My Career Strengths

What are some qualities about myself that are important/useful in my working life?

I thrive on interacting with people, especially from a wide range of cultures. NB: I speak fluent Italian (I can understand a lot of Spanish and French as well), used to be fluent in Hindi. I have spent significant portions of my life in Italy and India. Love to travel, anywhere and everywhere.

I think in terms of cultures, and am good at interpreting different cultures to each other (this applies to corporate / workgroup cultures as well as national ones).

I believe that everyone has an interesting story, and I love to help them tell it. This genuine interest in people makes me a great customer advocate. Having listened carefully, I bring their concerns and needs back to those who can act on them.

I connect people to each other. When someone tells me about a problem or challenge they are dealing with, or a skill or asset they have, I think: “What can I do, who do I know, to help this person achieve their goal?” Or: “How can this skill / asset be applied to a problem I’m aware of?” If I don’t have an immediate answer, I soon start noticing new things / people that could fit. Finding such solutions, e.g. putting the right bunch of people together to tackle a problem, thrills me. It feels like amazing luck sometimes, but it’s really about knowing many people, and being awake to the possibilities that each represents.

I’m constantly thinking about how things could be made better: products, processes, communications, organizations. I find new ways to solve problems.

I embrace and enjoy change.

I’m self-winding: I don’t have a problem with taking direction, but I go along fine without it; I will always think of something to do that’s useful and to the point.

I get along well with geeks. (I am one!)

What tasks have I enjoyed most in my various jobs?

Communicating. This has taken various forms: technical writing, web content, web applications, training, video. I constantly try new tools and methods to see how they answer different communications problems. Social media is simply another set of tools, and I’m an active user. On Twitter I’m @deirdres.

Translating. Not so much translating from one language to another, as translating from one culture or mind-set to another, e.g. helping explain user requirements to engineers, and helping engineers design or document their work so that users can better understand it.

Designing / improving user interfaces, including the interface between customers and companies. Everything a company does that touches a customer is part of their user experience, and I love opportunities to improve that.

Explaining / teaching, whether through documentation, presentation, teaching, or simply sharing what I know individually – I enjoy using my knowledge to help others.

Event planning. I like designing events for specific technical communities, from the overarching vision through speaker list and session flow to the nitty-gritty details, making it all come together, and ensuring that it runs smoothly on the day(s).

Measuring. I analyze, getting at real numbers (as far as possible) to help me understand what’s working and what isn’t. I’m not afraid to change my ideas when the numbers prove me wrong.

What should I avoid?

Routine. As soon as something is routine to me, I’m ready for a change. I get interested in something, see how it could be usefully applied in my life / work, learn it, do it. Then I document it, share it, teach it, hand if off – and I’m ready to learn something new. This cycle can take years, depending on the material, but once I have mastered a thing, I want to do something different.

For a more standard resume with the details of where I’ve done all this stuff, go here.

The original impetus for this (when I wrote it in August, 2009):

As someone who may be seeking a new job soon, it behooves me to prepare myself for a possible job search. Which is something I’m really, really bad at. I’m very good at doing jobs once I get them, but clueless and inept when it comes to seeking them.

The process would be easier if my experience included anything that fit neatly into established categories, but I’ve always stretched my jobs well beyond their initial descriptions. Those bosses who let me out of the box (I’ve been lucky – most have) were happy with the results. But it makes explaining what I do in my current job, or imagining what I’d like to do in future jobs, a bit tricky.

Instead of trying to identify a specific job or category to try to fit into, I might more productively reflect on the strengths and skills I’ve brought to and taken from my jobs to date, to help potential future employers picture me as part of their organizations.

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