Joe Miller’s career shift from being an analytical chemist to an IT VP and to becoming an Executive Coach and a Founder of Leadership Inklings is a journey of transformation of becoming aware of his talents and living from a place of sharing them with others.
Learn how to be transformed without being consumed. Joe Miller is a voice for encouraged transformation and this is his story.
[3:13] From analytical chemistry to leading IT in pharmaceutical biotech
[9:41] People, Process and Technology
[12:47] Leaning into the gifts and strength
[15:20] Knowing who you are
[17:36] Two T’s: Transition and Transformation
[22:20] It’s never too late
[27:01] Message to the past self and from the future self
“Agitation, if properly channeled, leads to innovation and innovation, if properly expanded, leads to awakening.” – Victoria Rader
“In order to transform, you actually have to transition” Joe Miller
Connect with Joe Miller
Listen to Joe Miller’s podcast – Titans of Transition
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Victoria Rader (00:02)
In the world of many internal and external voices, the voice you listen to is the voice that dictates your life. Would you like to discover a clear path to a life of freedom and fulfillment? Then welcome to All About The Voice podcast, where we focus on awareness, alignment and action in order to live a life of abundance. I am your host, Victoria Rader.
Victoria Rader (00:28)
Joe Miller’s career shift from being an analytical chemist to an IT VP and to becoming an executive coach and a founder of Leadership Inklings is a journey of transformation, of becoming aware of his talents and living from a place of sharing them with others. Learn how to be transformed without being consumed. Here is Joe Miller, a voice for encouraged transformation. All right. And here with me today is Joe Miller. Joe, welcome to All About The Voice podcast.
Joe Miller (01:04)
Thank you, Victoria. I’m really pleased to be here
Victoria Rader (01:07)
Joe, you and I have connected through John Maxwell leadership program, which I think is an excellent way to connect. But tell me a little bit and tell our amazing podcast family, who is Joe Miller?
Joe Miller (01:22)
Joe Miller? Joe Miller is a retired technology executive. That would be sort of my formal career type of statement. I started out actually as a scientist, an analytical chemist and my degree in analytical chemistry and started doing analyses testing in pharmaceutical labs for syntax. That was one of my earliest jobs. I was there for about nine years, just working in the laboratory, meeting other scientists to do routine testing and release of Pharmaceuticals and developing test methods worked a lot on Naperson. People might have been familiar with that drug. It’s actually the active ingredient for a relief. And so I worked on that a number of other drugs. But I found out fairly, I would say, early on in their career. I love science, math and physics. I found out early on in that career that although I was doing well in it, my energies tended to go in other directions, more around leading change and doing things a new way, a little bit of a pioneer. So that led me into.
Victoria Rader (02:36)
I was going to say, from the actual analytical chemistry, you’re still doing the same thing. You’re a catalyst. You’re a catalyst, my friend.
Joe Miller (02:44)
Yes. And I love that analogy. I used it before. The thing about how you’re going to take me to science a little bit. Catalysts are used in chemical reactions, but not consumed, which I like being a catalyst because I don’t want to be consumed.
Victoria Rader (02:58)
I love that. Wait, I have to disconnect the mic so I can drop it. Catalysts change without consumption. Amazing. All right. And so what direction was that? That was kind of calling you.
Joe Miller (03:13)
Well, what happened was I got frustrated. That was many years ago, as you can probably see from the color of my hair, a lot of paperwork, a lot of manual things in the laboratory. The instrumentation was good, but the actual calculation side of things. The production of analytical results from the instrument was fairly manual. And then there was lots of handwriting and notebooks, possibly a lot of that still goes on. But quite a bit has been automated. So I started looking into ways of saving analyst time and automating the laboratory. And that led me into getting into software and computer systems and implementing one of the first lab information management systems. At Syntax. I found myself within the space of two years or so, completely changing my career and switching over to information technology. So that was kind of interesting. It was a little bit scary, but I was so drawn towards the change. I wanted to help foster.
Victoria Rader (04:19)
What was that change?
