Case Study: Ground Zero

Last week I received an email from Karine, a colleague from my years at Softimage.  In her mail she asked a simple, brilliant question: “How does one go from working at Softimage to becoming a life coach?”. The answer to this question is a story I’ve told a few times but never written down – until now:

Hi Karine,

Thanks for your great email. You’re right, it is pretty amazing to see people move from one kind of work to a completely different area.  I was really surprised a few years ago when I saw that Michael Smith – who I was still thinking of as a Softimage Program Manager– had become a shepherd.

In my case, it was at Softimage that I had my first big recognition setting me on the path to coaching. I realized that what I loved most was working with other people to come up with solutions to challenging situations. At Softimage, these situations always involved a technical challenge – helping clients with a workaround, simplifying processes for sharing knowledge and assets, and creating on-line resources for clients, colleagues, partners and vendors.

After leaving Softimage, my work again involved resolving technical issues. The roots of these challenges, however, were in the area of interpersonal dynamics. Differences of terminology, goals and cultures between teams and departments were getting in the way of fulfilling project requirements. In some cases, these differences led to interpersonal animosities. When this happened, I became the default go-between for aligning operational goals and needs with the rest of the company. This experience led to a second key realization: that I was good at and enjoyed handling interpersonal dynamics. The technical issues had been, for me, a pretext for building solutions with others.

Shortly after I had this realization, my 15-year-old daughter came to live with me full time. This was when I had perhaps the most important realization of all: that I was not an expert on a shockingly vast number of things that come up in life. My daughter was dealing with some challenges that were outside my experience; things that neither I nor any professional could resolve. So I came clean: I told my daughter I had no idea what to do, and that together we would figure out solutions that were best for her.

And we did.

After a bit of time, friends began remarking on the positive changes happening both for my daughter and myself. They began speaking to me about challenges they were facing, and asking for my feedback. Eventually their friends were calling me, asking if I could help them too. Somewhere along the line I came across the term “coaching” and realized that it described exactly the approach I was using. And the calls continued.

In the last year and a half much of my work outside of coaching clients has been in answer to a fourth realization: that it was time to develop my professional credentials and contacts. This has been a period of certification and growing community connection. I completed coach certification with Concordia University and the International Coach Federation, and NLP certification with the Association for Integrative Psychology. I’ve also had some great opportunities for developing professional partnerships with coaching colleagues, and earlier this year I had the good fortunate to be invited to join the administrative committee of the International Coach Federation Québec.

Et voilà: that’s one way to go from working at Softimage to becoming a personal/life coach J.

Thanks for asking about my path to becoming a coach. I hope my answer helps you to see how some changes that seem big on the surface follow a very consistent route at their core.

All the best,


While preparing this post, Michael Smith sent me a couple of great links about his experience that I’d like to pass on:

You can also visit the website for Michael’s farm La Ferme au bonheur des prés.