Alumni Spotlight with Paul McGuire

There Is A Third Option

an interview with Paul McGuire

Screen_shot_2013-01-31_at_4.34.08_PMIEM recently sat down with 2012 graduate Paul McGuire. When Paul entered the IEM program, he was an admitted introvert who had worked in the IT department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama (BCBS) for 16 years. During the program, Paul decided to act on his passion and created the Affluent Student, and today he recently moved into a new management position at BCBS heading up the Leadership and Professional Development program. How did all this happen, and what role did IEM play? Read on to find out.

IEM: Paul, you recently moved into a new position at BCBS; it’s hard to switch careers, let alone do it in a big company, how did all this come about?

Paul: In October of last year I was online at work and noticed this job posting. I went home that night and told my wife that they just posted my new job opportunity.

It was not that easy though. When you have been the “IT guy” for 16 years, I knew I would have to change some perceptions about me. I’ve always been about continuing education and felt it was important. During my career I’ve taken the company’s classes and noticed it always seemed to be the same small group of people attending those classes. So I felt there was a real opportunity to expand the impact of our leadership programs. I have also been told I’m a good teacher, so I just decided to go for it. But, it was a big risk. In a company this size, word gets around. If you put yourself out there and don’t get what you go after, people know you are looking. It can impact your future prospects in your current organization.

The interview process was intense. Part of it required me to do a presentation. I tried to think outside of the box and remembered I had a video of the presentation I did at the IEM Fall Seminar. I asked if I could submit that. Later they said it showed that not only did I have the skills, but that because other people have asked me to present it gave me credibility. From there the rest of the interview process went fairly smoothly.

IEM: So how did the IEM program help you?

Paul: When I started IEM I was a classic introvert. Learning how to do different types of presentations and then being able to do them in a “safe” environment was extremely beneficial. Next would be the entrepreneurial spirit of the program. It helped me create Affluent Student. And, BCBS noticed my side company as well in the interview process. They were impressed that I was already doing some thought leadership and they actually want me to incorporate it into the new programs I’m developing for the company.

Overall though I think the biggest thing I took from IEM was the ability to think differently. The realization that what you have done to date doesn’t have to define your future, and you have to do something to make things happen.

IEM: So why did you want to make the change?

Paul: As good as I was in IT, I realized IT is a tool in a company like mine.  I wanted to commit to BCBS as a company and be involved in how the business works. I want to be that guy that helps leaders across the company solve their problems. At the end of the day I want to help managers become leaders and show them that they are more than just their job or position.

IEM: Are you going to continue with Affluent Student?

Paul: Absolutely, I plan to take some of my blogs from Affluent Student and package them together into books. I’ve discovered that even though all of the information is out there for free, some people just want it packaged together and are willing to pay for it. It will take some work, of course, to bridge the information together, but I’m excited about doing it.

IEM: So what advice would you give those in the IEM program now?

Paul: I think most people enter the program either wanting to advance in their current job, or want to start an entrepreneurial venture. I want them to see that there is a third option if you’re willing to look beyond what your resume currently says about you. You can keep your job, follow your passion, and maybe even transition to a new career.

For more information on Paul and Affluent Student check out his web site at http://www.affluentstudent.com.