Be the dumbest kid in the room.
“A gem cannot be polished without friction, or a man perfected without trials.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I’ve worked in tech and digital marketing for around twelve years now, and I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked with some very talented people, without whom I would not be the person, or the team member I am today.
I’m still far from perfect and will always be a work in progress, actually, I should re-frame that to something more like, “I hope to always be a work in progress”, because that’s what I’d like to express in this piece.
We live and work in a world that is incomparable with the world of our parents. Where most of us are aware that security, whether it be economic, vocational, or financial does not exist. A world where bubbles can and do burst, where automation will see up to 6% of jobs in the US eliminated by 2021, and where we have stopped trusting our politicians, and our news networks.
Growing up in this evolving world has fundamentally changed how we live. We no longer have a, ‘beginning — middle — end’, view of our lives with traditional milestones such as property ownership, marriage, and retirement to signify our progression through each stage in life. Instead our goals are moving towards much more personalised success indicators, such as growth, experience, contribution to society and happiness.
This is reflected in our career choices and trajectories, with more people than ever choosing to work remotely or for distributed teams (a 500% increase in the past 5 years), the career decisions we’re making now are made as much on, “where do I want to work” as, “who do I want to work with”.
Personally, “who do I want to work with”, has been a a question I have intuitively asked myself throughout my career, and I’m grateful to all of the people, much smarter than me, that have let me work with them and learn from them, and who have helped shape who and where I am today. I don’t plan on letting that education, or mentorship end now that I take care of finding and hiring team members.
I always hire team members that are smarter than me. At this stage in my career and in my current role at Awne, the most important contribution I can make is to enable my team to deliver at the highest possible level, as quickly and as painlessly as possible. I no longer need to be at the cutting edge of coding, natural search algorithms or any of the other specialisms that I have worked in over the past twelve years. It’s my job to make sure the team work well together, to find our blind spots, to plan ahead of our current delivery schedule and to provide all of the resources that allow them to make magic happen, and in the process of doing so I can continue to learn and grow not only in specialisms but also as a team member. In short, it’s now my job to be the dumbest kid in the room.
Now, I don’t want to portray a false sense of humility in this post, I’m not all that humble, and I do know my value and contribution level within my teams. What I am trying to impress is that, “who do I want to work with”, will always be a driving factor for me, no matter what position I am in. I want to hire or work with team members that inspire me, teach me, and push me to do and to be better. By consciously attempting to ensure I’m the dumbest kid in the room, I not only get the benefits of a kind of reverse-mentorship, but I make sure that we deliver magic beyond the capabilities of, ‘jack-of-all/do-everything’, team members, which hopefully, means our users will be delighted by the products we deliver.
Something that’s a great inspiration to me is the #recommendedreading slack channel we have at Awne, so I’ll share a couple of recommendations from it with each post.
Letters from a self made merchant to his son
George Horace Lorimer
This is actually a wonderful collection of letters written by John Graham, Head of a pork packing company which operated out of Chicago in the 1800’s. In them he expounds life lessons to his son, which are as relevant today as they were then.
The Scots’ Invention of the Modern World
As a Scot, I’m obviously biased. But it’s truly remarkable; The first modern nation - The first literate society - The ideas for (modern) democracy and free markets, all originated in Scotland.