The president of my company, Mark Griffis at Aviture, posed a question to all of us months back: What is your “Why” ? What drives us in our position at the company, in our careers, in our lives? Why are we here? I believe his goal was to inspire us to identify our own career path, desires, and goals and to take ownership of them. With the support of him and everyone else at the company, lets start achieving those goals.
First it starts with Why. The why is what subconsciously got us to where we are now. It’s what gives us energy. It’s what makes us feel successful, and happy. It’s an underlying force that influences our decisions and our future. If we can understand our why, we can harness that internal drive and start leading our careers down a path that innately gives us energy and allows us the highest chance for success.
My Struggle to Why
Uncovering and understanding my why was tough.
I have always been a determined, career oriented person. I have advanced very quickly and have made my career what I have wanted it to be. But I couldn’t readily answer my why. Of course I strived for
certain hygiene factors and some superficial things like: high salary, being a top performer, recognition and having fun.
But what was my drive in pursuing these characteristics in the realm of software, problem solving, the web and agile processes? I spent a week trying to figure out why I really enjoyed writing software one day, learning agile another, mentoring new college grads a month later, and catching up on UX design principles right after. I was confused why it was so hard, until it clicked.
I like to solve problems in innovative ways. For me, Innovation isn’t about giving people what they want, but what they didn’t know they needed. When a group starts hearing these off the wall, innovative solutions they all of a sudden need them and start seeing a future they didn’t realize was there. I like to be a driving force in that discovery and change.
I like to implement those ideas. I want to make a real difference. I want to see those ideas through and learn from them. Learn what works and doesn’t work so next time I can apply the good concepts and discard the bad.
Innovative problem solving is my base but I am also really good at software and web development. I can learn and apply technical concepts, the latest technology, and computer science very quickly. I have always had a passion to understand all the things around technology which has excelled my abilities in actually implementing these innovative ideas. I focus on web development over other tech because it has the biggest opportunity to impact the most people at once, to help the most people at once. That drive of problem solving for large numbers of people and my development abilities mixed together is definitely why I am here at Aviture.
Problem solving for me isn’t limited to just software. My interests fluctuate between new technologies, product improvements, and people problems. These are prioritized with what I think will have the greatest impact at the time. I co-found the Agile for Defense Meetup because I discovered that many teams and smart, innovative people were not producing anything useful on their projects. It’s often not any individual’s fault or problem, it’s the situation, system, assumptions, lack of ownership and empowerment which has lead to software being built the way it was. For a handful of us, we saw a way of improving that which was mostly solving people problems: how we communicate what’s desired, how we work together, and how we cultivate an innovative approach to producing usable software. This problem at the time had a much greater impact than any particular software problem on the project I was working on. So that interested me the most and I was really driven to solve that human problem.
I find myself going back and forth between technology, product improvement and people problems. It’s what is needed at the time mixed with the most innovative ideas I can implement that will make real differences. That’s what drives me. That’s my why.
Since identifying my why a couple months back, I have been able to effect change that I am excited about.
I have started taking conscious and intentional actions in leveraging my drive at work. I started to identify opportunities to participate in innovative solutions on the projects I am working on, and on project I am not. Some of my most energetic and exciting days have been days helping other teams with high impact innovations that I have already exhausted on my current team.
I have had help from others in satisfying my why. After sharing my first draft with our president, I have had very open and frequent discussions with him about ideas, options and opportunities that could fulfill my why. Mark has engaged in it so much he sometimes questions ideas of mine on how they may conflict or not line up entirely with my why. This level of engagement would not have been possible without writing down and sharing my why.
I have started activities outside of work that give me energy and happiness. Agile for Defense was one success of this that I hadn’t formally broken down and understood. With my new found clarity, I have shared my desire for innovation and brainstorming with others who have a similar drive and we are starting to brainstorm on unbounded inventions. This is a new exploration for me that I am excited to see where it leads.
My changes are rewarding in and of themselves, but they are one sided. I haven’t gotten to explore what would happen if I were aware of your Why. What could we start accomplishing if we understood what drove each other? So I ask you to do the following:
Consider your Why. Write it down. Share it. Be proud of it. And most importantly, start achieving it.