My work hours have been through the roof lately – and my job satisfaction is at an unparalleled high. Surprise surprise!
On my way home from work today with a colleague today, our conversation veered into the topic of work environments. As you may know, I work in 2359 Media, a software development consultancy, and have been here since my internship days. Whenever I speak to fresh graduates, I have a tendency to tell them this is a great place to be fresh out of school – and the reason, hands down, is this: everyone here aggressively chases learning.
Amongst the most empowering things I have that make my work so enriching, autonomy and a team to chase learning with have been, by far, most crucial to my growth. Everyone here is hungry – it’s a key quality we look for in hiring, and what that means is that people here are constantly seeking new learning, new knowledge. Not just on the look out for it, I mean really searching for new areas in which to learn and grow. Whenever we do StrengthsFinder and analysis, learning shows up both in their introspection and in their reports – makes me realize just how many different talents can manifest in a deep desire to learn. Restorative wants to fix things (or themselves), Maximizers and Developers want to see value increase, or surge, depending on which end of the spectrum you are. Learners, Input, Intellection – we have so many people with these themes around, and they all pursue knowledge like they’ve been starved of it for years.
And it’s not just the end-goal. The giddy excitement is palpable in the office whenever someone begins sharing. There is something about this obvious delight that tells me that it’s not the knowledge that thrills, it’s savouring the process of acquiring that knowledge, whether individually or as a team. It also obviously brings great joy for people to share in areas that they are knowledgeable in, so when the two-way dialogue begins, everyone benefits from the breadth of knowledge you’re most likely to chance upon at our lunch table.
One thing about the team spurring others on – spurring, not encouraging – is that there is a certain insistence on excellence in a chosen field of mastery here, and not even necessarily in your field of work. It shows in our myriad of sharing session topics, actually – already in this year we’ve had poker, font creation, roller derby 101. People don’t just give you cursory knowledge, their sharing is well thought-out, well researched, and many have gone on to act upon those learnings and might even have made a name for themselves in doing so. See, this explains why I always say we are a team of diverse minds, perspectives and narratives, alllllll underscored by a set of common values and aspirations!
Being immersed in such a culture 5 days a week, 8 hours a day has one key effect on you: it creates a habit, and from habit comes character. When learning becomes an inculcated value, you become more aware and alert of possible learnings. Rather than waiting to chance upon some new knowledge, you proactively ferret it out. This attitude extends far beyond just knowing libraries of trivia, and into the territory of work ethic. Don’t know how to do something? Find out. Consistently reflect on how you could have done things better in retrospect. Build your intuition, amass data points upon which your perceptions are crafted. Don’t let any moment blindly pass you by. There is something to distill from every moment – could be an insight, a passing idea or feeling, a lesson – but in these there is inherently a gain or loss, and in both of those finalities a certain value lies, so whatever you do – don’t let them pass you by.
Of course, the autonomy I mentioned earlier is the accelerator to learning – what better way to condense learning than to execute, to A/B test your own theories, and to fail (spectacularly or not) on your own, right?
I never thought environment would be such a deal-sealer for me when I first stepped into the working world, but having experienced some other corporate environments, I have to say, there is no better place to be right now. Right now, while my mind is still nimble and technology doesn’t seem alien yet. I believe I can earn my keep at a later point in life, I believe I can beat the rat race elsewhere. But to have safe grounds to learn, a team that spurs you on, and leaders that devote their own careers to making you a rock star at what you do? That’s not up for negotiations, man.
So on tomorrow, when I go back to work and hear people discussing the meetup they attended yesterday, or the article and book they read this morning or this incident they encountered, when I hear people sharing their insights, unwittingly engaging each other in Socratic dialogue, teaching and mentoring each other as peers – I will remind myself that there is nothing in the world I would trade this for, and then get back to the grind alongside this group of hustlers I have grown so close to over the years. There is simply no other group of people I would choose to share my best years with.