Joe Miller (04:20)
Well, it was again, a lot of people don’t know this, but there’s a lot of paperwork back then. There was a tremendous amount of paperwork. So you would maybe spend an hour or two running a chemical test, but you might spend another hour just writing the results out, reporting it on pieces of paper, writing out release labels for drums, all different kinds of manual procedures. And that just frustrated the heck out of me, to be honest. So I was really excited about being part of having a big impact. And so I would have to say, just sort of my basic wiring is more of an improviser, more of a quick start to use the Kobe language from a Kobe instrument. And so I didn’t really look back before I knew it. I had changed careers, and the path forward looks more exciting. So at that point, I’d been in that career for about nine years. I think that’s about right. And I changed into it, got into it management left Syntax went to an environmental testing firm, and within another two years, I was Vice President of IT at that firm. And then I spent probably 35 years leading IT in pharmaceutical biotech.
Victoria Rader (05:32)
Joe Miller (05:33)
And that sort of thing, no formal background.
Victoria Rader (05:39)
I’m looking at that. And it’s interesting that there was the beginning driving force with frustration. And I often say that agitation, if properly channeled, leads to innovation and innovation, if properly expanded, leads to awakening. But it’s fantastic to be listening to you and saying every innovation, every shift you’ve made came from, this is not cozy. This is not most optimal. This is how early in life, because I find the patterns that we’ve come to implement. We start very early in life. Like, what age were you when you say you felt that pattern of I can make it better because that’s kind of what I see happening there.
Joe Miller (06:22)
Well, I don’t know that. I really could say that I identified that until I went through that period, going from being a scientist to being an information technology leader, I think that’s really where my awareness started to happen. Although if I pull on that thread a little bit, some of my internal wiring my ability to improvise my ability to think quickly. That goes back into my childhood. We had around the table at the Miller family Miller household we had lots of quick interaction and joking around the table. My father was a saxophone player, not as a vocation. He was electrical engineer, but his Avocation was playing in swing bands, playing, and we were very musical in the family, so I can trace back some elements that inform the transition I went through. But I think awareness really happened when I was in my 20s.
Victoria Rader (07:21)
And I think that’s true of all of us. We gain awareness as prospective changes as we look back. But I love looking back and saying, oh, wait a minute. I was three playing with Lincoln Logs, and I see that in you. I see that. Let me find this shortcut.
Joe Miller (07:44)
Definitely me. I get very bored with the routine and very bored with status quo, and sometimes I just want to change things, even though the status quo might be fine. And in fact, that kind of informed if I can sort of segue that sort of informed discovery about myself. It took decades. Actually, there was a very long arc on this one, and that was that although I got myself into a leadership role in this technology space, information technology and I had success, I wasn’t a maintainer. I tended to go into IT organizations, either start them or to revamp them. I might be there three to five years, and then I was bored out of my mind and quite frankly, not the right person to be leading the Department at that stage as well. Something else was going on by making that career shift because I didn’t get my PhD in chemistry from a career standpoint. IT leadership was much more lucrative to me. And so I found myself staying in that kind of world for a long, long time because it was financially lucrative to me. But I made one shift out of the pharmaceutical marketplace industry into high tech, and it really stretched me. I was in a company chip manufacturer, and it really stretched me to the point where I reached out and got a coach and this gentleman, I’m going to name him Gary Wood, great coach from north of Toronto, Canada. It was very impactful to me and through that process of him helping me to be more successful in that environment, I really started thinking to myself, maybe it wasn’t so much leading change, implementing technology that really got me excited, but it was really connecting with the people side and real briefly in tech IT we talk about people process and technology and these three very important legs to the stool to help you be successful. It’s interesting because all IT executives will mention it in that sequence, people process and technology, but their focus is really inverted. It’s technology process and then people. So they get more excited about the technology and the new technology, they know they have to revamp processes, and they like that to put a new system in. And people they only pay attention. typically, I don’t want to paint too broad of a brush here to my IT colleagues, but typically they’ll only focus on who are those people that I need to get on my side that won’t become a problem later on.
Victoria Rader (10:27)
Risk management. As I’m listening to you, I’m making some cool notes that I want to ask you about. So you’ve mentioned people process and technology, and I think what I immediately file in my mind is that there are three different approaches of kind of transformation, right? Because you lead people, you manage processes and you implement technology. And I can see how if you apply a different process, if you’re trying to manage people, it’s a disaster. But then, on the other hand, something you’ve said earlier, you’ve said, Well, I was not a good maintainer, and I’ve learned that you’ve got to know where you are on that spectrum. I’m great at originating, I’m great at maintaining. I’m great at closing. So how did you find this balance between those qualities?
