CTech Book Review: Laying the Groundwork for a Successful Career

Dana Poleg is CMO at Five Sigma, a company that has developed an insurance claims management platform. She joined CTech to share a review of “The First 90 Days” by Michael D. Watkins.

Title: “The first 90 days”

Author: Michael D. Watkins

Format: Delivered

Or: Homepage

Dana Poleg is Director of Marketing at Five Sigma. Photo: Heftsy Elgar / Amazon


Transitions are critical times for leaders. In fact, most executives agree that moving to a new role is the biggest challenge a manager will face. While transitions offer a chance to start fresh and make necessary changes in the organization, they also place leaders in a position of acute vulnerability. This book offers proven strategies for meeting the challenge of transitioning, no matter where you are in your career.

By guiding you through all aspects of the transition scenario, Watkins identifies the most common pitfalls encountered by new leaders and provides the tools and strategies you need to avoid them. You will learn, for example, how to achieve early wins, an important first step in establishing yourself in your new role.

Each chapter also includes checklists, how-to tools, and self-assessments to help you take in the key lessons and apply them to your own situation.

Important topics:

  • The first 90 days in a new role are critical. Success or failure in the first few months is a good predictor of overall success or failure in the new job.
  • Transitions are a time of acute vulnerability because you lack established working relationships and a detailed understanding of your new role.
  • The goal of every transition is to hit “break even” as quickly as possible – the point at which you’ve added as much value to your new organization as you’ve consumed.
  • Some of the more common ‘transition traps’ are: sticking to what you know, setting unrealistic expectations, trying to do too much, coming up with ‘the’ answer, and engaging in the wrong kind of learning. .

The good news is that there are things you can do to dramatically speed up your transition to your new role and make it a success. Some of them are:

  • Take a mental break from your old job and get ready for the new one.
  • Tailor your strategy to the specific situation you find yourself in.
  • Secure the first gains to strengthen credibility and create momentum.
  • Build your team.
  • Negotiating Success – Building a productive working relationship with your new boss.

What I learned :

This “The First 90 Days” book was recommended to me by Renee Russel, a professional mentor I worked with a few years ago. She suggested that I read the book as I stepped into my new role as Five Sigma Marketing Director.

The book gave me a really good step-by-step blueprint for what to do and how in the first 90 days after being appointed to my new role. There are many things to remember, but the main one is that entering a new role requires extensive preparation in many dimensions:

  • Spiritually: Mentally prepare for the new challenge and let go of the past and accept my new functions and responsibilities.
  • Intellectually: Make sure I identify any gaps I have and that I engage in the right kind of learning. If you don’t acquire enough knowledge about the organization and its business operations, you can make wrong assumptions, which are fatal to the business and your career.
  • Relationships: Build strong relationships with my boss, peers, and team. All of them require deep thinking and thoughtful actions. Relationships are the key to success.


The book deals with all kinds of transitions: a new role in a new organization, a new role in the same organization, moving up or moving laterally.

I was particularly interested in a situation of evolving into a new role and a new organization, as such some examples were more relevant to me.

Who should read this book:

This book is a MUST for any leader entering a new role. Taking the time to read and prepare will dramatically increase your ability to be successful in your new role.

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