Lessons Learned from Corporate

Random Observation/Comment #545: It’s never an easy decision to switch jobs when you’re happy, you’re growing, and you truly see your colleagues of 6 years as family.

in loving memory

Then why the switch?

For me, it’s all about risk. My view of risk has not only evolved into a scarier nagging monster whispering in my ear before I sleep (not my wife, for the record), but also multiplied into all types of monsters; Health, status quo, bills, and relationships all pressure me to be more social and adaptive to a responsibility-based landscape. It’s not only my own world, but a complex matrix of people I can affect with any one decision.

Anyway, it was all too simple. It needed some hot sauce and experimental salad dressing to push me forward in my diet of life. Entropy is the spice of life. In my travel years of bad idea bear adventures (don’t worry, these years are not over yet), I realized I thrived being outside of my comfort zone. I discover and grow best when stretched to my abilities in a realm of uncertainty. This next adventure is the same embrace of change.

Years of managing interns and learning from my early career, has lead to this summary page of early career advice. This post, however, is the reflection of all those concepts in a less than 30 list.

What did I learn?

  • Know the rules of the game – no matter the industry or your expertise, it’s always important to learn what you don’t know if it’s essential to the business. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consult Subject Matter Experts, but you shouldn’t raise your hands and say “this isn’t my job to know this.” This is why one must always build expertise in their area.
  • Take advantage of being in a large company – an email address goes a long way. Most people are open to soft introductions like “Hey, I see you’re an alumnus of <institution>. Do you have time for coffee this week?”
  • Build trust with all levels in your team – trust comes from action-based reputation, so make sure you work with your team, spread good rumors, and be the last to complain.
  • Be your manager’s friend – set up bi-weekly meetings to catch up on career goals and things outside of work. Also, definitely participate in the happy hour drinks and scheduled coffee chats.
  • Make your manager look good – the easiest way to help your manager is by making it easy for him/her to identify what  you’re contributing to the team. Directly help them with their tasks and offer well thought-out ideas.
  • Do work outside what has been asked of you – this is the essence of innovation. When a team member takes initiative to provide outside expertise on a project, they will likely be encouraged to continue their lines of thought. I’ve often asked groups that interact with mine about their platinum projects so I could learn more about how those initiatives overlap.
  • Build a list of sponsors – Above and beyond your single line of management, you’ll need a group of people pulling you up and representing you at the table during promotions. This only happens when people know who you are and your brand comes with hard work and solid deliverables.
  • Attend events and meet people from work while outside of work – If you just go to work to clock-in and clock-out, you’re missing another world of team growth and trust building. It’s also extremely important to know who works in which area – you never know when you’ll help or be helped by someone you met at an event.
  • Keep track of a GO-TO list – Based on your interactions through different projects, it’s always good to know who has the answers. When your group ultimately needs to coordinate with other groups, this Rolodex of names and roles will be extremely important.
  • Do your homework and Share your knowledge – a lot of people protect their ideas so they can get credit for it at a crucial moment. I feel like if you have a good idea, make sure you do your work to know for sure it’s a good idea, and then bring it up to your management. There’s really no down side to providing feedback or showing you’re invested in the project’s direction/results.
  • Understand the architecture landscape – know the different types of system setups and their technology stacks. The “architecture simplification” projects are often telling of the long term strategy of the firm’s IT investment.
  • Understand the business landscape – know who supports which side of the business and how they make money
  • Understand the hierarchy of management – with experience also comes the need to know who ultimately holds the decision-making power. Knowing names of the leads in your group also ultimately helps other pin-point where you fit in the organization.
  • Always follow-up and stay in touch – it’s a very small world and you’ll never know when and where doors can open

~See Lemons Look Forward