Joe Miller (11:19)
Well, I found out the hard way by realizing and it thinks this will speak to some of what I read that you’ve published, and that is that it is extremely hard going work outside your gifting. Marcus Buckingham talks about how we have this paradigm in the world that people try to focus on coaching their team in their areas of weakness, which is just a losing proposition. As a coach, I’d say, Well, I might build a 10% a little bit better there, but it’s not sustainable. It drains you of your energy and you just never get to the same level. It’s much better to focus on your strengths. So I feedback. And I also listened to the feedback, and I realized that there were people on my team that had gifts. And I think we’ll talk about this a little bit later on, but had gifts in areas that I was weak. And there was a real shift in me to realize in order to be successful overall, I needed to leverage those gifts without fear people underneath me so that I would be more freed up to leverage my own gifts to really change and in the people side of things and the influence side of things than there were so much in being technically proficient in coding or things of that nature.
Victoria Rader (12:42)
So how did you then lean? First of all, several questions, how did you lean into your gifts and managed to shift out of IT? And I assume executive coaching is what you’re doing now?
Joe Miller (12:56)
Yes. Well, I leaned into my gifts by just basically recognizing that I was just saying that there were areas where I wasn’t very strong and it would just burn me out trying to shore them up. And I trusted and developed the people under me who had those wiring those wiring or those gifts, and I got out of their way. And so basically, I engaged them. You may have heard of the Hershey Blanchard maturity model. So in that particular case, some of these folks and they were typically in the infrastructure area, to be quite honest, but some of them were way ahead of me in terms of their capabilities. So I managed them in Quadrant four. I let go. I told them what my vision was, what the Endgame I wanted to see happen, and I trusted them to pick the best route to get there. Trust me out of their way, right. That was a huge win overall, because the end result was better for the entire Department. But it was a huge win for me personally, because it gave me more bandwidth to lean in on my gifts.
Victoria Rader (14:03)
How does one find what their gifts are?
Joe Miller (14:06)
Well, I think you find it. There are some indicators, and we touched on them a little bit already. I find in my coaching and personally, I found that feel like what you’re trying to do is like pushing a rock up the hill. Your energy is being drained. It’s usually a pretty good indicator. That’s not where you should be. That’s one thing that’s sort of an internal kind of sensing ability. And the other thing is listen to the feedback you get. And sometimes you don’t want to listen to the feedback you get. You start off with these tapes, either through your parents or tapes you play for yourself and who you want to be. And so you disregard the evidence you hear from the world, from others, from your end results that don’t support that tape, if you will. And so listen to your internal energy levels to your internal sense of flow. Maybe. And then also listen to the other voices. Family, friends, colleagues listen intently to positive and negative feedback that you get.
Victoria Rader (15:20)
You know what? Years ago, my first book was Until You Win, and pretty much one of the chapters was on Know Who I Am, Knowing Who You Are kind of the first thing. And I wrote a little bit about identifying your gifts and really gave the same advice. Ask everybody to tell you what your gifts are because I found that usually they’re so natural, they’re so effortless that we assume it’s so easy for everybody to do that we overlook them completely. And then the second thing I remember was kind of the coin thing that was helpful for me is that if you’ve been really stuck by negative feedback and somebody has really gotten into your head to a point of view, starting to believe you have no gifts, realize that your weakness is the shadow side of your gift. When people tell you you’re so stubborn, you’re so stubborn, you get to step back and say, yeah, I’m determined. I’m just channeling it wrong. I’m just channeling it wrong. So tell me a little bit about your gift, how you apply them?
Joe Miller (16:23)
Well, I do think I have very good insight. So as a coach, I think I can pick out patterns pretty well and reflect that back in conversation. I think one of the things we learned we learned in the Maxwell team and other places I’m certified in a couple of places. As I know you probably are as well is being able to be really curious and have deep listening capabilities that’s important for being a good coach. I think also that I tend to have a very fresh perspective on things. I think that’s kind of the pioneering side of me that looking for change and doing something in a new, fresh way. So I think the combination is really a good thing when it comes to having those kinds of conversations. And it’s a good thing in terms of being able to lead change and also support the whole area of having win win relationships. So even, like on the John Maxwell team or collaborating with you and others, listening for what the other person is trying to accomplish, what they’re striving for, I think is very important.
Victoria Rader (17:36)
Beautiful. Now, you’ve mentioned a couple of times transition, couple of times transformation. I want to know the relationship between the two.
