A Business Technology Place

The greenest grass.

Finding valuable takeaways through everyday work experiences is something I started thinking about a few years ago. I attribute this behavior to my writing hobby. Since I try to blog on a regular cadence, I examine events during the work week as potential subject matter for writing.

How would you answer this?

Do you think about opportunities for strengthening individual relationships or for improving business workflows through the course of everyday experiences and interactions with others?

Admittedly this isn’t easy and not really natural. During a typical day I’m very task focused. How do I solve the problem in front of me? How do I complete a service request? How do I follow a process? How do I get as much done as possible? How can I complete more tasks?

I find that it’s easier to think about deeper meanings and opportunities after the day is over or when I carve out time for reflection. I don’t do it nearly enough. But the value in the exercise is that it helps me enjoy my job more and appreciate the efforts of my coworkers.

This week I saw a quote, “you may think the grass is greener on the other side. But if you take the time to water your own grass it would be just as green.” Maybe that’s not always true. But the intent of the words is clear and it agrees with the mindset of looking for opportunity and positive meanings in our current situations.

To help put some practical examples to my ideas this week I thought of a few common tasks in Information Technology that could have much deeper meaning or opportunity:

Common experience: Fixing a printer that won’t print.

Immediate need: Enable a co-worker to print invoices so that the company can pay suppliers.

Opportunity: A chance to discuss with the co-worker alternatives to printing by using an electronic method.

——

Common experience: Rerunning a report that didn’t generate.

Immediate need: Showing daily order totals for a product category.

Opportunity: A chance to deliver the reporting data real-time or improve the scheduled process flow that generates reports to make it more reliable.

——

Common experience: Setup computer and email for new employee.

Immediate need: Putting a fresh image on a computer so that it can be placed in service.

Opportunity: A chance to be one of the first smiling faces the new employee sees when you deliver the equipment and show them where things are located.

——

Common experience: A web form is susceptible to a hacker attack and reported on a penetration scan.

Immediate need: Fix the problem so the scanner passes the test.

Opportunity: A chance to see how hackers are breaking and entering. Play the role of cyber-cop by resolving the issue but learn from the experience and program to tougher standards with the next software release.

What’s great about this is that searching for the deeper meaning and opportunity in our everyday experiences can happen with any job at any level. It’s like watering the grass on your side of the fence. Do that and you might just find that the grass is greener in your current yard.

Onward and upward!

Why do you network with people?

I’ve been planning a networking function for present and past employees at my current place of work. Planning in this context, is really just trying to find a venue. That’s challenging because there is a wide geographic dispersion where everyone lives. The last event I planned was close to my house and I received a few comments from people, that presumably would have come, indicating it was too far to drive. So this time, I am looking for a venue in a different part of town.

While discussing with a colleague, he asked me “Why are you doing this?” And then as if by automatic queue, he asked if I was trying to get a job. That conversation stuck with me this week because my answer was ‘no’, but I felt like the question deserved more than a single word response. So the question is ‘why do you network with people?’ The online Merriam-Webster definition says networking is “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions ; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business”.  Hmmmm.  Ok, so cultivating relationships for employment is part of the formal definition. I do acknowledge this aspect of networking but consider it to be so much more. I think the key thought and meaning in the definition centers around ‘cultivating relationships.’

The most well known online tool for networking has become LinkedIn. When this originally launched, it was a place for people to register contacts with each other and to post their resume online. It quickly brought to life your friends, friends-of- friends and so on for deeper links in your network. But over time, the site has become so much more. Now you can join groups of related people (organization, school, interests, etc.), participate in discussions about life and business, post and apply for jobs, share documents, and share information. Look at the growth in traffic over the past few years. Is this site and others like it used only for the purpose of finding a job? I suppose for some the answer is yes. If this is true, then they have missed the point of tool.

What about face-to-face events for networking? If people go to these events for the sole purpose to ask or look for a job then I bet they come away disappointed most of the time. That’s as likely to succeed as a sales cold-call. I imagine it also risks alienating some relationships. Jobs can and often do come out of your network of contacts, but not often by going to a public meeting and handing out business cards and asking.

So what’s my answer to the original question? Why do I do it? Consider these answers:

To Fellowship

Find out what is happening in the lives of those I call friends or who are part of my network. This helps me understand who that person really is. What molds and makes them. It gets past the shallow conversations I have within the work place. For example, at past events I’ve found out struggles with schooling, dreams for entrepreneurship, annual vacation spots, working with the elderly, etc. That’s cultivating relationships.

To Learn

Let others teach me. Learn from their wisdom. Undoubtedly, they have experiences and key learnings to share. I may be able to learn a specific technique to solve problems or simply some diversity of thought about how to approach problems. In a recent networking meeting I learned a little about video cataloging and retrieval for a large media company. But this could also be about other issues like relationships. Perhaps one of my friends shares a common life event such as raising teenagers or going back to school. That’s an opportunity to learn. That’s cultivating relationships.

To Share

This is my opportunity to share with others. Sharing could mean sharing life stories or subject matter expertise. Just as I can learn from my friend’s experiences and knowledge, they may be able to learn from me as well. In the past, I’ve shared about thoughts on public versus private school, blogging, home repair and the like.

In my mind, networking is the real Facebook of life. Maybe it really is a terminology thing, but I see other events like this with different names: girls night out, prayer breakfasts, party, etc. At the end of the day, no matter what you call it, its all about relationships. As Webster states it, ‘cultivation of productive relationships’. That’s more than looking for a job. At the core of it, that’s about purpose and being.

So I’ll ‘keep’ networking. Keep in this context is meant and to be read as both a continuation of activity and a possessive verb. I’ll keep networking to strengthen and build relationships. I’ll keep networking because its a valuable element of meaningful life.