Reprinted from a Facebook post two years ago today.
I had a pretty good day today and so many emotions are bubbling up inside. Bear with me while I sort through it all.
Several weeks back I was invited to speak to a group of internal audit leaders from across the country as part of panel at a big bank in Cleveland. I won’t say the name of this bank because something tells me that the inner workings of Facebook are sneaky, as in, “Here’s what others are saying about XYZ…” and what you think is a private post to your friends somehow gets surfaced for public consumption. So if you happen guess the name of this particular bank in response, I will delete your post! lol Not that I’m saying anything truly private, sensitive or controversial here; these are just my reflections on the day and on my career relative to where I started out in life.
I was surprised to be asked to participate alongside chief audit executives from another sizeable bank and a major insurance company, entities you may very well know. My immediate gut reaction to being asked was excitement and “YES!” followed immediately by fear, genuine puzzlement, and “Wha? ME? Oh surely they don’t mean me. I mean, my department is relatively small and our audit work isn’t nearly as regulated and sophisticated as anything in the financial services industry, and yada yada yada. How could you possibly compare my audit department with this group of banks?! Why would they ask ME? Who thought to call me?”
And maybe they just called me because we represent a local, iconic American brand and it comes with the territory of working there. Or…. there are two influential people I work with today who have a strong connection to the bank, who could have suggested calling me and that is entirely plausible too. I don’t think I’ll learn how it came about but that’s ok. Not really the most important part of the story but definitely part of the story.
Seriously, three times in the weeks leading up to the event where I was coordinating logistics with them, I wanted to graciously bow out. I had to give myself the pep talk and restrain myself from cancelling. I was concerned I would let them down, that my perspective was small potatoes relative to what they deal with. Their coordinator so effusive and bubbly with anticipation about my visit and thought of every last detail. I wondered if I was out of my league, and whether I should put them in touch with an international conglomerate or two in town.
And then I kick myself for discounting who I am and what we do…and specifically what I have done in my career. Humility is a very good thing – and although you may think differently about me – I frequently let it consume me. However sometimes humility needs to get kicked to the curb so that confidence and leadership can reign in a world where both are desperately needed.
Yes, I know I can do this. I know I can knock it out of the park both in terms of content and delivery. Yet part of me likes sitting quietly in the corner without any visibility or notoriety. And part of me wonders if people think I’m full of hooey so what right do I have to speak up? What do I know? And yet another part of me wonders if there are people who are surprised that I even have this internal struggle. And I KNOW there are people who just don’t care at all and consider all of this to be mindless blither and drama. (And….you have a point there. I have amazing capacity to do just that.) And then I circle back to the part of me that thinks about how I know what to do and I love helping you figure out if what we do would help you too. After this exhausting analysis, I end up with that as the lingering thought.
So there I was today, part of me just thrilled to participate as this is the first in a long while – 7 or 8 years – that I’ve had a public speaking gig. Granted, it was a relatively small but national audience but they were a bright and engaged group and it was fun. I even got to use my line in response to “how’s business?”, which is, “we’re jamming”. (My company makes jam and jelly among other food items.) And they all laughed…..”Thank you, you’ve been a great audience, be sure to tip your waitstaff!”
True to style, I didn’t go in with a boring Powerpoint, either. I introduced some flair. Not exactly Steve Jobs-slick but commendable nevertheless. Ha! Flair and internal audit don’t really go together, but honey that’s part of the bling I bring to the profession. I told you this was a GIANT nerd alert. But you’re still reading, so we’re good!
I didn’t know what to expect but it was a very cool morning. It was interesting to go through the security process. Nothing like pulling into a parking garage under the careful watch of a machine-gun armed guard. You could either be really nervous or feel pretty good about that. I didn’t even see the entrance to the garage, and here the wall opens up and the on ramp into the building unfurls like a rug. Who knew? At least I had a parking space among all the downtown St. Patrick’s Day revelers, and I’m comfortable that my car isn’t laced with a bomb unbeknownst to me.
As soon as the session ended, a couple of people approached me immediately to talk further, and then some of the women in the bathroom made a point to say they really enjoyed my remarks. That was gratifying, I’m not gonna lie.
The organizers liked what I had to say enough that one of them approached me about speaking at a sister bank location in Dallas later this year, if schedules align. The speakers they’ve invited in the past were chief audit executives at a major airline and a major home improvement store, the very people who were among the keynote speakers at the 1,300+ conference I attended last week, kind of the “stars” of the audit world. So while that was one guy’s opinion, he placed me in the company of some very talented people. Even if a follow-up gig doesn’t happen, I’ll say my thanks as that was a very nice compliment!
I think I would enjoy more speaking gigs. I have a lot to say – practically and academically – on the topic of audit, risk, and control. Perhaps the time has come to grow my career that way. God knows if it’s a way to network, abandon the safe route of sitting in my quiet little office, and let my career move in directions I never could have imagined, then so be it. I always wanted to be a teacher…and clinging to what is safe can be foolish as I’ve already learned the hard way.
Like Liz Gilbert says, fear should be acknowledged and it is allowed to have a seat on the bus but it isn’t allowed to drive. I am trying to treat fear just like that. Who knows where the scenic route leads?
As icing on the cake today, we panelists got a tour of the facility which was loaded with amazing architecture, art, and other features such as a three-story marble lobby with all kinds of architectural symbolism, Warhols with the silk screen dollar signs, the largest albeit no-longer-operating vault in the world protecting 9′ thick walls which was an incredible sight to see, a $100,000 bill, and all kinds of beautiful old currency. I wondered if I looked like a geek gawking at all of it…and if the financial services guys were going to be all Joe Cool about what we were seeing because they’ve seen stuff like this before. Yet they were geeking out over how cool all of it was too, so I felt pretty good about being in the club, so to speak.
So why am I sharing all of this? 1) There are so few people that I ever open up to about this sort of thing. Yet this is Facebook, you know, my online diary, haha, and you’re my friends. And if you hung on and read this to the end, I appreciate it. 2) Guys just don’t even debate this kind of stuff. They just do it and they don’t give it a second thought. They’re probably wondering why the hell I am dissecting this situation to this degree. But I do. 3) To know that I grew up unable to carry on a coherent conversation with people I KNEW let alone speak publicly on a professional topic to a bunch of people I don’t know….well, it still blows me away what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it. And every step along the way, you chop away at the fear so that you can, for example, progress from where I was to where I am. Maybe that’s being a bit too vulnerable for all of you to see but it’s true. 4) I like to write. This is what struck me today.
I had a pretty good day today.
PS…A few times over the years, people find out where I work and then they ask if I brought any free samples, as they did today. I good naturedly shrugged it off like a “my bad” oversight. I should have asked them if they had any free money to hand out as samples. Darn it. What a missed opportunity! That only seems fair, right? I can just imagine the scene unfold:
“BRR…BRR: security? We have a suspect identified. 5’4″, a brunette/blondish wannabe…we’re not really sure what hair color she was shooting for as it doesn’t appear in nature…with a deer-caught-in-headlights look on her face. She swears she was joking…”