The Times They are

Mike Bond | June 5, 2020

The devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on our friends, families and the economy has gotten me thinking about change – how the world has been indelibly altered in just a few short months. Thinking about those changes and what it means for the workplace, our customers and our careers got me thinking about Bob Dylan. This is not as much of a stretch as you may think – especially if you are a Dylan fan and you know that Dylan is about to release his 40th studio album, in the midst of the COVID-19 Crisis.

Shelter from the Storm

I have been a fan of Bob Dylan since I was a teenager, listening to vinyl LPs in my parent’s basement. And I have been known to sneak a Dylan quote or two into my presentations to liven them up a bit and to share some of Bob’s wisdom on the Surety business. The changes that COVID-19 are bringing are only part of the constantly evolving professional landscape that we are a part of. Add that to new technology, workforce expectations, economic shifts, and how our customers want to interact and do business and we are in the midst of a never-ending cycle of transformation that leaves us all seeking shelter from the storm. 

That got me thinking about Bob Dylan’s career, my career and the need to constantly learn, adapt and grow. As the times they are a-changing, we need to change with them and sometimes reinvent ourselves to face new challenges. For those of you who don’t know, Bob Dylan started out as a folk singer, singing protest songs during the great Folk Music Scare of the 1960s. In the mid-1960s, he picked up an electric guitar and embraced rock, getting famously booed at the Newport Folk Festival for playing rock and roll. That set back and failure did nothing to stop him from following his vision. 

Like a Rolling Stone

Since then, Dylan has adapted and changed as the times changed. With each new era, he built on his strengths – songwriting and storytelling, while changing his sound and approach to music. Sixty years later, he is still going strong. Maybe not as relevant as he was in 1969, but still respected, listened to, and able to draw a crowd (when he can tour). If he had stayed a folk singer, it would be hard to imagine him having the cultural impact he has had. And he would surely not have won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 for being the poet laureate of the rock era.

So what does that have to do with me? Some people know that I started out my career as a geologist – drilling test wells on hazardous waste sites. I seem to have reinvented myself a number of times – from geologist to Peace Corps Volunteer, to Political Risk Underwriter, to the Head of Surety for Allianz Trade. With each of those changes, I built on the skills and expertise I had been honing – analytical skills, communication skills, management skills. But I added a strong desire to learn and a willingness to stretch. If I hadn’t done that, I would still be a geologist. Instead, I have had a rich and rewarding journey that has taken me all over the world, working on interesting projects and facing new and exciting challenges. My current role builds on the skills and experiences I have had since beginning of my professional career, many years ago.

Forever Young

In one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, Forever Young, he sings “May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung.” So as you all think about the journey that is your career, as you think about building your ladder, think about the skills you want to develop to keep you relevant and impactful. The world is changing every day. Surety, while stubbornly resistant to change, is also evolving as the people, our customers and the technology around it evolves. It does not matter if you are just starting out in your career or have 20 years of Surety experience. You need to constantly learn, adapt and grow. That will not only keep you young and agile, it will help you ride the waves of change. Who knows, you may surprise yourself at where you end up. Take it from me, an ex-geologist, Surety acolyte and current Bob Dylan fan.

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