Five Leadership Lessons from Life After Intel


I left my corporate position at Intel in the summer of 2016 to pursue my career 2.0.  I decided to leave for two reasons.  To invest more in coaching and developing leaders and their teams, something I care deeply about.  And to be able to do it on my own terms, increasing my flexibility, learning more about myself, while still earning a good return on my time.

The first 18 months have been an exciting journey full of learning, ups and downs.  I don’t regret making the decision to leave Intel and in hindsight, there is no way I could have predicted most of the things that have happened.  Here are a few things I have learned so far.

  • I have to live with uncertainty.  In my new world outcomes are very unpredictable.  I met my best customer by chance at an event I would have never expected them to attend.  It is more important that I show up and be open to possibilities.  There’s a phrase that describes this well.  “You must be present to win”.  Don’t expect to win more than a handful of times and the odds of winning go up when you participate more often.
  • Doing good work brings in more work.  This isn’t a surprise but it is one of the few areas where I have observed cause and effect at play.  I also can’t lose sight that the customer’s viewpoint is the only one that matters.   I might think I have done a great job but if it doesn’t take care of what is important to them, then I’ve missed the mark.
  • I am accountable for my success.  With an organization of one, I don’t have anyone else to blame.  I make the decisions and live with the consequences.  It is helping me learn a lot about myself, especially my own stories of how things should be.
  • Building resilience is key.  At first, I found myself in a roller coaster of emotions.  A win would elevate my enthusiasm only to be brought down to earth by bad news the next week.  I now believe the future will always be a mixture of good and bad.  When things are going well I’m ready for the unexpected hiccup, and vice versa.  This helps me to not get too high or too low.
  • Recognizing where I am a beginner.  After 25 successful years at Intel, I know how to run a successful business organization and I am very good coach.  And there are areas where I am a beginner.  For example, sales and marketing and also running a solo coaching business.  Once I acknowledge I am a beginner in these domains, it is much easier to put my ego aside and ask for help.

It is easy for me to believe I had to leave Intel to gain the learnings above, and leaving did bring them to my attention.  At the same time, looking back, each one is relevant to my corporate experience.  Perhaps the difference is not getting too comfortable and being willing to challenge the status quo in whatever role I am in.  The above learnings are not relevant when the game is to play it safe.


Comments (11)

Thank you Andy! I can TRULY and personally relate to each of these heartfelt gems.

Thanks Randy. After 25 years in one company, I began to view Intel as a microcosm of the bigger world. I now see that wasn’t accurate. With your more varied experience, I’m sure you have a broader perspective and I’m glad my learning resonates with you. That is a helpful validation.

Great work Andy.

As a student of organisational life I would be really interested in your Five Leadership Lessons from Life while at Intel.

Thanks Dave, you’ve given me a good topic for an upcoming post!

Michael John Sujkowski

I too worked for Intel. I agree. It was our culture not the rest of the world’s.

Thanks Mike, and yes, Intel built a very strong culture which has its advantages and disadvantages. It served the company well for many years and like most things it needed to evolve.

Being a wife of a current Intel employee, we have lived thru the brilliance of Andy G.

Future minded Craig B, just too far ahead for the boat to move in direction of then burgeoning cell market.

Paul the bean counter, who changed the corporate culture focusing on profits, bottom lines, and shareholders leaving employees to feel like numbers on a spreadsheet.

To Brian and Stace, who we all had high hopes for to turn the ship and stear it back to Andy’s vision and company culture. Alas, last April the bean counters won again. 12,000 layoffs handled improperly.

Five lessons learned after three sabbaticals and 22+ years supporting my spouse:

1. Make one day sacred for family. Pre-plan a month out and turning pager/cell off. Work will be there tomorrow.

2. Take sabbatical. No other company offers this unique benefit anymore, except perhaps Nike. The seven year itch will pass since you’ll be able to make up for missed holidays, etc.

3. Never take benefits for granted. Start dreaming about future sabbatical the same year taken. Begin planning and saving for the next fabulous holiday three to four years ahead. This is where we’ve traveled:
1. Australia/New Zealand/Hawaii
2. US and Canada by car
3. Scotland/England/Ireland

4. Appreciate the culture. Embrace the intelian speak of being party to entire conversations in acronyns in social settings when other coworkers are present in a social setting. Break the conversation by asking for all cells and pagers in middle of table. Whomever picks theirs up first, doors the dinner bill, etc. For entire group. Watch the fingers itch, brown sweating to ensue shortly after.

5. Kiss your spouse often. Listen with empathy on the ridiculousness of broken communication systems. That will be wherever one works of course, but this culture is so different, many people have left and quickly returned by not realizing that as crazy as it can be, there is no other company like it.

Hi Dawn, Thank you for such a thoughtful post. Your perspective is so important, it is easy to forget spouses are deeply connected to Intel. I like your five points and sabbatical is a wonderful benefit everyone should take advantage of. Drawing a line between work and family is also so important, the culture sucks you in and will take everything you are willing to give to it. You must draw a clear line.

Hi Andy,
I agree, after 20 years at Intel and now 9 years and 700+ Customers later into running my own small IT business it has been these three that have really helped;
1. Customer Orientation – especially listening to Customers before jumping and providing ongoing communication
2. Discipline – Making and meeting commitments and operating with uncompromising integrity
3. Quality – Doing the right things right
Intel was for me a great business grounding which I was always be grateful for, especially the experience with so many diverse, dedicated and smart people we worked with along the way.
Dan Etheredge

Hi Dan,

That’s great advice and it sounds like it has served you well. Your advice highlights the value of doing the basics really well as opposed to chasing after the latest gimmick.

All the best in 2018!

Hi Andy,
I resonate very well on your point on Resiliency. My husband retired for 9 years since at the age of 43. His big practice is always “hope for the best and prepare for the worst”. That said.. he is always ready for good and bad news.
And, humbling ourselves to start learning as a new beginner, by first acknowledging things that we don’t know.. TWO thumbs up from me!
At the end of the day.. what are we chasing after in our life? We want to be a happy person, in control of positive energy, despite going thru the good and bad emotion.

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