What I Do

In my previous post, I wrote about quitting my job. As difficult as it is for me to quit, it is even more difficult to stay in a position where my interests and passions are not well-aligning with my opportunity to fulfill them. So what are those interests and passions?

IMG_0698My interest and passion is in helping people reach their full potential. How do I do that? Mostly through the field of “Organizational Development”. This subset of Human Resources goes a lot deeper than just training – a one-time event – and looks at the full experience of talent within your organization.

How do you find, attract, and on-board the right people? How do you get them up-to-speed quickly? How do you ensure that all of the processes, incentives, expectations, and tools align with the outcomes you expect from your people? How do you ensure they can perform at a high level? And how do you retain them, giving them new opportunities and the ability to advance? All of these fall under the “HR OD” umbrella.

IMG_0694At one level, my work still involves building and delivering workshops. I find myself in front of a conference room full of people, helping them make sense of different subjects and, most importantly, understanding how to apply those subjects in their day-to-day-work.

The workshop delivery itself is just a small part of my work. The more important part is looking at the underlying skills and capabilities people need and what those look like when applied in real life. “Communication” is a broad thing: what does effective communication look like when you are conducting a 9:00 am Monday sales meeting? By knowing this level of detail, I can design learning interventions that best help people build those skills and capabilities.

IMG_0696Ultimately, I find it very satisfying when I hear back from people weeks, months, and even years later, telling me that something I said, some way I explained things, helped make them more effective in their jobs. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from some people I worked with 15 or 20 years ago – in the late 1990s! – who thanked me and shared what they learned from me.

That’s ultimately the most satisfying part of my work, and it is the reason that I am heading to a situation that I think will better allow me to achieve more of that.

The Reason Why

sta-clara-university I owe you an explanation.  Normally, I don’t time-stamp past entries back into the present.  In this case, though, I felt the need to time-stamp the “Getting to Know Me” entry because I anticipated some new visitors after I participated Wednesday morning in a panel discussion about working overseas.

A few months ago, the director of the Santa Clara University career center contacted me.  She was looking for alums who currently live and work overseas to participate in a panel discussion.  I eagerly accepted the invitation, being a strong believer in the importance of networking.

This was to be the university’s first-ever panel discussion hosted via Skype video conference call and streamed live.  It took a few practice calls for the director and the panelists to work out most of the technical glitches.  The experience actually served to illustrate one of the challenges of living and working overseas: unreliable internet service!

SCU Mission Gardens
The lush grounds of Mission Gardens at my alma matter.

The discussion itself lasted an hour and featured eight panelists: two from Thailand, three from China, and one each from India, New Zealand, and Nicaragua.  An hour didn’t give us a lot of time but we were able to talk about what made our work-abroad experiences unique and what suggestions or advice we would give people interested in working abroad.

While there were a lot of different experiences, there were at least two common themes:

  • First, the importance of networking.  Whether through your alumni association or just through informal socializing, when you live abroad, many of your best breaks will happen because of a friend-of-a-friend or an “Oh, I was just talking to someone the other day who is looking for someone with that skill” conversation.
  • Second, you really have to be patient and take the big picture view.  Living overseas – and especially working overseas – involves a lot of challenges and uncertainties.  Few things ever go the way you plan and even fewer go easily.  Being able to put things in context and not let small things bend you out of shape will help save your sanity.

Near the end of the call, I shared my blog address as an additional resource for people who might be curious what life in Thailand is like.  That’s why I anticipated some new traffic.  If the first thing they saw was a picture of the emergency slide rafts of a Boeing 747, they might get the wrong impression.

If you are interested, you can view the recorded event here at Livestream.com.  There were a few technical glitches but all in all, still interesting.