Don’t Trap Your Career Growth

Getting In
Passion vs. Talent
Talents & Skills
Too Young/Too Old

You can get trapped limiting your growth even if you’re working at the highest level in your industry.

At one point in my career I ended up working at ITT Defense as a QC engineer on the Shuttle missions and GPS satellite project (which at the time was a highly classified government satellite system).

I mention this because I learned a lesson during that time that has stayed with me my whole life and is appropriate for everyone at any time in any position.

The Lessons unfolds…

I had just attended my first high level engineering meeting.  In attendance were ranking officers from the Air Force, Navy, NASA and executives from other government aerospace vendors.

I was there with my supervisor, Paul Gallo.  Paul had spent his career in aerospace programs, starting on Mercury and Apollo missions to the then present Shuttle and GPS. At one time or another he had worked for all the major engineering vendors, Lockheed, Boeing, Grumman, etc.

He had held a wide swath of technical and managerial positions and was a great mentor for me, who had never been exposed to this world at all.

As we left this meeting I was amazed at the project manager, who was a highly positioned executive at ITT Defense with over 25 years on the job, was spinning the meeting round and round seemly lost looking for a solution, while I could hear the other attendees offering up dozens of logical and simple strategies.

Once back in Paul’s office I asked the magical question, “With all the years of experience the project manager had, why was it so hard for him to see the obvious solutions being presented.”

His answer was so profound it escaped my understanding at the moment. Paul answered never looking up from his desk and very matter of factly said, “That’s because he only has one year of experience for twenty years”.

Weeks later when I finally realized what Paul meant, it changed my perception of how I’d been judging people’s talent.  Instead of “years on the job”, I started listening to the diversity of the challenges people faced and how they came to master those challenges along the way.

I learned to listen intently to how and why they derived a particular solution regardless of their title or “years on the job”.

It became clear to me that a diversity of challenges over a short period of time was sometimes worth much more than solving the same challenges over a long period of time.

This article was my long way of saying….

Never feel that just because someone has been doing a job for a long time, that they have gained a lifetime of knowledge.

Always keep the diversity of challenges as your goal not counting the years you’ve put in on the same job.

Pay attention to how people process the information around them.

How willing are they to listen and evaluate new approaches or ideas?

Do they always seek solutions from the same people?

Do they seek out new sources of input?

How efficiently can they accomplish the task at hand? 

Pick your mentor not solely by title or position. Pay close attention how they manage both people and problems….


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