Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Improvement and the Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs.

It has been a while since Steve Jobs passed and while I was browsing HBR, I found this and was inspired.

I guess we can't all be trailblazing innovators, revolutionizing the world. But we can all learn from the greats.

There is always something that can be improved on in everything we do. I could work in the filing room, managing thousands of documents and files and whatnot for years and I bet there will always be something we wished were better.

Improvement needs focus, determination and I guess mental strength. Improvement doesn't happen overnight. We have become too accustomed to the instant, Google-and-voila, gratified generation that anything that doesn't happen immediately is a failure and not worth our time pursuing.

I was deeply unhappy at my first job. It was my first job out of uni and I didn't know what to expect. I went into it with my parents' words, "Work hard and be content." It was a dead-end job since it was incredibly technical. It always is with technology. The technology was probably cutting edge when it first came out but by the time I started my new job, the technology was probably 5 years old and not going anywhere. But I liked understanding how things worked, and relished in finding out the processing logic behind it. And then it dawned upon me after the first year that the company would never change something which had worked for 5 years. I was just a caretaker of a dying technology.

I requested for a transfer and my new team was all male. I was not comfortable during my entire stay in the team. At first, it was the "welcome to the MAIN team" talk that made my previous work looked insignificant. Then it was the sexist, work inappropriate tone. I was never taken seriously. I was the new girl, and they were all the alpha dogs. It was major ego hogwash by a few guys whose solution to everything was, "Shut it down, restart again." No thought, no analysis. Just off and on.

It came to a time when I could no longer stay in such an environment. I started refining my resume but I couldn't write anything. There was absolutely nothing from my 3 year tenure with the company that was of any value to other companies out there. I was in charge of a technology which no other company used, and infrastructure that only governments could afford. There was no middle ground.

I took a long hard look and realised that the only useful skill I had after 3 years was government red tape. There were different forms for all kinds of requests and all these paper work pointed towards audit and compliance. This was something I understood and decided to pursue.

It was hard but my only motivation was to get out so I focused on getting my auditing credentials outside of work. Mugging over certification exams after work. It was my one ticket out and I had to get it. There was no other acceptable outcome.

In hindsight I was driven by my dire career situation I hope no one ever finds themselves in. My point is, if we could all find burning motivation and not accept any other outcome except success, we will find the focus to get things done.

I believe in the power of focus and determination. To the future me who may be feeling lost and trapped, keep trying and don't stop till I succeed.

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