Sunday, November 06, 2005

good misfortune

i had the good misfortune, very early in my career, to work at a place that, culturally, did not care one bit about whether any projects were actually accomplished. basically, the operating principles at that place were:
  • compensation was based strictly on seniority, not productivity
  • management and reporting chains were constantly in flux
  • budget priorities and resource allotments ignored project goals
  • personal vendettas and high political drama ruled the day
now...one might wonder what i mean by good misfortune, and how working at such a hellhole could turn out to be the very best thing for your friendly neighborhood happyfunboy.

it's my firm opinion that even a bad experience can become a good experience if you at least can get some perspective, a little breathing room perhaps, and make certain conclusions that change you, as a person, for the better.

due to a fortuitous turn of events, there was a dramatic shift in my group's reporting structure. altho things there were never easy, and in some ways became even more difficult, as part of that shake-up i ended up working for the best boss i have ever, and prolly will ever, work for my entire lifetime.

i am not saying that lightly, or flippantly.

this person was the very first one to admit to us that, from a technical perspective, he would not be able to give our group any guidance, as he was not an it person. and that, my friends, was the very first lesson he taught me: don't pretend to be something you aren't. you won't fool anyone, and will just end up making an ass of yourself, or worse.

however, what he did offer our group were things far far more valuable.

for one...we knew he trusted our judgement implicitly...because he told us he did, and then proved to us he did.

you see, he made only one simple request of us.

and that request was: let him know what we needed to get the job done.

if it was resources, project approval, bid requests, or just cover from the hail of political slings and arrows...he promised to get us whatever we needed...all we would had to do was ask.

so, we asked.
and he always came through.

and knowing that, our group worked insanely hard to never betray his trust. because we knew he wouldn't leave us hanging if push came to shove about something, we did everything we could to make sure we didn't leave him hanging either.

primarily that meant...delivering our projects on-time, and either right on- or under-budget.

and you can bet that we did.

now...your friendly nighborhood happyfunboy must admit...even that was not enough to keep me at that place. like i said...it was never easy there. but, i'd like to think that knowing when to move on was perhaps the greatest lesson i ever learned from him.

even so, during the 9 months of my employment when our group reported to him, we accomplished more projects than had been completed in at least the preceding 5 years.

and so...for Dr. James B. Condra...

thank you for your leadership, support, inspiration, and if nothing else...your loyalty...when we needed it most.

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