The Role of Faith in Building a Great Career

Professor Paul Morrison has worked for some of the world’s leading tech firms and is currently UK Lead for Education at Zoom. He shares the role faith has played in his career journey

As I reflect on my exciting career journey, I am struck by the profound impact my faith has had on shaping the path I have taken. From the humble beginnings of my professional life to the heights of recognition and accolades, I have worked for some of the most renowned and largest technology companies in the world. Truth be told, my faith has been the guiding light that has propelled me forward, instilling in me the values of perseverance, integrity, and much more. In this article, I will delve into four key principles that have shaped my career trajectory.

Principal One: Authenticity of My Faith

I had never been one to overtly evangelise my faith in the workplace, but I’ve always aimed to live out its principles through my actions and deeds. I recall early in my career working for Cisco Systems as an account manager. This job was a great learning platform for me.

I recall being asked to do a presentation to some of my peers. I remember it vividly, as it was the worst presentation I ever gave in my professional career. I had dry lips, forgot words and basically presented to the floor because I knew it was going disastrously bad.

After the presentation, a good friend of mine asked me: “Paul, do you go to church?” I said yes, expecting a sarcastic comment to follow. “Do you speak or preach at church?” I responded yes. Then he asked: “Then why don’t you prepare and deliver your presentation in the same way you prepare a sermon?” That’s when the penny dropped. I had always tried to keep my faith separate from my work, but in fact, my faith and the skills I had picked up in the church were strengths I should have included in my career – not just reserve them for Sundays in a church setting!

My faith needed to be genuine and rooted in my identity, guiding my decisions, actions and interactions in my career. This authenticity means my faith is not separate from my career but rather intertwined with it, influencing my values, goals and approach to work. In essence, I began to see my faith not only as a personal belief but also as a significant aspect of my professional identity and conduct.

Principle Two: Servant Leadership

‘And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”’ Mark 10:42-45 (ESV).

Drawing inspiration from this biblical text, I have been committed to creating an environment where everyone around me feels valued, respected, and empowered to reach their full potential. This means fostering a culture of trust, openness and collaboration, where every voice is heard, and every contribution is recognised.

After leaving Cisco, following a four-and-a-half-year tenure, I made the transition to 3Com, which was later acquired by Hewlett Packard. Subsequently, this entity split into two, with one becoming Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). I continued my focus on the retail sector but soon transitioned to a leadership role in the education sector.

I also took on the role of the UK Black Employee Network lead and the Black Employee Leadership Council Regional Coordinator for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). In these roles, I spearheaded numerous initiatives to support education, corporate inclusion, diversity, and engagement strategies.

My servant leadership approach earned me the prestigious Shining Star Global Recognition award, presented to me by Reverend Jesse Jackson, the American civil rights activist, in San Francisco. I also founded the company, Idare2inspire, a programme aimed at transforming the lives of thousands of young people through various activities and mentorship.

Many of the leadership skills I’ve developed stem from my faith and active participation in church. These experiences have equipped me with valuable business and leadership skills. They’ve also motivated me to provide leadership and transformational coaching to others. My journey embodies the ethos of servant leadership, where selfless service and humility drive meaningful impact and personal growth

Principle Three: Write the Vision, Make It Plain

‘Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it”’ Habakkuk 2:2 (NKJV).

Vision writing has become increasingly popular in recent years, with individuals in various fields engaging in this practice. Entrepreneurs craft vision statements for their businesses; pastors develop vision plans for their ministries; educators utilise vision boards in their classrooms’ and the list goes on. Typically undertaken at the start of a new year, this process involves outlining short- and long-term goals for one’s life.

After spending over nine years at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, I went through my own process of reflection. ‘Writing the vision and making it plain’ became a cherished principle, underscoring the significance of clarity, focus, and effective communication in achieving goals. Subsequently, Microsoft recruited me as their UK Industry Solutions Executive for Education, tasked with leading engagements between Microsoft and key stakeholders in education, such as Education Scotland and the Welsh Department for Education. This role enabled me to unlock strategic ideas and initiatives for the education sector. I firmly believe God operates with a strategy, and my personal experiences reaffirm this belief. In fact, I have created a roadmap for success that has allowed me to effectively navigate the journey ahead.

Principle Four – Having a Passion

Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV) instructs, ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.’

Driven by this principle, I was deeply thankful when, in September 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the incredible opportunity to join Zoom, where approximately 70% of UK education began to use Zoom for teaching and learning. Working for Zoom in a pandemic was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The urgent challenge and requests for previously face-to-face lessons to be taught online could not be underestimated, and I am super proud to say that we responded to the crisis with incredible results.

I was even asked to contribute to a book entitled Letters From Lockdown. Introduced by newsreader, presenter, and Barnardo’s president Natasha Kaplinsky, Letters From Lockdown features over a hundred letters from celebrity names, COVID heroes, and a diverse range of members of the public, all answering the question: ‘What was lockdown like for you?’ Other contributors included HM Queen Camilla (formerly The Duchess of Cornwall), former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, actress Helen Mirren, and athlete Sir Mo Farah.

Additionally, I attended an event at Althorp, the former home of the late Princess Diana. Later, I received an email from a special advisor to the Prime Minister, inviting me to 10 Downing Street, where I was asked to work with other high-profile business leaders to drive positive change, focusing on mental health, well-being enhancement, and the de-stigmatisation of mental illness.

Furthermore, I was recognised as an Honorary Professor at the University of the West of Scotland, marking me as one of the few Black professors in the UK.

There are many more examples where my passion has served as a driving force, propelling me toward excellence and fulfilment. It is the fuel that ignites my ambition and sustains me through challenges and triumphs alike.

Conclusion:
In every career journey, challenges and struggles are bound to arise, leading to moments of stress and uncertainty. During these times, it may seem tempting to prioritise career goals over spiritual growth. However, I have found that true success comes from integrating faith into every aspect of life – including the workplace. Ultimately, integrating faith into our careers not only leads to personal growth and satisfaction but also enables us to make a positive impact on others and contribute to the greater good. So, as you navigate your career journey, remember to include your faith, for it is the cornerstone of true success and fulfilment.

You can follow Paul Morrison at www.linkedin.com/in/paul-morrison-education/

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