“Wake up, get your shirt on and let’s go”. The car was already warming up, engine chugging and steam filling up the front yard from the exhaust on a frosty morning. I remember the first day I ever worked. My dad would take me to the loading dock at IKEA at 6am on a Saturday so that I could help him wash the truck that he drove. It took me an hour and a half and I got $5. He made up that job for me. It didn’t really exist but it taught me to get up early, work hard and contribute. He even made me wear his old work shirt. On one Saturday it was the weekend of a sale at IKEA, they were short staffed and the warehouse manager needed help, he saw me working and then asked if I could help customers by collecting trolleys and putting the orders on them - I said “sure”. The energy and buzz I got from being in the moment, I would optimize the routes I would walk through the warehouse, the way I would memorize the product article numbers and the feeling that helping people gave, especially when they acknowledge through any sort of compliment. It made me feel alive and connected. But I felt that I really had made it when I could wear the same shirt as my dad, but it was my own, not one of his old ones.
I started my career in technology on the helpdesk of Borland software - supporting dBASE, Paradox, C++ and Delphi among others. I sat in the back of a training course on my first week and immersed myself in learning. I still remember the instructor, Steve N., whom I hung off every word. During my second week I had to assemble a PC from a pile of pieces and start supporting customers. It was thrilling and in those days, a lot of the support was on the phone. Being put on the spot, helping someone with coding or technical questions in real time was quite an experience. Soon I learned that the goal wasn’t to be an encyclopedia of answers, it was to show empathy, accuracy and understanding of the issue at hand and then work towards a solution by tapping into the minds and other resources available to my team. I had the opportunity to learn from others around the world throughout Asia, the Americas and Europe.
Training and Support stood out to me as the two pillars, or bookends, for what made things work. Those bookends, combined with a strong work ethic that put the customer first, would allow customers to get past the roadblock that they were facing and continue to have an impact on their users, their customers and their businesses. They could be the hero, we had their backs. During this time I would also spend time on the Borland forums sharing knowledge by answering questions and learning from others. It wasn’t required to do this, it was a free resource for our customers, but I found that sharing what I knew helped others get better and ultimately helped our team and company serve our customers better.
Fast forward 20 years from this time and whilst the technology stacks and world has changed in so many ways - some things haven’t: