Sabbatical

calvin_hobbes_time_out

After a year of planting seeds, planning, and anticipating, I have now officially started a 3-month sabbatical. Here’s my Out of Office message:

Hi,

I am on a Leave of Absence from April 22 through July 31. The purpose of my LOA is… well… to have summer vacation again. To cook good food, exercise daily, sleep deeply, and spend time with my family. Most people ask me “what are you going to do?” The answer is ANYTHING I WANT.

What spurred this unorthodox career move? A designer named Stefan Sagmeister gave a phenomenal TED talk in 2009 entitled “The Power of Time Off“. In that TED talk he explains that people work, work, work, work, then retire at 65 and do nothing. Why not spread that retirement out through your working years? The concept of a mini-retirement was also popularized by author Tim Ferriss in “The 4-Hour Work Week“. This approach to life resonates with me. I have always carefully managed my work/life balance, and this LOA is another manifestation of that same core principle.

I believe I will be a better thinker and a better worker after my time off. The ability to disconnect completely and reconnect months later will enable me to see things with fresh eyes and renewed energy.

Of course, if you know me at all, you know I’ll fill the time with technology and tinkering. I got accepted to a Javascript bootcamp. I’ll continue to build things with WordPress. I’ve got a half-built PhoneGap iOS/Android app that I might finish up. I subscribe to Ben Thompson’s Stratechery daily newsletter, which is amazing and is packed to the brim with tech strategy. I love technology and won’t be far away.

To follow the adventure, visit or subscribe to http://derekchristensen.com. I will be posting updates weekly.

I will check my work email at least once during my LOA, but if you have a time-sensitive message for me please email (email address) or call me at (phone number).

Best,
Derek

I graduated from Brigham Young University with my Masters of Information System Management degree in 2008. I worked as a summer camp counselor that final summer, making next to nothing but loving every minute, then drove my 2001 Honda Accord out to Boston with all my belongings in it. Somewhere in New York State, after my hands-free headset broke and I had finished listening to The 8th Habit by Stephen R Covey, I realized that college was over and my working adult life was beginning.

I’ve spent the past 7.5 years at Accenture doing technology consulting and systems integration for 3 different clients. My projects have almost all involved SAP, and therefore been extremely long. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with those projects. Rarely have I been excited to go to work, but at the same time, I’ve learned an incredible amount about IT, business models, go-to-market strategies, channel partners, project management, financial management, team dynamics, and leadership.

The original plan was to make Manager (typically after 5 years), then go do something else. I made manager 2.5 years ago, but stayed on. I’ve learned and grown a tremendous amount in those past 2.5 years.

The one thing which has been nagging at me is the Gallup poll question “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.“. I have generally excelled at the work I’ve done, but the work hasn’t been what I do best every day. I read business books for fun. I’m passionate about strategy and emerging technology. I like to be technical and in the weeds, while at the same time leading teams and groups. I like to teach and present concepts. I want to wear jeans to work. I want to work in a profit center, not a cost center.

During my time off my primary goal is to put myself into contact with new ideas, theories, and business models as often as possible. I will be attending Meetup and user group events at the Microsoft N.E.R.D facility, Cambridge Innovation Center, General Assembly office, Society of Grownups office, and more. I will set aside 3-4 hours each day to work on a project, during the hours I have the most energy (Tony Schwartz – The Energy Project).

Something amazing is going to emerge out of this, and I’m thrilled to find out what it is. Follow along here – I’ll be posting updates weekly.

Derek

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  • Brig Biceps White April 24, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    Godspeed my friend. Love it.

  • Ryan April 24, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    Thanks for sharing Derek. At some point I’d like to do the same thing.

  • Betty April 24, 2016 at 11:02 pm

    This doesn’t surprise me at all.. I remember in College(when I was taking 18 credit hours during summer sessions) you told me a story about a guy cutting down a tree with a dull saw, if he took a break and sharpened the saw, the tree would come down so much easier, and that I should take time to sharpen my saw. Enjoy your sabbatical 🙂

    • derek April 25, 2016 at 7:07 pm

      Yes! I’m glad I’m staying in character. On a random note, the “Sharpen the Saw” story is Habit 7 from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and I saw Stephen M R Covey speak on Friday night.

  • Nkechi April 25, 2016 at 2:22 am

    All the best with this Derek! As someone who met you in 2008 at the start of your career journey, I can’t believe it’s been that long already……

    I will be checking out your weekly updates as I suspect they may encourage me to take the plunge……..Have fun while disconnecting!

    • derek April 25, 2016 at 7:49 pm

      Great to hear from you Nkechi! Core Analyst School seems like a lifetime ago.

  • Aaron Hardy April 25, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    I’m assuming a three month sabbatical isn’t a routine thing at your company. Assuming that’s true, I’d love to hear how you went about negotiating it.

    • derek April 28, 2016 at 9:40 am

      Excellent question. A three-month sabbatical is not common at Accenture. As I was poking through our Leave of Absence policies I came across the “Future Leave” policy.

      Future Leave is a program that provides eligible employees with up to 3 months of time away from work to manage personal commitments. This leave provides additional career flexibility to Accenture’s traditional personal leave of absence offering. It is intended to provide employees with:
      -Time and career flexibility to address work/life balance needs;
      -Security of benefit continuation at employee premium rates while on leave;
      -Job assurance that you may return to work after leave.

      I’m using 1 month of PTO and 2 months of Future Leave (unpaid, but with health benefits). Since consulting is very project-based, when you’re in-between projects you don’t have client work assigned to you, and it’s a good time to use PTO.

      The reality is that there’s always another “perfect opportunity” that is “urgent” where your skills are needed. Many consultants take only 1 week off between projects, then jump into the next thing. To take my sabbatical I gave the partners I work for a lot of advance notice (~1 yr) and submitted my paperwork 3 months prior. My goal was to be transparent and to not surprise anyone.

      How did you negotiate your Leave of Absence?

      • Aaron Hardy April 28, 2016 at 9:51 am

        Nice! Thanks for sharing. That’s really great that they have that as a benefit and that you’re using it.

        In my case, my sabbatical is “only” one month, but it is paid. You can take one four-week sabbatical after 5 years, one five-week sabbatical after 10 years, etc. As such, it didn’t require much negotiation on my part; I just needed to find a decent time.

  • Will April 27, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Good for you Derek! I’m sure nothing but positive energy and experiences will come out of this.

    • derek April 28, 2016 at 9:41 am

      Thank you! More time to tinker with Raspberry PI’s, read books, write JavaScript, and maybe write a book.

  • Collette Wixom-Call April 29, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Trailblazer. Well done. Many good articles and research done on this.

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  • Terence May 11, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Excited to hear all about it! Excellent example of knowing what you want, planning to make it happen and following through. Enjoy my friend.