One of my takeaways from college studies was that I didn’t want to work in a job that offered the same work-script each day. Right or wrong, this was the time in my life that I decided I didn’t want to code computer programs for a living because I saw the the activity as repetitive. It wasn’t the end result of the computer program that influenced my thinking, but rather the act of writing code. I wasn’t the most gifted code writer in my class. I completed assignments, but often by brute-force and will power through hours of trial-and-error. I do enjoy writing computer code, but I didn’t see myself doing it for a weekly 40.
During this time, I found that I enjoy work variety. I enjoy solving new puzzles each week and the process of creating new things. There was a bumper sticker at Georgia Tech during my undergraduate years that said “we don’t fit the mold, we make it”. While I didn’t pick an engineering major or pursue an engineering career, I share many characteristics with engineers in what motivates and inspires me. I love to examine a process to see how things fit together to create work.
So I’ve pursued job assignments in information technology, product marketing, and digital marketing during my career. In all of my work I’ve been involved with creating something new to solve a problem for a customer. So this is what I enjoy most about my work. I see work as the opportunity to create, to bridge, and to learn.
Onward and upward!
A few years ago I created a career portfolio summary document. I did this to have an accompanying set of information for my resume to highlight my accomplishments and to give writing samples. One of the sections in it is my work philosophy. Essentially, it’s a statement of how I define work and service in life. I read through it over the weekend and was surprised at how little I wanted to change. Maybe this is a good for me as it showed consistency of purpose and thought over a few years. Here’s how it reads now. Let me know your thoughts.
I define work as a product or service that I create to satisfy a need. Solving a need gives purpose to the work effort, and it provides value to both parties involved. The work I produce provides a look into the core attributes that define me. My work is like a letter with my signature. Just as I want the recipient of the letter to know I wrote it, I also want the recipient of my work to understand that I completed this product or service for them.
I believe the best work is produced by those with a strong desire to succeed and who enjoy their trade. These are the people who have little pride and will not admit they are an expert in any given field. Instead of solely relying on their knowledge and skills, they will go an extra step to make sure their work is exemplary. These are the students who study the extra hour because they need to make sure they understand the material. These are the programmers that test their own code first, to catch any mistakes. These are the service personnel that smile and say thank-you for being my customer even when they are having a bad day. These are the teachers that prepare visual displays of their materials instead of relying solely upon a text book.
There is an element of good work that requires discipline, planning, and thoroughness. However, there are other elements of work that require creativity. Creativity comes through regular reflection, thought of new ideas, attitudes, and circumstances. While rigid structure and processes have their place to promote consistency and to satisfy regulatory rules, I must be free to express myself and debate new ideas. Without discussion of new ideas, my work becomes predictable and habitual. If my work output becomes routine, it loses both quality and creativity.
My work is also built upon my service to family and community. Life is ultimately built upon relationships. When I reach the end of my life, I will be more remembered for the difference I made for other people rather than things I created. With this in mind, I must remember that it is important to achieve a proper balance between producing products and services for profit and serving others outside of my primary job.