Joe Miller (17:44)
Well, transformation to me is the idea of sort of the metamorphosis. Right. So it’s like you
Victoria Rader (17:50)
Here’s the chemises people. Here’s, the chemist.
Joe Miller (17:53)
Oh, that’s actually sort of biology, but it’s kind of like going from the caterpillar to the butterfly, and it’s the broader kind of context. I think of what we all want to see transformation in our world. Excellent team has changed the world emphasis all around transformation. But in order to transform, you actually have to transition and transition to me is the actual shifting part. And I used to view this as being just like, kind of in a short span of time where all of a sudden you have to make a shift. Maybe a change is being thrust upon you, like in this last year and a half or so with the pandemic, a lot of people had changed, thrust upon them, their jobs were lost or the whole complexion of the nature of the job has changed, and it wasn’t a good fit for them anymore, potentially. So there was a lot of things you had to react to, right. You could have a long arc on transition, and that’s what really happened to me over those 30 plus years of being a technology leader leading to my semi retirement, doing what I’m doing now. So there can be periods where you’re in a role, you’re doing a job, you have a business and it’s going great. Well, that’s the part about execution on your vision or execution on your why, if you will, you should still be listening for signals. It’s a time to make an adjustment or a change. So I think transitions happen. There’s multiple threats. They happen in multiple phases before, when you’re starting to sense something is not quite right. And it can be just little subtle clues. It can get more intense, like I really feel disquiet in my heart. My energy is drained or I’m having problems. Or there’s a big shift to being thrust upon me. And then there’s how do I recognize what to do next? What’s right for me? So there’s these different phases of the transitioning process. If you take a look at all of it, sort of in totality, I’d say that really speaks more into my idea of transformation.
Victoria Rader (20:05)
That’s beautiful, Joe. And looking at your life, not just professional life, personal life, life as we have it, where would you say has been the transition of the greatest impact for you?
Joe Miller (20:18)
Well, I think over the last five or six years has probably been the biggest change as I’ve come to the end of my career as a CIO, a VP of IT. I already knew at that point in time, probably going back 15 years ago that I wanted to focus more on coaching and leadership, but I was still sort of stuck in the financial positive trap and not wanting to let go of that support my family. There’s trade offs. Right. But this last five years or so has been the biggest and most impactful change because I feel like I’m really landing where I would have hoped I would have started earlier potentially. And I feel like there’s a lot of different ways to speak to this. And I know we’ve chatted about this a little bit. I feel like I’m using my God given gifts. Other people might call it their skills and their talents. The universe gave them whatever you would call it. I feel like I’ve really landed on that more. And I’ve had more freedom to do that.
Victoria Rader (21:24)
What you attributed to?
Joe Miller (21:26)
Well. Some of it is, I think, is to realizing it and making the shift at this point in time. Some of it I think it gets to a point where I felt more able to take the risk, even though I would see him on the surface of being a big risk taker. I’m a big risk taker personally. But when it involves my family, not so much.
Victoria Rader (21:49)
Your wife probably is very grateful for that quality.
Joe Miller (21:53)
She is grateful. If you were to ask my wife, Barb, she would tell you that you moved me across the country several times. We had to uproot that’s exactly right. So I think that part of it is just we’re always learning and discovering and so really tapping into that inner voice, to tapping into the spirit and understanding who you are a deeper level. It really came later on for me.
Victoria Rader (22:20)
It’s never, ever, ever too late to be who you are born to be,
Joe Miller (22:26)
Right? Actually, that’s one of the things that inspired me when I did finally retired from full time work to see to myself, I think I’m going to do a podcast and YouTube channel around this idea of transition because I would have hoped I would be able to have done this transition earlier. If I can, I share a short story with you that really kind of locks us into my mind. I remember early in my VP of IT CIO career, traveling a lot. This was back in the Environmental Testing Laboratory chain of laboratories, seven laboratories across the country, and I was traveling to the different sites. I travel a lot, and I remember every trip I would go into the bookstore, barns and nobles whatever. And I would spend hours looking through the bookstore. You’re shaking your head, looking for a book that would answer a question that I didn’t even know how to formulate. And I did this for years. Now. It’ll start a book, read a couple of chapters of the book, and that’s not it. I was looking for this magic bullet that would make the situation that I was in the right thing. I was looking for these external things, but I was so locked into the tapes that I was running through my head, didn’t realize that a bigger transition really was needed or was pulling me forward.
