What I learnt in my first year of full-time work

Hello. It’s been one whole year since I joined the lovely e3 family. I can’t quite believe that 365 days have already surpassed me but at the same time, it makes complete sense given all the cool projects I’ve been a part of. Then again, given all that I learnt in my first month alone, I knew that I was in for a big year.

On the occasion of celebrating my one-year anniversary, I sat down for a bit of reflection..

1. Everyone is creative.
It’s high time we stop doing ourselves the disservice of thinking that we’re not creative. Everyone has creative potential, regardless of industry and discipline. We need to tap into this potential. Going forward, the one skill we need from people is the ability to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions to some of our most complex problems. Being creative is to identify opportunities from problems.

It’s difficult for people to get started because thinking creatively requires us to let go of things we’ve be taught to hold on to. It’s about stepping into the unknown and being okay with asking more questions than having answers. It’s about forgetting assumptions, listening first and acting next. And this can be scary at first. But imagine a workforce full of people that think of themselves as creative. Anything that was ever a frustration or annoyance would become an opportunity for improvement.

2. Change agents are everywhere.
The typical e3 client is a disruptor. Bold. No tolerance for an uninspiring status quo. And they are from all sorts of industries – oil & gas, banking, fast moving consumer goods, airlines, etc. There are change agents everywhere, you just have to look. I bring this up because a lot of people make the excuse that they don’t have any room to think outside the box in their organisations. I understand that many companies are restrictive, but it’s also an individual responsibility and choice.  Everyday, I am so inspired by the people we’re lucky to call clients. They are the ones proposing major changes and overhauls in the way things are done internally. We need more people like that, the ones that are bold enough to suggest improvements. People who don’t passively suffer through problems but actually raise their hands and do something about it.

3. Dive into the chaos.
We often joke that e3 stands for emotional, exhausting and exciting because that’s the journey on most of our projects. It’s rarely ever smooth, easy, done and dusted. No. That would the anomaly. Most of the times, it’s up and down. Successes and failures. Trial and error. A lot of gut instinct tests. I often find that these things sound really cool in writing. Whenever I read about something like this, I imagine dynamic teams, lots of coloured post-its, markers, the smell of coffee. And sure, those things are indeed a part of the project. What is difficult to imagine, because it’s intangible, is the real stress people feel during the downs. When you are so close to completion and then have a real set back. Or when you keep trying things that don’t work. When you’re out of inspiration and ideas. It’s tough. But it’s BECAUSE of this process of iteration, starting small and testing, co-creating with clients, that we end up producing something that actually resonates and solves the problem. It’s the upfront chaos and complexity that leads to the simple, intuitive solutions later on.

4. Don’t worry about fitting in.
At university, I thought I missed the memo that outlined how to be successful in the next three years. Everyone around me seemed so sure of what they wanted to do and had everything lined up to get there. There weren’t many honest, energetic conversations about our passion, but lots of pseudo-intelligent comments about the latest news. Everyone trying to up each other. Success, it seemed, was a measure of everything but happiness. In this environment, I felt an outsider and like an amateur, doing the whole self-discovery thing instead of following the masses on what seemed like a proven path to success. Looking back, I am so glad I didn’t. Authenticity requires courage. At first, it can be daunting. Many perceive deviation from the status quo as you just not being good enough to make the cut. But that’s okay. All the time and energy spent into figuring it out for myself led me down a path where I get to spend my days with people who share a similar enthusiasm and passion for not wasting one’s life doing work that doesn’t excite them. Life is fun and you are under no pressure to wait till you crack mid-career to start doing what you love.