By Stephanie Patterson

There are moments of opportunity in our personal and professional lives that have the potential to open doors for tremendous growth. And in my experience, they are almost always coupled with an element of risk.

This was the case for me a few years ago. A friend of mine connected Dr. Scott Todd to Duarte, the company I work for, to help him create a presentation that built the case for ending extreme poverty. I had recently been on a personal quest to better understand poverty, and was thrilled to be working with Scott. It was one of those wonderful moments when passion and work perfectly align. The writer and designer working on the project with me were equally excited to be helping craft such a meaningful story.

But the project hit a big snag on the day we were pitching story concepts: the writer assigned to the project was fired. With only 45-minutes before our call, I stepped in to pitch the concepts. I locked myself in a conference room and talked to my reflection in the glass to prepare, and amazingly, the call went great.

As the project team regrouped to debrief from the meeting, I realized that this problem was really an opportunity for me. With the writer gone, we needed someone else to step in and write the presentation.

Deep down, I really wanted to be that someone. My familiarity with Scott’s research along with the reading I had been doing on my own time had equipped me for this moment.

But did I believe I could do it? I wasn’t so sure.

Prior to working at Duarte, I had wanted to write. Indeed, I felt God had gifted me as a communicator. But when I attempted to pivot my career in that direction, my efforts proved fruitless. I gave up after months of getting zero bites on my resume, and returned to my seasoned career in project management.

But in spite my personal doubts, I found myself volunteering to write the presentation.

I worked from home the next few days, crafting the narrative for Scott’s presentation while managing other clients and projects in the cracks. I worked hard, digging into the research and using the processes my CEO outlines in her books to guide my work. There were several times over the course of those days where I sat staring at my computer screen, wondering what I had gotten myself into.

But as the story began to take shape, something happened: I started enjoying the process, and felt energized by the work. A week later, when we met with Scott, I was confident and truly pleased with the story I had to present.

Scott Todd engaging an audience on ending extreme poverty.

Scott Todd engaging an audience at Q on ending extreme poverty.

The time and effort I invested in Scott’s presentation has helped him share his story with many people. He has challenged their perspective on poverty, and invited them to be part of the solution.

For me, the experience was a fantastic opportunity to prove to myself (and my coworkers) that I really could write. In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck characterizes people with a growth mindset as those who see obstacles as opportunities for growth, as opposed to impending failure. Three years later, I credit the decision I made to accept the challenge of writing Scott’s presentation with changing the trajectory of my career: I’ve successfully shifted my role at Duarte to one focused on writing and communications, and I couldn’t be happier.

Stephanie Patterson is a Content Developer at Duarte: a Silicon Valley design firm that specializes in storytelling through presentations.

Fieldnotes Magazine is a publication of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. We would love to hear from you about people, businesses, or other organizations we can interview or feature. Please email the editor at Fieldnotes Magazine.


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