The way I work

I’m giving a presentation on what next generation work can look like for my company, and I need to figure out just what’s different about the way I work compared to the way other people might work. This is difficult because, well, this is the only way I’ve ever worked in IBM! ;) So here are some of the things about the way I work…

  • I share my notes while I learn. I’m learning a lot at work, and I make sure I spend some time every day writing down what I’ve learned. This helps me understand and remember more. The key difference, though, is that I share my notes on my blog. This means that people can chime in with suggestions (almost always happen!) and learn from me as well. It also means that people can come across my posts in search engines. If it takes me fifteen extra minutes to write something up, and I save three people an hour’s worth of fiddling with things each… that’s a pretty good return on investment.
  • I move as much information out of my inbox as possible. Mail is not the best tool for organizing task-related information. I usually use Lotus Connections Activities to group task-related information. It’s also terrific for collaboration. I can see people’s updates and share resources without sending lots of e-mail around.
  • I create templates for things I often do. For example, I have a detailed activity template for preparing presentations. This checklist reminds me to take care of important steps, such as double-checking the teleconference information, packing my presenter remote, and so on. I’ve also added links to my favorite resources and shared this template publicly within the company, so anyone can use my template to plan a presentation. By doing this, I help share my processes with other people.
  • I make it easy for people to get to know me. I often share snippets of myself within the company. I talk about what I’m passionate about and what I don’t enjoy. I show people what I’m excited about. I share my hopes and my concerns. Because of this, people have told me that they feel they know me pretty well even if they’ve never quite met me, and they feel comfortable starting a conversation with me. Because people know what I’m interested in and they’ve come to think of me as a friend, they send me all sorts of opportunities that fit what I’m passionate about. Most of the opportunities I’ve received have come through my social network instead of from my manager. My manager helps me go after the opportunities, but it’s my network that lets me find out about them.
  • I stay connected inside and outside the company. People really make a difference for me. I enjoy knowing and getting to know so many wonderful people within the company, and I love how I can reach out, learn more about them, and even help them out. Because IBM has such a big ecosystem, it’s much too easy to go into heads-down mode and forget about the outside. My blog, the blogs I read, and the other communities I participate in all help me keep in touch with what’s going on in the outside world. For example, I really enjoy browsing through the presentations on SlideShare – it’s great to see what people are talking about and how they’re communicating it.
  • I build other people up. If I do something by myself, that’s okay. If I can involve other people and spread the opportunities and growth, that’s much, much better. That’s why I help other people and communities learn about tools and ways of doing things, and that’s why I enjoy giving presentations and writing articles. I can get a lot more leverage on my time than I would if I were working alone, and I can connect with people who are talented at different things.
  • I invest time in learning. I work at about 80% of my capacity so that I can spend the rest of the time on increasing that capacity in myself and in others. I don’t have a fixed schedule or time budget (nothing like “one and a half hours each day” or “every Friday”), but I give myself leeway to explore things, and I make sure I learn about something different every week or so. I’m always looking for better ways to do things, and I share those ways with others. (Kaizen! Relentless improvement!) I also often find that the random things I learn about that don’t seem to have any connection to my current work end up making a difference somewhere.
  • I get great leverage on my time. I’m comfortable speaking to or writing for hundreds of people. It takes me a few extra minutes to share a bookmark, copy a good answer to my blog, post a recording of my presentations, or share a file on our internal file sharing system. In return, I get to reach a wider audience and I can save more people more time. I also save myself time when I can find these resources instead of doing things all over again! This is the way I get leverage on my time. I turn my services into products that people can use again and again.
  • I follow my passion. I keep figuring out that intersection between my passions, my skills, and what my company and the world needs, and then I go ahead and do it. If I’m providing enough value (and it seems I am!), then people will help me figure out how to do even better. =)
  • Work/life balance is non-negotiable for me. I do my best work when I’m happy, and doing my best work makes me even happier. Balance is a dynamic thing, and I enjoy listening and figuring out what I want to do. I don’t see it as a win-lose trade-off, either. I firmly believe that I can be happy with both my professional life and my personal life, and I refuse to accept anything less. I know that it’s much too easy for me to focus on work (it’s fun to make things and make things happen!), so I make sure I explore other things as well. This is also the reason why I enjoy being frugal – it gives me the space to enjoy the balance I want.

(braindumping for an upcoming presentation!)

  • Sacha,

    I just wanted to say that I love reading your blog.

