Ten Years Later

Monday, August 15, 2011

On my last business post about the upcoming BPM conferences where I will be speaking, I accidentally typed “2001” instead of “2011” for the title. As I fixed up that little goof, it had me think about the past 10 years. 10 years ago, I was finishing off my last few weeks as an evangelist for FileNet, having given my notice at the beginning of August, and I ended it with a customer trip east just before the Labour Day weekend, swinging back through Toronto to see friends before my last few days at work in southern California. September 6th, I was out of there, putting all my belongings into storage, packing the necessities into the tiny trunk of my S2000, and heading north with the top down. Destination: Vancouver, by way of everyone who I knew on the west coast for a grand tour/extended farewell party, (Canadian) Thanksgiving with my bro in Vancouver, then off to New Zealand and Australia for a couple of weeks walkabout before deciding on what was next.

FileNet had been part of my mid-life crisis. Working for my own companies (one product, one services) for 13 years before joining FileNet in 2000, I had just shut down my 40-person services company and decided to take some time off. FileNet execs had a different idea, and convinced me to relocate from Toronto to Costa Mesa and create my own position there. I picked “Director of eBusiness Evangelism” as my title, worked directly for the president, and travelling to 14 countries in 16 months. I loved the job, the people and the travel, but poisonous corporate politics eventually wore me down, and I decided to call it a learning experience and move on. Hence the road trip, to meet up with all the great west coast FileNeters who I had worked with, then off to Australia to see the gang down there.

Five days later, things changed. I was in Lake Tahoe when the planes hit the towers, and heard about it when  a friend called me that morning from Sacramento, where we were supposed to meet that evening. “Turn on your TV”, he said. “I’m in a cabin in the woods, I don’t have one”, I replied. So he described the events of 9/11 to me, the towers having already fallen, before I headed for the main lodge where I spent the day watching the news coverage and trying to get word of NYC-based friends and colleagues.

With life seemingly frozen in time, I decided there was no better time to take a real break, like I should have done back in 2000 instead of joining FileNet: I spent a month driving up the coast to Vancouver, a leisurely 10 days there, then a trip to New Zealand and Australia that ended up lasting three months (after my host down there pointed out that I didn’t have a job, so didn’t really need to go back after three weeks as originally planned).

January 2002, I finally ended up back in Toronto, the city that owns my heart, picked up some consulting and did my third incorporation to form Kemsley Design. That turned into more implementation consulting work, business blogging, conference presentations and industry analyst cred, and I’ve been doing the one-person consulting gig ever since. I sometimes think that I have one last startup left in me, but really like the lifestyle of the independent consultant.

Kemsley Design hasn’t quite reached the 10-year mark, but it started with that decision 10 years ago to get out of a corporate culture that was bad for me. Happy anniversary to my decision to get back to doing the work that I love.

2 Comments

  1. sfrancis says:

    Sandy – you’re a case study on the power of influence rather than control. As an independent agent you’ve had a great influence on BPM (and other areas) over the last 10 years, and your blogging inspired me to get into the blogging habit as well (and helped me find some of my favorite blogs by other authors).  That fateful day in september 2001 changed a lot.  Not a month later I left my employer – for lots of reasons, but I can’t help but feel like that event just put the whole thing into a different perspective – and it set me on a winding path leading to where I am now.  Not that I can claim changing the world or the BPM industry, but I feel like what we’re doing has real value, and we’re making our small positive impacts.  Hoping the cumulative effect will be greater than the sum of the parts.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts via column2 for all these years!

  2. Chris Church says:

    Congrats. I remember a great dinner in Seattle (sorry don’t remember where – Jaks in Issaquah maybe?) and a drive in the cool car into the hills that trip. Glad you’re doing well. Cheers!

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