Eight Lessons in Eight Months

By Anne Weise

Starting a new job sometimes feels like a rollercoaster ride. The first month is always filled with countless impressions, ideas and new learnings. For me, coming from an old-fashioned, giant IT company, working at ThoughtWorks was like opening a door to a new world.

Are you thinking about joining ThoughtWorks and want to get some insight into how we work? In this blog I would like to share with you, my first impressions and my understanding of what it means to be a ThoughtWorker.

Here are the lessons I’ve learnt:

1. Don’t be Afraid

January 5, 2015 was a very, very exciting day for me. It was my first day at ThoughtWorks. I couldn’t wait to start and was very eager to get into the ThoughtWorks world, working with diverse people with varying backgrounds, but with the same goals. I had met so many people during the interviews, each impressive in their own way. I heard many life stories, ideas and news about current projects that at the end of the day, I was not only happy and strongly impressed, but felt a little overrun and asked myself — “Wow, how do I keep pace with them?”. I don’t speak four languages, I haven’t lived in a foreign country, I haven’t worked on social projects — I am ‘just’ a normal, German Business Analyst, with a few years’ experience in IT projects. It took me some time, but I realised that it doesn’t matter who you are, there is always a place for a passionate professional. If you bring your authentic self to the interview discussion, you are likely to enjoy the experience. That eventually makes it all so much easier. So give it a shot, if that’s what you want to do.

2. Keep an Open Mind

In the last eight months, I met so many people with amazing ideas, I heard a lot of great talks and participated in a lot of interesting discussions. It’s not that I agree with everything, but having my mind open for new influences makes me more creative and ambitious than before. I’ve learnt new things everyday at work. You have the chance to try out new methods and can define the way of working with your team. Use this chance. Ask yourself — “Do I have innovative ideas”? Please believe that you do, keep your eyes and mind open and that will naturally lead you to new ideas and draw out your potential. You may think — “I know what I am doing and it has been working the last several years”. It is awesome that you were successful, but remember that we can always improve. Collect other ideas and compare them to yours. Take the chance to broaden your horizon, grow your mind and widen your skill set.

3. Ask Questions

Starting a new journey always means facing new challenges and leaping into the unknown. Isn’t that what gives it that extra zing? Of course, sometimes it is frustrating if you are stuck and see no way out. The upside is that you are not alone. There is a mob of ThoughtWorkers around you. Raise your hand and feel free to ask questions. It can be for small administrative or technical issues like — “Where is the ‘right-click’ on my Mac?”. It can be for groundbreaking, future-oriented questions — “What can I do to be a Lead BA?”. It can even be just out of curiosity — “Why do we have so many unicorns on our desks?”. If you are lost or are just interested to know something, reach out to one of your team members. I’ve learned that nobody will rebuff you. Even if they cannot help you by themselves, they will help you to find someone who can. Regard your new world with curiosity and ask questions. The only stupid question is the unsaid one.

4. Be Relaxed

Working for ThoughtWorks opened up so many opportunities for me and offered so many paths to follow. My mind is flooding with ideas, which were growing and changing over and over. I wished that I could clone myself and start my personal projects all at once. And occasionally, I felt a bit paralyzed and incapable to start even one of those projects. You know what? It is okay. I needed to learn to be a little more patient with myself. Nobody is expecting that you change the world in one day — so why are you? Take your first steps calmly and arrive into your new world. Acclimatize. Take your time to think about which path you would like to follow and then go forward. And, if you are uncertain, remember lesson #3 — ask someone. Meet smart people, get inspiration and support.

5. Let Your Ideas be Challenged

As ThoughtWorkers, we are often disruptive thinkers. We want to influence the world to make it better, fair, and modern. We want to use technology to make a difference to our clients and try to do better than ‘business as usual’. This is an ambitious goal — and the realization starts in our daily work. In comparison to my former companies, I learned that we cannot blindly follow a ’we are changing the world’ strategy dictated only by the top-level management. Our behaviour and ideas sprout from our vision. So, it’s imperative to share every idea. This is the seed for change. Challenge your colleagues’ ideas, they will challenge yours too. They don’t want to belittle them or make them irrelevant. Challenging means validating and improving ideas to get the best out of them. Leaving a footprint in our world is much easier with a collaborative, disruptive team.

6. Collect and Give Feedback

One of the first things to learn at ThoughtWorks is receiving and giving feedback. You think this is an old hat? Are you bored of feedback training because you have been taught regularly to sandwich negative feedback between two pieces of positive feedback? Honestly, so am I. But, please forget all of that. At ThoughtWorks, we have a healthy feedback culture. It is an essential part of our daily work. Feedback in this sense is to strengthen confidence and improve people’s effectiveness. It is an open dialogue for you to reflect upon and improve your behaviour or approach. It is not given as a judgement or to finger point with a most friendly veneer. Collecting and giving feedback is a gift which should help everyone of us to grow every day.

7. Collective Support

My first steps into the ThoughtWorks world were always with open-minded, friendly people. I never had the feeling of being on my own. If I needed support (even if i didn’t realise it), someone was by my side to guide me through the jungle and help me find my way. Working in a ThoughtWorks team allows you to do great projects with smart people, learn fast and enables you to grow. Realising that I am a ThoughtWorker, I am responsible to encourage my team members too. There’s growth and development for yourself in coaching or mentoring someone else. Own it.

Having the strong belief that we can reach every goal together, I can easily write my last lesson learned:

8. Have Fun!

… and enjoy every day. It’s up to you to make your journey a great adventure.


Originally published at www.thoughtworks.com on September 16, 2015.