Helping Those Behind You

This week, my team at work was interviewing for a senior-level data analyst member.  It’s pretty easy to tell whether someone has the technical skills to do the job based on the sample of the work they bring to the interview, as well as how they describe the work experience they’ve acquired throughout their career.  We had one candidate form a different department in our organization that is brand new in the field, with very little experience, but they sure stood out.

While it was obvious that this candidate didn’t have the necessary qualifications, I was impressed by the steps they had taken, and are scheduled to take, in order to educate themselves about data analysis.  At one point during the interview, they showed us a sample of a coding exercise they had done in school, and while, by their own admission, it was very basic, it is where we all start… at the very beginning. 

This person is excited to be on the journey and eager to learn about data analysis.  Toward the end of the interview, they humbly mentioned that they would be interested in any guidance, assistance, or mentoring anyone on the team would be willing to provide.  The team mentioned that they would be eager to offer any help they could.

After the interview was over, I had a career flashback.  In this candidate, I saw myself at the start of my career.  I remember being new to the filed, proud of the first basic code I had just written, while at the same time knowing that I had so much more to learn.  Fortunately, I still feel that way.

I was reminded of the experienced people who helped me grow my knowledge and gain the experience I lacked.  People like Edwin, Chuck, Joel, and Prasenjit.  These kind folks were extremely generous with their time, listening to my questions and helping me understand new and often confusing concepts.  They were willing to take the time to invest in someone who didn’t yet have much to offer, but who was eager to learn.  I am grateful for their investment in me.

Flash back to the present.  Ever since that interview, I’ve been thinking how quickly the time went from when I was someone with no skills, but a strong willingness to learn, to someone who can actually reach back and help someone coming up behind me.  I can think of no better way to honor Edwin, Chuck, Joel, and Prasenjit’s investment in me than reaching back and offering a hand to this person behind me. 

There’s A Price To Pay

Here’s a bit of wisdom that everyone already knows:  sacrifice is the price we pay to achieve success.

Think about this:

If we want to:We sacrifice our:
Earn a degreeFree time in order to study
Lose weight and get in shapeDesire to eat anything we want and to remain sedentary
Be in a committed relationshipRight to have it our way all the time, because there is now someone else’s input to consider.
Become debt freeDesire to take expensive vacations and buy whatever we want
Succeed in a chose career fieldTime in order acquire and continuously hone our skills
Raise childrenThe list is endless!

The attainment of any worthy goal is proceeded by sacrifices.  To be ignorant of this fact will lead to frustration and scant progress as we pursue our goals.  That’s why it’s a good idea to know the price to be paid before we start on a goal. 

It’s also good to understand that, if we’re not willing go make the required sacrifice, we should probably adjust our goals accordingly.

Ready When It Happened

I’m currently reading 2 books.  (Actually, I’m reading one and listening to another.)  The first book (Highest Duty) is about Captain Chesley Sullenberger.  He’s the airline pilot that successfully made an emergency landing in the Hudson river after engine failures caused by bird strikes.  The second book (A Captain’s Duty) is about Captain Richard Phillips.  He was the captain of the container ship Maersk Alabama that was taken captive by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. 

Each book tells a story of leadership during extraordinary circumstances.  In both accounts, I’m struck how each leader had prepared themselves for their moment in history.  When their historic moments came, they had already been prepared. 

Both of these captains were responsible for the successful operation of expensive machinery, as well as for the lives of the people aboard those machines.  In each volume, the captain talks about how they trained their crew or considered scenarios that could go wrong, in preparation for were that scenario happened to them. 

Captain Sullenberger and Captain Phillips each seemed to have a sense of responsibility (a duty, as suggested in the title of each book) to be prepared to lead well, no matter what circumstance presented itself.  I think that’s also true for us as well.  While we may not be piloting commercial aircraft or large cargo container ships, we too are responsible for leading well in our families, in the places we work, and in our communities.

These captains had taken the time to prepare themselves, through learning, repetition, and thought, long before these critical events demanded their leadership.   So, when the moment arose, they were ready.

It seems there’s a lesson in their stories for us.  We should continue to sharpen our knowledge and abilities in the areas where we are considered leaders.  That way, when our leadership is called on, we’ll be ready too.

It Makes Sense To Them

Brace yourself, because I’m about to drop a news flash!  Ready?  Not everyone shares the same viewpoints as me.  Whoa, that’s huge!  Here’s an even bigger news flash… not everyone shares the same viewpoints as you either.  BOOM!!

You’re probably sarcastically thinking, “Thanks for dropping the obvious on me, Scott.  I had no idea!”  If that’s your thought, then you’d be right; we all obviously know that not everyone agrees with our viewpoints and opinions.  Yet while we know this to be true, I think we sometimes forget that a person’s viewpoint or opinion, which may seem strange, or even wrong to us, makes perfect sense to them.

There is a reason why a person thinks the way they do, or believes what they believe.  Their viewpoints are likely shaped by their own unique life experiences, which are probably not the exact same life experiences that we’ve had. 

Ok, that seems pretty obvious too.  So why do I bring it up?

There’s so much divisiveness now.  It seems when we encounter someone with a differing viewpoint, we feel we a need to defend our position.  We’re eager enter into a debate and convince the other person that their viewpoint is wrong, and if they had even a slight modicum of intelligence, they would adopt our position.  We already know where that usually leads: more discord, animosity, hurt feelings, and possibly fractured relationships.  I propose another response to differing viewpoints.

What if, the next time we’re confronted with an opposing viewpoint, instead of immediately entering into a debate, we try to genuinely find out why the person holds that viewpoint?  Not with toxic accusations or labeling, but with a genuine curiously and non-inflammatory questions.  What if we cared enough to see beyond the differences, and to see the person and their experience that lead them to the viewpoints they hold?  

My guess is, that once we’ve taken the time to understand someone, we’ll have a better comprehension of why they think the way they do.  Who knows?  We might even change our own viewpoint in the process.