What I Wish I Could Say

I am looking for a job. I thought it would happen easy for me since that has kinda been my experience. I was wrong.

I had a great job that turned into just a ‘good’ job. I lost that job because for something like two years I had been living in a sleep apnea induced fog. I didn’t know it at the time of course. I was struggling but could never put my finger on it. I finally had a sleep test done and got the results. Sever sleep apnea. I lost my job two weeks later, before I could do anything about it. Intuit was a great place to work and now I miss it. I think if I wasn’t in the fog so much, I probably would have still considered it a great job.

But that is the past. Now I am looking for another great opportunity.

What do I want to tell the potential employers out there? This…

I am a great employee! I have had one job fifteen years and one almost nine. I don’t hop from one job to the next. I am smart, let me show you. I enjoy challenges. I am a quick learner. I always focus on doing my job as well as I can. I work well with others and have always been a good teammate. I believe we win together.

I am also a great leader. I have been an office manager at one company and before that, I have lead groups of people on projects. I am a natural leader.

In short, I make a company better. I understand that I need to know what my supervisor’s goals are so I can help him reach those goals (which will be meeting my own goals).

I have spent two careers working on proprietary systems and that has cost me. My last job at Intuit, I never tried to advance because I really liked doing what I was doing. That was a mistake. I see that now.

I just want another chance to make people happy they hired me. Greatness awaits.

Patrick Ernst

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That which does not kill us …

Is supposed to make us stronger, at least according to Friedrich Nietzsche. I just had an encounter that reminded me of this saying. It was not good. We have all had bad encounters. Where things hit us from the blind side. It’s easy to get upset, to rant and rail against the injustice of it all. Not sure how much good that actually does. Let me propose a three step plan that I am going to follow to care of a my personal situation – and I hope it will work for others as well.

1. Self-Reflection. Take it in. Try not to bring emotions into it here, just look at the situation from as many perspectives as possible. Get what value you can out of the experience, if any. Once that is done, as long as others aren’t involved, let it go. I say that because if you think that others might be getting the same raw deal, then it is a systems problem and needs to be brought up to those who can do something about it. My personal situation may fall into this category. If you are not sure, get advice from someone you trust. When done, just move on.

2. Get to work. Or I should say get back to work. Focus on the job that you do so well. Do it better then ever before. Show they while you are valuable and meaningful. Let your skills to the talking. Challenge yourself on how much you can get done, or how well you can accomplish a certain task.

3. The future. Get better – work at it, don’t hope it happens. Getting better at anything happens two ways – one is that through repetition (evolution) and one is through proactively making changes and trying new things (revolution). So often we simply just do our job and let the repetitions build our skill – this is a very slow way to improve.

I remember at my first real job with a large company, I got to the point that I was tired of slowly getting better. There were people who I had to deal with that I knew were not very ‘good’ at their job, I just wanted to get out from under their thumb (so to speak). I needed to be able to speak from a position of knowledge and I just didn’t have enough of it. So I decided to spend every Sunday studying my job, not doing my job. This worked well because soon I forgot about trying to ‘get past’ people and just focused on improving my knowledge.

Just waiting to put in the time to gain the knowledge is something lots of us do. I find as life goes on, it’s harder to find the time to do such things. Then it is about deciding upon the right priorities. Look at what you are spending your time on and then make sure you are spending time on the right things.

So, when life hits you with shot you didn’t see coming – don’t let it be the deciding blow that takes you down. Get up, dust yourself off and get back to work. Work harder and smarter. Be a better version of you. Hit life back, see how it takes a shot!

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Finding Your Passion In A Changing Environment

My workplace is going through changes, lots of them. That is seen as both a good thing and a bad thing. What is interesting is that recently management called out for each of us to find our passion. What if our passion was our old job? I don’t blame my company for changing, they are trying to improve and update the company. Always a good idea – I guess. I believe in the value of putting people in a position that they are working on what feeds their passion. The test is simple, if you lose track of time doing it, it is probably a passion.

