Year 1, part 7

Welcome to the Year One -blog! A series of posts where I, a fresh graduate, break down prejudices a youngster might have when entering the work-life rat race. My name is Martin, and as a young engineer, I try to write about work stuff that’s relevant for all ages, but with a young person’s perspective. Are the prejudices young people have about work true? Or are we just naive? In an attempt to find out, I will return to certain topics after a while and analyze what I have written.

-Martin Ekman

Wrap Up

One year has passed, and it’s time to wrap up this blog series. Let’s shed light on some of the biggest challenges so far.

For one, well, I have a problem. I want to do everything. And I’m a time optimist. This is not a good combination.

As I’ve mentioned before, Chemigate is like a big family. This is mostly a good thing, but not always. In bigger companies, people (usually) have a specific set of tasks and responsibilities. Don’t get me wrong, this is also true for us. But the difference lies in the fact that smaller companies have fewer resources and. If you have something you want to do, you usually have to make the ball rolling yourself. But what happens when you want to do everything?

A friend of mine once said that work-life is exactly like family life, and good parents are usually good leaders. Why? Well:

  1. You have to make sure everyone is treated equally.
  2. Don’t fight in front of the children (workers/colleagues).
  3. If the children (workers) are quarreling, stop the fight and listen to both parties.
  4. Parents (leaders) need to watch their language.
  5. Sometimes, you (leaders) have to help your children (Team) with their homework. And you need to know Math to teach Math (or bookkeeping, or sales, or R&D, etc.).

I could go on and on, but the similarities are endless. I think you got the point.

Anyhow, take for example a family with two children, Alice and John. Both of the children receive one toy every year. John loves his toy, but at the same time, he can’t help but notice how fun Alice has with her toy, making John interested. He knows it’s her toy, but he can’t help but want to play with it too. If, for example, John were to start playing with Alice’s toy without her permission, she could get very upset. If that happened, one of the parents would have to intervene and either say that Alice has to share her toy with John too, or that John has to ask for permission to play with Alice’s toy.

What I’m getting at here, is that in a small organization, you are bound to get very interested in what your colleagues are doing from time to time. With such small circles, if you constantly get interested in what’s happening around you, it might make the line between the important and the not so important stuff blurry. Especially as someone new. Additionally, if you start poking around in your colleagues’ projects too much, you’re going to step on somebody’s toes. Especially if it’s their favorite toy (project/area of expertise/responsibility).

On the other hand, small circles and a small organization make it easier to work towards a common goal. In big organizations, the problem might be reversed. Departments that logically are quite related, might be creating unnecessary problems for each other, all because they don’t know what the others are doing. That can also create friction and quarrels.

I often find myself justifying wanting to do a bit of this and that because I might learn from it. But what is too much? And how do I know what’s more important? I mean, if I only focus on my own work, I don’t learn as much. If I don’t, I might be able to help somebody else. I think this might be a continuous balance one needs to find and is different for everybody. Personally, I think this is one area where I still have a lot to learn.

Another challenging thing?

Getting too comfortable and doing things because “we’ve always done things this way”.

Let’s look at the facts. The average age of people working at Chemigate is over 50 years old. While this might not necessarily be a good thing for a growth company, on one hand, it shows that there is a lot of knowledge and know-how in the company. Additionally, the fact that people have had long careers here almost screams “This is a good company!” because people don’t want to leave.

On the other hand, companies that constantly hire new people continuously receive new input from a fresh pair of eyes. People who ask questions like:

“Why do it this way?”
“Look, there’s this new feature in this program that can optimize that.”
“Can’t this be done in a better way? I don’t want to mechanically have to do this every day.”

As a new person in the firm, asking questions like these was one of my tasks in the beginning. It still is. But I find it’s very hard to stay critical when you get comfortable with the way things are done.

There’s this saying that goes: “It is not stupid if it works.”. I’m not sure that is always true anymore. Shouldn’t we always try to remain critical and improve things?

To be honest, we do have some things that could be improved. Some of these are, for example, the file management system, the Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), internal communication, etc. Now, you could argue that these are very important, and they are. But I dare say that most of these are problems that almost every single company in the world has.

When it comes to improving things and innovating, Chemigate has an edge. As a company, I think we welcome change and new ways of thinking. And we are constantly acting on these winds of change. Pair this with the fact that as a smaller company, it is much easier for us to change depending on the needs of the market. This is completely different than for bigger companies, where some things may be ridiculously overcomplicated, and very hard to change.

While we do have things to improve, I must say, we do A LOT of amazing stuff. Chemigate has some of the most easy-to-use and modern ways of doing things I have ever seen. Inspiring projects and investments. A quality management system that is easy to use for almost everyone in the organization. Very handy tools for different departments, based on Excel (!), that make my Engineer-brain tingle with sensation. Automated processes. Extraordinary bosses.

A well-functioning family

This will be my last post in this blog series. I sincerely thank you for following me on this journey and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! Some topics were not revisited yet, which I aim to write about soon on my LinkedIn, so stay tuned. Cheers!

Other young people or like-minded souls, what are some of your biggest challenges?


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