I joined Credera in August of 2012. Back then, I had just finished my studies and left college motivated and ready to go into the real world to use my talent and make a difference. I had received and accepted an offer from Credera in December of 2011, and I was convinced this was the right place for me. Steven Miklosko wrote a great post about his experience leading up to that point, and as my three-year anniversary approaches, I wanted to look back and share what my experience has been from day one to day 1,095.
The first few weeks at Credera consist mostly of training. For three days, I was part of a group of eight “young guns” who started at the same time as I did. Vincent Garcia was one of them, and we have ended up as teammates for almost all of our time here. (Vincent wrote his own look back on his first three years with the firm too.)
During those first few days, we met a lot of people and were exposed to a ton of information about how Credera works and about the world of consulting in general. Although no one expected us to remember everyone’s name right away, I was impressed by how many people were constantly remembering and using our first names. I mentioned this to Deana Self, one of the managers in our management consulting practice, who shared with me that at meetings she likes to draw the table in her notes and fill in everyone’s name by the place where they were sitting. It’s a simple trick that can make a big difference in how you relate to people, and I’ve been using it ever since.
State of Mind
My state of mind after leaving college was something along the lines of “I finished my studies, and now I’m ready to change the world.” The truth is you never stop learning, and that became obvious when I worked with people who had more experience than me. Credera is full of people who love learning and are great at it. This means when you join a project that’s already rolling you’ll have a hard time completing tasks as quickly as some of your teammates. That’s a sure way to keep you humble. When the goal is the project’s success and not individual recognition, it’s easy to turn that humbling into motivation to learn, perform better, and achieve great results together.
Talking to Clients and Delivering
Only a few weeks after joining Credera, I was part of a three-person team whose mission was to help our client complete a project they were struggling to deliver on time. We worked from the client’s office. The team consisted of a project director, Vincent, and me. Even though we were working as a Credera team, we quickly started communicating with the client developers, managers, and key decision makers. One day, our client’s CIO walked by our area and casually asked how things were going. I explained what I was working on, the pieces that were finished, and the possible roadblocks we might run into. Here I was, describing my work to an executive and delivering code that was soon to be in production. Only a few months prior I was still stressing out about finals.
Can I Fix That?
My role in the project continued to grow along with my experience and confidence. Eventually, I found myself in a position where the client’s developers were reaching out to me for answers and advice. Later in the project I heard that some of the leaders weren’t completely satisfied with a certain component. This was only loosely related to our project, but I decided to ask my manager what it would take to get us to rebuild it for them. I was told to take some time to look at the issues and then make a proposal explaining my solution and how long it would take me to build it for them.
The presentation went well, and I got to implement the design I had come up with. It was exciting and fulfilling to think that I had noticed a real-world problem that wasn’t necessarily part of my job and taken the initiative to suggest and build a solution that would make our client’s product better.
Missing Home Base
Working at the client’s site was great, but a few times Vincent and I talked about missing home base. We only got to work at the Credera office for a couple of months before starting work at the client’s site, but even then we already missed the feeling of being at the office. We always looked forward to our “fireside chats,” where once a month at Credera, we all meet and talk about the company’s wins during the month, greet the new hires, and talk about any upcoming changes. It’s a great chance to catch up with the people we don’t get to see that often. I have also grown to appreciate that during our monthly meetings we are always told who has left Credera, the reasons why they are gone, and what projects they are moving on to.
Eventually our project launched, the client was pleased, and we celebrated with them. This was followed by a few weeks of support and then our departure in order to join another team for a different client.
Vincent and I reflected on the work we did and continue to be impressed by how much we didn’t know when we started and how much we were able to learn in just one year. In turn, it’s exciting to think how much we have yet to learn and how much better we can be for our team, for our company, and for our clients.
The learning process begins again with the next client, and you’re reminded to stay humble when you go from being the expert in a certain area to having to ask everyone how everything works again. For me, the new project brought new challenges and learning opportunities: our team was now made up of eight people, I had to adapt to a different type of leadership, and I had to figure out how to get answers differently since our client was in a different city. Two years later, we travelled to our client’s office and participated in a stressful but even more successful launch.
Credera is full of people who want to do things—that mentality is part of who we are and what we encourage. When I mentioned that I wanted to help with recruiting at my home university, Oklahoma State University (OSU), I was given the tools I needed to reach out to my contacts there and schedule visits and talks. Within a few weeks I found myself talking to soon-to-be graduates about the world of software consulting that I was now a part of and about the opportunities that exist for them there. Soon after, I was also invited back to OSU to help staff our booth at the career fair.
Credera has also offered company-building experiences. For example, in January of 2014, we (and our spouses) had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco to celebrate a great year for the company. It was a lot of fun to spend quality time with people I really appreciate and respect. It was also a fantastic way to grow the family environment that makes Credera what it is.
I have started to recognize some of the skills that senior consultants, architects, and others have that I’m lacking: managing long-term client relationships, understanding the larger scope of the client’s software architecture, looking at how projects sit in that large map, and effectively using all of their resources, both human and technological. It’s fun to think about how cool it will be when I’m as good and as smart as they are.