Professional Skills from Raising a Newborn
This last month my wife and I had a new baby. Since this was my second child, I spent less time panicking and more time preparing for the bundle of joy. It was during this preparation that I realized how much the skills for dealing with a baby and the skills for work projects can overlap.
Difficult clients, projects or systems that send off messages at the drop of a hat require extra attention. This is just like having a baby. The trick is learning the skills to help you progress past the hassle and get to the fun part of the work. The below skills are ones I use every day when dealing with my newborn and at work.
Patience: The most universal skill anyone can learn is patience. A baby only cries when something is wrong, and they also feed on your emotions. If you are stressed, their stress level goes up. This is why patience is so important. Systems or clients may freak out about something, but it's our job to calmly correct the problem and explain what happened. Calmly working through a problem enables us to minimize mistakes while working quickly. If I do my job right as a parent, the baby learns patience with us and will be calmer when there are problems. The same goes for work.
Time Management: This is important to any career, and nothing spurs learning better time management quite like a baby. The real trick is learning how to switch from a project to a new request then switch back to the project without losing focus. Newborns sleep a large part of the day, but then when they have needs, they're immediate. Likewise with work, to get things done, one must learn to balance projects and support tickets.
Team Work: A baby generates many "support tickets," if you will. If you are lucky enough to have a support team, they can help by picking up the work on other projects, whether at home or at work. The important part is communication of your needs so they can cover areas where you need help. This also applies to asking for help. You might have a team member who knows more about a project then you do. Take the time to know each others strengths and weaknesses. And whenever possible, share the knowledge for better coverage.
Following Procedures: Everyone has procedures and process. Procedures enable you to complete a task without missing important steps, and along the way they also provide reassurance. If a baby cries it will usually cry until the instigating problem is fixed. When you implement a procedure they will learn that their need is being taken care of and will generally stop crying earlier. The same can be applied to work projects. People all have varying degrees of vocality about problems on their project. If they have awareness of a procedure and can see it in progress, they will generally be less vocal, letting you do more work and less wrangling.
Troubleshooting: This is a skill that can appear like witchcraft to those who are new to a field. It isn’t enough to just start poking and 'Googling' at a problem if you have no idea what you are doing; so start off just like any other project by doing your research. You don’t need to start off as an expert, what you need is enough of a background knowledge that when something goes wrong you know what to look for.
No matter who you work with or what you do, there will always be things that strive for more of your attention. The real joy comes from working through the problems and look back at your accomplishments. After all, they don't remain babies for long and once they grow up you get to look at what you created knowing that everything you went through was worth it.