Not many people have attended more SourceCons than I have. I had the honor of presenting at the very first one in 2007 and many since. And the further honor of SourceCon accepting my proposals to add two different tracks to the conference (SourceCon Labs in 2009, and Programmers in 2017). While each has since evolved and been renamed, they remain core parts of SourceCon.
But as Mr. McCartney said long before he became Sir Paul, “the love you take is equal to the love you make.” For as much as I’ve given, I get at least as much out of each SourceCon. What you learn during sessions and, particularly in between sessions, is invaluable. The contacts will also be invaluable for your career, either directly for actual jobs or indirectly through learnings that will make you a more desirable and valuable employee to recruit, promote, be consulted, etc.
Speaking of that, be open to learning from everyone at every moment. Certainly, don’t pre-judge or look down on someone who seems to be a more junior newbie. Everyone has a useful nugget to share (just ask!), and I have been pleasantly surprised at how fast many SourceCon attendees accelerate. Many of those former newbies now run sourcing teams or entire global functions or are well-regarded individual contributor SMEs in different niches of our field. You may well be working for one of them someday (I wouldn’t hesitate to be among those if things ever went south where I am).
As important as I feel all those previous points should be for you, those aren’t a “different reason” than most other SourceCon vets would tell you, so now let me tell you the story that explains the title of this article.
Back in 2010, I felt it was time to move on from where I was, for reasons outside the control of my then-boss, an industry luminary who previously hired me to source at Microsoft and remains an important friend and colleague. Fortunately, another luminary I worked with previously at Microsoft came calling, and I began a full half-decade stint at Avanade, the Microsoft technology-focused subsidiary of Accenture, partly owned by MSFT.
Not long after I started, my new boss (another former Microsoftie – seeing a trend here?) said we needed to leverage our parent company’s RPO to scale our sourcing model to support North America. We tested with small teams from two different offices outside of North America and decided that China’s results were superior. So we expanded there, eventually supporting all global regions and handling other admin functions outside sourcing, ultimately building a team of over 25 Accenture FTEs exclusively supporting Avanade.
Since I was already known as a sourcing trainer, I was assigned to train them on sourcing methods and business acumen (those are a big part of my role, BTW, even today at a company in a completely different industry). While my live webinar trainings were held late evenings (I thought they would absorb material better in the morning of their workday) and many of our other communications were handled via email, I eventually came to know each team member’s strengths and weaknesses.
A few individual contributors sourcers stood out, for the reasons you’d expect – high curiosity, great questions, fast learner, strong work ethic, etc. One of those was Xuemin Wang, who goes by Janny (all the China team members had English nicknames they chose and used when communicating outside their home country).
When an opportunity arose for someone to become the on-site manager of North America sourcers, I didn’t hesitate to recommend Janny. She fulfilled all our expectations and more, becoming a superb manager of people, metrics, etc., including training and mentoring other North American sourcers herself. We became friends as well as colleagues, doing what I could remotely to guide her through occasional tough issues.
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Let us be the wind beneath your wings
When I eventually told her I was leaving Avanade for my current employer, she was unhappy. She asked who her coach and mentor would be now. I reminded her that she had other global managers as well as my boss (who stayed several years longer) to rely on, and reassured her I would always be happy to answer questions if she thought I could help. But mostly I told her that she was ready, fully ready, to own the responsibilities she had, and whatever came her way later.
Fast-forward to today: Janny rarely needs to contact me, because she DOES know what to do whenever inevitable crises arise while maintaining the day-to-day systems that keep sourcing humming at the world’s most-decorated Microsoft Gold partner. When she checks in with me, it’s about something personal or strategic, or both, that goes beyond what she’s already handling. And so it shouldn’t surprise you that she is now the global head of sourcing for the Avanade account at Accenture, and I couldn’t be prouder.
During the 4+ years, we overlapped at Avanade; you’d think I would’ve met Janny during a business trip or something. Nope. Like many companies then and now, HR was cost-conscious about travel, and we were good at conveying what we needed to by video, voice, email, and IM.
Many of the insights I shared with China (and another Accenture team supporting Avanade in South America) during trainings were tidbits I picked up at SourceCons. I often told Janny how much I enjoyed speaking and learning at those conferences. She wanted badly to attend one herself, but it wasn’t feasible then.
Finally, after eight years working for Accenture/Avanade, she got permission from her management to go to an industry conference outside Asia. And you know what conference she picked! She’s still working with the government to finalize approvals for the travel visa to come here (thanks to SourceCon/ERE for a little help with that) but hopefully, all will fall into place, and she will touch down on American soil for the first time in Atlanta next month.
Not many people have ever seen me cry because it rarely happens, but it probably will when we finally meet each other, face-to-face, for the first time at SourceCon Atlanta. Have the cameras rolling, if you like – we won’t notice you, anyway.