Friday, March 1, 2019

The Comfort Zone

I've worked as an IT professional since 1987. I was 15 years old when I received my first paycheck for technology work. My goal was always to continue running the family business my father had started. My brother worked in the company as well. It was what was expected, but not what I wanted. Technology was my passion. I'd had a computer in my bedroom since 1982. I learned to build peripherals from schematics as a 12yo. After I graduated college, I went into the family business to do what was expected of me.

Through a very unfortunate turn of events, my father passed away in 1995 and the company fell on hardship. My brother was running things, and he had a conversation with me that I never thought I'd hear. "We can't afford to pay you bud". I'll never forget those words. The career I'd prepared for since I started to walk and talk, the family business, my Dad's company...was letting me go. How does this happen? Where would I work? What would I do?

I turned to the only thing I knew I'd succeed at. Information Technology. I was fairly advanced given I'd spent 14 years of my life working in IT as both a passionate hobby and professionally. But my resume was ripe with marketing, sales, and insurance industry experience. Who would hire me? Perhaps a failing company headed for bankruptcy. So, I applied at Service Merchandise Corporation for an entry level desktop analyst job. It was my first experience in a large IT enterprise. I was able to perform my prescribed duties, and when I had time, I'd volunteer to work with the more advanced roles in the company. Servers, networks, telephony, satellite communications, automation systems, program logic controllers, etc. I absorbed it all. I never had any fear of jumping into a project and I was rewarded for it. I progressed up the ranks quickly and worked at SMC until they liquidated just after the 9/11 attack.

Now well into my career, with over 30 years of IT experience under my belt across many verticals, I've come to understand that my passion is learning about a problem, simplifying the complex, and delivering a comprehensive solution using technology. It allows me to use my love of people and relationship building, my logical processing ability, and my technology background. I also enjoy being a lifetime learner. Always thirsty for more knowledge. I've identified my abilities and what drives me, but what about that comfort zone thing? How does that work? How does it relate to you and why you're reading this blog? If you're the type of person who hates going to work, only does so to pay the bills, hates Monday's, and you see your work as something you have to do versus something you have the honor and privilege of doing, then you won't get much benefit from the rest of this post. If you stay at your job because the company is stable, the benefits are good, and the pay is okay, then you may not get much else from this post.

If you want to be successful, you need to find a company who is willing to fully utilize your talents and abilities while helping you develop further. But where do you find these companies? There are several sites that list great places to work, but they assume that everyone is looking for the same thing. You need to do some research, people networking, and take an interest in a company. Find an employer who sees you as a valued member of the team. Everyone pulling toward the same goal. Take that leap of faith to move from the mundane to the exceptional. If you worked hard to be one of the best of the best, then set your sights on working for the best.

I turned 47 this year. I've had career goals since I was in my 20's. Over the years my goals have changed from the position I want to reach and how big a house I wanted to have, to the level of excellence I want to provide for my company and customer. Job title is no longer my driver. I want to do great work, in a customer focused environment, where excellence is then norm. Good enough is not good. I want to walk out of the office every day feeling as if I've accomplished something great that day. To do that, you have to leave your comfort zone. You have to push yourself to do things others think are crazy. There are no shortcuts in life. Life begins outside your comfort zone.

How To Manage an Underperforming Employee

Several years ago I was called to my bosses office and given an ultimatum. Fire one of my direct reports, or be accountable for their action...