Sunday, October 3, 2010

Devaluation

Luke, Sara & JackYesterday, I was talking with my son Luke about a job opportunity that had come his way. Luke lives near Boston and works in the sales and support department at Bose. He's done well there and really likes his job, but at the same time, he believes there's more that he could be doing. In particular, he's become more interested in technology and software.

My friend Clay manages a development team at a medical technology company near Boston and has an opening for an entry level position. He called me to ask if I thought Luke might be interested in it and I said, "sure." So Clay sent the job description to Luke.

When Luke called me, he had just read the job description and was concerned that he might not be qualified for the job. I asked him, "What do you mean?"

Luke:
Well, it says here that they want someone who's experienced in C# (a programming language) and who has organized a lab. I've only looked a little at C# and I've never organized a lab.
Me:
That's true, but you did figure out Visual Basic (another programming language) to develop spreadsheets for the sales team and you're really good a structuring and organizing thought, so a lab should be no problem.
Luke:
Yeah, but I never actually learned Visual Basic formally, I just Googled stuff I wanted to do, found examples that were close and then modified them to do what I wanted. Is that really programming?

At this point a series of thoughts flashed through my mind:
  1. You've got this young guy in the sales department who wants to help the sales team and himself be more effective
  2. He creates some spreadsheets that let you quickly find products and determine pricing, special offers, discounting, etc.
  3. When the Excel formulas are not enough, he figures out how to program custom Visual Basic to get Excel to do what he wants.
  4. He does all this on his own initiative and his own time without any training.
  5. It actually works!
  6. Nonetheless, he feels like it's not worth that much because he didn't learn how to do it formally.
  7. Q.E.D. W.T.F.
All that flashed through my head and then what popped out of my mouth was simply, "Luke, only an idiot would learn a complete programming language just to get something done. All the best programmers I've ever known learned new languages just the way you did. They found samples of the types of things they wanted to do, modified them and built on them. They learned the language simply by using it."

Silence...

"Really?"

"Absolutely! What you have is not an absence of formal training and education; what you have is a display of initiative, persistence and resourcefulness."

"Really? I thought that because I didn't take any formal courses, what I'd done wasn't really worth that much."

Devaluation
This morning I woke up thinking about my conversation with Luke. I know so many managers whose employees complain that they can't do their work because they haven't been properly trained and who would openly welcome someone who just figures out what needs to get done. I started wondering if others who see a problem and simply take initiative to fix it despite a lack of training evaluate themselves similarly to Luke.

Then I started wondering about all the things that each of us do that we undervalue: skills that we take for granted, accomplishments that we don't see as such, because they come easily, because we didn't learn them formally. Maybe we should declare today, You Know, You're Really Good At Sunday, a day in which we acknowledge the skills and accomplishments of others that they might not see themselves.

Wanna celebrate?

Happy, You Know, You're Really Good At Sunday!
Teflon

1 comment:

  1. yes.

    I choose to celebrate your awesomeness.

    Gosh what a gift to choose to share. bw

    ReplyDelete

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