I retired from IBM yesterday. There are many people that I will miss, but I’m ready to move on to the next phase of my life. Career? Maybe. I’m exploring ways to take the science of positive psychology and turn it into pragmatic actions that people can do themselves in order to flourish, especially on the job.
So how did I move from a 30-year career as a software engineer and technical leader to focusing on people?
It started with mentoring. I started realizing that I got more out of mentoring individuals and groups than I did designing solutions to technical problems. Perhaps that’s a shift that comes with time, but in my case, I always felt I was in computer science to have something to do while I figured out what to do with my life. It just took me a long time to figure out what it meant that I preferred being on the organizing committee for the IBM North Carolina Women in Technology to leading architecture work groups.
Then I was fortunate to participate in the first year of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania, where I learned about positive psychology directly from many of the truly great people in the field: Barbara Fredrickson, Jane Dutton, Ed Diener, Marty Seligman, Chris Peterson, Jon Haidt, James Pawelski, and William James come to mind, but this is a partial list. I got into the program by being open to something new coming along, and I survived it working full-time because of the fantastic support I got from my husband. I think I had more fun with this program than I did with my 3 other degrees combined. It was a life-changing experience.
I intended to retire from IBM last summer, but got talked into staying half-time to see what I could do with positive psychology there. What a gift that time was! I learned many, many things that I hope I can share here about what people can do on their own to make work more satisfying and engaging. The fact that these actions also make them more productive and effective at their jobs is important, of course.
With the other half of my time, I opened a professional coaching business to work with individuals and groups on envisioning desired futures and then taking steps to achieve them. I named my business after the wife of Pythagoras, Theano, because she created a thing of beauty – the golden rectangle – and because she is known for running his school of mathematics after he died. (She probably ran it before he died, but that’s another story.)
Love of learning is one of my top character strengths. So this year I’ve completed coaching certification and entered the first class of the Quality of Life Therapy and Coaching academy.
Mentoring and Certification
That’s how I got started with positive psychology. What’s next is living it daily and giving it away. This blog is one way to give it away. Welcome!