Growing Through Change


Kim James, Director – UAV Aerial Works

At some point in our life, we’ll be challenged to re-evaluate, re-think, and re-imagine. The difficult part is that generally we’re not brought up to do this in a logical way. It’s for that reason, when the time does come, we often may not even recognise the need, nor what is required of us to navigate such a process.

A few years ago, I found myself questioning my life and career. I had enjoyed almost 20 years of what I was certain was my one and only career passion. It’s what I knew, loved and most importantly, what I was good at. I was lining myself up for that top dog global role. It fed my soul, earned me a great income, allowed me to live and work in far-away places, experience different cultures, climb up the corporate ladder, power dress, look up to and learn from leaders and build and inspire my teams. I had learned and experienced so much and was on top of my game – I was literally living the dream.

At some point however something in me started to feel like a deep ache. Was the money and status worth the ever-creeping toll that the absolute relentless hamster wheel of a 24/7 corporate career started to take on me? I could work harder and handle more than most – after all, grit is my middle name. But I had lost my Why

When I started to question how things in these juggernauts of large corporates were done, which ultimately had no bearing on how we could positively deliver the required mission and manage the client, it was time to re-evaluate.

I sought advice from career coaches (it didn’t go well; a story for another day), did my own research and consulted colleagues and mentors. I cannot quite remember how the stars aligned, but ultimately, I decided to do a master’s degree in my field of work. Although it was two years of intense juggling studies with work and personal life, it was the best decision I ever made.

It allowed me to interrogate my specialism in the broader Human Resources world, but most importantly, it was the first time in my life I was forced to examine my own thoughts, feelings and really take stock of how I got to where I was at the time. I wondered then why it took spending a significant amount of money and effort doing a master’s degree to learn how to truly re-evaluate and to make sense of the world and my place in it.

At times we get so caught up in the ‘busy’ that even when things get scarily uncomfortable, we spend little time doing something about it. So, the corporate world still had its grip on me for a while after that, but with my newfound knowledge, insights, and dare I say wisdom, it made me restless and braver.

The big re-think in my case resulted in some major life changes and a move back to South Africa after 18 years out of the country. Partly because I had been away from my family for so long and my father was aging. Partly because I knew that I had done my time in the expat, global corporate world. I moved back with no job but a sure (naïve) plan on how to do this career thing better. I knew what to do and thought I would go it alone. I properly expected that I would land clients and contracts at the drop of a hat as an independent consultant – after all, I would be a big fish in a little sea, and I would ace it. Reality hit.

That Why I was looking for was nowhere to be found. My soul was not being fed and I had not gotten my mojo back. I had to re-evaluate again, and this time was forced to rethink hard. I had failed but I was strangely ok with that. I kept re-evaluating, rethinking, reimagining. At times it was not pretty.

And then the stars aligned again. This time, I had an opportunity to join a start up in the aviation industry – drones. From global banking to South African aviation. What was I thinking? I had always worked with People, Processes, Technology. When it boiled down to what I would be doing though, my skills aligned to wait for it… People, Processes, Technology.

There have been many wobbly moments. I’m not a natural entrepreneur, and yet I was thrust into an entrepreneurial environment as a co-owner and Director of a Commercial Drone Operator. I needed to find my place in a male crowded industry, and I realised very quickly that this fledgling drone industry was tough to crack. Whilst navigating this new journey, the reimagining continued, and I found my Why. My mojo was back.

Whilst as a business owner I need to follow the money, most days now, I’m fortunate enough to be able to feed my soul with my work outside of building and running our business.

I know now that the process of being intentional and really asking yourself the big questions is daunting at first but not as difficult as it might seem. I believe whatever your circumstances, making sense of the world requires the following: Be brave and pause. Be intentional, ask the big questions and never underestimate yourself and stars which sometimes, just sometimes align when you least expect them to.

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