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The Pumpkin King

[as posted on LinkedIn - follow me!]

In our careers, we've all experienced those golden moments when everything seems to fall into place. The accolades roll in, the retirement pot grows, and we bask in the glow of well-earned vacation time. It's as if we've cracked the code to professional bliss.

Yet, even in these moments of triumph, nagging questions can creep in. Do we settle comfortably into the familiar embrace of the status quo, or do we cast it aside in pursuit of a new, potentially more fulfilling dream?

Throughout our journeys, we've encountered moments of pure wonder and excitement, fueled by an infectious enthusiasm and an insatiable curiosity. We've embarked on quests to make a difference, to innovate, to be the architects of positive change.

But let's be real. We've also faced those gut-wrenching moments when, despite our best intentions and meticulously crafted plans, everything has come crashing down around us. Our dreams fizzled out, and we were left picking up the pieces, humbled and defeated.

Now, dear reader, you might be wondering where I'm going with this... I mean, what fresh fluff is THIS? 🙄

😳 A pep talk?

😨 A cautionary tale?

😟 An existential crisis?

😏 A segue to a provocative announcement?

😂 More tactics to use white space to keep you scrolling?

Surprise! This is actually an invitation for you to explore one of the most profound work-life analogies ever crafted: Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.

That's right, my friends, I challenge you to make this classic film an annual Halloween tradition, and I invite you to watch it with a fresh, work-centric lens!

For those unfamiliar or in need of a refresher, our leading man is Jack Skellington. In the updated and visually stunning 4K edition, his claymation persona truly comes to life (especially if you're fortunate enough to watch it on an outdoor projector screen attached to your backyard office). Known as the Pumpkin King, Jack epitomizes career success, boasting accolades and adoration by all. We understand why, as he coordinates a truly epic opening montage with his team to kickoff the movie.

But, lo and behold, success has left Jack feeling unfulfilled and restless. The day-to-day operations of his kingdom have become nothing more than a monotonous drudgery. His passion is gone and he's tired of the status quo. He sings his lament heartfeltly.

Jack eventually wonders into Christmas Town, where he has some serious ADHD in the snow before discovering a new passion project: in a "I'm too smart for my own good" move, Jack decides he can do Christmas better than the OG himself, Santa Claus. It's the classic tale of the overconfident consultant who waltzes into a company, takes one look around, and says, "Hold my pumpkin spice latte, I've got this."

And so, with the naivety of an engineering department deciding they can take over a data science portfolio, Jack dives headfirst into the world of Christmas, armed with nothing more than a can-do attitude and a complete naivety for cultural differences. He lacks the training, discipline, and experience to take on the role of Mr. Claus but he's arrogant, he thinks he knows best, and he does it anyways.

Needless to say, it doesn't go well.

In his quest to revolutionize Christmas, Jack tramples all over the time-honored traditions and nuances of the holiday. It's a comedic yet cautionary tale of what can happen when we think we know better than the experts, or disregard the unique aspects of a different culture (or department) in our quest to soothe our ego.

But, fear not, for our story has a happy ending. After his ill-fated foray into Christmas, Jack has the humility to admit his mistakes and return to what he knows best: Halloween. And in doing so, he teaches us all a valuable lesson about staying in our lane and respecting the expertise of others.

It's the final five minutes of this eighty minute movie that push it into the category of masterpiece. Here, Jack triumphantly returns to Halloween Town, a place where shenanigans abound and creativity flows freely. Each member of the team is back to doing what they do best, and the atmosphere is electric with innovation and joy. The status quo has been enriched with the advent of snow, and all are rejoicing in this newfound reality. It's pretty much the annual Christmas party.

But that's not it... The best scene is kept for the very end, where we are reminded that amidst the chaos of work life, it is not the professional accolades and the busywork that truly define us. In the final, heartwarming scene, we see Jack standing side by side with his dearest friend, Sally, as a poignant reminder that at the end of the day, it is the relationships we forge and the moments we share with friends and family that hold the most value. Work (and yes, even LinkedIn) will always be a sideshow of shenanigans that doesn't really matter.

And so...

To my new team at Info-Tech Research Group: you are my fellow ghosts, and ghouls of Halloween Town. Thank you for embracing me as I return to my roots. Much like Jack's journey took him far from Halloween Town, my own path has led me from the world of academia and research, through the winding roads of administration, and into the bustling landscape of the private sector. And just as Jack discovered the value of his true calling, I too have realized the importance of returning to what I love most – research. Each step of my journey, from public sector to private, has been a valuable lesson that has brought me full circle, back to where I belong. I am absolutely thrilled to be home again, surrounded by a fantastic team, and ready to deliver a top-notch Halloween experience to our customers. As we bring together our unique strengths and talents, I am confident that we will carve out our path to success in the world of research.

To my peers, colleagues and students of the past: Remember that there are moments akin to our flamboyant Halloween Town clowns entering the serene realm of Christmas Town. Driven by their dazzling technology and lofty promises, they may seem like the heralds of a new era, ready to revolutionize your space with their innovative disruption. They arrive on grand unicorns to great fanfare, and pretend they know how to change the world for the better. Yet, in their ego and haste, they often overlook the rich history and intricate dynamics that define your town's business, imposing their vision without truly understanding the needs and values of its inhabitants. Don't assume they have your best interests at heart, regardless of their charming songs and dances. Remember to always ask good questions, and never hesitate to probe further when something doesn’t feel right; nobody wants an Oogie Boogie in Christmas Town!

And finally, to my wonderful wife: what better way to express my gratitude and love than to borrow the words of Jack Skellington himself:

My dearest friend, if you don't mind I'd like to join you by your side Where we can gaze into the stars And sit together, now and forever.

Here's to the next chapter, and the adventures that await us!

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