Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Questioning One's Career - A Student Asks a Professional...

Do not fear answering a question with more
conviction or seriousness than it was asked

About one year ago I was approached by a creative and driven young student to participate in a school career project in which the student interviews a professional about their career and industry.  As one may expect, the questions asked were dictated to the student by the teacher, and as also expected, they were bland and uninspired.  Given my respect for the creativity and curiosity of this student, I threw myself full force into answering each question with the full force of the wisdom I had earned through my experiences and choices.

Given that they are from one year ago, I was hit hard by how much clarity and insight many of these answers posses.  On the other hand it is also clear to me how little empathy these responses contain.  One year ago, while I had acquired much wisdom, I was very disconnected from my feelings.

In the last year, I have focused much more on the development of my emotional empathy, and as such, my thoughts and language have softened quite a bit.  I hope you will find these responses useful in your own journey to self discovery.

Career Project Interview Questions and Answers
Damon Smith - Facility Design Manager - Walt Disney Imagineering

1. How would you characterize your career?
I would describe my career thus far as a constant search for a place and a group of people who value and support, acceptance, flexibility, creativity, honesty, integrity, and happiness.  I have constantly asked myself, "Do I respect what I am contributing to others in my life?" and, "Do I respect what others are offering me in return for my contribution?"  I have found myself asking questions others resist pondering, and holding myself to no higher standard than my own.

2. What are your predictions for the future for this particular career? Is it expanding?
It is clear from both my personal experience, as well as history as a whole, that there is an unlimited demand for individuals who are honest, strong, compassionate, creative, curious, and who never stop learning.  Anyone running a business will learn that these people inspire others, engender trust, constantly question assumptions, are open to correction by others, and will always be looking for more efficient, effective, and profitable ways to getting things done.  Because these people generate more value residual than they are paid directly, they are always in demand.

3. Are qualified workers needed in this field? Where is the greatest need?
Specifically within the field of creating destination entertainment products, all groups are constantly in search for the next wave of talent.  Because much of the skills needed for success are learned in the field as it happens, there is a continual drive to get younger people into our teams so that the wisdom and the lessons of the more experienced will not be lost as they end their careers.

4. What is the potential income for this career? What is the typical starting salary range?
Given the amount of specialization that is required in a niche market, such as destination entertainment, the potential for value to be offered to the individual is great.  Any company in this business must offer enough value to the individual in order to ensure the talent does not walk away.  Loss of talent during the middle of a complex project can be very costly in terms of finances, morale, and continuity of design.  The value offered to an individual can consist in part of salary but more often hinges on less tangible values such as benefits, awards, status, recognition, and culture.  Given the wide ranges of talents retained by any given company starting salaries can vary wildly and as such are not very helpful.  For instance, a person with very little experience may require anywhere from $20K to $50K in order to retain their talent.

5. What is a typical day/week like in your job?
I value my life at work because in part I have the freedom to choose if I even have typical days at all.  Since the needs of a project and its associated team change day to day and week to week, and effective participant's day will necessarily change as well to optimize his or her time.  Some days may require working late into the evening, other days may require a 3 hour lunch with a colleague, others may suggest that it is not very effective to show up at all.  This flexibility allows for a much more creative, and versatile role which offers the freedom to trust the expertise of the individual to apply themselves where and when it is required.  This confirms that the manager of a given individual is conscious of the talent they have retained.  It is also evident that if one has to retain talent, it is because that talent can do the job much more effectively than you.

6. What do you like most about your job? What do you like the least?
I appreciate most that I have the flexibility to pursue my role as I see fit.  If there is something I do not like, it does not go unresolved very long.  Given the amount of hours of your life you will spend in a career, it does not pay to put up with things you do not like.  Honesty, integrity, and respect will demand that you make your preferences known, and work with others to resolve any situations that are not acceptable to you.

7. If you were hiring someone for this job what kind of person would you hire? What skills or personal attributes are important? What qualifications would a person need?
When I am in a position to exchange value for someone's talents I am very interested in getting to know that person's values.  Is this person curious?  Is this person empathetic to the feelings and needs of those around him or her?  How does this person handle the identification of truth?  Does this person believe in and accept conflict?  Does this person respect themselves and their value?  Practical education in the specific discipline is nice to have in order to ensure to workable foundation for specialized vocabulary but is not required.  Specific experience is really not very important at all compared to the attitude that the person brings to the assignment.

