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It's time, again, to leave my comfort zone
It was in September 2011 that I made a huge leap of faith. After 20 years as a professional journalist, I left the comfort of my full-time newspaper career to start a new job managing a team of medical writers. Now I'm ready to make another change. - photo by Greg Kratz
It was in September 2011, about three years and nine months ago, that I made a huge leap of faith.

Frankly, at the time, it felt like jumping off a cliff.

After two decades as a professional journalist, I left the comfort of my full-time newspaper career to start a new job managing a team of medical writers at a health-care company.

I'll never forget how nervous I was during my first day at a job that didn't focus on reporting, writing, editing and distributing news stories. I wondered how I would gain the respect of people who knew I didn't have any medical background. And after hearing all the terms and acronyms used by my new co-workers, I doubted that I would ever understand the strange language they were speaking.

The first few months after the switch were especially hard. I didn't have any regrets, but while I was at work, I often felt like an impostor. I kept waiting for someone to walk into my cubicle and say, "Hey, wait a minute! This guy doesn't know what he's doing. Get him out of here!"

Fortunately, that didn't happen. (At least, no one said that to my face.) And during the last few years, I've discovered that I didn't jump off a cliff, after all.

Those unknown co-workers have become trusted colleagues and good friends. Beyond that, I've learned what many of those strange terms and acronyms mean, and I've found myself using them sometimes even correctly.

Especially in the last six months, I've felt like I was back in my comfort zone.

So naturally, it was time to jump off another cliff.

Wednesday, June 3, will be my last day at my first post-journalism job. And on Monday, June 8, I'll start my third act, this time at a company that has nothing to do with news or health care.

To say I'm excited about this move would be an understatement. It's a great opportunity for me to learn new skills at a rapidly growing company. It will be a huge challenge in many ways, and it will stretch my abilities, but I find that prospect to be incredibly enticing.

At the same time, I am sorry to leave behind an employer and co-workers who have made my life so much better and helped me learn that work-life balance is not just something to aspire to, but something that can be achieved.

Each person with whom I have worked has taught me lessons that I know will stick with me for years to come.

From Becky, I have learned how powerful a good example can be. She is a highly skilled writer and editor who sets the tone for our team. Her dedication, passion and reliability are qualities I will try to emulate.

As I have watched Kelly experience motherhood for the first time and juggle that role along with her career, I have been amazed at her strength and will. She is dealing with her own work-life balance quest, and she's doing a better job than she thinks she is. She's an inspiration to many without even knowing it.

Kathy has taught me the value of showing kindness to a stranger. She helped me when I started and set me on the right path, and I will always appreciate her friendship.

Mary has constantly impressed me with her knowledge, enthusiasm, energy and drive. She pushes me and the rest of our team to succeed, and we wouldn't be as productive as we are without her. She also cares deeply about her colleagues.

Kari and Tammy are two co-workers from my journalism days who made the same leap that I did. I have so appreciated their familiar faces and the comfort they brought me. But even more, I have enjoyed watching them grow into their new roles and excel, just as I knew they would.

Judy has overcome a variety of challenges to find her place on our team and become an integral part of all we do. She's also a wonderful mother who shows great pride in her children's accomplishments.

Brett has bent over backwards to take care of his family and improve himself while simultaneously maintaining his busy work schedule. And Hazel has made me laugh with her undisguised hatred of meetings, even while setting an example with her outstanding work ethic.

My boss, Brian, took a huge chance hiring a longtime journalist to work with medical writers, and I hope he thinks it worked out OK. He's supported my requests for flexibility and desire to find balance. He's incredibly smart, and I appreciate his sweeping vision and big ideas.

So many others have also taught and helped me these last few years Dan and Kami, Cyndee and Tori, Toni and Bob, Jason and Josh, to name just a few.

However, even as these names find less frequent usage in my personal vocabulary in the days to come, I'm looking forward to discovering the new names that will join it. I can't wait to learn the lessons that the people behind those names will teach me.

A wise young man I know once shared a quote that has stuck with me: "There is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone."

I'm ready to leave my comfort zone once again, and I'm excited to see what growth will come my way.
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