New job, old values

I have a new job: chief diversity officer for Siemens AG.

This is probably the first time in my working life where the content of the job is closest to the things I have passion for and love to do. For example:

  • It’s people-focused.
  • It’s about creating a new way of looking at things.
  • It has a global scope.
  • It’s about building networks and communities.
  • It brings people together who, in their normal workday, would not have any connection with each other.

Briefly, diversity is about inclusion in the workplace; it’s about creating a work environment where anyone, regardless of background, gender, age or sexual orientation, can contribute and excel.

But, this isn’t a blog about diversity. It’s about what it feels like to do a job that has, at its core, an element that is very different than a lot of corporate-type jobs. All of my prior jobs were jobs that most folks had some understanding of. It was easy to explain what I actually did for work: chief financial officer, chief executive officer, programmer, consultant and especially, my college jobs, short-order cook and janitor. It’s much harder to explain what a chief diversity officer does.

After nearly 30 years of working, I am in a job that I can’t easily explain. This feels a little weird. But while it feels weird, it’s also feels completely right.

I will try to explain what I mean by comparing my new job to volunteer work I did when I was 14.

When I was a teenager I would volunteer for a couple of weeks at a summer day camp for handicapped children. My sister, Missy, was profoundly retarded and had cerebral palsy. Missy went to a day camp near our home and I helped out, together with my mother. I would play games or do small art projects with the kids. My training was having Missy as my sister and I was under the close supervision of the camp leaders, who were special education teachers. Here’s what I noticed—the special education teachers who worked with folks like Missy were extraordinary people. They were patient and kind; they were funny and dedicated. Special education teachers make very little money. Most of them  work two jobs to make ends meet. I slowly began to understand that work could also mean doing something you had a passion for, something that you believed in and felt you had to do.

That’s what my new job is for me. It’s something I have a passion for and while I may not be able to easily explain what I do—like I could when I was a janitor or a programmer—I am excited about this new challenge. Although I knew almost nothing about work when I was 14, I had already learned this very important lesson, and it’s comforting to me that this lesson is part of the fabric of my new work, more than 30 years later.

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2 Responses to “New job, old values”

  1. Fiona Citkin, Ph.D. says:

    This idea echoes in me very much: that the content of the job being close to the things we have passion for is inspiring and motivating. I also have had a number of well-respected jobs that I liked to do, reasonably. But what I do for the last 6.5 years adds to my drive on a day-to-day basis: like you, I love people’s focus, global scope, new way of looking at things, building synergy & teamwork, and, above all – helping to influence the organization’s culture.
    I am a diversiculturalist, professionally training for inclusive leadership skills. What I read in this blog convinces me that you are a born Inclusive Leader.

  2. admin says:

    Dear Fiona:

    Thanks so much for your comments! I think your role — “diversiculturist” — is another great example of how something that might be a little less traditional can translate to happiness at work. For me, it’s a good reminder that we can have a lot more options about what work is and what makes us happy… thank you for reminding me of this with your thoughtful comments.

    Warm regards,

    Denice

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