Being a Novice Again


I’ve been completely humbled in the past few months as I’ve taken on a new set of responsibilities, responsibilities for which I have essentially no background. It’s like being a first-year student again. I’ve got a “course” in insurance—not just health and life but also event, building, liability, workman’s comp, and data breach. There’s also accounting, banking, payroll, and taxes.

Perhaps my most challenging “course” has been finance. I’m now the staff person who supports our investment committee. My job is to attend meetings, be sure the agenda gets out in a timely manner, carry out trades, and oversee the various reporting responsibilities associated with being a signatory for the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. It all sounds relatively easy when I list it out here, but after six months, I’m still struggling. The meetings are like an advanced seminar I don’t belong in but that it’s now too late to drop.

All this has reminded me just how hard being a novice is. I’m encountering several kinds of new information every day. And it’s not just intellectually difficult. I wake up in the middle of the night, anxious about transferring a million dollars to purchase a new investment or worried that I’ll miss an important detail for an employee during the enrollment period. It’s like taking high-stakes tests all over again. And just like our students, I, of course, have access to fantastic tutors and advisors, but I’m not always comfortable using them. I worry that I’m taking up too much of their time or that I should solve problems on my own.

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