“We all have two aspects of ourselves: who we are and what we do. What’s more important: the who or the what?”
I vividly remember that interview question from my first interaction with Ecosystems. I was a senior in college and had seen the job posting for a software developer online. I decided to schedule an on-campus interview. That question was one of the most memorable, asked by two Ecosystems team members sitting across from me at the table. I must have answered the question adequately in that interview, because I got the job offer letter not long after that.
It’s been 10 years since that offer letter and my first day at Ecosystems. When I think about my time here, there are a few consistent lessons that stand out:
1. Try New Things — to Grow Professionally and Personally
When I started working at Ecosystems, the development team would conduct weekly phone calls with customers to align on priorities. I would join the calls every week and listen. Gradually, I found myself participating more and more in the calls. Soon enough, I was leading them on my own.
Another example of a new professional experience would be leading recruiting and new hire training for the software development team. We are currently expanding the team, which means I’m facing an interesting challenge of welcoming new hires to our team and making sure they are set up to be successful. I’ve also had the opportunity to give a tour of Ecosystems’ living room.
The Ecosystems team has also encouraged me to grow personally. I remember when Ecosystems got me to try sushi. I kept thinking, “This is raw. It shouldn’t be edible.” But I tried it, and now I’m hooked. There have been many fun “firsts,” like trying Cuban food, attending a baseball game, and dressing up for Halloween, in addition to the professional growth.
2. Communicate with the Audience in Mind
When I started working, I remember Ecosystems’ careful approach to communicating clearly. Ecosystems taught me that the most effective way to communicate with a value consultant would not involve explaining the intricacies of code. It’s not a good use of time, because the software team and the value consultants wouldn’t share the same perspective.
Ecosystems’ point—that it is important to understand the audience and develop communication appropriately—has proved true over and over. It takes thought and preparation to communicate precisely and effectively with a wide variety of people, whether they are value consultants, executives, customers, or job candidates. That requires constant awareness of the perspective of the audience, whether it’s an audience of one or 100. When crafting a message, I’ve learned to ask myself questions that the audience might have. Where are they coming from? How can I communicate what I want to say most effectively?
3. The Value of Empathy and RICHES
Working in code all day means that there’s a certain preference to value reasoning and logic over emotional intelligence. Coming from that perspective, it’s been especially interesting to see the value of “soft” skills in my time at Ecosystems. Qualities like empathy and listening are skills that I always had but would often ignore, or just not think of as very important. I’ve come to recognize the incredible value of these qualities, in addition to technical skills. When combined, these qualities are also an essential part of the “R” for respect in our core values, “RICHES.”
One way we practice these concepts every day is by identifying nonverbal cues in conversation and responding to them. It guides how we get the intended message across and how we build relationships that are effortless and enjoyable. Soft skills influence the development team by how we approach software (“is this interface intuitive?”), how we communicate with clients, and of course, our own personal lives.
These skills are not easy to teach. As I look to grow the development team, it’s very important that we find new hires who possess these qualities. You could say that it all comes back to my first interview and that one memorable question: the who is just as important—if not more important—than the what. It’s been an exciting 10 years at Ecosystems, and I’m looking forward to what the next 10 years hold.