• shane@countryexec.com
  • Seguin, Texas
Career Ownership, A Life Journey, And Professional Success

Career Ownership, A Life Journey, And Professional Success

Note: This is an article I recently wrote for a local government organization, I wanted to share it here as well. I was posed a question to compare and contrast private industry versus local government employment. For that reason I briefly touched on my time in the Air Force to get straight to my first private position. Please note my time in the military provided the baseline, gave me the tools, and was the genesis of everything positive that has happened in my career. I owe everything to the opportunity provided by the USAF. The Air Force provided the catalyst for my now career ownership. Hope you enjoy the story that is my professional journey!

The Journey To Career Ownership

The path to where I am today from a rural East Texas upbringing has been quite the journey. I can’t help but smile when reflecting upon it. When I enlisted into the Air Force in the mid 90’s I had no long-term plan and sadly enough, no thoughts as to what I wanted out of life.

I was gifted the opportunity to have a career in technology through my enlistment. That stroke of luck in turn diverted the trajectory of my being in ways I never could have dreamed possible. Over the following quarter century I have had the privilege to live, work, and experience amazing places around the world, making many lifelong friends along the way. Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything. Even the most challenging of times fill me with a sense of gratitude today.

The breakdown of my career is simple. Fifteen years supporting the feds (Air Force/contractor), five years in private industry (WorldCom/Dell/Fujitsu), and the last five years in Texas local government (McKinney/Seguin). All my employers have altered the course of my life in some capacity. Overwhelmingly positive but there was one that forced me to reassess my career. For my three private industry jobs I was eventually laid off from two of them. I firmly believe it was only a matter of time for the third to do the same.

From Texas To LA

When I was let go from WorldCom, I took a generous severance package and moved to California (from Dallas) spending the next decade there minus a short stint in DC. I wound up meeting my wife in Los Angeles and that’s where my career began to evolve.

I completed a bachelor’s degree, opening doors into leadership opportunities. There is technology orbiting the earth today I had the privilege of supporting during those years. Growing up as I did that was simply inconceivable.

Texas Forever

In 2014 after a decade as a federal contractor, Dell brought me home to Texas. An increase in salary combined with a reduction in the cost of living meant my wife and I could afford our own home for the first time.

I genuinely enjoyed my role in middle management for Dell. I managed a global team of cybersecurity engineers in support of corporations that contracted with the company. It was my introduction to remote work; I didn’t have a single direct report in Texas. The team was spread out elsewhere in the US, Mexico, Romania, and India. I was intrigued by telework and wound up writing my graduate thesis on the topic, eventually completing a masters in 2015.

I earned the PMP credential shortly afterwards. The experience with telework was crucial for my current employer during Covid-19. After about a year and a half into my time with Dell they informed me I was going to be laid off. Shortly afterwards I was offered a similar role with Fujitsu and put in my notice to resign.

Taking Ownership Again

My time with Fujitsu was short lived, it didn’t take long to realize it wasn’t the right fit. With my wife’s support, the day before I turned 40, I decided to take ownership of my career once again and put in my notice to resign.

That was the decision that eventually led me to local government. I began applying to cities, and to private companies just in case the stars didn’t align. I turned down multiple private offers waiting for the right opportunity, I got pretty good at interviewing.

After four months the City of McKinney offered me the privilege of becoming their next Infrastructure Supervisor. I took a pay cut many would consider absurd by choosing to work in local government. There was never a doubt in my mind I had landed in the right spot.

A new CIO was hired shortly after I began. He showed me what it took to be an executive in local government. I soon came to the realization that was the career trajectory I had been seeking. While in McKinney I obtained the CGCIO, CISM, and ITIL Intermediate designations in pursuit of that goal.

Finding My Way Home

Wanting to expand professionally in local government, alongside a desire to simplify life and get back to my rural roots, I accepted a position with the City of Seguin in 2018. As a growing city outside of San Antonio, Seguin had decided the time had come to hire an executive over technology.

I never know if other people think like I do. The fact they selected me to be their first Director of IT is an honor I cannot properly express.

It’s an ideal situation, we’re a small city but we think and do big things. I brought the experiences acquired from gallivanting the world the first twenty years of my career and apply them in rural Texas. I’ve coined a phrase I affectionately call “Country IT,” because we make perception reality, often through unorthodox means.

This suits me just fine because despite all my experiences I never stopped being that guy from East Texas.

Career ownership
Making a difference in your community can provide a genuine sense of professional fulfillment

A Life’s Purpose

Over the past four years I have had the privilege to get to know many lifelong local government employees. Part of me is envious as I enjoy working in local government so much. I wish I would have transitioned sooner than I did.

Truth is the experiences leading up to my current role, the willingness to throw caution to the wind and accept a challenge impervious to collateral impact is what opened the door. Possessing the professional freedom, the self-actualization I have today knowing the grass isn’t always greener somewhere else keeps me grounded and provides me with a genuine feeling that I am where I belong.

Serving Others

There’s something to be said for the personal fulfillment that comes from serving your community. I never felt it working for corporations. I was committed, productive, and genuinely enjoyed those years but in the end, it was a job. It put food on the table but didn’t resonate in my soul.

Local government is different, you can make positive impactful change and see tangible results. That matters to me. We bought a home on the edge of town because I believed the sentiment would run deeper. I was right about that.

As an employee, and a citizen of Seguin I am emotionally invested in what is accomplished. My career ownership has been earned. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in my career holistically, but Texas local government gets the best version of me. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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