My Next Adventure
You may recall my blog from a few years ago entitled Meaningful Work that I Get Paid For about my decision to jump from the fast paced world of Silicon Valley tech to go to work for an education non-profit. In the past three years I've helped to create a solid development team that has solved some doozy problems and we've done some pretty amazing work.
A lot of what I've been doing has focused on 'normalizing stuff.' You see, pretty much every company has a problem with knowing what their fundamental building blocks are. There are easy things like 'people' or 'companies' but what is the relationship of that person or company? Are they an employee? A customer? A vendor? Do they get to see the financials? Do you even let them in the front door?
So a lot of what I've been doing at NWEA has been deep in the business process, asking questions, connecting dots, and leaving a wake of reason in my path. It's almost the Dirk Gently 'everything is connected' philosophy – this person might be a customer AND a vendor, so we need to connect them TWO ways. Maybe more.
The reality is that anything we call an organization is just how we assemble the pieces, and a flexible, fast moving organization needs to assemble those pieces in different ways to deal with the fast moving problems that hit us every day.
While building these systems that let us become Master Builders of flexible business objects, we contracted with a company called Cloudentity. They helped us develop an identity management system that let us describe the companies we work with, hook people up to those companies and then connect the dots on the fly – I log in as a Vendor I get to see some things, I log in as a Customer, I see other things.
As the turbulence has calmed at NWEA and projects are running smoothly, I have decided to take the experience of normalizing stuff for NWEA and join the Cloudentity team to help other companies figure out how to, well, normalize their stuff too.
My new role as Director of Customer Enablement is the same thing I've been doing -- helping identify problems, areas of improvement, and the right tools to make things work more inter-connectedly and much more smoothly. NWEA has taught me a LOT about how non-technical people get emotionally attached to abstract systems (I thought that was just an Engineering thing), and how important it is to put everything on the table and look at it hard, and honestly, and then pick the right tool for the job, not just the comfortable one.
I'm going to miss NWEA -- I can talk about normalizing stuff, the business process, the data, the chaos and the calm… but at the end of the day, the people at NWEA have been great to work with. I know there is more I could do, but I also know I leave a legacy behind, not just the artifacts (the systems, the code, the tools) but the philosophies that force people to realize that we're all part of the 'stuff' and life is better when the stuff is comfortable and easy to work with.