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Reframe challenges to move projects to the finish line

Andrew Haley has never worked as a network administrator, but his Paralympian experiences could change the way you think about success and failure


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Welcome to the first post in our three-part series, Haley’s Comet, where we lead up to the Pan Am/ParaPan Am Games by drawing on the lessons learned from former Paralympian Andrew Haley’s journey to greatness as a world-champion swimmer. From a two-time cancer survivor to a global swimming phenom, his story will inspire IT leaders and offer practical tips and strategies for overcoming hurdles in the race toward the finish line of complex IT projects.

Andrew Haley has learned to use life’s challenges as fuel for reaching his goals. Long before he was crowned a world-record setting Paralympian swimmer, Haley fought cancer twice – before the age of nine – and lost part of his right leg to the disease.

Rebounding from that experience wasn’t easy. In his small Nova Scotian town, Haley was the only kid he knew with a disability, and like most children, he struggled with being different.

I was the guy with one leg in North Sydney. I didn’t know anyone else with a disability. I was different, and just wanted to feel like I belonged. I played basketball and I was O.K., but then I found swimming, and it was a perfect marriage.”

When Haley discovered competitive swimming, he found a passion that could help him transcend any limitations he had put on himself because of the amputation.

“Something inside of me said I don’t want to let this define me.”

Fast-forward several years to the 1990 World Championships, where Haley competed, but didn’t medal. He did, however, discover a newfound motivation in his quest for gold.

“I told myself I was going to be world champion one day,” says Haley. “I felt that was my epiphany, and with hard work I could do this.”

Haley did exactly that at the World Championships in New Zealand in 1998 when he grabbed gold in the 100-meter butterfly, and again in 2000 at the Sydney Paralympics where Haley’s 4×100 medley relay team won the gold medal and set a world record.

The Transferable Lessons For IT

IT leaders could take a page from Haley’s book when it comes to architecting a winning strategy for large IT projects. If your organization is one of the 70 percent across North America planning a UC deployment, follow these tips to improve your performance.

Well begun is half done. When Haley set his sights on becoming a world-class athlete, he started small and gradually worked his way up to a rigorous training schedule.  According to Information Week’s 2014 survey on the state of unified communications, this kind of “small” thinking is exactly what’s called for when rolling out a complex project.

Start with a subset of users who could really benefit from advanced UC capabilities. Rather than doing a wholesale rip and replace, you may get by with an overlay for select groups.

No substitute for training.  Without proper training, Haley’s hopes for becoming an elite athlete would have been snuffed out.  The same hold true for a UC deployment or expansion. In fact, a recent UK survey suggests that a lack of suitable training carries a large part of the blame for user dissatisfaction in UC projects.

“About half of the companies (surveyed) only provide initial training and only one-quarter provide training on request for all staff. These figures suggest room for improvement,” said John Leonard, research editor at Incisive Media.

Failure is fuel. In 1995, Haley had another scare that threatened to end his career. A freak basketball accident damaged his right leg and again, he needed surgery and recovery time.

“I thought my career was over; that’s the thought process as you dive into the pool, but like W Mitchell says, ‘it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it that makes all the difference.’”

Andrew Haley is a former world class and world record-setting Paralympic swimmer who has won gold medals at the 1998 World Championships and the 2000 Paralympic games. A recognized leader in Paralympic sport, Andrew was recently inducted into Swimming Canada’s Hall of Fame and has served as his swim team’s captain. After a successful swimming career, Andrew now works in sales for the Toronto Blue Jays and is a professional motivational speaker on achieving peak performance.

If you are interested in contacting Andrew to speak to your group please contact The Sweeney Agency. Find Andrew on twitter @ahaleyca

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