Sunday, January 2, 2022

What I learned in 2021

My blogging hasn't been prolific the last year, or really couple years. There is a variety of reasons. Dubuque, Iowa was uniquely set up for a person without Internet to blog, plus I was single and in my middle 20s. Independence, Kansas was not, and while Longmont, Colorado definitely is, a pandemic isn't. Well, I've had gigabit speed Internet since about my third day of working from home. I bummed low speed from a neighbor for a couple days but quickly realized that didn't cut it for video chats and loading large CAD models. However I only worked full time remote for three weeks in March and the first week of April 2020, and I've been in person nearly five days a week ever since. That's all a long way of saying, I've been focused on other things and not blogging, even though the learning to do I've done is pretty great.

I'm going to focus on one simple lesson I relearned multiple times in 2021: communication can always be improved. At my company I recently passed over 100 formal interviews I have conducted, with a dozen or so more informal ones I've been a part of. In a recent interview I made a comment that "no one in the world has perfect communication" and was struck by how true that actually is. I like to imagine I communicate well, and I think I do, yet miscommunications happen all the time. To give an example, I have a girlfriend who is incredible, and we've been dating since August 2020, and it's going well, yet we still miscommunicate. In many ways I've found having a significant other exposes communication issues better than any corporate setting. 

As I write this I have 11 years of industry experience. I've held six distinctly different engineering positions. Additionally I have a technical master's degree that I completed before I really entered industry. After going on a lot of first and second dates, I have a long term girlfriend for our third calendar year. Additionally, I've done well running and climbing, the later involving climbing partners and trying to describe those relationships is outside the bounds of this blog post. Point being, 10 years ago when I was writing I didn't understand relationships the way I do now. Communication is so important. Sure I've always communicated, but how is it that we stumble over our miscommunication more as we get older?

I read a few months ago an anecdote about how everyone is struggling with something. I think that's really true. When someone flips out that I'm wearing a KN-85 mask, they don't know I had a pulmonary embolism in 2018 and honestly it could have killed me. Similarly, I don't know what he or she is struggling with. 

My solution? Lead with curiosity and as much empathy as possible. A big challenge in today's world is that we don't understand each other as well as we need to to accommodate all of our baggage. Using an allegory, I have a square suitcase and you have a circular one, and the trunk is a triangle, how do we make this work? It's not always as simple as walking a mile in their shoes. While that is super helpful, it doesn't always give the past, as a day in my life in 2021 would not show the 2018 pulmonary embolism. 

Again, the solution, just talk to people. Ask, "how's it going?" It's okay to say you had a bad day. At work a couple weeks ago a manager brought in a bottle of whiskey after we finished building a product and we drank 3/4 of it that night between a few of us. I know I need a lot of alone time, and I'm surrounded by a truly incredible groupie of family, friends, and current and former coworkers. So ask for help if you need it. Say there is a problem when there is a problem. Don't yell at a random dude. We're getting there one step at a time. We're doing something as a seven billion person world that we've never done before. Take a chill pill and keep trudging, we're going to get there. It will be okay. Jesus loves you. And if you want to make it better, remember, communication can always be improved