I attended my father’s retirement party last week. It was a well attended event, with lots of former work colleagues. It’s not clear that he’s actually retiring as he appears to have a selection of side projects to work on but the nature of his daily work and employment commitments has certainly changed. He made the de-rigeur speech looking back at his past jobs and illustrated a career that was interesting, varied and not altogether planned. It was financial circumstance that forced him into business rather than his intended career of biochemistry but he chose to work in industries such as textiles, aeronautical engineering, food ingredients and, later, banking.
What became clear was that his colleagues impression of someone who handled a huge variety of operational duties with aplomb (legal, financial, HR and IT management) was based on a willingness to take on new positions and challenges in different industries. His opinion was that the fundamentals of business are perhaps best learned by experience. Trial, error and humility.
I listened with interest as I’ve effectively moved from a primarily engineering focused job, with ancillary project management duties, to consultancy and dispute resolution. I’m spending most of my time as Director of Operations of a 10 person dispute resolution practice in Waterford, Ireland. See ARC Mediation’s website for more information. We have clients around Ireland and it’s a hugely exciting experience.
It’s been a fascinating journey and one that I urge others to make. If at any stage in your professional life you find yourself with the money and/or freedom to pursue a new experience that intrigues you, go ahead. I don’t feel I’ve abandoned engineering at all. I happily code in my spare time and read books on maths, statistics etc. I’m publishing papers in Legal / IT journals and speaking at legal /IT crossover conferences. It’s all part of a rich professional tapestry.
This is why, when seeking to grow our dispute resolution and employment law practice, we’ve tried to assemble a group with broad experience of industry and academia. Ultimately dispute resolution is about understanding the personal and business problems, developing relevant options to resolve these and discussing these until the parties converge on a workable set of conditions and compromises. Experience, practicality and, that often overlooked quality, good character are the tools that the ADR professional offers. With due respect to ADR trainers, it’s vocational in part.
Our practice combines legal experts (barristers and solicitors) with an engineer, social scientists, professional project managers, construction experts, financial experts and even a theologian. Our ages span 3 decades. It’s an interesting experiment and one that I’m relishing.