I was walking through the woods, looking for trees that were twisted by vines or blemished in some way to make walking sticks out of. That is my hobby, I tend to see a good cane, or walking stick, staff or cromach before it is finished. I was content and relaxed and wondered why. Then an idea popped into my head, that I was relaxed because I enjoyed what I was doing. I like de-barking and whittling the sticks, watching the character of the wood come out. I probably have 30 or 40 of them in my garage in various stages of creation. They don’t always end up being the stick I imagined when I cut it, but they come out like they are supposed to.
“I was relaxed because I enjoyed what I was doing.” It occurred to me that I have been working for over 40 years and have not always been happy at doing it. In the Army the duty stations and positions changed. I was a forward observer in the artillery, but I supported Infantry, Armor and Air Cavalry (you should try calling for and spotting artillery from a helicopter sometime!) at various levels. I even had the pleasure of working as a Fire Support Sargent for General Schwarzkopf when he was a 2 star General. If I didn’t like the unit I was in I could request a transfer, or effect a change in my area of authority to make it better.
When I got out, I worked in a variety of fields, but settled into construction. I learned masonry, carpentry, plumbing, electrical and eventually became a National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) Certified Remodeler. To become a CR I had to pass an exam that was like the exams that a tradesman would have to pass to get a license. I created my own business and did what I wanted. I loved working with my hands and making things. I was happy at what I was doing, but there is a huge difference in working for yourself and being satisfied and working for someone else.
In 2007 I was diagnosed with cancer and in 2008 went through the radiation treatment for that. At the same time the housing bubble burst and all the home builders became remodelers. The radiation took a lot out of me as well as the new competition, so I closed my business. I couldn’t physically do the labor anymore. I spoke to a friend (a Cisco CCIE) about finding a new career and he suggested that I would make a good geek. I said something to the effect that there were so many areas to get into that I wouldn’t know what to go to college for. He replied, “Mike if you can keep them talking, you will always have a job.” So at almost 50 I went to college and got a AAS in Networking Systems Administration from DeVry University.
I have worked for a few corporations since then. Most were very good to work for and had great benefits. Some had a career path, and some didn’t. A couple of years ago, I started to work at HPE as a contractor in customer service for 3PAR. They literally trained us for 3 months before we were able to work on e-tickets, and then had to prove we could work on the phone. I think at that point I realized that the company and the direct supervisors wanted us to succeed. Because of my certifications and my networking experience they moved me to the SAN Switch team to help customers. HPE saw my expertise and placed me in a position to help train my peers, keep learning new technology and help the customer with a problem. Sometimes they were hardware related, sometimes software related but a lot of the time it was a configuration issue. Around the same time that HPE acquired SimpliVity, I was hired as an employee and asked to join that team.
For a position at a company to be worthwhile for me, I need to have a purpose. In order to find that purpose, I need to have goals. Goals give me purpose. I think that is one of the reasons I love what I do is that my immediate supervisor asked me where I wanted to be in 1 year, 2 years, etc. Once the goals are in place and I am working towards them, I feel a sense of fulfillment. With that being said, it seems to me that HPE culture is one of fulfillment first, then sustainability, trust, integrity and so forth.
My manager, his manager, her manager, and the North American manager all have taken the time to meet me, get to know me and find out what makes me tick. There are a couple of long-term career choices for me from my current position. Because my manager knows me and what my goals are, he has been able to open another possibility for me in the company for a long-term career direction. Most bosses just don’t do that. The employees at HPE are a product of these type of managers. I have never worked with a group of people that were so eager to help you understand a concept whether it be an old idea or a brand new one. If something comes up and you need to leave for the day, they ask if they can help you, then ask if they can finish your work.
Now, you may be wondering how I went from collecting sticks to working at HPE. I think that just like my being able to see a cane, walking stick, staff or cromach in a piece of wood in the forest, HPE can see their core values in their employees. Like I whittle and sand on my sticks, HPE helps their employees grow, set goals, be better service agents and engineers. By helping employees set goals and allowing them to work towards those goals they let their employees find purpose and fulfillment.