    Sometimes there are posts that I am not so intereted in – the more technical ones, but I still like to see what you are up to.

    I feel like I “know” you from reading your blog. I have learned a lot from you and hope to learn even more about drupal.

    Keep iyour blog the way you do it. It is helpful, interesting, and social. Those are all important aspects.

    Be sure to give your new kitty a stroke from me!

  • I have two questions for you.

    1. Working late. “Work/life balance is non-negotiable for me”
    What would you do if asked to stay late for some very important
    deadline or to do something special? And what if you were asked to
    come in on the weekend for a few hours for something very
    important? The relationship between employer and employee
    should be flexibility and some give and take. Your thoughts?

    2. What are your feelings about company loyalty? I have read that Gen-Ys
    are not loyal to their employers. What do you think is a reasonable length
    of employment in a company? When you join a company, they invest a lot
    in your early part of the job, so it is not good if you quit early.

    • 1. Occasional swings either way are perfectly fine. The occasional night or weekend? Short business trips? I can handle that. IBM is flexible the other way, too. If I need to take care of something else during the day, I can.

      Extended travel? Only if W- and I work it out together, and if there’s a way to work around it if it turns out to be a terrible fit.

      But what I won’t do is focus exclusively on work, going on projects that assume you’ll be working nights and weekends. Even for things I love doing, I don’t think that’s sustainable. At some point, fatigue results in negative productivity. Without enough downtime or space to reflect and share, I feel strained. On the other hand, when I give myself that space, I find that I work happily and effectively.

      I want a company where it’s okay to have a life. I want a company where people can work at a sustainable pace and still achieve professional success. I know it’s possible. Other people have done it. I just have to make it happen. =)

      It all comes down to the kind of life I want to live. Personal happiness is fairly arbitrary, and I’m a happy person. There are plenty of opportunities, so if I look for good opportunities and I make the most of my passions and skills, I’ll have a reasonable level of professional success. Frugality means that I can minimize external pressures on my decisions. What I can’t do quickly, though, is build the kind of self that takes decades to grow, and what I can’t do by myself is build that kind of wonderful relationship that takes decades to develop. Even with others’ help, I won’t be able to do that in a couple of years. So when I make decisions, I keep that in mind.

      2. Company loyalty would be a stronger argument if employers upheld their part of the unwritten agreement. ;) But hey, in an age where changes in the business market can result in “resource actions” that make even some of my role models scramble, it pays to look out for yourself and to move before they move you.

      I’m not going to give a standard guideline like the oft-cited two years, because it really depends.

      It takes a while to get a feel for the job, so I’m not going to run off after a terrible first day. If the company is a good fit but the position isn’t, then I’d be open to finding another position within the company, and working something out with the first manager. If the position and the company is truly a terrible fit, then we’re both probably better off absorbing the initial cost and finding a better fit. If the position is a good fit, but the company isn’t, then both I and the company would be better off with a change. I would find a place I could grow, and they would find a candidate who could grow with them. Dealing with mistakes sucks, but it gives us valuable feedback for the candidate and job selection processes.

      Short-term, it may seem like change is expensive, but that’s outweighed by the long-term costs (on both sides) of my being in a position that doesn’t engage my passions _and_ skills.

      I’ll always strive to give more value than I receive. I’m really happy with IBM, and they seem to be really happy with me. I can make a difference there, and I can make a difference with them. I’ve gotten to know lots of wonderful people. That doesn’t stop me from thinking about what would make my terrific position an even better fit for me and the company, and that doesn’t stop me from building a pretty good safety net. The combination of the search for an even better fit and the safety net to catch me in case things change under me is what gives me the courage and the freedom to take good risks, and _that_ is part of the value I provide to the company and through the company.

  • Thanks a lot for sharing this with us. Although I don’t fit in the profile ‘millenial’ or ‘generation y’, I relate well to your approach. It is very rewarding to live like that. The funny thing is that lots of people just don’t understand they way we live. That’s when I say to young and old: go ahead and try it. See if it works for you. Experience it or live it!

  • Thanks for sharing the way you work with us! This relates well to they way I like to work, although I don’t fit the profile of a ‘millenial’ or ‘generation y’ type… The funny thing is that when people hear me talk about the way I get things done, they’re very surprise. So, that’s where I tell them to try it, experience it, live it. See if this way of working works for you too. Your post is helpful for this reason too.