In our latest Call for Feedback, we asked for stories about those who have helped you in your career. Turns out there's a lot of positive influence in IT.
Too often, people focus on the negative. There are all kinds of articles that reinforce negativity. I suppose it's human nature, but sometimes it's nice to celebrate the positive things in life. With so many articles about terrible coworkers and horrible bosses running around the Internet, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to do just the opposite. So, I asked you — the TechRepublic community — to share stories of a positive person in your professional life. You did not disappoint!
I've included below nine stories shared by TR members and one story of my own. This is a long read, but after going through all the submissions, I was left feeling pretty good about the state of humanity.
1: The most positive person::: (Scott Sasse)
Over the years (35 so far), I have had only three outstanding bosses and maybe a couple of runner-ups.
- THEY were IT professionals, not wannabees
- THEY stood up for, and behind, their employees
- THEY defended us from those other business professionals — accounting, finance, management, and bean counters
- THEY remembered what it was like in the trenches
- THEY remembered that when you are up to your ass in alligators, the original plan was to drain the swamp
Thanks, Carl in Aerospace; O.L. and Tony in S&L's and Banking.My take: I chose this story as the top one because it concisely itemized the traits that the reader felt made for a great coworker or boss. There's not much I can add here!
2: Best boss (piGirl)
In my early 20s, I had a boss who saw that I was very nervous when telling him about a mistake I had made, and who proceeded to teach me that mistakes are a learning opportunity. This philosophy has followed me throughout my career, and I am grateful to now pass this along to those who work for me, through constructive Lessons Learned sessions.My take: So many people forget that in many cases, the key to success is making mistakes. You were fortunate to have a boss who understood this basic concept and was willing to provide you with a critical life lesson you've carried with you.
3: My staff (Suresh Mukhi)
I'm an IT manager. I have a staff member who works as an analyst programmer. He is not an IT graduate but an ECE. However, the way he can learn new programming languages in such a short period of time is mind boggling! He can get apps up and running with few bugs. I almost rarely have to test his work. They just run!My take: Most of the stories were about bosses, but Suresh reminds us bosses that the key to our success is the staff we have working for us. Thank you, Suresh, for keeping us grounded.
4: Tough love (anonymous)
Many years ago, I worked on an application development project that really required me to take the bull by the horns. It seemed that the only way to get it done was to push hard. The project was several years in duration, and by the end I had formed some bad habits.
I was aggressive, abrasive, and generally hard on my co-workers.
My boss at the time could have just started to give me bad reviews. He could have waited for the next wave of right sizing to eliminate the problem. This was certainly the culture in the organisation. In general, few bosses would stick their neck out to deal with "people" problems.
Paul confronted me and showed me that my behaviour was not in line with my personal values. He did me the favour of demanding change, and recognising it.
I remained with the company through many reorganisations and had been there 34 years when I left.My take: I did not attribute this one because I wasn't sure whether the submitter wanted his name out there. But this story teaches us that people, when given the right chance and the right support systems, actually can change and be productive. Of course, the person has to have enough self-recognition to be able to absorb the criticism and act on it. So, kudos to you as well, anonymous!
5: A great role model (kkilmer6)
When I went back to school to dive into IT, I was fortunate enough to sit next to a person who would have a tremendous impact on my life and career, Jessy W. Part way through the semester, after getting to know each other a little during classes, Jessy asked me if I wanted to apply for a job where he worked. He said they were "looking for a few smart guys." I ended up working with Jessy for about five years.
During that time, I looked to Jessy for guidance. I could tell he knew what he was doing, in IT and in life. He always worked hard and studied hard. He knew more about the job and product than almost anyone in the office and was very well respected. He was always the go-to guy when there was an unsolvable issue. If he didn't know the answer, he knew how to find it. He told me once that anytime a topic came up that he didn't know about, he would make some time to not just find the answer, but to thoroughly understand the topic so he would be better prepared for the future.
On top of knowing the technology and product, he understood people and how to work well with others. He also knew how to have a good time and make the job more fun for everyone, which was an especially appreciated skill in a stressful customer service/support role. I learned it was not only okay, but necessary to take some time to goof off with your co-workers. The stress relief and bonding created a more productive environment overall.
Even with his tremendous dedication to doing the best job he could at the office, he made sure to make his family a priority. Jessy also provided a lot of guidance regarding faith (but that's a topic for another forum).
Jessy has always been an inspiration to me and I know I'm in a much better place in my career and life thanks to his just being himself.
6: Super Tech "John" (jpnagle59)
"John" turned me around and kept me employed at a now defunct company, Mosler. (You would think a company 124 years old would have found a way to do it right.) I was hired as a vault installer — vault doors in banks, weapons vaults for Uncle Sugar, heavy steel work. I had the opportunity to travel around the globe, breaking my back, and justifying the danger by saying I needed to feed my family.
