Everyone Is A Client
In August 1997, Steve Jobs launched Apple’s seminal Think Different campaign. Championing icons like Albert Einstein, Muhammad Ali and Amelia Earhart, who had defied conventional ideas and attitudes to achieve greatness, the ads inspired many millions of people to buy Apple computers.
Over in Wellington, New Zealand, pre-schooler Isla Findlay, may not have seen the ads, but she seemed to personify the attitude. Always an independent thinker, Isla avoided career predictions, even studying Japanese and the Classics at university, preferring to find her own path later. Though her parents both worked in the IT industry, it wasn’t until she was helping her mother with some part-time work, that she grew interested in business logic and decided to return to university to undertake a Diploma in International Business.
A grad role as a Test Analyst proved fascinating, as she was drawn to the challenge of understanding how people work with systems, and digging deeper to find the root cause of problems. This was followed by a larger Test Analyst role at another organisation and promotions to Product Owner and then Product Manager. This was her first experience managing people and she benefited from the mentorship of a People Leadership Coach. “One of the best lessons I learned, and something I use often at Modica, is that it’s not about managing a team, but rather managing a number of individuals, understanding their needs and skills and guiding their output to benefit the team.”
Since joining Modica, Isla has been acting as the Delivery Lead for the Infrastructure team of Site Reliability Engineers (SRE) as well as taking on the Tech Support team for a time, and growing the Cloud Platform capability. The small matter of a new CTO happened as well, which Isla embraced. “It can be a bit daunting having a new Manager, but if you’re committed to being helpful, building trust, nurturing the relationship and embracing change - then you are set up for a great outcome.”
On being quizzed about the secrets of her success, Isla is quick to state her favourite mantra - “Everyone Is A Client”. So let’s break down what she means and how this thinking can help others.
- Too often we focus on our external client, rather than our internal client.
- When we say we are client focussed, who is our client? Sometimes the client is the person paying you money and sometimes it’s the person sitting next to you. Give them due consideration, and ensure their needs are met.
- With any piece of work you’re doing, the first thing to do is to determine your stakeholders. If all of your stakeholders are internal, it doesn’t mean that you treat them as less important. Apply the same principles you would an external stakeholder: talk to them, get feedback on their problems, understand what their problem process is, bring them into the process, involve them in testing or trialing, invite them to your team meetings. By involving them, they will better understand your challenges, pressures, and approach.
- Don’t ‘throw it over the fence’. The classic example is that you’ve identified a problem, found a solution, then thrown it across to another part of the business. In many cases, they don’t ‘pick up’ what you have thrown. Take the time to ask, Does this work for you? Would it work if it operated this way? Communicate ahead of time that it's coming. Incorporate feedback before you deliver.
- Do your part by determining the needs of other people in the company and feeding those into Product.
- Educate the rest of the business on what your department does. You’ll be amazed at how many great ideas emerge from these discussions.
To paraphrase that great Think Different campaign, as it applies to Isla:
“Here's to the crazy ones. The rebels. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.”.