in the silence of solitude.
As I embark on this next chapter in my life, I am not sure if I will leave IT for good, in fact I am hoping to find some kind soul that may be interested in employing me for some part-time consultancy work over the next year, perhaps 2-3 days a week, to keep food on the table, books on the shelves and the lights on. It may be that in a year or two I return full-time to my career in IT related marketing or maybe not, who knows? But for now I am looking to give more of myself to formation as I prepare myself for ordained ministry.
Some reading this maybe wondering, how can I consider returning to full-time work if I am to be ordained? It would be a fair question and one I have been asked by many people. I am going for what is called non-stipendiary ministry that is un-paid and the commitment would be planned accordingly to fit in with any job.
So in short I am giving up a lot of what I have built up over the last 25 years by way of a fairly steady career in pursuit of a journey of discovery. I am not looking to make myself a better person than anyone else in this time of formation; I just hope to be a better person than I once was.
I will be sure to keep in touch with many of you and share progress of where it all leads. Watch this space! And of course I wish Cloudera and its entire staff every continued success and happiness and thank them for all their support and friendship during my time there.
Let your dreams be bigger than your fears,
your actions louder than your words,
and your faith stronger than your feelings.
My journey into my Christian faith started after I attended an Alpha course, you can learn a bit more about Alpha here: http://www.alpha.org