What Do You Value?

My *cough* senior *cough* year at NC State – okay, okay, it was my fifth year – I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was taking a business course in the fall semester that I was bordering between an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ in. Luckily, our professor offered some extra credit! He held a career fair for the college of management every year – all I had to do was attend and say “hi” to him, and my grade bumped up a whole letter – sweet!!

Reluctantly, I went to the career fair with a lot of support and encouragement from my then girlfriend (and now wife J). I walked to the student center where the event was held and met with a few of my classmates beforehand to gameplan our escape. We walked in, filled out our registration and began to split up amongst the vendors who were there to discuss career opportunities.

I spoke with quite a few companies across multiple industries, but there was one company that really stood out to me. It was a small technology startup in the area that was just acquired by a global organization (hint: I still work here!). The reason this booth stood out wasn’t because of the neon green signs surrounding the booth or the swag that they were giving out (cool pen, bro).

No, it was the fact that the two employees working the booth were laid back, casually dressed, relatable and genuinely happy. Sure, there were other vendors who I enjoyed talking with, but the only thing they wanted to talk about was what they do and what I want to do. This vendor though, there was something about them – they were happy about everything. They wanted to talk about whatever I wanted to talk about; they got me interested in them – and they were great at showing their reciprocated interest in me. We had a casual conversation rather than an interview.

Over the next few days/weeks, I had gotten a few calls regarding potential interviews and started to set up a few. After all, this was *fingers crossed*, my last year of school – I was going to need a job at some point. Finally, the day before Thanksgiving, I get a call from a manager from this company… YES!!

They invite me to a lunch and learn session being held over the weekend in a few weeks where I would get to meet the team(s), grab some lunch and, ultimately, interview for an internship. I went to the event, got to meet a bunch of new people, crushed my interview and anxiously awaited a call back. About a week passed and that call finally came!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about Citrix ShareFile. Yes, I got my job (internship) from an extra credit assignment eight months before I was set to graduate. I spent the last semester of school taking two courses and interning as a lead generator for ShareFile.

About halfway through the program, we were told only two of us would end up actually getting offers from Citrix – luckily, I was doing great performance wise already; all I had to do was keep up with the pace I was going. I loved my job and everything about it, why wouldn’t I want to stay at this place? I worked with a young, professional workforce that lived by the standard of ‘work hard, play hard.’ It wasn’t all about the partying though – these guys (and gals) were all happy… what’s their secret?

During my internship, I did essentially the same thing as an entry level lead generator, just on a smaller scale (we were restricted in number of hours we could work in a given week) – cold calling to set up virtual product demos for a more tenured sales rep. I also got to learn about Corporate American culture, and, coincidentally enough, the exact opposite of corporate culture: start-up culture.

When I joined the ShareFile team, they had just been acquired by Citrix, so there were still a lot of the original employees in addition to the hundred or so they brought onboard in the few months after they were acquired. These guys (the OG’s, if you will) shared something special – they were a part of a team, but this team had an extremely strong bond. They formed this bond when they created (and all bought into) the values that the ShareFile team held dear; values that I still hold close:

  1. We are Family first & foremost
  2. We ALL spread the Citrix ShareFile love
  3. We are committed to winning, within our core values, whatever it takes
  4. We maintain a 100% no BULL$#!T policy
  5. We work HARD (Hustle, Attitude, Resilience, Discipline)
  6. We like to party
  7. We kill the unknown
  8. We focus on Solutions, not problems
  9. We lead through service
  10. We never let good stand in the way of GREAT

Before my internship ended, I had a formal offer letter in hand to start a full-time position upon my graduation. Without hesitating (which, in hindsight, I’ve learned is a horrible practice – not from this experience, but in general), I signed the dotted line. I had secured a job straight out of college in one of the toughest job economies since the Great Depression – I was on top of the world.

I bought into the values. I lived them day in and day out. I grew up playing team sports, so being on a team came naturally to me – for some of my colleagues who were never on a team before (or at least a good team with cohesion), it was difficult for them to buy into the culture and values. As we continued to be transitioned into the larger Citrix organization, we were presented with the Citrix values which, at the time, were: Humility, Integrity, Respect.

Woah. That’s deep, especially in comparison to the 10 I knew before.

Let’s take a step back for a moment and look at these three words – or, in the wise words of Aretha Franklin: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.” I feel like this is a good time for me to pause to mention that I am not a fan of religion (there’s a recurring theme correlating my posts to things I’m not a ‘fan’ of). I grew up Catholic, attended Young Life and had a lot of friends from church – hell, my grandfather was practically a saint (pretty sure he had God on speed-dial) – but the concept of organized religion never sat well with me. Don’t get me wrong, practice your religion as you see fit, but practice all of it, not just the parts you like (ahem, the Bible teaches tolerance J). I don’t want to go off on a rant here, so let’s get to the point: I don’t like religion, especially organized, BUT, the core values taught by religion can work wonders when practiced properly.

When I was in high school attending Young Life, my Young Life leader asked myself and my friends to read a book: Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness. If you’ve read some of my other posts, you should know I’m not a reader, either (see the theme going again?). Even still, a friend asked me to try something, so I did – I read (at least most of) the book and it changed my life. Regardless if I bought into the whole ‘Holiness’ part of it, there is something to be said of a man who practices humility.

Humility, in a greater sense of the word, is the practice of humbleness – I work in sales… how many humble sales people do you know? Probably a handful at most. Sure, I had read about humility in a religious context, but the application of the word could be used in my everyday life. I began practicing humility on a day to day basis – I lost a few friends since I no longer wanted to show off or be the pompous asshole around school, but, ultimately, I was happier with myself and the life I was leading. I quickly came to find my true friends who I’m glad to say I still keep in touch with and hang out with regularly.

