Personal Development

Skills as Inventory

Each of us has something unique, something that only we can provide, and which makes us attractive candidates to work in the employ of others. Much like a business providing a product or service to its customers, we all provide a marketable good. Also much like a business, value is created when we provide it well. But just what is this value built around?

Although we are often measured by the deliverable work we have completed, I suggest that the retained value is not built around the delivered work, but rather the ability to deliver.

The environment in which we do our work has a broad impact on the quality of work that will be delivered. An organization might have the best gear to help you better do your job or perhaps its managers are skilled leaders and can coach you to be more successful in a specific role or vertical. Then again, these features might not be there and an employee will work longer or more taxing hours for the same deliverable success. This reason alone highlights how important flexibility is. A more skilled person will be more valuable because they can deliver results in both environments, although the results themselves might not be the best measure of their value.

When someone graduates from college, they typically start to put together a résumé as the next step in their career. On paper, the measure of their value might at first appear to be the courses covered and the knowledge learned. Although a recent graduate might still remember much of the curriculum for their area of study, I propose that the real created value is the ability to problem solve within a certain area.

Perhaps I am biased as a student of Political Science and Philosophy who is now working in Marketing and leading a Business Development unit. My value was built around problem solving, critical thinking and persistence. Although the texts of Hobbes, Locke, and Roussseau might fade in my memory over time, my ability to process their work, draw real-world connections and express critical reactions still serves me today.

Much like a company whose unique value proposition is contained not by the goods it produces but by its ability to produce, a person’s professional value is similarly contained within their ability. Although a paper resumé creates a false sense of being measured by lists of experiences and proficiencies, much more realistic is the value measured by potential to succeed.

Whether you are evaluating a job applicant or applying for a new role yourself, understanding this distinction will help the right talent flourish in the right role. An inventory of experiences does nothing for a business. What these experiences do is to display how the more critical inventory of skills was put to use in the past. In a world of finite resources, converting inventory into value is at the core of what we do every day.

Coding for Exercise

There is a range that exists between folks for whom code means a bucket of ones and zeros and those for whom programming is equal parts lifestyle and livelihood. I exist somewhere in the middle, with the novice understanding of ones and zeros still large in my rear-view mirror. For me, code has been a hobby; a way to exercise my brain and get outside of my comfort zone.

Focusing almost entirely on business development for our digital marketing agency, my daily interactions with code are usually limited to hitting “CTRL + F” to find a prospect or client’s Google Analytics code or some errant “no index, no follow” text. Hardly an engaging interaction with a programming language, and certainly a far cry from actually running anything I’ve written myself.

After spending the last 2 weeks working through an online introduction to javascript class, I am finding something curious happen. Sure, I’m thoroughly enjoying the course (thank you Code School), and having fun with the exercises. Coding for fun each night after work has helped me leave stress behind and fill my head with something that is both engaging and soothing.

My business development role gives me an opportunity meet new people every day and I am learning so much about both running an agency and the challenges that brand-side marketers face. Coding at home, on the other hand, give me an opportunity to challenge my perspective and apply critical thinking in a different way. I work through the problems in my head as I’m falling asleep and when I arrive at work the next day, I’m thinking more clearly and I have a broader sense of fulfillment than I did before. It’s been a great experience and I’ll probably even come away with some useful basic javascript skills.

Personal Goals for 2013

All this recent talk about goals and here I am without any set for myself. I’ve given it some thought and outlined 4 goals that I’m going to pursue in the next year. I’m not sure what metrics I’ll consider when measuring these; perhaps that will come as a later post. When the calendar says 2014, I want to be able to look back and know that I did the following.

Become more technical

During my time at VisionScape I took huge leaps forward in understanding the technology behind our web app, our desktop app and the API holding them together. Every time that a new challenge came up or a new feature was outlined, my goal was to understand the moving parts as completely as possible. I did have to be sensitive to asking questions that went outside my role; there’s nothing worse than a project manager that doesn’t know when to get out of the way and let developers develop. While VisionScape gave me a first-hand view into the implementation of complex web and desktop technologies, my future at DragonSearch promises to provide a much more comprehensive understanding of CMS technologies and foundational website design and structure. I’m fortunate to be working with a Conversion Rate Optimization and Landing Page Optimization specialists. Acting now on the strategic side of development, my new role places me in the conversation much earlier and this broader view has already proved itself to be a fantastic opportunity to learn.

Develop a more comprehensive understanding of running a business

Working with company that’s farther along in their growth means that I can see what the other side of the 20 employee threshold looks like. We have revenue goals, salary goals, infrastructure goals, technology goals, cultural goals, etc. In order to meet these goals, we need sustained growth and increased revenue. Taking a close look at the costs of acquiring new business, the cost of acquiring new talent, and the cost of creating greater depth in our company (rather than increasing head count to increase breadth) is an exciting challenge. I’m fortunate to be part of this part of the business. The experience is invaluable.

Kick ass at Business Development

Although technology really is fun and exciting (and much better cocktail conversation), business development has always been a natural fit for me when compared to coding and such. Every role I’ve held in my adult life has involved biz dev and, as sexy as technology is, my ability to offer something unique and excel in that area cannot be discounted. I believe that you should find what you do best and find a way to do it better. I want to kick ass at business development.

Stay hip to startup culture

Ok; this is a freebie (mostly since I read Hacker News to unwind). The reason I am making this a goal is because it is fun and I like being aware of what folks are doing to get their projects off the ground. Fun goals are important and it would be exciting to get involved in a startup again in the future. Certainly meeting the other goals above will point me in the right direction.