As I am putting together the materials I need to apply for my dream job, I realized that sometime in the past year or so I have lost the ability to call successes “mine.” When I updated my CV to outline my duties, tasks, responsibilities and achievements, I realized that I do nothing alone. Indeed, I had a friend and colleague look it over and he reworded many of the items to make the achievements sound more singular. Yes this makes for a stronger document and is how people in my position word things but I did none of them alone. None of these were my independent accomplishments. Even this application will be reviewed and revised based on the comments of people I respect and trust.
I was not always this way. For as long as I can remember, I preferred to do things by myself. Me. Alone. One of the hardest challenges I faced in business school was all of the forced team projects. Initially I was not certain whether I would survive the experience.
As a scientist, I do use the “we” pronoun in writing and talking about work being done in my lab. But like most scientists I know that if time were not an issue I could have done it all alone and the ideas were generally mine alone. Thus, there is the retention of ownership for the success. They may have done the work but it was my idea. Mine.
For the last two years I have been heavily involved in two distinct group projects. Both stemmed from my going to business school in the first place. One is my involvement with a local biotechnology start-up company, Beacon Biotechnology, which was born from my efforts in a local business plan competition. The second is my role as the interim director of my research institute. In both of these organizations I literally do nothing alone. I may do a large percentage of the task at hand but some aspect will always have contributions from others. For almost all major decisions and tasks I do these days, I invariably start and end with a meeting. At times my life feels like a meeting. And yet, with many of these projects it would be next to impossible for a single individual to do it alone. No one person has all of the needed expertise or time to do everything. And thus the end product is better than any of us could have done alone. Ours.
I spent this morning watching the 7th annual Bard Center business plan competition presentations. I remembered being one of the contestants two years ago. As a past winner of one of the awards, I often get invited to events like these. I love to go. It’s so much fun sitting in the audience seeing these new business ideas be articulated. Today I spent a lot of the time thinking about how the business school experience changed me. The keynote speakers discussed the practicalities of teaching entrepreneurship and innovation. But to me the impact was so much greater: How I think; how I interact with others; how I approach solving problems; and how I consider the group impact and not just my own. Somewhere along the way I became we.