8. How did you get into this career? What do you like the least?
 I chose to go to university following the track to a Bachelor of Architecture degree.  I chose this direction because I had an affinity for logic, math, and processes, but a passion for creativity and expression.  Halfway through the five year track to a degree I became very disgusted with the philosophies that were being espoused by both the professors and other students at my school.  I shifted gears mentally away from the academic view of the architect (as a intellectual to solve the world's problems in the built environment) and toward the humanistic view of the architect as a partner to take his client where he or she wants to go in an organized and effective manner.

This change in outlook lead me to The Walt Disney Company as a bright example of a company which provides built environments to the public in a very emotional, humanistic manner.  Since then I have followed this goal to spend my time connecting to others on an emotional level, both through my projects at work, and my personal relationships elsewhere.

9. What personal advice would you give someone that would want to enter your field of work?
Never accept someone's idea of truth if they are not able to explain how that truth was obtained using both logic and observation of physical reality.  Never trust someone who is convinced they know a truth but is unwilling to explore that truth with you.  If you are going to question others and demand respect, then you must be willing to question yourself even more and demand that you yourself respect those around you and reality in general.

The biggie:
  1. There are no conflicts in physical reality.  Everything we see, hear, taste, touch and smell, simply exists and does not conflict with itself or anything else.
  2. Humans can only communicate through physical reality using sound, sight, touch, etc.
  3. Since these communications exist in reality, they can not conflict.
  4. If you perceive a conflict between yourself and another person, it does not exist in reality.
  5. All conflicts between people only exist as ideas in the minds of the individuals.
  6. Honesty, humility, and integrity will allow you to explore these mental conflicts with the other person and allow you both to come to a mutual understanding of reality, and in doing so, resolve the ideas of conflict.

10. What education or personal training is required? What courses/major should a person choose? What schools are best to attend? 
  • Schools can be helpful in obtaining specific practical knowledge on a specific subject, but beware they come with an immense personal cost.
    • Schools imply that education has an defined beginning and end.
    • Schools imply that learning can be validly rated by an external entity.
    • Schools imply that there are other people that know what is best for you in your life.
    • Schools imply that subject matters fit into compartments and are discreet.
    • Schools imply that arbitrary schedules have inherent value.
    • Schools imply that arbitrary rules have inherent value.
    • Schools demand the student respect their rules and schedules while denying respect for any rules or schedules that the student puts forward.
    • Schools imply that a third party that has not met you can certify your competence better than you yourself, even though you have more knowledgeable about yourself than any other.

  • Seek out those that disagree with you.  You will either learn you are in error becoming a smarter person for being corrected, or you will learn exactly why you are right and how others were caught in the trap of error.
  • You will be worth the most to others if you are happy.  True happiness feeds your creativity, increases your productivity, inspires others, and keeps life worth living.  If you ever find yourself walking down the street without a bounce in your step, it is very worth while to pause, and be honest with yourself.  What is bugging you?  Why is it so important that it is draining you?  When in your past did you learn about this topic and how it affects you?

11. What are typical mistakes people make that prevent advancement in this particular career?
Advancement is a very sticky subject.  Most individuals have a learned habit of starting conversations with themselves and others without defining their terms. (Mistake #1)

What does it mean to "advance?"  What is being measured?  Happiness? Quantity of money?  Respect from others?  Power over others? Feelings of virtue?  Pride in oneself?  Closeness with nature and reality?

Who is more advanced?  The man working a low level job with a small house who is struggling to feed his family?  The woman who is a vice president of a major corporation who has two homes, two children in private school, one failed marriage, and 3 months out of the year is away from her children on business trips?  What about the man at home painting and caring for his children who has no defined career?  Is he advancing?

Who is even the right person to answer these questions?  Can any of us even evaluate these individuals' advancement without understanding each of their values?  Even if we knew their values, could we even then make a competent evaluation?

Who is evaluating you in your life?  Do they truly know your values?  Have they asked?  Are they as curious about what is going on for you in your life as you are about LEGO and Disney?  Are people asking you what you think you need to be learning?  Are they asking you if you think they are doing a good job?  Are they asking you if you think someone else could help you better than them?

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