25 years of working experience in 8 simple lessons

On may first 1985 I began my first official job, this means I now work 25 years. Time for a quick overview of my career so far and the lessons learned.

I was still studying when I was asked for my first job:  training unemployed to become a bookkeeper. It was not only the theory but computer bookkeeping was a part of the training. During  my study I did some work on a mainframe;  so I thought how hard can it be. I was hired on Friday, the course started on Monday. So I decided to check the computers out on Saturday. My wife (then she was my girlfriend) joined me. The computers turned out to be Corona’s, we installed them and switched them on, the screen turned green and a small square was blinking, but that was all.

After two hours of struggling, we discovered that you had to insert a floppy with the operating system (Dos) on the left and a program disk on the right. Then I was ready to start teaching.

Despite the fact that bookkeeping is probably on of the most boring professions in the world, I did this for 5 years and with great pleasure. The people I was training were guaranteed a job after six months of training. This made them  motivated to the bone. That was the most important lesson of these 5 years; It doesn’t really matter what you do, if you work with motivated and passionate people it’s always a pleasure.

I was asked to write a series of books for these kind of courses and I did. In my mind this made me a writer too. I applied for a job as a technical writer at Informaat, but after a few interviews I was hired as an information designer. It was my job to design knowledge and documentation systems and to implement them. That’s lesson two: You can do anything if you put your mind to it. I stayed at Informaat for eight years. I was the initiator of  the creation of our own content management system, designed to aid subject matter experts in creating great on-line documentation. This system still  is available today. Some of my former colleagues continued with this systemand they have a company who develops and sells this tool (sevensteps). That’s lesson three: It is great to leave something behind thats viable without you. Informaat  allowed me to do an intensive  training in the field of change management, this training pivoted my career. I discovered that I was more than a professional, I was a manager as well.

I discovered this during a session on strategic thinking. We were asked to fill in a survey which determined what you were. there where four types, they ranged from a professional (consultant) to a strategic leader. In my survey I scored clearly as a professional. We were also asked to indicate a type for our fellow students, the majority of them rated me as an strategic leader, I was very surprised. That’s lesson four: The convictions you have about yourself limit your personal development.

To see if I could really do this, I started working at Locatienet as general manager. Locatienet was an  internet startup in the middle of the internet bubble, a sort of precursor of Google earth. Within two years we were one of the top ten websites in the Netherlands, and we had developed a business model that made us into a profitable enterprise. I learned a lot of lessons in the four years that I worked at Locatienet, but the most important is probably: keep your feet on the ground. I’m not sure if this is an English expression, but in Dutch it means stay sober, don’t get overexcited.  Bearing lesson three in mind Locatienet still exists today.

After Locatienet I worked at two companies who were in financial troubles and I worked a few years as an independent consultant. This lesson was very basic: if you don’t make enough money, you have a problem. By the way during my work as an independent consultant I created a tool that enables Sme’s to develop blended learning, tis tool is  still available (see Writeplace). This is the third time rule three applies, which reminds me of an other lesson or rule I discovered.  I call it the eastern egg rule: In Holland we have an eastern poem which goes like this: One egg is no egg, two eggs are half an egg, three eggs are an eastern egg. I don’t have a clue where it comes from, but it is true if you apply it to knowledge and experience in your company. If you want a position filled in permanently you need to have three people who can do the job. If you have one person and he leaves you end up with nothing, if you have two and one leaves, you lose knowledge and experience, if you have three you have a solid base, therefore Three is an eastern egg….

Now I work for Stoas since January 2007 and this leads to rule eight, which is an extension of rule one: If you are truly passionate about what you are doing it is even more fun.

There you are: 25 years of working experience in 8 simple rules.

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