Prior to founding INVENTtPM, Dr. Smith spent 10 years with Seagate Technology in Longmont, Colorado. At Seagate, Dr. Smith was primarily responsible for evaluating new data storage technologies under development throughout the company, and utilizing six-sigma processes to stage them for implementation in early engineering models. While at Seagate, he was a proud member of the team that brought the world’s first notebook disk drive with perpendicular recording technology to the market.
Dr. Smith holds a doctorate in Applied Mechanics from the California Institute of Technology, a Master of Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
If you are like most of the people reading this, the term “network management” conjures images of blinking, multi-colored lights and little black boxes sprouting wires in all directions. The network itself is a paranormal entity with a soul of its own that inhabits this aggregate of metal and plastic. This beast meditates to the sacred exclamation of a 60-Hz Aum in the presence of incense vaguely reminiscent of burning phenolic.
Over the years, numbed by the recurrent paranoia of catastrophic loss, I have become conditioned to trust “the network” with the precious output of my engineering efforts. On those occasions when it appears to have failed me, a plea to the IT helpdesk usually begets the same opening question – “Did you save your data?” This is not reassuring. After 35 years in the data storage industry, I know too much.
By now, you have probably guessed that networks, at least those that blink and hum, are not the foundation of my skill set. I comfort myself with the knowledge that today’s technical landscape is way too complex for one to know everything, and that there are experts available to me to tame the network beast (Tim, Tony, Joke, Denny, Ray and Chris, exempli gratia). They represent the cloud of networking expertise, the collective team through which distributed knowledge is channeled to its final point of impact.
There was a time when “teams” were the business idea du jour. There was talk of “rapid team development”, core teams, and rewards for team players (along with whispered criticism for non team players). Both of our kids participated in team sports in high school, and we would file out of the gym after many a contest humming the mantra, along with all the other parents, of the benefits of learning to play on a team.
“Doesn’t play well with others” jumped from the kindergarten report card to the sarcastic vernacular of our times.
On television, an unruly crowd of Survivor-like programming calls attention to the power of teams in navigating the tortuous path to success. While hardly a virtuous role model for business and networking, they highlight teams as a natural supplement to offset our individual limitations. Grudges, revenge and hidden agendas aside, there is great potential to be unleashed. Teams are in our DNA; they are the sandbox in which we share resources, trade favors, and leverage our own unique gifts to achieve greater goals.
If there is one common thread that seems to run through every bit of job hunting advice I have read, heard or been harangued with this past year it is this; 80% of jobs are “hidden”, and can only be exposed through a process known as networking. The network referred to here is a human one, a living team, the essence of which courses not through copper and silicon, but rather through neurons and veins. The optimal path to finding a job is clear, but I remain disheartened by thoughts of my own messy, dysfunctional networking team.
In order to reconnect with the valuable contacts I had made throughout my long career, I would need to seek out those who had wronged me, in real or imagined ways, and proffer grace. There were those against whom I had built walls over non-answered phone calls and emails, or to whom I had failed to respond in their own hour of need; with these I must find a way to make peace. Those without jobs might benefit from my help; those with jobs were already overwhelmed (“job security” registers high on the oxymorometer, much like “military intelligence” or “fiscal integrity”). My epiphany was this – the helpdesk for this living team had resided in my own heart all along.
For now, my front yard is a mass of black boxes, blinking lights, and snaking cables. I will soon initiate a mass mailing campaign, directed at all the names in my holiday Rolodex, popping in the family Curriculum Vitae for 2009. I will attend countless face-to-face networking events, fueled by eggnog and peppermint bark, promising to get together more often in the coming year. It is a very real season of networking, but not to expand my LinkedIn list nor to slide smoothly past the HR gatekeepers and locate the mythical Hiring Manager. It is a purer, simpler time – a time for joy, celebration, and promise.
Grace and Peace to all...