Victoria Rader (23:47)
Pulling it forward, calling you the Voice was calling you. And I just wanted to ask one or two questions about your podcast, and it’s the title of Transformation, and now we’ve learned the purpose of it for hopefully, those that will choose to listen as I hope you guys will have listened to a couple of those episodes. They’re fantastic. Joe is great host. And I think you framed that ability to transform internally and export it externally beautifully. I know that for me doing the podcast, I’m at a point of greatest learn. So what have been the greatest learning points for you from making that podcast possible?
Joe Miller (24:27)
Well, I think, honestly, I started out with the notion that I wanted to kind of impart a message to people about being more intentional with their lives and listening for these changes, but not real, specifically beyond that, to be quite honest, what I’ve discovered is there are some real common threads through all these conversations. And I’ve had conversations with successful executives, one of my peers, several of my high school class friends, one who was a very successful attorney, another one who made a transition from working in a corporate role to teaching Pilates in the Caribbean and selling her house and leaving without ever physically visiting the place she was going to. I just finished two with musicians, one with a successful acoustic landscape pianist, another Danish electric guitar player that I follow. And it’s fascinating. All of them get to a point in their lives where they realize they have to take a step of faith in this direction, this calling, and they do it. And actually, another one was one of the renowned guy in the early days of biotechnology, CEO and the founder of an organization’s name. I’m going to call him out. Pascannon, who was a founder of an organization which searches for missing an action for two vets, right? A lot of them have statements that were like epiphanies, where they say, I just knew I had to do this. I couldn’t turn away from it. And so I think that’s been one of the biggest discovery I’ve had is there really is sort of a hole in our lives. And I think a lot of people struggling for this idea of fulfillment and looking in places for that. And it can be a very long, lifelong journey trying to figure this out. But hearing these stories about people who have listened to this voice and responded in faith is just very inspiring to me. To be honest, I just feel blessed to be able to just sit in and listen to these people tell their stories of transition.
Victoria Rader (26:41)
And I’m sure that will open the doors for those that are on the fence that are kind of hearing the call, but they say, don’t want to listen. I know those moments. And, Joe, the time just flew by. I’ve enjoyed this so much. I always have three last questions that I ask my guests. And so the first question that I have for you is that if you had an opportunity right now and you do to go to the moment where you felt stuck, what would you tell yourself right now?
Joe Miller (27:14)
What is holding you back is there something that’s really holding you back outside of yourself, or is it just you?
Victoria Rader (27:23)
Wow. And going forward 20 years from now and Joe from 20 years from now is talking to you right now, what is he going to tell you?
Joe Miller (27:34)
I’m glad you listened to your inner voice and made your second half count.
Victoria Rader (27:41)
Just the second half. That’s so beautiful. And now the final question, if our listening family here had one teaching, one phrase, one quote, one message from you to remember you by what would it be?
Joe Miller (27:58)
That’s a really interesting question. So the idea if they would be responding to something I have said to them. I’m trying to clarify
Victoria Rader (28:07)
If they thought of Joe Miller, what would be the main message that they would associate you with?
Joe Miller (28:15)
Victoria Rader (28:17)
Beautiful, Joe. Well, I, for one, feel very encouraged and validated, very encouraged and validated. Thank you so much for your time today.
Joe Miller (28:33)
Oh, it’s been my pleasure. Thank you so much, Victoria, for having me on.
Victoria Rader (28:38)
If you find yourself at a time of transition, lean into Joe Miller’s podcast, Titans of Transition for Joe’s coaching and programs on Transformation, visit his site, https://www.leadershipinklings.com/
Victoria Rader (28:55)
This is All About The Voice Podcast, and I want to hear your voice. What has been of the greatest value to you today. Share your insight and share this episode with others. All links are in the description. I also want to invite the voice of happiness into your Life via our iHappy Daily and iHappy Me apps Our Daily Energy Boosters You can download these apps, including a free version of iHappy Me from the Apple App Store or the Google Play App Store. For the voice of daily encouragement, grow with us with our Free My Tree of Life Facebook Group If you want to join us in exploring how you can live your life with more freedom, head over to you to https://yu2shine.com/ I can’t wait to get to know you and be a part of your journey of endless possibilities. Thank you again for listening to all About The Voice. I’m Victoria Raider and I’ll see you on the next episode.