As the body became seriously in danger of complete failure due to backbreaking work— some of the tools I used weighed 600 pounds — I happened to be tasked with helping "John" work on some things that the other service techs wanted no part of. He opened a whole new world for me. He took me from being a steel worker to a very fine technician... not a great "super tech," but one that kept me in the game.
He changed my life by having the patience to show me things I never knew I could do with electronic equipment and computers. I will never be the tech he is, never, but he opened my world to new possibilities and I love him for it. I say he is the best friend I have ever had, and he believes the same of me... I think. He'd better; I can still whoop his little fanny to this day. Thank you John; I hope maybe some where along the way I helped you too.My take: If you can't find John, consider "paying it forward" with an "apprentice" of your own!
7: Four bosses (codepoke)
I've had four bosses in my current gig (11+ years) and all four have been over-the-top supportive of me. I give extra and they do too. It's been mostly a bed of roses to work for each of them, and I'd take any job working for any of them again in a heartbeat.
I hear a lot of unhappiness out there, but it isn't me.My take: Having worked for both great and pretty terrible bosses, I understand how important it is to find people who are good to work for. You're lucky to have had four in a row.
8: One boss stood out (benjolley)
I am a PR professional who at one point in my career reported to a VP of IT. I learned more about leadership and technology from that manager than any other since then. He supported all I did and made an effort to learn what it was I did. He was my mentor and I strive to follow his example each day. Thanks Rick, you made a huge impact on my career.
9: And one from me (Scott Lowe)
In my very first job in the IT field, I had the great fortune of working for people named Bert Lawrence and Gary Burns. As a brand new college graduate in my first "real" job, I got to truly explore any and all areas of the technology landscape. Bert and Gary let me loose on many complex projects where I learned my craft and experienced just about every area of IT. They also instilled in me a sense of service to the people of the organization that I carry with me to this day.
10: I owe it all to him! (llmccabe)
There are actually two people who helped open doors into my technical world. The first was a good friend of mine. I used to sit in his garage and watch him work on his car. At the time, he was rebuilding his automatic transmission. Now this is a man who does not need a book or training. He is one of those people born with technical ability. He was also building his own computer from scratch. It had a huge disk to store data. This was back in 1977. I did not like working at fast-food places and he suggested that I learn how to solder. So he taught me how to flow the solder and the difference between a cold solder joint and a perfect one. He taught me how to apply the iron and then add the solder. Then he helped me get a job where he worked. They showed us a training video and then tested our soldering. I ended up being responsible for repairing everyone else's mistakes because I was so good and fast.
The other person who recognized my potential was my supervisor at the next job I landed. I started in an assembly position there too. However, it was a different kind of soldering. I was using resistance irons as well as regular soldering irons. My supervisor was actually the production manager and also an RF engineer who taught me the extremely important process of troubleshooting and the science of tuning an RF filter whether it was stripline or resonant cavity.
He taught me how to record my findings and use them as a reference when approaching new projects. He taught me the theory of how a wave travels along mechanical devices. I learned about coupling, rejection, VSWR, insertion loss, phase, phase matching, harmonics, etc. I worked on every type of filter from S-Band to KU-Band, and by the time that I left that company, I was the lab supervisor responsible for delegating the workload, training the technicians, and working with the engineers on prototype filters. I worked on a device that went up in the first Space Shuttle. I learned so much and am very proud of the work that I have done. I guess you could say that I helped pave the way for other women RF technicians.
I must note that my friend who taught me to solder also helped me obtain another position where I learned how to build a PC and dispel my fear of them. I had no problem running frequency generators, oscilloscopes, network analyzers, phase meters, etc. But I was scared to death of computers. So much so that I would spend hours retyping and hand drafting professional test and assembly procedures for a microwave subsystem I helped bring from design to production.
My co-workers tried to get me to use the computer, but I was really worried that I might do something to break it because none of them knew how to use it either. However, once I actually built a few, set them up (prior to Windows being released), and started training myself on one I built from slightly imperfect parts, the fear disappeared and I discovered that running a computer did not require any special scientific knowledge... just plain common sense seemed to suffice.
What I owe both of these men was that they recognized my talent and taught me exemplary work ethics that have taken me very far in my life. They were both calm and exhibited not only intelligence but acceptance of a lack of knowledge and taught me the importance of being able to recognize it and seek answers instead putting on a facade of being all knowing. Thank you for everything Steve Wallace and Richard Soto. I am forever grateful to you both for having the desire to teach me your expertise and introduce me to the engineering world. It is an exciting and rewarding path that I know you both are continuing to function in. Lastly, a special thanks to Gene Schultz and Steve Prokop for their support and friendship during some of the best years of my life.