I have had seven different careers during my 40 years in the workplace. Right after graduating from Bennington College with a degree in German literature, I spent three years touring and recording with a country-rock band called McKendree Spring. That’s me in Richard Branson’s studio *The Manor* outside of Oxford, England in the summer of 1973.
After the band broke up, I moved to New York and became a sought-after session musician, working with many famous artists including Robert Palmer, Darius Brubeck, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Photo is the Robert Palmer Band at the Copenhagen airport in July 1981.
One day, after a long stint on the road, I asked my friends what they did to sleep in their own beds at night. The answer? Jingles. “You have to break into the session scene”, they all said. So I put together a reel and began pitching myself to producers, arrangers, anyone who might hire me. Eventually I broke in, first as a player and then as a composer and producer. I wound up working at a jingle house running a Synclavier and composing music for radio and TV commercials.
In 1995, after becoming captivated by this wacky new technology called the Internet, I taught myself enough about it to get hired as a Web producer at several seminal interactive agencies in New York-including CKS Partners and Eagle River Interactive. In 1998, while commuting into the city, I met a woman who worked at IBM on the Deep Blue project and she suggested I apply for a job there. After being invited to what I fully expected would be an awkward if not embarrassing interview, the VP of Corporate Internet Programs asked me to join her team. Photo is me pitching the Virtual Green Data Center in Second Life to the IBM Board of Directors. And my avatar, Christopher Express.
I worked at IBM for over fifteen years in a variety of roles including social media and virtual worlds, as a business strategy consultant, and in various communications jobs.
In 2011, the Rockefeller Foundation awarded me a month-long Practitioner Residency at their Bellagio Center on Lake Como, north of Milan. I spent my time there focusing on my *improvising careers* concepts, codifying my three Secret Ingredients – Antenna, Voice and Mesh – developing workshop activities and laying out a book framework. Upon returning to the U.S., I was invited to deliver my ideas to students at Columbia, NYU/Stern, Duke, Fairfield, Bennington and Union College.
In April 2013, I delivered a talk at TEDxTimesSquare on “Openness”, describing how my multiple careers had led me to IBM and my role in helping use social technology to create a sense of community among 430,000 geographically distributed employees.
From August 2013 through March 2016, I worked as a Strategic Partner at a boutique consulting firm in New York called Future Workplace, providing guidance to senior HR execs on how to take advantage of megatrends disrupting their function.
Most recently, I delivered a talk at the World Future Society’s annual conference in D.C. on the topic of “How to Succeed at Jobs That Don’t Exist Yet”. You can watch the Prezi here.
Currently, I am speaking, writing and consulting on the topic of improvising careers – how to successfully navigate the 21st century’s global borderless workplace.
You can see more info in my LinkedIn profile.