Story of a Sabbatical


I’ve been extremely fortunate over the last 12 months to take advantage of the IBM Sabbatical Leave programme, where employees can apply to take time away from work to explore other activities and learn new skills.

On 7th November I go back to work, thankfully with few regrets. It has been a full on year, during which I’ve blogged regularly on what I’ve been up to. The objectives weren’t (only) to annoy those still at work but to share experiences and help anyone else considering doing something similar.

In any case, this is the last of my sabbatical blogs…

As I write, I’ve just re-read the blog written back in November 2015, where I laid out plans for the coming 12 months. I didn’t plan to travel extensively. You can describe what I’ve done as a stay-at-home gap year. But I did have a long wish list – quality time with the family, targeted holidays, music gigs, sports events, lots of walking, tennis, projects in the garden, visiting roles in universities, volunteering, creative writing and so on…

It was probably too long a list but I managed to get most of it done to some extent, apart from the tennis and some of the gardening projects and I’ve added in a few unexpected things too, such as writing a book on collaborative innovation and gaining an acute interest in early 17thCentury history…

The highlights have been many and varied –

  • Writing, self-publishing and finally (attempting to!) market my debut novel – which is raising funds for Save the Children and a local charity for flood victims – more details on the book here
  • Collaborating with universities – particularly the University of Leeds
  • Volunteering, along with my wife, on an archaeological dig
  • Experiencing the response of my local town of Tadcaster to the Boxing Day floods
  • Walking well over 1,000 miles

During the year out I’ve blogged on much of the above, so won’t repeat details here. Instead, I wanted to give a few quick hints and tips for anyone considering taking some time out. As you can see it’s not rocket science but what is (well, apart from rocket science)?

  1. Plan out what you want to do beforehand
  2. Prioritise some things over others – don’t try to do too much
  3. Don’t just lounge around – be active
  4. Enjoy yourself
  5. Give something back
  6. Plan for your return to work from day one – keep in touch with key people and with what’s going on – for example I’ve been keeping up to date with IBM Design Thinking
  7. Maintain some of the things you’ve got involved in after you go back to work – for me this will hopefully be university collaboration, daily walks and novel writing

If you are thinking of taking a sabbatical, my advice is go for it, enjoy it and make it an experience you won’t just remember but will stay with you, to some extent, when you go back to work.

A huge thank you to lots of people. Most of all to my wife, Su, but also to my two daughters, Bethan and Rhian, and wider family and friends – some of whom have probably seen too much of me over the last year, some maybe not enough because I packed in too much, friends and colleagues at IBM and our clients (see many of you soon!), my immediate management chain for enabling me to take this break, the great teams at the universities I’ve worked with and all those who’ve bought and/or supported my book.

A final word on the highlight of my sabbatical – the book. It’s called Remember, Remember the 6th of November and is a combination of historical novel, alternate history and contemporary thriller. The good news is that it has received a series of 5 star reviews on Amazon and is supporting two very good causes. You might like to follow this link and find out more… I’ve learned during the sabbatical that although writing and self publishing a novel take time, for me they were relatively easy. It is the marketing which is the real challenge… Please do buy a copy!


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