The Time to Question

I was recently talking to a friend of a friend (now, of course, a friend, directly), who was in Bangalore, potentially looking for a job change. We had a few really good intellectual discussions which I wanted to record here, for safeguarding it from the merciless villain that is, forgetfulness.

Over a Costa Coffee, my friend, who was a working a global management consulting firm, looking for a switch to a financial company, described how he perceived the work that he was getting, to which I added some thoughts.
Basically, when you first join a job, you are pretty much told what you need to do. The work is usually cut out, based on a clear set of requirements from your manager, or a directive from your boss to do something that you have previously done in the past. I drew parallels to both these instances from working at my present role, and found both of them to be quite straightforward and easy to do.

With the passage of time, of course, this would become repetitive, and you begin to explore what more can be done. And here we must pause, because the juncture at which you as an individual realize that you can actually do more than you were tasked to, or that you begin to take on the right to question what is given, that is where you start contributing real, irreplaceable value.
Now, even with my limited employment experience, I begin to question what I am doing, and how I can make it better, faster, easier to comprehend, etc (usually through the powerful use of technology). I would begin asking, how can I use technology to make this better. My friend suggested, take it a step forward “”Why technology””. I had a pretty good answer (keywords: “”multiplicative effect””, “”do-once-run-forever””).

At this point, I realized that fundamentally, everything must be questioned to the absolute core. Why technology? To improve something? Why improve something? To make it better? Why? To serve customers better? Why? …. this process should go on, until the only answer you have is a test of how strong your company’s or your personal Vision and Mission holds against what you are doing.

And of course, where do the vision and mission come from? Well, someone has to sit and write them. A rather famous quote went something along the lines of “”If you aren’t working for your own dream, you are helping someone else’s dream come true””.

I thought I should end this short note with a few points from my discussion, lest I forget them.
1. Initially, absorb what it is that you are doing, and what you need to do it (from your peers, managers, parents)
2. Start questioning what you are doing, why, and how
3. Question all the way till you can define yourself and your organization.
4. Turn Questions into possible ways of improvement, focusing on the sticky points of your line of questioning, or abandon the current process for a better one (e.g. Why are we rewriting code in different languages => Switch to WebApps, etc)
5. Add value to whatever you are doing, making an impact that is attributable to you, a legacy to leave behind.

No process is perfect, and there is always scope to improve. The key lies in your ability to question things, and improve on them. Absorb, then question.

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