Each day I take tons of actions and make lots of decisions, most of which are based off experiences I have had in the past. Things that I have seen and done before, become references for how I tackle similar challenges now. I have been thinking about this a lot lately and realized that while I rely on this store of experience every day, I have never taken the time to capture all the things I have learned. This is an attempt to do just that. The intent is mostly to keep these lessons learned fresh for myself but hopefully they will help others as well. If you find value in this, I would encourage you to do a similar exercise for yourself and share it so that others can benefit.
Below are all the jobs I have had (in chronological) order, a summary of the job function and a list of lessons learned at each stop.
I cut the grass for my grandparents and some neighbors. Seems like this is a first job for every kid out there.
- Value of Hard Work:
- This job was all about doing manual work, outdoors, usually in the heat. I learned that to get places in life you often must start at the bottom and work hard to prove your value.
- Word of Mouth
- I didn't work that hard-to-find people to mow lawns for, but I did find that as a did a good job, people would tell others about my work and I would have people approaching me to do their yards for them.
- Meeting Customers’ Expectations
- While the job was the same at each house, cut the grass, what that meant to each person was vastly different. Some wanted the bare minimum, cut the grass, and leave the clippings on the grass. Other wanted the clippings bagged and thrown away. Others also wanted the perimeter trimmed and the walks swept afterwards. If I had cut everyone’s grass the same way, I likely would not have been invited back to some of the houses. I learned you have to understand your customers’ needs and adapt what you do to deliver on those needs.
Grocery Store Clerk
I bagged groceries at a local grocery store. Was also responsible for collecting carts in the parking lot and helping customers load groceries into their cars. I worked this job while in high school, working almost full-time hours.
- Importance of Saving Money
- I learned this lesson by doing just the opposite. I worked this job for over a year, close to 40 hours a week, so my paychecks were large considering my age. However, by the time I was done with that job I had probably only saved a few hundred dollars. I couldn't tell you where all the money went, maybe CD's and fast food, but I walked away knowing that whatever I did next, I would be focused on saving any money I made.
- Your Reputation Follows You
- The store was near a retirement community, so I spent a lot of time helping senior citizens to their cars with their load of groceries. I always strived to put my best self forward in these situations. I would be polite and cheerful, be respectful and take special care with their purchases. Sometimes I would get an immediate reward of a tip, but the real payoff (unforeseen at the time) came years down the road, when I would interact with many of these same individuals again.
Maintenance and Landscaping Guy
I did landscaping and maintenance for a retirement community that was near the grocery store where I had worked previously. The location was a coincidence but did play a factor in the above lesson learned. Many of the people who I had helped at the store lived in this community, and their previous interactions with me, led them to be vary trusting of me, giving me lots of work to do.
- Hard Work Never Ends, But It Always Pays Off
- This was a job based solely on doing hard, physical work. Once a week we had to mow all the lawns in the community, this was about a 12-hour job. The rest of the week we would do various maintenance and landscaping work. I would come home exhausted everyday but also proud of all I had accomplished. I have seen this repeated throughout my career. It is the hard work, the stuff that pushes you the most mentally and physically, that you are most proud of looking back.
- Figure Things Out and Be A Life-Long Learner
- In this job myself and my partner would often be assigned to do things that we had no experience doing: replacing a pool filter, building a fence, re-roofing a house or remodeling a kitchen. When we were assigned tasks like this, we would follow a similar pattern. We would drive to the nearby Home Depot and look for a manual or employee with expertise in the task. We would then gather all the needed supplies and go back and get back to work. While doing this we would arrive at a step where we felt stuck and unsure of what to do. We would try to solve it ourselves or if we couldn't figure it out ourselves, we would consult our boss or some other expert. Along the way we built some ugly fences and some patchwork kitchens. But we continually refined our craft and when we encountered a new challenge, we found a way to get it done. This turned out to be a pattern for my entire career thus far, as I spend most days working on problems I've never seen before and finding a way to reach an optimal solution.
I worked here in the time between my first semester of school and my church mission. I worked for two engineers focused on logistics and warehousing. I attended client meetings, handled their communications, and learned CAD.
- Learning What You Don't Want to Do Is Just as Important As What You Want To Do
- Coming out of high school, I knew that I was going to go on a 2-year church mission. However, I also had a scholarship opportunity to attend engineering school at Gonzaga. Since I only had a short time before leaving on a mission, I went to my local school the University of Utah (where I had always wanted to go), which allowed me to knock out some generals, gave me more time to think about what I wanted to do and spend time with friends. Then between fall semester and leaving on my mission I had this internship. I quickly found that engineering, at least in the physical world, was not interesting or motivating to me. Without this internship I may way have come home after two years and moved out of state, only to find out I was unhappy pursuing an education in a subject that did not engage me.
Urgent Care Front Desk
This was the job I had for the majority of my time in undergrad. I worked at the front desk, answering phones, checking in patients, gathering information and payments. It was a great job for college because I could work 12 hour shifts on days, I did not have classes.
