Earlier this year, I turned 50. A few days after my birthday, my daughter graduated from Yale — the second of my two children to earn that distinction. In October, I will graduate from Columbia University’s Executive Master of Public Health program.
I guess you could say it’s a watershed year for me — one of the biggest of my life so far. We all have them. And once the celebrations are over, I imagine we’re all faced with the same question: What’s next? Here is what I learned as I looked for answers to that question:
- It’s never too late for a new beginning.
Some of us might feel inclined to stop and take a breather at 50, especially once the kids are out of school. We may think we have reached a high point that we’ll never exceed in our time on earth. As for me, I’m viewing it as a new beginning.
It’s a simple construct. Fifty is half of my life. Sure, it’s a milestone, but it doesn’t scare me. I’ll admit I am tickled to be at a point in my life where I have no dependents. My son and daughter are well on their way to taking their places in the workforce and the world. While I have strong relationships with my children and see them often, there is a level of excitement — a feeling of freedom now that they are adults. I don’t want to waste that feeling of freedom. I want to channel it in constructive ways and put it to good use.
- The opportunity to focus is a gift.
There is an even greater excitement in the fact that I recently began a new phase of my career — a phase that I have envisioned for a very long time. I am no longer simply an IT guy, but a healthcare professional; a CIO for a very exciting organization in NYC brimming with possibilities. When I was a kid growing up in Turkey, I dreamed of becoming a doctor, so this move into healthcare feels as if I have come full circle. Our dreams get tweaked as we get older, but I like the way this one has turned out. Though not an exact match, I am still able to use my skills and experience to effect change in the healthcare sector — and probably on a much larger scale.
The transition wouldn’t mean half as much if I weren’t confident I did everything I could to prepare myself for its challenges. That’s one of the benefits of maturity. They say good things come to those who wait, but I also believe that good things come to those who are prepared. And now I have the time, the skills and the experience to give my new healthcare position the total focus it demands. This opportunity is a gift, and I am eager to embrace it with all the dedication and energy I have.
- Maturity and passion are not mutually exclusive.
I’ve attended HIMSS healthcare IT conferences in previous years, but at this year’s event, something was different. Instead of observing from the sidelines, I was involved. I was invited to participate in sessions. I was a contributor. I felt respected and connected, and I was able to help others make connections, too. One of these connections resulted in CHIME welcoming a new foundation member. This ability to find the things two professionals might have in common and make a connection happen for their mutual benefit is probably the thing I am best at. While others are inspirational leaders, effective organizers, impeccable planners, I’m a connector.
In my work with colleagues and partners, I can find win-win solutions, shape commitments between parties, challenge others to exercise their own good judgment, and solidify their trust in one another. That is very exciting to me. I heard it time and again at the HIMSS conference this year: People notice my passion. It is gratifying to be able to say that at this point in my career.
Here’s to 50
There’s a saying now that 50 is the new 30. I’m not so sure I agree. Physically, I don’t feel that much different from the way I felt at 30. But in terms of what I have learned about my industry and about myself over the past two decades, I’ll take 50 over 30 any day.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse by Tonguç Yaman, CIO at Advocate Community Partners and a graduate of the CHIME CIO Boot Camp program.