work journal

Pulling the threads of my career journey

July 29, 2023

When my friend Corey Pontz of CWP Design Studio suggested me for a Subkit interview, I kinda groaned. Because time. (Who has it?) But then, the process made me really think, especially when I fortuitously found Sarabeth Berk’s work on hybrid professionals right after.

The combo sparked a journey of reflection on my career path, from my teenage jobs as a camp counselor belaying and cheering kids from the heart of NYC through high ropes courses in the Vermont forest at Saint Michael's College, to seasons building rock staircases and clearing deadfall on the Adirondack Trail Improvement crew (this is the amazing photo above! I was 17.), and packing gear and driving trucks for Colorado Outward Bound School.

I thought about the gotta-make-some-cash-so-I-can-ski-and-climb stints waiting tables at the Alta Lodge and Phat Thai in Carbondale, and my spells roofing houses in Jackson, WY, Mammoth, CA, and on an island off the coast of Maine. I won’t forget the run in the dish pit at Dave’s Sushi, where I learned that an employer who aims to cultivate great culture might start by providing free food (ideally sushi!), Advil, women’s health products and continuing education (how to make sticky rice and fry tempura shrimp!).

There was the I’m-getting-a-serious-job era, which began with leading teenagers up high peaks and cliffs and then at-risk youth in the frigid -20 Montana winter wilderness, and segued into five winters of alpine rescue and throwing explosives for avalanche control with Moonlight Basin Ski Patrol, the kind of team that literally has your life in their hands. A season responding to accidents in Yosemite National Park cracked open the door to human mortality: Together with my now lifelong friends, I rescued people from rock faces, did CPR as first-on scene at a car wreck with Graham Zimmerman, and drove an ambulance down Tioga Pass at night.

In 2010, on my 30th birthday, I landed an actual desk job, a high-intensity nearly four-year ride building the original editorial brand, strategy, ethos and team for Outlaw Partners’ publications, Mountain Outlaw and Explore Big Sky.

Along the way, I wrote for pubs including Esquire magazine, National Geographic, Alpinist, and Montana Free Press; held magazine internships with the phenomenal Alison Osius and Megan Regnerus; led brand/marketing at conservation startup Adventure Scientists; interviewed visionaries including Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and Rewilding Argentina’s Kristine Kris Tompkins, who’s also the United Nations Environment Patron of Protected Areas.

In the rearview, I see threads: Building things—or rebuilding them. Learning how the world works and what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Finding hidden connections everywhere. Seeking the essence of people. Insight.

A journalist and consultant Bridget Thoreson wrote Fast Company. “When your professional destination is no longer a lonely perch but a thriving wide-open ecosystem fed by the work of others to explore, every twist and turn in your journey changes from a liability to a strength... A career ladder creates no value except for the person climbing it, while a career river feeds an entire ecosystem. I'd rather live in a professional world of rivers, where we all can go with the flow together.

In this context, it’s no wonder I like helping leaders and teams find insight, solve problems, build strategies and systems, and tell badass stories that help them drive change. It's no wonder I thrive working closely with individuals, helping them be the best selves.

How about you? Have you gone through this exercise of linking and mapping your past to your present vocation? What did you learn in each that you use today?

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