I was reading an interesting post about first jobs and the headline Good Bosses Are Key immediately gave me a flash back to my first “real job”.
I had gone through a year of programming school to which ended with a three month internship at a small company.
I turned up for the first day feeling, frankly, a little cock sure of myself. That subsided quickly.
My first task was debugging a program used to calculate rent on properties and had been written by a programmer that was no longer with the company. After hours of pouring over the code I not only couldn’t figure out why it was going wrong, I couldn’t even figure out how it could ever have worked at all!
I left that first day with my tail between my legs and thinking I had made a huge mistake. But I turned up for work the next day and tried again…and the next…laying out pages of hand written sheets showing variable values.
After a couple of weeks I went to my boss and meekly suggested that the way to solve the problem was to completely rewrite the core calculation routine. I was convinced he would laugh me out of the office. Instead he asked how long it would take and I told him two weeks.
Put yourself in his shoes. You have an 18 year old in front of you that you have only known for two weeks. He’s fresh from college and telling you that the solution to your problem is to completely rewrite the system core which written by an experienced programmer. What would you do?
My manager looked me in the eye, picked up the phone, called the biggest (and most vocal) client we had and told him we would have a solution in two weeks. Then told me I’d better get started.
Holy Cow! The game was now truly afoot.
I’ll cut to the chase. I worked night and day to make that deadline as there was no way I was going to let down the man that just put it all on the line. We installed the upgrade and…IT WORKED!
I look back on that now and realize that was a formative moment for me. That was when I made the jump from boy to man, and it has affected my career ever since. But how many managers today would dare to take such a risk?
Sadly, today, managers are almost totally risk averse. Failure is not something that is tolerated, and that is leading us to a world where opportunities for growth are giving way to excuses and playing it safe.
Personal growth happens when you step outside your comfort zone and we are punishing people if they do that. In doing so we are stunting the growth of our employees.
I learned so much from my first boss that I will never be able to adequately repay him. The company only lasted a few years (there were other bigger issues) but the three years I spent there were some of the happiest and most formative of my life. All I can say is…MP…Thanks for taking the risk.