Elephants, mentors and comfort zones: three things that have shaped my ITIL journey

Elephants, mentors and comfort zones: three things that have shaped my ITIL journey

I was first introduced to ITIL® in 2009 when we pitched the best practice for a government IT contract and as part of the proposal process, I completed ITIL® Foundation certification. But my journey didn’t really start until 2012.

Adam McCulloughPrior to this, I had the pleasure of supporting NASA on a large IT programme. It was like every child’s dream: I was part of the mission and I didn’t plan on leaving. In 2011 however, we lost the contract and suddenly, I had to get a new job.

At the time, I thought I’d peaked: how could it possibly get any better than supporting NASA? I felt my career would be all downhill from there. Looking back now, it was probably the best thing that has happened to me in my career.

Encouragement from my mentor following redundancy

After being made redundant, I met with my mentor and he asked me to get involved in an internal proposals exercise to look at process improvements. I met with a lot of senior leadership within my company and I realized that when it came to business development, we were essentially dipping from a dry well. We didn’t have enough resources to deliver proposals or deliver the work should we win it. After a GAP analysis, I put forward the recommendation for internal growth of ITIL Experts and threw my name into the hat to lead the process.

Becoming an ITIL Expert at a young age

One of the first responses I got after putting my name forward was from my manager who said: ‘you’re a young guy, if we send you off in front of lots of senior people to be an ‘expert’, won’t they think you’re too young to give them advice?’ Sure, he was right, it was a risk and something I’d thought of, but with the support from my mentor and the confidence he’d given me in my capabilities, I carried on. To my surprise, I was given approval and funding for the training.

Getting to that point was a challenge, but now the fun started. While I had funding, it needed to be it spent before any surplus was recognized by the senior team and potentially pulled, so over the next year and a half, I completed my journey to ITIL Expert as quickly (but effectively) as I could.

I opted for a route that was a mix of capability and lifecycle elements and quickly started booking classes out of excitement to learn, but also because I knew the funding wasn’t infinite.

Over the 18-month period, I had a lot of things to navigate. I was working my day job full time, I often had to travel to complete my ITIL courses, I had study and exams, and I was also aware of showing the immediate value that my training was bringing to the business. I also moved across the country for work a number of times and in my personal life, I met my now wife, so fitting in dating was no mean feat.

Learning how to eat an elephant

One of the times I was struggling with fitting everything in to a 24-hour day, I spoke with my mentor. He said: “how do you eat an elephant?” After a moment’s thought, I started to reel off my preferred process and he stopped me. “One bite at a time,” he said. And that advice has stayed with me.

When you’re learning and working, it’s all about compartmentalizing, and remembering: it doesn’t matter how slowly you move forward, as long as you’re moving forward.

Following this period, my career skyrocketed. While there was some hesitancy around whether I was old enough to be an ‘expert’, I was becoming recognized in that way.

The academic training helped me tremendously: it forced me to step out of my comfort zone and it meant that new doors kept opening. But what was also hugely valuable was the skills I developed in doing the training. What I learnt around handling pressure, prioritizing and managing my time during these 18-months has stayed with me.

Going beyond comfort zones

Stepping out of my comfort zone has become a habit for me, so now I’m starting the next stage in my ITIL journey by becoming a mentor. Having someone to support me in creating a plan and achieving my goals has been so important, and I’m not sure I’d be in this spot if I hadn’t, so now I want to do the same.

So to anyone who is starting out on their ITIL journey, I would definitely say: get a mentor, eat the elephant one bite at a time, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

See our ITIL section for more information about IT Service Management (ITSM) best practices and certification and use our Career Paths resource to explore roles in ITSM.

Read Adam's previous AXELOS blog posts

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