My dad wore many hats in my life. As a parent, as a confidant, as a travel partner, as a free-throw coach, as a wine tasting buddy and as a friend. But today, as I embark on the next step of my career in Product Operations at Apple, I’m especially appreciative of and reflective of his role as ‘Dad — my first business mentor’.
As an impressionable child, I remember so vividly how Dad would prepare for work each morning. I can still smell the Gillette shaving cream & Folgers instant coffee. I remember the plastic shaving set he bought me so I could mimic each swipe up his neck, his favourite 90s burgundy paisley tie, and the precision of his half-Windsor knot. Some of my earliest memories of Dad are connected to the example I had in him as a hardworking “businessman”.
Later in life, as he rose to success, and as I came into my own understanding of my personal aspirations, he took his role as my career mentor very seriously. Before any major decision, inflection point, or challenging work engagement, he was always my first call. I even recently stumbled upon this email from Dad in October 2014, the night before my first day of work at Deloitte Consulting.
2014 still feels like yesterday. As a 23-year-old relatively recent graduate, off to a strong and promising start at niche research and consulting shop just outside DC, I had an opportunity to pivot to a brand name firm, Deloitte. Together, Dad and I weighed pros & cons over one of our favourite cabernet sauvignons and no doubt scratched out notes into one of his classic 2×2 matrices. Ultimately, we determined that the transition to Deloitte was the right one, in part because it would further position me to pursue my then long-term goal of completing my MBA — a goal he so wholeheartedly supported and encouraged. He was thrilled with where we landed. Not just because of what this new opportunity might mean for my potential career advancement, but because of his pride in seeing his son consider options thoughtfully, plan & prepare with detail & care, and go for it.
My father passed away four months ago, just eight weeks prior to my graduation from Columbia Business School after a long, courageous battle with cancer. While he’s not here today, I can still hear and feel his wisdom and support.
So today, a newly minted MBA, on my first day at Apple, during my first major transition without Dad here physically, here’s what I think he would say:
Show up: Show up on time & Show up dressed to play
To show up is to be present, to be fully engaged at the moment. Attentive. Alert. While confidently & assertively occupying your space at the table for you and your voice.
To show up on time is to be respectful of your new colleagues. Establish an expectation of respect and trust early with your team members & peers and in turn, with time, you will earn theirs as well.
To show up dressed to play is to have done your prep work in advance primed for the moment. LeBron doesn’t walk onto the court in loafers and neither should you. Put your game face on.
Write out your 30/60/90 plan
Set and record reasonable, yet focused goals for your first 30, 60, & 90 days in the role. Your plan should consider the following elements:
Learn the business:
This should also be an integral part of your prep work. Learn the business model, current portfolio, key customers, the competitive landscape, current events [both of the company and the broader industry], and recent wins and losses. What is the value proposition of your company to the world and of your team to the company?
Learn the people:
Identify your immediate and peripheral stakeholders. What makes their jobs hard and why? Take note of this especially so as to always maintain your empathy for and with those you work with.
What does the feedback loop look like, from whom, and with what frequency?
Connect with people as people and the work/collaboration will come naturally.
Learn the numbers:
How does your company, your team, and [will] you measure success? If you can’t measure it, it’s hard to achieve it.
Learn the language:
Track and note new terms/vocabulary and make note of who uses them most frequently. Which of these terms are industry standards you need to know, company jargon, or individuals’ word preferences & choices? The latter may even give you clues about what each stakeholder groups prioritize.
Will you play to win, or play not to lose?
Be bold; speak up; be heard. You’re there for a reason. You. Are. There. For. A. Reason. Every step along your journey thus far has equipped you for what lies before you — ‘for such a time as this’. Trust your preparation and that still voice of God whispering in your heart. Find your courage and resist the fear of failure that lowers your ceiling of possibility.
And perhaps most importantly — enjoy this moment.
You’ve earned it, so have fun with it.
Thank you, Dad. I hope you’re proud. Now let’s get to work.
This article was first published on July 6, 2020 here.
Jon-Matt is a former international touring drummer turned tech enthusiast currently working in Product Operations @Apple. Jon-Matt holds a BA from Georgetown University & an MBA from Columbia Business School. Connect with Jon-Matt on Instagram & Twitter @jonmatthopkins
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