Eileen Fagan | Crain's Philadelphia

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Eileen Fagan

Background:  

Intuit is a software company that is known for its financial and tax preparation software, including QuickBooks and TurboTax. 

The Mistake: 

I came to Intuit about 14 years ago after running a consultant firm. I joined with a job title in the program manager family and I didn't stretch beyond my job description for a long time. 

I was waiting for someone to recognize that I could do something more and bigger.  I was getting frustrated and I was starting to feel like I was not in charge of my own destiny and I was not contributing at the level I could.  

Then this big project came along and I finally said, "Let me do that." It was tenure visioning for each of our businesses futures at Intuit. It really involved working across the whole organization, using design-thinking — it didn’t fall under my natural job description.  

The question that was posed back to me was when I asked to do the job was, "What makes you think you have the capability to handle that?" I had managed a company and done so many different things, so I had a different view: "What makes you think that I can't do that?" 

I spent four or five years staying in my box defined by my job title and so I pushed forward and said, "Just please, trust me, give me a shot. If a couple months in it looks like I have completely flubbed this thing then you can pull me off, I will walk away from it. But, please just give me this shot." 

I almost left the job — which would have been a mistake because it morphed into the job I have today, which I love. 

It doesn't matter if it is in your job description ... just go do it.

The Lesson: 

In big companies people tend to put you in a box and if you are good at what you do they are going to keep asking you to do the same thing over and over again. I think far too many people just sit there and get frustrated.  

I was taught when I was young that you will get recognized for what you do and things will naturally happen. I have found the workplace to be different than that. You have to step up and say, "Hey, I really think I can do this...I know it looks like it is outside of my comfort zone or what you think I am good at it, but here is the reason I can do this."  

I actively look for how to grow people and how to think about moving them around to broaden their skills. It doesn't matter if it is in your job description ... just go do it. 

Follow Eileen Fagan on Twitter at @eileen1651.

Pictured: Eileen Fagan. | Photo courtesy of Intuit

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