Evans Incorporated

Sue’s Lessons Learned #2: Create Your Own Path

Evans Incorporated is celebrating 25 Years of Human-Centered Change. Founder Sue Evans reflects on the lessons she has learned over the course of her career and the evolution of the company.

Sue Evans, Founder, Evans Incorporated

Career path, like anything in life, are neither predictable nor linear. Opportunities can present themselves when least expected – sometimes disguised as failures or losses. Being open to the unexpected “left turns” in life can open you up to possibilities you might not have known existed. It allows you to be creative and strategic, rather than reactive, to whatever comes your way.

As a student in the 1960s at an all-girls high school, the opportunities to pursue a career in STEM were not obvious, at least to those who were advising on college programs. According to my academic advisor, my talent in math could lend itself to a career in teaching. While I didn’t know what I wanted my exact career path to look like, I knew I did not want to be a math teacher. All these years later, when I reflect on the evolution of my career, my greatest assets were adaptability and openness to change. Had I been stuck on a strictly linear path, and not open to moves to step backwards or forwards, I might have set myself up for a less than enriching experience.

Collect the data, then follow your gut.

As an analytical person, I usually like to research and weigh my options before making a decision. But when you’re unsure of what exactly you’re looking for, especially in youth, sometimes you just need to follow your gut.

When I attended a college fair, I noticed a brochure at the booth for the University of Dayton, in Dayton, Ohio for their program in computer science. UD was one of the few schools that offered a degree in computer science at the time (and not as part of a math or engineering program). Its curricula included math and provided me with an entry into a field of study that was clearly taking off.  I didn’t consider any other school — I only applied to UD, and luckily I was admitted.

Gut instincts certainly play a role in decision making but are more effective when rooted in knowledge.   Being educated in one area provides you with the confidence to trust your gut instincts. The more you know, the better your instincts.

Learning is essential and it shouldn’t stop.

We often hear that school-aged children describe math and sciences classes as challenging. I would argue this isn’t due to a lack of aptitude, but the difficulty in applying these subjects to everyday life. Learning is only hard if you don’t know why it is useful. This is equally true in work. At Evans, we believe increased learning opportunities allow employees to create a deeper and more meaningful connection to their role in the company. Everyone on our team at Evans has access to a “Career Coach.” The coach provides insights and guidance that helps to strengthen the capacities of staff to grow personally and professionally. This mentor program  helps our employees navigate their learning and development options and aid them in the creation of their career journey map.

We encourage our team members to create learning goals every year.  The goals may be related to a particular skill one would like to develop, or to a particular role one would like to work towards. We have seen the benefit of leveraging the coach cohort to help or employees map their learning journey.

Practice humble confidence and leverage failures.

What do confidence, humility, and failure have in common? They are all essential ingredients to success. The sting of failure is humbling but also breeds confidence when you learn from your mistakes. This confidence allows you to assume more risk, which in turn provides greater opportunities for learning and growth. Ultimately, confidence is not how much you “know,” but the ability to present what you know, and the belief that you have the skills to solve a new challenge and recover quickly from a failure.

Going back to my selection of Computer Science as a major – those first courses were challenging, and I doubted my decision several times.  Among my classmates, I was the only one without prior experience with computers or programming languages.  I learned to ask the right questions of faculty and classmates, and gradually things began to click. While the degree in computer science served me well, the lessons about humility, confidence in my ability to learn, and overcoming challenges have been foundational.

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