stuff i've learned at work

here are some of things colleagues have said or did that made big impressions on me; these are some of my most important learnings at work. (with each of these, i can still remember where i was sitting or standing relating to the other person.)

  1. i was given my performance review, and sdp asked me what i wanted to do next year. i said that while i'm glad folks liked the breadth of things i worked on, i felt bad i did not have enough time to focus on one thing (maybe like rgw who was a world imaging expert) and wondered if i should focus on one thing next year. sdp said sometimes when people say they are so busy doing ABC such that they can't get to their real desire XYZ, they are really seeking permission that ABC is an ok thing, as people tend to spend time on the thing they are good at and which they like.

  2. we were merging two teams, i asked billo (lead of one team) if it would be ok to make the lead of the other team lead the combined project, so the other team would feel welcomed etc and he said yes so quickly that it impressed me with his clarity on team goals vs. focusing on himself.

  3. jm and i were struggling for many days making a difficult decision about a reorg which would probably hurt some people. we argued with each other about the options we had. neither of us were really sure which one would be best, and one day he said since i am not sure which one will produce the best business result, let's choose the path that does the best for the people, and let's hope the world works that way; i would not want to participate in a system which worked another way

  4. a new ceo started, and asked me if i would want to run engineering and the business units, or else to run marketing. i said i did not know marketing, so he said great, let's do that. (the marketeers were running down the halls, oh my god, they put a programmer in charge of marketing.) after a couple weeks, my assistant sma asked me how i liked our new job (marketing vs engineering). i said i was having fun learning. she said she did not like the change: engineers were sometimes weird and dressed funny :) but they were always honest with her. in the marketing group, people were smooth and really nice to her, until my door opened at which point they'd step over her to get to me. sma asked if we could go back to engineering. i liked two things about this: one was the observation and prioritization on honesty over appearance, the other was that she thought she had a vote (which is awesome)

  5. i was telling sdp how sad and angry i was that person abc had done something wrong to another longtime coworker, and that i was so angry, i felt like exposing abc. sdp said do not ever seek pleasure in negative behavior

  6. one day my little software company had important visitors scheduled to see us in our new office (an ugly warehouse). i was in early getting ready and at about 6am, jim (vp engineering) came in wearing torn jeans and a dirty t-shirt. i first looked at him thinking, does he remember what we have to do today? but then i noticed he was carrying a mop and bucket, he said cleaning lady here, coming to clean the bathrooms in preparation for our visitors and that he had a change of clothes with him. if that does not win the gold medal for job flexibility, and inspire loyalty, i don't know what does

  7. during my first weeks at a new place, after a busdev meeting, craig took me aside and said you know when you said xyz? while that is true, the partner might have assumed that we were further along than we are. we don't do that here. just always tell people the truth, where we are strong, and where we are weak. if we are going to get some new partners, let's get them based on clear facts that will really help both sides

  8. i sometimes work late, one night sma said why are you working so hard, do you need the money? why aren't you home with your family

  9. a team member was having some family care issues and was feeling guilty for the amount of work missed. the manager said i hope to be working with you for another twenty years, don't get so worried about missing some time from this company this year

  10. i was telling sdp about promotions i've turned down, and wondering if i made any mistakes, as the more senior positions might have had some benefits. he said a different title would only impress strangers, who cares about them, most people know the work that you did and you, perhaps that is what is important

  11. i asked jm how to get my 6-9 year old kids not to listen to crap like britney spears :), he said never try to make your kids like something (or not), just give them unconditional love, and expose them to what you love and why, and always respect what they love and why

there are other things i have learned, and other colleagues who have influenced me enormously at work, and helped me to grow; i'll add more things to the list after i take some more aricept... - articles - startups - nonprofits - press 31-Dec-2005