Week 2 of 13: All the worst jobs

"At least we don't have to do the cleaning," says one of the interns.
While doing various jobs in the eight year period before business school, I would sometimes come across other people doing other jobs - jobs I would deem "worse" than my own. I would be grateful that I was not one of those people doing those jobs. Yet, this week I have been doing those very same "worse" jobs - and learning a lot.

My first job out of undergrad was as a software developer. In that role, I would often work with software testers - people who would go through and test all the functionality of the software that we developed, making sure it all worked perfectly. During the early part of this week, this was exactly what I was doing. As we polished up the first iteration of a prototype developed by a software engineering class during the Spring quarter, I've been getting my hands dirty making sure it all works perfectly for when it comes to demo.

Later on in my career, as I moved into managing software development teams, I would sometimes peer over the wall towards the sales team and watch them trying to develop new sales leads - so the software development teams would have something to develop. Developing customers is how I spent the latter part of the week, sending out numerous emails and making calls. This was all with the purpose of setting up meetings with the types of people who may be our customers. We want to test our assumptions against these end consumers to ensure it has value for them.

The end consumers we are targeting are of two varieties: researchers in academia and researchers in industry. The academics have been relatively easy to meet with - the professors at Northwestern have been pretty open to meeting. The researchers in industry have not been as open. I've been using the Northwestern Alumni directory to reach out to these folk, but often the contact details are wrong. Secondly, when I do get through to the alums, they will often not be inclined to help. This is a learning process though, and I'm getting a better sense of the approach I should take.

Through all this, I've developed a minor health problem, which has been affecting my level of positivity. A less than positive mental attitude signals all the wrong things to the rest of the team (the interns), as well as the people I meet. Part of this game has to be projecting confidence and believing success will come - creating the virtuous circle where confidence and success reinforce each other. So I've turned to music to keep my spirits up; it has been surprisingly effective. We might be doing the "worst" jobs, but at least we can do them the way we want to, playing music in the office that we want to. This week, it's a lot of AC/DC.

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