“He’s a high school coach”.
That’s what I’d tell people when they asked what my father did for work. He was also a teacher for over 30 years. And a driver’s ed instructor. And a swimming pool manager.
But to my friends he was Coach Nordquist, and everyone who knew my father understood his love of athletics. He believed that participating in athletics could teach a young boy or girl lessons that academic classes could not.
Everyone knows what a coach does. Same goes for teacher, mechanic, dentist and electrician. None of these professions require further explanation. We all have a good idea of how a dentist spends his day.
I hadn’t given much thought to this topic until I overheard a conversation between Luca and Lincoln last week.
Lincoln: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Luca: “I don’t know. Maybe a baker”
Lincoln: “What does dad do at work?”
Luca: “I don’t know. Something with computers”
Although she’s only 7-years old, this is as good a description of my job as any I’ve heard before. In my career in technology, I’ve never had a job title that’s easy to describe to someone outside the industry. Not that job titles mean much anymore. I doubt few of my coworkers know my title is “Technical Operations Manager”. It’s so bland and so vague that many people probably hear “I’m the Technical blah blah blah blah….” They immediately tune out at technical.
Lately, my job feels like it’s changing each day. I used to think my primary responsibilities included hiring, training and leading a group of technicians who support Microsoft conferences, trade shows and product launches. Although these tasks are important, they don’t bring a lot of job satisfaction to me at the end of each day.
What does bring joy to my work is listening. Listening to the idea of new hires who haven’t become jaded by the industry. Listening to my best techs on how we can go after new business. And listening to customers who appreciate the work our people put in on their behalf. Leading doesn’t mean speaking all the time. Sure, occasionally my voice should be heard but it shouldn’t be the only voice that’s heard.
I still have a lot to learn, and I make a lot of mistakes. But I’m beginning to listen more which allows me to catch issues as they arise at an early stage. That gives me time to solve or at least minimize problems. But it doesn’t come naturally.
Years may pass before my kids are able to describe what I do at work. But until then I’m happy to hear them call me goofy dad.