Last year I had the pleasure of connecting with one of my colleagues, Thomas Aikman. He works as an IT sourcing recruiter to identify technically skilled individuals for client support and corporate innovation within the company.
Thomas joined Aon in April of 2010 and as a Chicagoan, he’s able to walk the halls in our U.S. headquarters for meetings and to experience the culture. He is an individual contributor as well as a team manager in talent acquisition.
His journey to climb the Seven Summits is one of perseverance, resourcefulness, and teamwork.
Thomas had just returned from Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas. I was fascinated to learn more and asked what started him literally down this path.
The 1996 Everest disaster of all things, initially sparked his interest in mountaineering. It continued to build in his thoughts and his plans culminated in his first trip in 2004.
Thomas has always loved to travel, along with physical challenges. He has taken several mission trips internationally and considers himself a global student. In my opinion, it’s helpful to always be ready to soak up new cultures and ideas.
He has been married for 12 years, and a Dad for 4 of those. You naturally adjust your planning and your expectations for taking risks. You have to be careful, almost methodical when you’re tackling something of this size, scope and importance, because you have people counting on you. This is also true of your teammates on the journey.
When you’re up that high, you can’t just go home. It’s a 3-5 day hike back. So when you decide to embark on a trip like this, you have to commit and prepare thoroughly. So far, Thomas has seen the following impressive list of mountains:
- Ranier in Washington – 2004
- Whitney in the Sierra Nevada – 2005
- Elbrus in Russia – 2007
- Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa – 2008
- Aconcagua in the Andes, Argentina – 2011
He’s seen trips called off, iced-over mountains that were impossible to cross, and he’s even seen death on his travels. Speaking with Thomas, he shared what he’s learned about tackling his goals the right way and being prepared to reach them. I tend to think the lessons are pretty universal.
1) Pick the right team, the right guides
The company that you keep affects your progress, your skills and ultimately your success. There are a lot of people claiming to be experts, and who you choose makes all the difference. Look for responsiveness, years in business, dedicated people. Call and talk to the guides or owners.
2) Do your research
- Appropriate planning always includes weather forecasts.
- Research locally if you can, especially if the company is in the city or country you are climbing in. They have the best guides, and they’ll know the culture and mountain the best.
3) Right Training & Equipment
Rent your first set of gear to test it out. If you think you will climb again, buy everything that you’ll need. It’s important to know how your gear works and feels as you take on other mountains. The last thing you want to worry about is your equipment. You need to be able to trust what you have. “Don’t go cheap, you get what you pay for!”
4) Risk Management
Know the potential pitfalls before you go, to mitigate your risks. Suitable equipment for both students and staff includes safety and hazard gear. Regular checking of this equipment and replacement at or before manufacturer’s recommendations is smart planning. Follow appropriate winter mountaineering management protocols, including briefing, familiarization, leader’s position and activity management.
5) Motivational Drive
- People are going to have reasons for you not to go. You have to be mentally strong.
- It’s easy to skip the gym/training but you have to push through it. There’s no place to hide. It’s very humbling.
- “The times that I didn’t make it, have really inspired me to push through.”
“I sat next to someone who summitted Kilimanjaro at SourceCon. It’s an interesting fraternity and you instantly connect with strangers who climb.”
Now, the chances of me ever climbing something taller than the Aon Center in Chicago are pretty slim. But I can definitely apply what I’ve learned from Thomas’ adventures, for when I’m climbing my next proverbial mountain.
Which one of these tips resonates with you? Let us know by sharing your thoughts in a comment below.
To see more of Thomas’ beautiful mountain photos, check out our Facebook album.
Looking for the right guide to careers at Aon? Connect with the recruiting team on your favorite social media channel.
Bryan Chaney works in talent acquisition at Aon plc as the Global Social Media Strategy Manager. You can connect with him on social networks here, but he would really appreciate your thoughts about this post in a comment below.