Five things I learned during my Autodesk sabbatical

4 min read

Justin Mayle takes a selfie standing to the right of his wife and two young children on a sandy beach.

Growing up, I thought sabbaticals were only for college professors. They sounded great, don’t get me wrong, but I never thought I’d get to experience something like that myself.

That is until I joined Autodesk in 2017, where I learned that full-time U.S. employees earn a six-week paid sabbatical every four years. More like sab-radical?! (*cringe*)

I’m lucky enough to be a senior manager at Autodesk for Design & Manufacturing Territory Sales in the AMER region. My team is so amazing; not only were they able to cover for me during my time away, but they also closed some key deals while I was gone!

My family and I made it through our first transatlantic flight together and set off on a fantastic adventure, traveling through Spain and France over five weeks. We saw historic cities and small beautiful coastal towns; we even got to stay in a villa with extended family. Simply amazing.

Justin Mayle takes a selfie standing to the right of his wife and two young children on a bridge over a river in a European town.

After chasing our young children around a pool or beach during the day, I was usually the last one awake at night. I used that time to unwind, read, and think. I learned a lot! Here’s a brief list of my wide-ranging learnings, both personal and professional:

Sabbaticals aren’t just for professors

I’ve long heard from more tenured colleagues about how magical sabbaticals are, and now I’m a believer, too. I was able to get both invaluable family time and thinking time during an unforgettable experience. At the end of my sabbatical, I came back to work with excitement, energy, and a vision that I can’t wait to work toward.

One of my friends got a new job last year, and he said they just started a sabbatical program. As a hiring manager, I’m a little thankful to have the sabbatical program as a differentiator, but I’m wholeheartedly hoping it catches on as a trend so more people can experience it.

The road less traveled

I learned the road less traveled is sometimes … narrower 😊 We rented a car to drive up the coast (Costa Brava), which we had for four weeks. We’re a family of four with luggage for a summer holiday, so we had to rent a decent-sized vehicle – a small SUV by U.S. standards. Additionally, it was a manual transmission, as is the European standard. I’m someone who loves driving, but I quickly discovered that my driving skills would be tested!

I learned how to start driving a stick shift uphill (forward and backward out of a parking garage), I learned the unwritten rules of roundabouts, and I learned how to carefully move a parked Vespa when every inch counts on a narrow street. It was an adventure!

Shh, I’m in quiet time

This one was half introspective and half inspired by an article I read that notes all the benefits of having quiet time built into your day. While I was on sabbatical, I found myself so much more recharged after a quiet morning walk or a quiet glass of wine after the kids got to bed.

I always thought the idea of a parent reading the newspaper during “don’t talk to me time” was outdated, but it turns out we’re wired to need that time!

Front-line manager vs. leader

In the last five years working at Autodesk, I’ve been an individual contributor (in two different roles), a front-line manager, and now a senior manager leading my industry vertical for North America. I prepared A LOT to be a good manager and leader. But one thing I didn’t expect was how definitive the lines are between the roles.

I read an article that explains the difference and gives tactical skill-based advice. Simply put: You have to spend your time in different ways. Different data points are pertinent, and there are different decisions on your desk. Because of this, you have to hone different skill sets.

Your job in sales

I read a quote from an executive that summed up how I’m trying to approach sales in 2022 and beyond: “It’s not your job to ask what keeps me up at night. It’s your job to tell me what should be keeping me up at night.” I was there, years ago, asking that question of an executive that’s pretty unfair. Today, everyone has an abundance of information at hand, but each of us has finite time and attention. If you’re in sales, it’s your job to do your homework and bring specific insight, perspective, and value to every conversation.

For my money, time, and energy, there’s no better company to work for than Autodesk. I’m so grateful for my time on sabbatical, but also for my time at the company – what I’ve learned, the experiences I’ve had, and the people I’ve gotten to work with.

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Sabbatical Benefits