Penelope Trunk, who writes The Brazen Careerist, wrote yesterday about Harvard changing some admission policies to their MBA program to accommodate women who want to have children and careers. She writes a fascinating post about female GENXers vs. Millenniels and their different approach to work, marriage, and kids.
I think the most interesting idea she poses is not whether life and family should accommodate your work and your career, but that instead maybe we should think about our lives accommodating our work? Its an idea that I truly believe in – but had never heard posed in just that way. I worked in the Silicon Valley for 6 years during the height of the DOT COMs (from 1996-2001) and struggled with the amount of “face time” required by the companies I worked at. The frustrating thing to me — was that people were hanging around at work, just so that they could say that they had been there for X number of hours. I meanwhile am someone who arrived at work before 8am (everyone else rolled in around 10:00), ate lunch at my desk, and powered through my work sot hat I could leave by 6. I felt that working 8 or 9 hours straight – focused and intensely, I was getting so much more done then those people who waltzed in at 10:00 am, took a 2 hour lunch at 1, played XBOX from 5-6 and then went out to dinner, and then came back to the office until 10 or 11 pm.
That being said, when I moved to Oregon, and came to the company where I currently am, I was baffled by the way everyone fled the building at 5:30, as if the school bell hand rung. I stayed until 6:30 or so and felt weird that everyone had left so soon. It felt like they weren’t working hard enough. Then slowly over the next few years as I negotiated deals with partners, talked to vendors, managed strategic accounts, time and time again people were surprised at the size of Palo Alto Software. They were sure it was a company double its size because of the amount of stuff we were able to produce. So why the disconnect? As I worked here I began to understand. People at this company come in by 8:30 am, sit down and do their work. They don’t goof around, they don’t go to the gym, most of them don’t go out to lunch but instead bring lunch and take short breaks. And this is not something enforced by some company time clock. People do this because they can come in and get their work done and then go home and LIVE. You will rarely see people here on the weekends. People do check emails form home and occasionally when needed do work from home.
But overall people who work here are happy people who lead full lives. Whether they go home to wives or husbands and children, or significant others, or hobbies, or whatever, doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they go home, leave work at work, relax and do things they want to do. So when they come into work the next day, they are not tired, they are not frustrated, they are not feeling overworked and under appreciated. So they come in and give 200%. And Palo Alto Software reaps the benefits!