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What’s the best way to get a broader view of what happens in a company, an organization, or an industry? Certainly you can read a lot, and you must do this. However, actually working in a different area teaches you about what is and is not being handled well, how that area relates to others, how to maneuver the politics, and helps you build your network of professionals in a concrete way. While “connecting” online is good, it is even better to work side-by-side with someone.
From a management perspective, employees who have this broad experience are more valuable because they can both be domain experts and understand the big picture. One way of getting this is by supporting rotational assignments.
There are several ways of doing this. One is that an employee starts in your group and then moves to another, and then another, and another, until he or she settles into an appropriate business or technical leadership role. Here people “rotate out” but do not necessarily rotate back in. I rotated out ofin 1999 and “rotated” back 13 years later. I’m not sure that was part of anyone’s career plan for me, including my own.
An individual can do this by changing companies. If they hope to return to one of them, it is important not to burn bridges. Don’t leave in a huff if you expect to ever be hired there again. You may not think that will ever happen, but why take the chance?
A more controlled program would have someone in your group go work for another team for 3 to 12 months and then come back. After their return, their responsibilities should expand to take advantage of their new skills and connections. They should also actively share their new knowledge and insights with their co-workers. Perhaps a year later, they can rotate out to another role or just move on. Don’t forget to reconsider their salary when they first return to you.
For management, you must guarantee that the employee has a round-trip ticket to and from the other organization. It is not cool to tell the person that there is no headcount allocation for them when they are ready to come back. Yes, times change, but you are breaking a promise to someone who you supposedly thought had a lot of value. If they cannot come back, you have lost trust and credibility. Don’t be surprised if the employee quits and joins another company. Don’t be surprised if no other employees take you up on your offers of “career-expanding rotational assignments.”
For the employee, you also made a promise. You said you would come back and make your original group stronger. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life there, but your management and colleagues were expecting to have your expanded expertise, at least for a while. However, if your staying in the new organization makes the overall company stronger, you may be able to make that argument. In any case, be gracious and make it a negotiation, not a demand.
A sequence of assignments where a person “visits” different parts of a company can be a win-win for the manager and the employee. This is an important part of career planning. For you as an employee, remember that you are ultimately responsible for your job path within and between companies. Be active about it and consider suggesting a rotation to your manager.
I was speaking with a friend who had a job interview last week, and he mentioned that he had gotten the “Please tell us about your most embarrassing moment” question. Please? They couldn’t do better than that?
In Amy Poehler’s new book Yes, Please, she gives the advice that you do not have to tell anyone about your most embarrassing moment. It is none of their business, and you need not and should not have to confess to anything just to move on in the interview process. I agree with Amy.
It is especially strange that people are warned not to immortalize their immature or questionable behavior onor , only to have job interviewers ask them about such behavior. Rather than giving useful information about applicants, it seems to me that it satisfies some sort of voyeuristic intent by the interviewers. It is not even a constructive question.
If I were interviewing a software developer, I might instead ask about how they discovered a bad bug in some code, how they fixed it, and how they helped ensure that it did not happen again.
If I were speaking to a sales person, I might ask about a sale they expected to close but did not, why that happened, and what they learned about the experience to help avoid such a surprise again.
If I were talking to a potential student summer intern, I could ask them how a challenging college class altered their approach to their studies, and how that might be reflected in their work with us.
So it is ok to admit that bad things have happened to or around us in our professional lives, but keep it at that–professional–and avoid the personal questions. What is interesting is how the applicant dealt with the situation, what they learned, and how that could make them a good employee for you.
There are many factors to consider in applicants like experience, skills, enthusiasm, honesty, and personality, but keep your nosy personal questions to yourself!
Also available on LinkedIn.
It’s the beginning of a new year and we’re being flooded with predictions, retrospectives, and catchy headlines to make us read articles about our favorite topics. One that I have seen more than once is “2015: The Year of Big Data.” I thought 2013 and 2014 were the Years of Big Data! I’m pretty sure that 2016 and 2017 will also be the Years of Big Data.
Click-bait headlines aside (and I’m guilty of it above), Big Data and the infrastructure that supports it and the mathematical analytics that makes sense of it have been producing great descriptions, prescriptions, and optimizations for years. Short of an electromagnetic pulse that will cause us to restart everything someday, Big Data is here to stay. How will things evolve?
First, there will be more data. I take a very Platonic view of data in the sense that whether or not we collect it, it is out there. The amount of sunlight that hits every blade of grass or soybean plant is real, though we don’t measure it all and we don’t therefore have it in some file or database somewhere. We will collect and store more data once we understand why we need it and how to get it.
Second, raw data can be messy and hard to use. We’ll continue to devise ways to clean it up, filter it, compute the missing bits, align overlapping patches of information, and determine metadata that simplifies gaining insights. We’ll figure out more efficient ways of storing the information and invent new kinds of databases. We’ll drastically speed up the time from when we first learn of data’s existence to when we are computing with it and gleaning useful understanding.
Next, we’ll build better and more sophisticated models using this managed data to understand additional kinds of systems and the interconnections among them. We’ll devise more and better algorithms to get more accurate predictions and optimizations, faster. This is the way science works: we build on what we know and have the occasional breakthrough that allows us to do things in new and improved ways or, in some cases, for the very first time.
Finally, this will be translated into more information we can use in practical ways in our personal and professional lives. It will also improve our entertainment and how we read, listen, watch, and engage in sports.
As evidence of how Big Data has been around for a while, sabermetrics, the statistics and analytics of baseball, was being done on computers in the 1960s. We have more data now and better mathematics, but we are seeing an evolution that is expanding and gaining momentum. This is not a statement limited to baseball.
If you are now starting to look into Big Data, good, but get grounded quickly on what it can and cannot do for you. Big Data is just becoming the way we do things. 2015 will be a very good year for Big Data, I agree, but make it great for you and your organization. Whether or not you realize it, it is the basis for how music and movies are recommended to you, how retailers market to you, and increasingly how health treatments are determined for you.
Turn this around and employ Big Data and analytics to make smarter decisions. That doesn’t sound like a new idea for 2015, does it?
This blog entry is also available on LinkedIn.