- Expect the Unexpected
- Working at an urgent care, especially one like ours that also did primary care, lab testing and workers comp, you never knew what was coming through the door next. You had to be ready for anything and as you encountered new scenarios, had to be able to quickly find an approach, both as an individual and working as a team. The constant uncertainty in volume, acuity and variety was a great training ground for quickly assessing situations and acting on the information available.
- Healthcare Is Broken
- It was here, working face to face with patients where I realized just how poorly designed and ran our health system is, and that it is truly not designed with patients at its core. It was challenging to have a patient present their insurance card and having to tell them that it wasn’t accepted at our location but could be used at the urgent care a block away. Or to tell a patient that they owed a large sum of money because the claim for their last visit was denied for some arbitrary reason. It became clear that patients were not literate about their coverage and care BUT it was unfair to expect them to be when the "experts" were not either and the system itself made little sense.
- Team Is Everything
- I was working here when my father passed away. It was an incredibly tough time for myself and for my family. My work team rallied and did all they could to ease the burden. They covered all my shifts for a month so I could have time away from work and focus solely on family. It was an incredible gift. And from that time forward I have strived to repay that gift to them and to every team I have joined. The circumstances may not always be (and hopefully won't be) that extreme, but there are always ways you can rally around those on your team who need extra support.
Health Unit Coordinator
This is the job I had for my last year of undergrad. I worked the night shift on the Mother and Baby unit at our local university health system. I answered phones, tracked visitors on the unit, gathered patient information when they were transferred to our unit and supported the nursing staff wherever possible.
- Find Your Limits and Push Them
- Typically, in this job I worked three 12-hour shifts in a row. The days after these shifts also happened to be the days, I had class (always in the middle of the day). What this meant was as soon as I was off work, I would commute home (about 45 minutes) sleep for 2-3 hours, commute back to the university where I had just been at work. Go to class for 2-3 hours. Then either go home and sleep for another 2-3 hours or sleep in my car. I would get up and commute back to the university for another 12-hour shift. It was one of the longest years of my life but showed me that when you have goals (Graduating and Support Your Family) you can push yourself very hard to reach those goals.
Health System Project Manager
I worked as a project manager for two different health systems. In the first role I was focused on project management for innovative projects and in the second I worked on adoption of a proprietary analytics platform. I worked these jobs while also in grad school full-time pursuing an MBA, MHA, and Certificate in Information Systems.
- Our Potential Is So Much More Than We Think
- When entering grad school taking the solely full-time school route was very appealing. But I was realistic in knowing I needed to work (both to limit student loans but also because we had a baby on the way) but I had worked full-time all of undergrad, so I knew it was possible. However instead of just doing full-time work and school, I decided to attack it. I worked harder than I ever had at work and had great results to show for it including a Forbes 30 Under 30 Fellowship and multiple promotions. At school I took on extra classes during the summer, graduated early and not only left with my two Master degrees and Certificate but also earned my Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and Certified Associate in Project Management. Taking the just school route would have been easy but I never would have learned how much I had inside of me.
- Importance of Relationships
- As a project manager you are responsible for leading teams and getting tough work done with no formal authority. You are often asked to meet a group of people for the first time, get them onboarded to the challenge and then lead them. Since you have no real authority the only way you can make progress is by building trusting relationships with them (even when there is formal authority this is the approach that works best anyways). Strong relationships help to ensure the success of the project but also become something you can rely on going forward as you take on other work and initiatives.
- Be A Servant Leader
- Leading others is not about tell them what to do or expecting them to do anything for you. Rather it is about showing them what you are willing to do for them, the project, and the organization. As they see your devotion it sets an example that they can model. I saw in my time in this role that all the leaders I admired were servant leaders and it became a model for me that I tried to emulate in my everyday life and actions.
Healthcare Tech Startup Project Manager
I worked for a healthcare data and analytics startup. As a project manager I worked on new product builds, supporting current products, implementing new customers and other internal initiatives.
- Be More Than Your Title
- There was more than plenty of project management work to do get done here, it would have been easy to just say 'I am a project manager" and do nothing but that all day. But instead stepped outside of that box and in doing so was able to grow so much as an individual. I got to dabble in Product Management, Data Development and Operations, Customer Support, as well as a much longer list. This was a benefit to the team and to our customers, but was also a huge benefit to myself, my skillsets grew, and it helped me see just how much I could do if I set my mind to it.
- Be A Glue Guy
- I worked on a team where almost everyone had more experience than me and was smarter than I was. It would have been easy to get lost and not pulled my weight but to make up for my gaps I sought to be the glue guy for the team. I strived to jump in and lend a hand wherever I could, to empower others and always support them. I wanted to show that I was willing to sacrifice my own time and needs if it meant other could get their done. Being a "glue guy" is great because there isn't much reward that comes from individual success, but there is nothing like the feeling of helping a team succeed.
Healthcare Tech Solution Design Consultant
This is my newest role that I just started in about 2 months ago. It has been a great start so far; I really love the team I work with and our customers are great. In the coming months I am sure I will have much to add to this list based in what I learn and do here.