Wednesday, March 14, 2012

punching above my weight

pretty stormy in san francisco at the moment. i've just finished up the first wave of emails and am taking a break to nosh on some leftover quiche that some homies gave to me last night for dinner. i pretty much just crashed when i arrived home last night so i wasn't able to have some until this morning. it is pretty incredibly rich quiche. i think it is from tartine. as i look out onto wet-ladden buildings, noshing...and just thinking about a meeting i had yesterday before sharing some whiskey with some homies and then falling on my bed.

i suppose i should provide some background.

it all began with a panel i was invited to be on at a conference a while back....a panel that relates to what i do for my job. i've been invited to participate in panels before but i declined for many reasons. the main one was because i wasn't in the mood to leave town more than i already have to for work. yet, this one was local and this one was put on for a ginormous global organization.

how ginormous?

last night when i was chatting with one of the homies sipping on some four grain bourbon from hudson and he asked for clarification when i told him what the revenue was for this company. "did you say "b" as in billion?" indeed. the company i work for does not bring in a billion dollars much less multiple of billions of dollars. yet the company the panel was for produces billions of dollars in revenue.

i think i'm a reasonably intelligent person and i have difficulty conceiving of just how much money that is. the thought of speaking to various teams that do what i do for a living and at that level freaked me out a bit and was, from my perspective, the equivalent of me punching above my weight. also, the other folks on the panel were from extraordinarily large organizations as well.

admittedly, that is the main reason why i accepted the panel invite. i'm a big believer in doing what scares me. it didn't mean that i didn't freak out any less about doing it though.

objectively speaking, i know that when i'm on stage doing a presentation or something like this, folks have no idea that i'm not comfortable or that i'm freaking out because it does not come naturally for me. they have no idea how much work i've had to do to even get to that point.

right before the panel began, i was speaking with someone who manages a group in europe. he was talking about how much he'd been looking forward to the panel and hearing my insights. (ummm, ok). my response was how i was a bit surprised at the invite because, from my perspective, it was like i was a line cook being invited to michelin starred restaurant to talk about cooking.

do you see where i'm going with this? while i'm not a cook....but i think everyone could understand my analogy...especially with someone from europe where michelin stars resonate more.

these are companies that can afford the best of everything. they can afford to buy whatever they need. if they want something done, they can just acquire the services to make it happen...and they do. these companies are extremely established in what they have been doing and in the area that i work in.

his response was a bit unexpected and a wee bit unsettling. he chuckled. then he said, "we are all just cooks and what you are doing is very different than what we are doing. while we've been doing this for a long time, we find ourselves in a situation where we need to look at what we do with fresh eyes. this is why you are here."

while i was on the panel, i discovered more about what he meant by the questions asked, particularly those asked from the audience. it also did not escape me how my answers were quite different than other folks on the panel and in a couple of cases....raised a few eyebrows.


while i am constantly reading and studying on my own about what has been done before, i do not heavily rely upon what has been done before. i may reference or pick up a few techniques or best practices....but i prefer to bring in other disciplines, approaches, and frameworks into what my team and i do. i have structured my program to anticipate, respond, and adapt to change as efficiently as possible. i didn't realize just how different that was until the panel.

then, a couple of weeks ago, i was contacted by one of other members on the panel who asked for a meet. again, i was a bit puzzled by it. the godfather asked me if i thought it was a potential recruitment. i said, no, that i was pretty certain it wasn't that. i may be a bit socially stunted in certain areas of my life (for example the whole "catch and release" games amongst single folks in san francisco is rather odd. i don't get it.) however, one area i am not socially stunted is being aware when someone is trying to recruit me for a job. my radar about things like that are very....very good.

so i had the meet yesterday and i asked in a rather diplomatic way why the heck he asked for the meet. not right away of course. but i did bring it up. let's be frank shall we? he's more educated than i am, his contact database is substantially larger than mine, he makes at least double...if not more.... than what i make, he's quite a lot older, and he works for a ginormous global company. he mentioned that from the panel he could tell that i thought differently about things and wanted to learn more about that. he also said that he learns more through by talking things through rather than reading about it. so then we talked shop for a few hours. he had a list of questions prepared.

both the panel and the meet were quite illuminating experiences.

so here i am, the next day, looking out my window, noshing on the quiche, thinking that perhaps i wasn't punching above my weight after all.

perhaps, i just have a different fighting style.

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