Last week was my 20 year work anniversary as a continued employee of the company. The CEO, VPs and company name may have changed many times due to the multiple mergers and acquisitions and my own job title has changed even more, but ultimately I am still as grateful and thankful for the opportunity to be part of something pretty fantastic!
My early days as a Cobol programmer introduced me to lots of good people who shaped my work ethics, values and beliefs. I picked up many lessons and skills from the vast experience that my colleagues brought. In truth, I was in awe of those early colleagues who were so knowledgeable and experienced and just knew a lot of stuff. I remember wondering whether I would ever remember all of the acronyms, never mind understand the business and technology. As with a lot of engineers and developers as soon as you get any good at the techie side of things, you are given a management role and are no longer hands on. Although I do strongly believe that every manager or leader still needs to be tech savvy and aware of innovations and technology, even if you don’t get your hands dirty cutting code.
Being a leader and manager of people totally changes you. To be accountable and responsible for someone else’s development, career, livelihood and happiness is a huge responsibility and one that should never be taken lightly. It may sound cliche, but always treat people like you would want to be treat. Have empathy, be kind, give people time and really listen to them. Even if you can’t help, at least they know their voice was heard.
There have been so many people who have made an impression on me as a leader, engineer, manager, colleague, friend and human being. You cannot fail to be affected by the people we meet on our professional journey. They inspire and motivate as well as support and guide. You often learn what not to do from others’ mistakes and not so good behaviours as well as the positive and effective actions. We all need to be mindful that the next generation workforce will be looking at us and we will be helping to shape and form their work values. When you are in a position of influence, you need to be conscious that others will be looking at you to be their role model and this is a huge responsibility.
Everyone goes through personal and professional challenges, but in particular the last 18 months has been the most difficult of any time in recent history. The world has changed in ways that we could not have imaged at the start of 2020. I am incredibly thankful that my life was not devastated by the pandemic and that I still have a wonderful family, good job, nice home and loyal and kind friends.
Resilience and adaptability have been on full show in the last 18 months. We have all found new and different ways to deliver business. We have all adapted to new ways of working in a virtual and remote environment. Our customers and partners have adapted too. The business world has a whole new set of norms. Now we are in a recovery mode and we are seeing a whole bunch of challenges. In particular, insufficient number of skilled resources. I really don’t think that CEOs and business leaders understand the impact this is having and I am 100% certain it will get more difficult before it gets easier. We need to be creative with hiring. Look for new workforces that wouldn’t have previously been hired. Give people a chance and train them. If businesses don’t get creative, they might not survive. The jobs market is very strong if you are looking for a job and have good skills, not so good news if you are trying to hire.
Last week has also seen some new beginnings as well as reflections on the past. I started an MSc in Strategic Leadership. Formal leadership training for me is long overdue, as I mentioned previously, my leadership beliefs and behaviours came from learning from others and using common sense and decency. Our company onboarded 200 graduate early career professionals this week. I had the great pleasure to speak to them as part of their onboarding activities and welcome them to the company. I hope that they listened to my story, saw the possibilities and were inspired to learn, develop and grow their skills into the engineers and leaders of the future. I can’t wait to see where their stories take them. They have a great deal of responsibility on their shoulders. However, it is impossible for anyone to predict with any great certainty what that future of work will bring, but businesses need to start thinking about the future today.
During the onboarding for my leadership course, I was lucky to hear a lecture from a partner of the University, NetPositives Futures who are a group that support and educate businesses and individuals in how to create a Sustainable future. This company have also developed a Sustainable Development Goals software tool that helps businesses and individuals understand and plan for a responsible and ethical future. I am sure we all want to be responsible citizens both personally and professionally and we need to ask ourselves what can we do to support a better future for our world. The decisions, beliefs and actions we have as individuals as well as the strategies we make as companies will have a direct influence on the future of our world for us and for the generations to come.
The picture below shows us the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that we all need to think about whether we are making decisions as individuals or within our organisation.
Which Sustainable Development Goals are important to you as an individual and as a professional?
How can we make better decisions to support achieving positive outcomes from the goals? It is very easy for companies to tell the market that they are responsible corporate citizens, but we need to make sure that we really do turn the goals into tangible actions and results in order to give our next generation the opportunities we have.
There is no excuse for businesses to make the changes needed and there is help e.g. NetPositive Futures and The Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (ICRS). Please take time to look at this and think about your personal contribution and what changes you need to make to support sustainable development. I’ve already been around a whiteboard with some of my team to think about how we bring sustainability goals to the heart of what we do as a team. I am sure I will be sharing our story, experiences, lessons, success and failures as we go.
Let’s start today in making a difference for tomorrow and planning now for a sustainable and exciting future for our new colleagues who have just started their careers.