Today, I practice humility in my day-to-day at work and at home. When my wife tells me I’m amazing for doing a simple favor, I don’t let her give me that credit. When my boss tells me I did a great job with a training or project that I worked with others on, I make sure to defer the recognition to them. I recently read in The Entrepreneur that humility is often associated with weakness – an exploit that the authors combated by mentioning that “humility, as it turns out, has nothing to do with weakness precisely because it requires a substantial inner strength to embody — one that not only welcomes feedback and criticism but knows that it is one of the fundamental ways that we grow.” Unlike most, I ask for criticism after I present content to customers and colleagues alike – I don’t wait around for someone to come find me and correct me, I draw it out of them. If I present to my team and my manager has no criticism for me (preferably constructive), I will ask leading questions to get to the parts that I know that I need to improve.

I understand that there is always going to be an opportunity to learn or better myself, and I welcome it. There is no such thing as perfect in the real world – just when you think you know everything, things change, and I’m okay with that. I’d rather continuously be learning from my mistakes or from those whom I respect, than to become complacent and twiddle my thumbs all day.

Moving on – let’s talk about integrity… again, I’m in sales – this stuff seems harder to come by on a sales team than Michael Jordan’s ‘secret stuff’ in Space Jam. I’m not saying that all salespeople are bad or shady – what I’m saying is that money is the root of all evil:

This makes it difficult for people, not just in sales, but in all professions – no man is impervious to the power of money. Sure, some could turn it down, but none without hesitation. Integrity is defined by Merriam-Webster as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.” How often do we hear about bribe scandals and the crimes people commit for a quick buck? C’mon people – it’s a little green piece of paper. One could assign the same value to balls of clay or twigs if they had the right attitude and the drive to change the mindset of a population.

When I get on a call with my sales reps, they make the friendly joke to the customer that I, the SE, am on the call to “keep them honest.” Sure, they’re saying that they have me on a resource in case they get stuck or if they aren’t positive on an answer; but how awesome is it that, not only do they have the desire to be honest and open with the customer, they trust me to keep them honest. I like to think that’s because my integrity shows in my work – I do my absolute best to make sure I’m honest when talking with not just customers, but everyone that I interact with.

By no means am I perfect, but I do try to maintain my morality in everything that I do. In other words, I will not lie to a customer to make a sale; sometimes I struggle pitching the idea of something to come for a customer because I know it’s a stretch or further out than they want/need it to be. Perhaps that is why the phrase is ‘under promise, over deliver;’ so that salespeople can maintain their integrity while pitching the ‘idea of the future’ to a customer. Ideas are great, but customers want tangibles, deliverables, something they can experience – they want a solution to their problems, and they are trusting us to give it to them.

Thinking back (to my restaurant days), I remember a time that my manager overheard me respond to a customer asking how a certain dish was. I got reprimanded for telling the customer that I don’t eat seafood, but that I’d heard great things about the dish. My manager pulled me aside and asked why I didn’t tell them it was delicious – when I responded that it was because I don’t eat seafood, they quipped “But you’ve tasted that dish, we have to taste everything on the menu.” I wasn’t going to lie to the customer and tell them I thought the dish was excellent – that was totally against my beliefs… I’m not a ‘yes man,’ per say, especially if I’m passionate about a subject, and I’m passionate about being true to myself. Needless to say, I thought what I was doing was right – I wasn’t lying to the customer, and I also wasn’t saying poor things about the chef’s work. (To prove my point to my manager, I simply said “you’re right, I have tasted it; I’ll tell them what I really think… remember, I don’t like seafood.” He didn’t like that either J – I’m a sarcastic SOB some days).

Lastly, I want to talk about respect: a word with so much meaning. One of the first things we learn in this world, and yet, one of the less common traits in the modern world. Simply put: treat others as you would like to be treated. We’re taught in school, we’re taught in church, we’re taught at home, we’re even taught at work. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Of the three, this is probably the easiest trait to embrace and takes the least effort to implement. Don’t say something to or about a customer that you wouldn’t want repeated about you. Don’t lie to a customer, period – if you don’t know an answer, that’s okay. It’s better to be open, honest and respectful than to lie – and, you’ll earn the customer’s respect in the process. The keyword here is ‘earned;’ as in, you cannot demand respect, you cannot buy respect, you can only earn it from others.

It’s quite simple to earn someone’s respect – all it takes is willingness to learn and show some respect yourself. I’ve often heard that it’s important to ‘be the smartest man (or woman) in the room.’ But what if I’m in a room with people that I know are smarter? This is where morality kicks in – if I know I’m not the smartest person in the room, I’m okay with it; and, I’d rather be true to myself than get myself in over my head in discussion on topics I don’t fully understand. The sheer fact that I acknowledge this most times is enough to earn the respect of those with whom I’m meeting. They appreciate that I don’t lie to them and tell them what they want to hear since that is not what I would want if the reverse situation were happening.

The moral of the story (see what I did there), is that being true to yourself and to your values can help you become successful in ways you may never know (unless you try J). I started a job four years ago because I was awed by the culture and values a team had created and lived by. I became part of that culture and adopted those values, come to find that Citrix held the core values that most live by and I held dear. As you can imagine, I have a lot to say around the things I am passionate about (yeah, this is a long post), but I can honestly say that I am happy with myself and ecstatic to (still) work for a company that feels the same way about many of the values I hold.

What I’m trying to say is: if you are lucky enough to come across a firm that holds the same values as you, apply for a job and take it! You won’t regret it. If you’re passionate enough about what you believe in, and the company you work for mimics that passion and amplifies it in you, the possibilities for what you can accomplish are endless.

 

 

 

Note: Citrix’s core values have changed over my time here, but still maintain the common theme. Today, they are: Integrity, Respect, Courage, Curiosity and Unity.

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