How travel changes your career (a guest post)

  • Jonathan KahnWe present a guest post from one of our speakers, Jonathan Kahn. Jonathan is the Principal of Together London. He organises events, presents worldwide and writes about the revolutionary changes facing organisations, through the lens of UX, CS, and governance.

    You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” - Steve Jobs

    In 2005, I decided to fly from London to Philadelphia to attend the first ever An Event Apart conference (evidence here). I was freelancing at the time, so I decided that I could afford to fund the trip, and I felt that somehow the things that I’d learn and the people I’d meet would help my career. I had the naïve idea that I’d get work, money, and a vibrant professional network—in short, sorted for life—just from attending this conference.

    Can attending an event change your career?

    When I got back to London I wasn’t carrying a suitcase stuffed with greenbacks, I didn’t have a pipeline of new business leads, and my wallet wasn’t full of business cards—this was pre-twitter and my interpersonal skills were, ahem, underdeveloped—but the thing that changed my career was the attitude I learned at AEA. Or more accurately, I learned that other people took a different attitude to their work, and I realised that I could work towards adopting it myself. AEA inspired me to stop trying to fix websites (with the sole aim of getting paid) and instead start trying to understand people’s underlying problems, so I could work with them towards a more sustainable future.

    Since then, I’ve started a blogwritten for A List Apartspoken at events around the world, and even organised an international conference: CS Forum 2011. Looking back, I can see the link between these things and attending ALA—but at the time I had no idea where it would lead.

    Why you should come to Cape Town

    Here’s what we can learn from this story:

    1. Take responsibility for your own development. Instead of expecting your employer to look after you, invest in yourself. You’re worth it.
    2. Take personal risks in your work. If you push yourself outside your comfort zone—by travelling to a foreign country to attend a conference, for example—you’ll develop in ways you can’t anticipate. If you’re not taking risks in your work, ask yourself why you’re in this business.
    3. Travel. Whenever you travel, you’re guaranteed to find new perspectives that will broaden your outlook and make you better at what you do. Experiencing another culture is one of the best ways to understand your own.

    So, what are you waiting for? See you in Cape Town!


1 Comment


  1. Pingback : Two guest posts — lucid plot, by Jonathan Kahn

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