My first job out of college was rough on the soul. My privilege in feeling this way is not lost on me but it still hit me hard after graduating. I worked in a cramped room without a window for ten hours a day in front of a desktop computer I felt I couldn’t step away from. Women were firmly encouraged to wear high heels. My manager frequently called me by the wrong name. Upon showing him assets that would soon be turned into magazine ads, he frequently requested that I have our photo editor ‘slim down’ (he meant, ‘erase’) the models’ arms and legs so they would look more appealing. Every other Friday, I waited for my bi-weekly paycheck to hit my bank account so that I could pay for lunch.
My second job out of college was at Google. I ate healthy, delicious food provided for free to all employees. My colleagues were incredibly bright and thoughtful. (Several of my original team members are some of my closest friends today). I wore jeans and sneakers and stopped feeling compelled to wear makeup. My manager and I met every week. He spent hours with me both providing guidance on my work and helping me plan for my career. I was encouraged take time away from my core responsibilities to participate in company-provided courses in design thinking, analytics, and leadership development. I was more productive and engaged in my work than I had ever been before.
The most important thing I learned at Google was how much a company could give to a human being and how much that mattered.
I have since worked at many technology companies where work environments like the one I described at Google are typical. I am consistently and endlessly grateful that when I step through the doors of my office I feel like a human being. Still, many days I feel small compared to the size and complexity of challenges we are tackling and the organization I am a part of.
There’s a quote I like by William James that I often harken back to often when I find myself in that existential vortex:
“I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny, invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets…”
‘So many rootlets’ contains my musings on those moral forces that work from individual to individual within the context of great institutions and big successes. There will be some tips, some ramblings, some book and article summaries, and whatever else comes to mind. It’s about being a human *and* an employee.
And, it’s something we should all contemplate and cultivate in our offices because it makes for happier, more productive, and more satisfied humans.