When I was 17 and just out of high school, I was thrilled to take a summer job at Texas Instruments. TI paid twice as
much as my part-time job at a local movie theater, and it was a great way to make money for my first year of college. As far as I was concerned, this was nothing more than a summer job. As a soon-to-be freshman journalism major, my ultimate goal was to live in Mexico City and work for a newswire service.
That first summer at TI, I filed papers, did some light editing and even swept the floor one afternoon. Since this was before the days of desktop publishing, I also spent quite a bit of time manually drawing lines for the company’s technical publications.
Yet, more important than the duties I performed was the real-world knowledge I gained by talking with the seasoned staff around me. They were a mix of business managers, office secretaries, graphic artists and technical writers, and each took the time to share insights about the company and the attributes of a truly valuable employee. These people had a huge impact on the type of employee I would become and the ultimate career path I would take.
TI hired me back the next summer as a full-time worker. When summer ended, TI put me on “leave of absence” so I could return on holidays and the next summer. Within a few years, I had changed my career goal from moving to Mexico City to someday serving as TI’s primary spokesperson.
Today, more than 25 years later, I am a senior vice president responsible for all of TI’s internal and external communications. I also am a member of the company’s six-person executive management team. Looking back, I can see how the people who “adopted” me very early in my career gave me insight into the value of teamwork and the operations of an international company.
Regardless of where you are in your career, there is nothing more important than spending time sharing your insights and learning from others. I work in a company of engineers, yet my education could not be less technical. I routinely remind myself, “Be quiet, listen and ask hard questions.” I learn a lot that way, and, more importantly, it helps me take what I do for a living and increase the technological success of the company.