Question: What makes work fulfilling? Describe a situation where, as a team member or project leader, you have made work more interesting or enjoyable for your group.
The need for challenge runs to my core. From my early days as an entrepreneur, to my internships and full-time experiences in the world of work, my professional and personal lives have been shaped by a constant craving for the intellectual and emotional fulfillment that I can only receive from overcoming meaningful challenge. Each subsequent experience would shape this need and reinforce my belief.
The need to question, to explore and overcome, is rooted in my upbringing. I come from a family of lively and passionate people. Children were most definitely seen and heard, with raucous kitchen table debates about my father's business, a family purchase, or our career aspirations part of the daily routine. There was a moral imperative to be open-minded: to read, to question, and to travel to the U.S., Europe, and beyond. Being the oldest of four children in a family straddling two continents, I was put in the role of teacher and pupil, of traveler and guide. My family's intense love has created a need to seek and foster significant human connections. It has also has led me to require the emotional and intellectual fulfillment derived from helping people overcome the things that hold them back.
During my internship at [deleted], my team was charged with a high profile, enterprise-wide systems upgrade. An earlier project had just crashed and burned – and we were the firefighters. Our motley crew included summer students, a middle-aged ex-pipe-fitter and a former plant worker who looked and dressed like Willie Nelson; these last two had just been retrained by the company.
Our clients were seasoned salespeople who had spent their lives on the road. They had a distaste for technology and for the geeks that serviced it. Sales targets were being missed, and the blame was placed squarely on our shoulders. I spent eighty-hour weeks in an old computer room, coordinating the activities of installers coast-to-coast. The scale was intoxicating. I helped my new teammates master the fine points of the internet protocol; in return, they taught me [deleted]'s culture and folklore. We successfully delivered the project and I earned the highest possible rating for my performance that term. But I am most proud of the fact that through the caring, patient application of my skills I was able to contribute to the development of my team. Overcoming the challenge of others by helping them reinvent themselves would, for me, be a key source of emotional fulfillment.
Motivation, innovation and self-worth are closely linked. Smart people are best motivated by giving them difficult problems that shroud vast opportunities. Convince them of the rewards that await, make them believe in themselves, and see them rise to the challenge. A culture is formed. The solution takes flight. At my essence I need challenge: work that deepens human connections, and takes on a life of its own. That is what fulfills me emotionally and intellectually, and that is what is most important to me.
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