I have a love/hate relationship with writing. So why do I do it? I love to share my knowledge with my community. For most of my life, I’ve been soaking up knowledge. At the age of 45, I want to give back. I hope you find my writing equal parts entertainment and practical wisdom.
The Central Coast of New South Wales in Australia was a wonderful place to grow up. I lived on a five-acre property at Wyee Point, on the far north of the Central Coast. Fifteen minutes in one direction took me to the Watagan Mountains. I could chill in a rainforest, and march up steep bushy slopes. Fifteen minutes in another direction took me to Budgewoi beach. I would surf on my bodyboard for many hours.
As a kid, I lived in libraries and bookstores when I wasn’t in the surf or in the bush. I was at my happiest when walking around the coast, barefoot and eating a custard tart. Not much has changed there. Martial arts and gym work became hobbies as I entered my teenage years. Martial arts has almost always been a theme throughout my life.
My nerdy academic interests? Drinking from the knowledge fountain at the intersection of business and psychology. I spent nearly eight full-time equivalent years studying four university qualifications. Two in business and two in psychology. If I went back to my twenties, would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat.
My career has been a study of blind luck and making the most of every opportunity. Disillusioned by a marketing career, I took an analytical path. At the age of twenty-one, I was in a conversation with a marketing director. The junior marketers I observed seemed obsessed about product packaging colours and their latest advertising campaign. But was all this activity effective?
“…how do you know if your company ad campaign is effective? Can we quantify how each ad drives sales?”. Yep, I was pragmatic in my thinking even back then. Work in sales analysis and product sales forecasting soon followed.
After eleven years of working as an analyst, I was done. Or so I thought. I had worked crazy hours learning the intricacies of SQL, Excel and Access. I had built systems from scratch, with accompanying user manuals. Complex financial models with two-way sensitivity analysis presented to Chief Financial Officers. But I was exhausted, and my son was a newborn — time for a change.
I joined the University of Sydney and changed my career. As an IT Trainer, I loved every minute of providing training to people. I loved engaging people, despite my nerves in the lead-up to every single training session. Put my hand up for challenging assignments, and went the extra mile in helping people. And forging genuine connections with people having difficulty learning a system. It dawned on me that helping people is my thing. And I enrolled in the first year of an accredited psychology program.
Several years of IT Training (and management) later, I completed my fourth-year psychology thesis. I had gained some change facilitation experience. After a quick secondment as a high-level analyst, I scored another secondment. This one was better for me: a full-time Organisational Change Manager. This two-year secondment was a powerful learning experience. My boss at the time encouraged me to go contracting once the two years was up. I loved supporting project teams as their change person(although I learned on the job). Two years pass, and it’s a moment of truth. Do I stay, or plunge into the contracting waters? My boss, his boss, and many peers encouraged me to go contracting as a Change Manager.
And so my contracting career began. It wasn’t always easy, with a challenging start. But I enjoy working in an efficient, targeted way. And building solid relationships with worthwhile people on the projects I’ve worked on.
I know where I thrive: in system implementation project teams, as a ‘hands-on’ change leader. I’m currently working on a workforce transformation program involving office relocations for thousands of employees. All fun stuff. I enjoy supporting Project Managers and any project professional who gets on with the job at hand. What can I say? I enjoy the buzz of working with smart, energetic system nerds is energising!
Business Analysts and Testers are great for helping me understand systems. Like me, User Experience and Instructional Design professionals obsess over the human side of change. I’ve also become very handy in creating professional explainer videos. My careers and skills intersect: analytics, training and change. As of July 2023, I also became a registered Psychologist. Each skill — one person ad agency/marketeer, counsellor/negotiator, analyst, systems thinker and solution builder — contributes to my work as an Organisational Change Manager. My business career contributes to my part-time (Saturday) work as a Psychologist. Much like a permaculture garden, each skill helps others and benefits the whole.
Give me a fast-paced, ‘get-it-done’ environment any day. I’m not precious about the work I do, as long as it results in effective change for the stakeholders my project team serves. Recently I’ve been building the capabilities of junior changies. It’s time for me to grow too, so I can get out of the way of changies more talented than me.
If all this wasn’t enough to keep me occupied, I am currently in my sixth and final year of psychology training, and look forward to earning my registration as a psychologist. I should expect to end up with an interesting blend of organisational and clinical psychology skills by the time I register. At this point, my psychology skills can evolve further….
Between contracts, I head to the mountains to chill in the bush. Or go to the sea — ideally Budgewoi beach. Even in winter. Especially in winter. Alone in the frosty, clean surf, my overheated brain gets wiped clean. Being a Change Manager sometimes feels like being a punching bag. Well, that’s my experience. Surf therapy recharges my batteries! After a few days, squeaky clean from the surf, and after a custard tart or two, I’m back in the game for my next contract.
Years later, here I am. Still operating outside my comfort zone. Starting my own on-demand Change/Training/Analytics agency — Human Factors Advisory. Publishing articles, my ‘change in a minute’ video series, a book and an online course — all in Change Management. My book — The Change Manager’s Companion — is available now. You can also check out my online course on Change Management.
My eclectic background permeates through my book and course. Even my martial arts background! I’ve been studying various martial arts for fifteen years. And I’m still crap at them. Which martial arts teacher had a profound impact on me? The late William Haynes. Sensei Haynes was a brilliant practitioner. An expert in karate, aikido and classical Japanese jujutsu. My diminutive sensei (teacher) could throw me across the room. He was a unique combination of “deadly, articulate, graceful and humble”. Bill sensei told me why he taught aikido.
“Allan, despite the responsibilities and frustrations of teaching, it’s all about self-expression.”
Self-expression: it’s why I write these articles, and spend countless hours outside of work on my book and online course. I’ve codified my Change Management ethos, templates and practical approach for me. Therefore it is immaterial if you don’t read my articles, buy my book or online course. My expertise in leading change cements by the simple act of writing down my thoughts.
But don’t take this last paragraph as arrogant or dismissive — I am delighted if you enjoy my work. And if you want to study and take advantage of the skills, mindset and tools I offer you, I am here for you.
Another reason I do this — my son William. I want to set a good example for him. Have a clear vision, then persist until you achieve it. I also want my son to be in the presence of decent, accomplished yet humble teachers like Bill sensei. I still do. I’m glad I got the chance to bring the two Wills together. Cancer took Bill sensei from us, but the impact of his teaching lives on in his students. When COVID hit, I used the downtime to start teaching my son what Bill sensei taught me. My son is also surrounded by other decent, accomplished yet humble teachers in his Judo class which we now both attend.
I was fortunate to learn many aspects of my craft from decent, accomplished yet humble change and program leaders. My son — and you — deserve the benefit of teachers willing to help you. For me, it’s time to pay my good fortune forward.
Thank you for reading this — I hope my story shines a light on why I write.