First Day of Work Karen: What I Would Tell Her #mememonday

May 7, 2012   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Careers, Professional Development, Reviews  //  2 Comments

It’s time for another Meme Monday, as assigned by Tom LaRock (blog |@sqlrockstar ). In his post, he asks us to write about:

If you could go back in time and meet yourself on Day One of your IT career, what advice would you give?

What a great question.  I’ve previously blogged about What I Would Tell my 16 Year-old Self .  All good stuff there.  Especially about the hot rollers.

But what would I say to Karen Lopez, brand new Senior Systems Analyst (yes, that was my first job title)?  There a bunch of small stuff that really turns out to be big stuff later:

  • Skip the Full Day Voice Mail Training.  Sure, it was mandatory, but the guys only had to do a half-day version of it.  Insist you don’t know need a full day.  Set the direction for how the team sees your role on the project from the start.
  • Don’t let that clerk at the Passport Office talk you into bad data quality: alphabetizing your names on your passport.  That one decision is going to impact you more than you can ever imagine.  But you will get some great data quality presentation material out of it.
  • Respect your boss, but don’t let him manage your career.  My first boss started on the same day I did.  He wasn’t a twenty-something, though.  He had retired from the US Army the day before and had come to work for the defense consulting company I worked at.  To manage projects for the US Army.  Funny how that works.  He brought with him his military bearing…and his need to be in command of everything, even the technical design of the application we were building.  Even though he was an accountant and had no technical experience or training. 

    He and I didn’t really look at life the same way, but he was my boss.  I let him manage my professional development plan, my training, my assignments much more than I should have.  He wasn’t a good fan of female engineers, either.  So our non-technical tester was the guy who did all the demos and presentations, even though he really could answer any of the technical questions he received.

    Karen, that boss should not have been able to set your path, only guide it.

  • Don’t try to explain everything that caused a bug or a mistake in a deliverableJust fix it and fix the problem that led to it.  Nobody really cares why it happened unless the think you are going to do it again.  Fix it, learn from it, move on.   Don’t make your mistakes stand out more than anyone else does.  Be honest, but don’t broadcast them.
  • Never accept the first offer.  I can’t tell you, Karen, how many times you are in a negotiation and don’t even realize it.  The earlier you realize this, the better off you will be.  Think your boss is doing you a big favor by sending you on a local one day course?  Sure, she is.  But she’s sending Chad on a full week of bootcamp training because he asked for that instead.  Think you are fortunate because you are getting a 5% raise? You are, but Chad got 10% because he negotiated it.
  • You will make great friends at work.  But they are your colleagues first.   Save the details of your life for friends outside work.
  • No one cares what shoes you are wearing…as long as you can keep up the sprint with everyone else.  Wearing impractical shoes is going to slow you down. That’s literal and figurative advice.  See, double the value.

I think First Day of Work Karen did okay over the years. She got to work at all three branches of the US government during her first job.  She played volleyball on the Mall.  And she learned a lot about voice mail, a bleeding edge technology then.  But there were more important things to learn along the way.


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