The problem I am facing is the passion I had was for the old way of doing things. Turns out it is hard to find a new passion when your old one is going away. New opportunities are around every corner and you just need to be open to it. I will find my passion, I just have to keep searching. Management might be the answer, I have always enjoyed leading groups of people. My latest resume on Monster is for a manager position. Getting things done through others is a challenge. I like the mentoring aspect the most about managing. I guess time will tell.

Needing to find a new passion is something that we all go through in life, probably several time. How we go about this is up to us individually. I guess it is all about finding happiness, in your work if at all possible. If it’s not possible, then it is time to move on and find happiness elsewhere.

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The Price of Innovation

Innovation might just be the most over-used word in the business world today. Everywhere you look, every company’s main concern is about innovating. I get that competition are is getting tough and you can’t win today with your same old product. Or can you? Where is all this supposed innovation getting us? Like most things, when everyone gets on the bandwagon, a vast majority of the innovation belongs back on the drawing board.

The Forgotten Quality

What about quality? Remember that, that buzz word of tester-year. I remember when companies actually cared about the quality of the product they produced. If your company has enough resources for only one activity, working on innovation or improving quality, which would you choose? I know the politically correct answer is ‘both’! I hate those answers. I guess it comes down to what people are looking for. What will keep your customers with you? New products or better quality?

The Price of Innovation

What does it cost to chase this dream of innovation? The payoff is great new products that will drive customers to the company. The cost might be even greater. Ignoring product quality problems, hoping to just get by until the new fantastic products amaze everyone. We are in such a hurry, I wonder if we spend enough time on the innovative ideas to make them high-quality products. All the while, the products that are keeping the doors open and that allow others to spend time on innovation are just slogging along. It’s a gradual decay that seems to be accepted – we all say that this product can’t be our answer in the future. Of course, we said the same thing a couple of years ago and here we are. I wonder if with the neglect, we are not fulfilling our own prophecies.

How To Survive?

I think that in the world where communication is basically instantaneous, delivering higher quality products and only a few true innovative items will win the market. Trying to do twenty things seems over-reaching. I like three. Pick the three best bets you can come up with and develop the daylights out of them. For the rest of your resources, make the best product you can possible make. Make sure every nook and cranny works as expected. Make sure your customers are deliriously happy about it. Look at your customer service organization and work very hard at putting them out of business. Can’t be done totally, but those are all ‘cost’ dollars. Create a workplace where talented people work their asses off on products they love. Challenge them, inspire them, make the workplace a place where time flies by. That is how you survive. One last thing, it matters just as much How you do things as What you do. Build a workplace you would be proud for your children to work at. At least that is my two cents!

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Meet the New Boss…

Got a new boss. That is nothing new at my company, this is my seventh new boss in six-plus years. When I worked at Fleetwood, I had three bosses in fifteen years, one for over twelve. One thing for sure is that we will not get stuck in a rut at Intuit. It is always a challenge getting used to a new boss. The real trick is learning how they work and seeing if they way you work is okay with them. It’s a dance of sorts. It’s especially hard for the new boss who has to get used to a bunch of new people. I am lucky that it looks like we got another winner here. I am on a string of seven winners so far.

It’s funny how people interpret actions. I remember an old exercise from year’s ago call the Johari Window http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johari_window. We all look through these windows as we see people and we have things on our windows that we have to see through when looking at people. For example, if I think the new boss may be too ‘hands-on’ then I am going to add ‘controlling’ to my window and then I will interpret any actions from my boss from that viewpoint. I learned about this over twenty years ago and still I get caught up in it.

During our business lives, we learn so many valuable lessons. I think the real trick is how to we go about keeping those vital ideas in our consciousness. If we keep adding tools to our work tool belt, pretty soon we have tools falling out all over the place.

I think things are gonna work out well with my new boss. He said his main concern is outcomes and not telling us how to get them. I like that. Now it’s time to get great things done!

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Communication Excellence

I keep thinking that a truly great company is one that works diligently on improving communication on all levels of the company. I have talked before about how current business think is so in love with the start-up mentality. I think one of the reasons is because communications is so much easier when there are only a few people involved. True communication is sharing of information and ideas between people. We too often take communication for granted. We alway bring up communication skills when we hire people, but we seldom work on improving those skills in the workplace.

