Five jobs in ten years: Lessons that I have learned

The period between Christmas and New Year always allows me some time for reflection that I typically don’t get during the rest of the year.

Today I realised that I have now worked for five different companies over the past ten years, which started me thinking about the lessons that I have learned from these experiences.

Obviously there are many, many other things that I have learned during this time, but the following five seem to be important insights. I’ve taken one example from each of my jobs, but they are not necessarily in chronological order.

1. Be nice to people

As a techie, it’s quite easy to come across as a jerk.

If someone less technically inclined than you needs help, don’t treat them like an idiot. Try to teach them something new, if they’re interested, but don’t push them if they’re not. Imagine you are helping out a close relative or friend.

Also be nice to other technical people too; don’t be the person who thinks their way is always the one true path.

I only realised the difference this makes when reading the lovely messages that people have written in my leaving cards.

2. Be proactive

Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do. If you have an idea, make a prototype and present it to anyone who will listen.

3. Go all in

If you love your job then go all in. Put in the extra hours and become the go to person for any problem.

Personally I learned this early on by observing more senior people in the workplace and how it furthered their careers.

A word of warning though: I now notice people who are new to the world of work doing the same thing and, if you’re not careful, you may find yourself going all in too soon on a job that you end up not enjoying. This is a quick route to achieving burn out.

4. Prototype does not mean production ready

Research and development projects must be clearly separated from production projects. Blinking an LED using an Arduino does not equate to shipping Internet of Things devices to customers. So many examples in the recent news demonstrate why.

5. Delivery is the key

We go to work to deliver value to a customer. Work is futile without delivery.

An important point here is that I am talking about customer perceived value. This does not mean absolutely correct, it does not mean totally on schedule, and it does not mean exactly to the initial cost estimate. It means a delicate balance of all of these factors resulting in a product that is acceptable to the customer.

Bonus insight

No one person has all the right answers!

Happy New Year.