Marnie Weber | Sr. Technical Product Manager in Bellevue, WA
“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.’ – Maya Angelou
Ms. Angelou had it right of course. As did Kahlil Gibran who said, “work is love made visible.” I live by these ideals because I believe that people who love what they do are less likely to start wars, starve babies, or shoot teenagers. They’re too busy being happy.
Loving what you do sounds awesome – but only one-third of us are highly engaged[i] in our work. Businesses love the idea of high engagement because it’s linked to high performance. And individuals want to be highly engaged because it leads to rewards and recognition. But neither really know what to do to increase engagement. They haven’t made the love connection.
As a child, I was a performer. I made up skits, sang along with my parents’ LPs, danced, did gymnastics and was a cheerleader. I performed in the two school plays that were produced by my tiny High School. I loved being on stage and, thus, I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. But when I grew up I studied computer science. I enjoyed programming and was good at it – and I didn’t want to be a starving artist. My dream of performance was put away.
Computer science was the way to go in the late- 80s. I won an internship at Microsoft in 1988 and stayed for a long time, pursuing a variety of jobs and learning, learning, learning. Sometimes I really loved my work, sometimes I didn’t and by 2011 I was ready to do something different, more meaningful, something with more love in it. I decided to leave Microsoft and start a coaching and facilitation practice because, as a leader, I was good at those things and they made me happy.
But before I started out on my own…
I was a bit underutilized during the last few months of my Microsoft career, so I decided to get a jump on my new role by developing a career planning workshop just for the fun of it. I offered it to any group within my organization who was interested, and several teams took me up on it. My love of performance was rekindled as I engaged my audience and I felt fulfilled by their positive response.
Shortly after I started my business,I was contacted by Adobe about designing and facilitating a series of career planning workshops. I hadn’t advertised or contacted Adobe, so I was a bit surprised. It turned out that the Marketing VP who contacted me had taken my free Microsoft workshop and had chosen her new career at Adobe based on her learning from it.
For the next couple of years, I worked as a coach and facilitator and I co-curated TEDxSeattle 2013. I learned more about coaching and facilitation and I gained interesting insights about storytelling, but I wasn’t making ends meet doing what I loved. After much soul-searching (and with two children readying for university), I reached out to Strong-Bridge Consulting and they graciously brought me onboard as a consultant.
When I first started consulting, I was placed almost exclusively in project management roles. I was good at project and program management, but they weren’t my dream gigs. To be happy and super productive I knew I needed to bring more love to my work, so I found ways to incorporate workshops and coaching into my project management roles. My clients loved the creativity and unique results I was able to bring with these additional, often complementary, services. I was happy and Strong-Bridge was super supportive.
Over time, the mix of work I was awarded shifted more toward facilitation until I was hired by Expedia Group to teach an engineering team how to use storytelling techniques to improve their written and verbal communications. I had the luxury of six months to deliver training and coaching for each team member such that they would be able to present their best TED-like talk. This engagement was 100% facilitation, coaching, and storytelling, and was unlike any I had done before. I felt excited to go to work almost every day and noticed that I was making an even greater impact than I had before.
And then… my work got noticed by the group’s Vice President and shortly thereafter I was hired by Expedia Group to do MY DREAM JOB! I am grateful every day that I get to do the work I absolutely love.
It all started with me giving away the work I loved to do the most.
I believe the shifts in the type of work I do happened because I didn’t wait to be paid for what I love to do. Rather, I brought love to my work and more work that I loved followed.
If you are less than highly engaged and want to feel more love in your work, try bringing what you love to your work. Do you love coding, but that’s not your job? Create a helpful app for the team. You long to work in a nonprofit but feel stuck in the corporate world? Enlist and lead a group of volunteers in a charitable activity.
You get the idea.
[i] Gallup, State of the Workplace Report 2017