Communication methods also evolve. I used to believe that e-mail was the be-all end-all in communication. Now the younger generations barely use e-mail. For them, its all about texting and IM’ing. We all have to learn how people are most comfortable communicating. In my workplace, it seems to be do whatever works for you – as far as communication goes. We just had a re-organization and I believe that superior communication skills played a very critical role for one person who survived his contemporaries.

Maybe we should look at this from an individual’s viewpoint. How can I improve my communication skills? Can I write clearer e-mails? Can my IMs be clearer? For me as a coder, I have things in the code called comments that the programmer leaves for the next programmer (or for themselves when they get back to the same code next year) and leaving good, valuable comments is a good practice as a programmer. It is so easy to go too fast and forget the comments, I have to remind myself to slow down and leave the comments. It makes for an easier future.

Communication is all around us, always has been and always will be. How well we personally communicate may every well determine how far we will go in a company. Get better at it! I know I will.

Pat

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How to Focus on Quality

I find it kinda funny that quality is an occasional subject at companies, rather than a ‘start every day/meeting with quality’ atmosphere. I have been in companies where quality is not really even mentioned and been at a company that jumped head-first into the quality world. It’s very interesting to watch people react to the idea implementing quality tools/procedures.

The Cynic
These are the people who view the whole quality process as just more ‘work’ that they are going to along with the rest of their responsibilities. The Cynic will generally be negative towards the process and will look to subvert the process to meet there own needs. They learn just enough to try to work the system to get what they wanted to accomplish all along. Sad, but I saw it first hand. As a manager, you have to keep these people honest and not let them corrupt the quality system.

The Believer
To these people, the quality system represents logic and ‘rightness’ that was missing in their work-world before. To be honest, it’s not only a quality process that can give these people the ‘truth’ they are looking for – any top-down process that sorted the chaos of the everyday into something that makes more sense. A quality process can clear the cobwebs, make things make sense. Everyone sees the everyday workings that are simply not working but it seems things never change. The is the fundamental key to the quality process – everything changes and keeps changing. Some people fear change, but the Believers embrace the changes in the hopes that things will get better.

The Flavor of the Day Crowd
These are the people who view the quality process as just another process that management is forcing everyone to take. They embrace it because that is what you do with the new process. But they essentially believe that this too will be replaced by another system/process in the future. Because of this, they do what they can but don’t emotionally invest in the quality process. Some of these people can be shown the true value of the system, they can become Believers. I also think many of these people are afraid to ‘fall in love with the system’ because it will be gone in a year or so.

The Rest
This group represents everyone else. If the value of the quality process is shown to them, they will embrace it. If the system is simply dumped on them, then they will go through the steps but never proactively participate in the system.

How To Implement a Quality System
Of course this could be a HUGE discussion but I am just going to highlight a few important pieces of the puzzle. The first true key to a successful quality process is that the process must be supported top-down. If upper management doesn’t support it, how are the troops going to feel the process is going to stay around. You have to have the top dog tell everyone that this is both important and here to stay!

The second key, is that the goal of implementing the quality process is to provide a better ‘quality’ product to the customers. It’s not. I can see why you might say that, but that will lead to bad decisions and placing the emphasis on the wrong areas. The goal should be simply for every single person to produce quality work in everything they do. It’s not just what goes out the door, it’s what is done every single step along the way. Every support person, everyone who works directly and indirectly with the product. If everyone focusses on quality, the end results will be more satisfied customers. Plain and simple.

The last key I want to go over is processes. I work in the tech industry and all I keep hearing how all the gurus are saying to forget processes and embrace culture. They are in love with innovation and discovery. I get it. Got to create new things. I just wish people would realize anytime a company has more than one person do the same job function, a process should be established to make sure the same job is being done. Processes are not the death of artiest, just the keeper of standards – and that is a good thing. A quality process is all about looking at the processes that you do the most and improving them. Simple. Why would anyone be against that.

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