My co-workers at Enolytics aren't new to data, but they are new to our industry of wine. I'm the only "wine industry veteran," which creates an interesting twist for the rest of my team: they do the same work fundamentally, but they also are branching out into an entirely new field where that work is applied. I end up serving as the bridge or translator between the work that they know, and the industry I know.
It's an exciting and invigorating dance, and I think it's given all of us fresh perspective and appreciation for our respective "home base" industries.
But what about those of us who change gears entirely, who function without the bridge or translator, who take a deep breath and leap from the known to the unknown? That takes a special shade of professional courage.
Here are three things to expect if you're looking to make the leap to a new industry, wine or otherwise:
Get ready for the weird looks.
It's practically a social experiment in itself. To share with your colleagues and friends that you're venturing out to other pastures, that is.
On one hand, there will be people who are stunned that you're actually doing the thing that maybe they've thought about doing themselves: breaking away, changing the routine quite drastically, and following a dream in pursuit of passion.
On the other hand, there will be people who ask you if you're out of your mind.
In both cases, and with all due respect to friends and colleagues, you should take what they say with a grain of salt. And then continue on doing what you're doing, because you aren't taking this leap for them. You're taking it for you, and for the sake of that thing that the entrepreneur in you feels utterly compelled to bring into being.
Build on your strengths or build a new bridge.
Data is at the heart of most of our team's strengths, which makes it also at the heart of our business' unique value proposition in the industry. For us, it's over 50 years of combined experience; the fact that their experience is an an entirely different industry ends up being an asset rather than a drawback when it comes to applying that experience to wine.
That's because the skills of data analysis are transferrable. Data is data, so to speak, and it changes all the time. It's the system of utilizing the data that's the stable part, the way the pylons and beams are the stable infrastructure of a bridge. There are many different ways to cross the bridge (walking, driving cars, riding trains), and that's like the data itself: variable. The bridge itself, though, stays the same.
As you prepare for your leap, identify your transferrable skill. Maybe it's data analysis, or maybe it's speaking another language, or maybe it's the ability to write well. That's your bridge that may well "link" your old industry to your new one.
Your "Day One" could be tough, emotionally and physically.
Sure, we had the lightbulb moment of bridging data analysis to the wine industry, but then we had to sell it. To an industry that's traditionally less than enthusiastic, no less, without much in the way of proof of concept to illustrate the benefits.
That's when the harder work starts, and it's your real "Day One." For us, it was a lot of "pounding of the pavement," so to speak, and communicating with established contacts and friendly faces. It helped me, in fact, to literally plot out on a map the geographical locations of friendly faces, partly so that I could cluster my outreach efficiently and partly so that, emotionally, my anxiety was eased by seeing a concrete grouping of strong possibilities.
Bringing the possibilities of a brand new career path to life is helpful, especially in a tangible way that you could see and feel. That's the physical benefit that's worth holding on to. The emotional journey, however, is likely more ethereal but no less crucial. Be prepared for setbacks (they are inevitable, on Day One and other times) and plan for them. Arrange for a friend to be your "911," so to speak, when that happens. Or maintain a consistent practice of journaling the process, which will keep the process in perspective.