Reflections on my career at the age of 30

Today is my 30th birthday.

Since everyone says it’s an important milestone I figured it would be appropriate to sit back and reflect on my career so far.

On Appreciation

I am grateful for many things at this point in my career but most of all I am grateful for having the opportunity to have met many of you in person. To forge long lasting relationships with friends in places like Victoria, Vancouver, Kamloops, Edmonton, Toronto, Halifax and Washington DC. I’ve shared a beer (or two) with many of you, some of you have even opened your homes to me when I needed a place to stay. I appreciate your friendship, your hospitality, and your ongoing support, but most importantly your deep commitment to public service.

I probably don’t say this enough, but thank you.

On Finding the Time

People always ask me how I find the time to be consistently engaging on multiple fronts, managing my workload, taking care of family, churning out content online, staying active, traveling and taking on speaking engagements, and I think I always disappoint people with the answer. I truly believe that you find time for the things you love, and those are the things I love. I live my life like I walk down the street, head up and on a swivel, at a decent pace, and ready to swing an elbow if and when it’s necessary.

On Opportunity

I have had a tremendous amount of opportunity so far. I’ve been invited in to do consultation with government agencies at the federal, provincial and municipal levels all across the country and in so doing have seen more of Canada than I ever thought possible.

The scope of the work I have been able to undertake has been vast and varied and has led me to a number of opportunities that I hadn’t anticipated. One thing I’ve learned is that is is always more important to focus on the opportunity in front of you than it is to focus on creating the next opportunity. The former, if done well, will earn you the latter.
I think Alex Himelfarb (former Clerk of the Privy) said it best when he told me that:

“A career isn’t something you plan in advance but rather something you look back at in retrospect,”

I thought that was an incredibly important piece on insight from a man who served as Clerk to three consecutive Prime Ministers.

On the Future

I’m really excited about some of the things I’ve got cooking for the future. First and foremost is my first novel. Writing a novel is something that I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve been slowly honing my writing skills over the last few years and think I’m ready to take a crack at it. Bureaucratica is:

Bureaucratica is the working title of what will hopefully become my first novel. The basic premise of the book is a fifty-something-year-old bureaucrat named John Andrews who is looking back and narrating his career post facto. I want to try to use the story line to poke the sleeping bear of bureaucratic culture. I want to question some of the most primary bureaucratic tendencies and strip away some of the bullshit that we all have become so accustomed to.

It’s an interesting blend of fact and fiction and incredibly fun to write. I’m blogging it openly as the story unfolds and hope to be done by my 31st birthday, at which point I will investigate publishing it independently or otherwise. I’m also inviting feedback during the process, and am completely open to character and story arc suggestions. Ideally I’d love to make this as open and participatory as possible.

I’m also working on my TEDxOttawa talk in which I will make a case for reforming how governments approach grants and contributions programs, ending with one possible vision of what that might actually look like.

I’m also expanding the places I will be writing. I’ve published a piece on Metaviews entitled Single Click Government and am planning a follow up article in the near future. I’m also working on a series of articles that may wind up on Apt613 that explores the notion that Ottawa is just another sleepy government town. Finally, I plan on standing up a site to blog with my father during the month of Movember about our family’s experience with prostate cancer.

With that I want to leave you with a little Tom Petty for your Friday morning. Keep running down your dreams, because there is something good waiting down that road.

Originally published by Nick Charney at


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Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Great insight: “One thing I’ve learned is that is is always more important to focus on the opportunity in front of you than it is to focus on creating the next opportunity. The former, if done well, will earn you the latter.”

Congrats on the new writing gigs and excited about the novel, man.

Profile Photo Andreas Addison

Thank God that balloon covers your face! Happy birthday bro, and I truly appreciate a look inside the mind and life of that which is Nick Charney. It is a true fact that you build a career but you don’t live in it, but rather look back in appreciation of it and find areas to improve or develop from. This post is just that, an introspective look back at your life and the areas you want to do more. Like Phil Knight once said: Just Do It!

Profile Photo Mark Hammer

Happy birthday, kiddo.

One of my colleagues is a CS in our organization, and a sci-fi afficionado and film reviewer ( ). He participates in the National Novel Writing competition every year. Nothing like a deadline to spur the creative juices. Give it a whirl.

Alex Himelfarb is a very cool dude, and a gracious man. He has a blog that I’ve begun following and responding to. I can’t imagine Bourgon, Cappe, Lynch, or Wouters doing the same thing. Just earns more respect from me. I have no idea how a guy that hip could ever end up as Clerk. Gives me hope.

Our building is supposed to relocate to the new building going up across the street from you in 2013. I’m hoping to find another job that won’t involve taking two buses to work before we make that move. But if I am unsuccessful in that endeavour (a highly likely outcome, since I am considered largely unqualified for anything at my current level, and often below), and end up moving, we’ll have to do lunch.