Your Greatest Weakness – Part 1 (21 of 30)

One of those age old Interview questions, that you always hear about, “What is your greatest weakness,” and you have probably been prepared to how to answer it. I first picked up on this watching “the Simpsons.”

Smithers: What would each of you say is your worst quality?
Man 1: Well, I a workaholic.
Man 2: I push myself too hard.
Homer: Well, it takes me a long time to learn anything,
I’m kind of a goof-off…
Smithers: Okay, that’ll do.
Homer: … a little stuff starts disappearing from the workplace…
Smithers: That’s enough!

Though I have never been asked this in an interview, the idea of it always makes me reflect on how my own journey, what weakness’s I have and what I am working on. We all have strong points that just come natural to us, for me it was a strong work ethic, helping others out, speaking to superiors, and being a quick learner. There are many things that didn’t come natural, especially growing up in New Jersey, I have to constantly remind myself how strong I can come off. Everyone’s journey will of course be different, but hopefully we can learn from each other’s mistakes and progress faster than without.

Config Wiz
My first few years as a network engineer it was all about learning how to run a network, I concentrated on being a config wizard. I could copy configs change the variables that needed to be, I understood the basic concepts and I could get the job done without indepth knowledge of underlying protocols. This worked pretty well, in a short time I was able to perform any implementation, figure out 90% of the issues and I was okay at designing pretty quick. I am simplifying this a bit, of course I knew OSPF, VTP or whatever protocol I was configuring, but to be honest it wasn’t that deep at first.

Writing an E-mail
I learned pretty quickly how to write an e-mail, since I was so bad at it at first. I always saw myself as being pragmatic and “to the point,” but occasionally I will look back at one or two of those e-mails I saved, and it makes me cringe.  It took more than a few responses to my bosses before I got the hint. I learned to remove any blaming in e-mails, CYA without that being the only point, and re-reading multiple times before I sent anything that could lead to potential contention.

I was a quick learner, and I was doing jobs (major network upgrades) at 20 that I wouldn’t let someone at 25 do without a lot of supervision. However, that just fed my ego, that people didn’t understand the issue, and there input wasn’t as valuable as mine. I lot of this stems from still being a teenager, or not even old enough to drink in the states and the normal bravado that goes along with those years. Still, I need to hold myself accountable for who I was. I learned quick enough that I might be good at somethings, I stink at other’s. I have a hard time remembering lyrics, my penmanship is awful, I can’t do anything artistic, I can remember a command I inputted once 5 years ago, but I can’t leave the house without running back in for something. So learn to appreciate people’s strength’s and weakness’s, be respectful, and keep your self grounded.

It’s not personal
This one took one lesson, though I probably ignored other people echo’ing the same principle’s. I came across an installation with another more senior co-worker. We had to install several network devices, and not all of the equipment was on hand. So it was worked with the PM which ones would be installed. As we were working, someone had approached us, let’s call him Bob, and found out he didn’t make the cut to get his device installed, so he would have to walk across the hall to do certain tasks. At this point Bob said well the person you are installing this device for, I am his boss, so instead install it in Bob’s office. Now I was always by the books, but I wasn’t in charge, so my co-worker said, “well if you are his boss, then let’s install it in your office.” I took him to the side and said “this isn’t what we were told to do,” he said “I don’t care, I am not going to get in an argument with him, he far out-ranks both of us.” That’s when it hit me, yea, why would I get in a argument over something that doesn’t effect me, sure I might have to return and do the works twice, but so what, it’s not personal. Now it turned out Bob was not telling the truth, and when the whole story came out, Bob had to apologize to us and the person whom he said he was his boss (it turned out that Bob had boss and subordinate “mixed up”, but things can get weird when it comes to GS civilians and Military members and we didn’t know either,) in a very public e-mail. So sure we had to do the work twice, but so what, nothing was really lost, and had we tried to swim upstream, we would have lost, been labeled as being difficult.

Know your audience
I tend to have a natural comfortableness with people I have just met, which works well for building out your network of friends in a workplace. However, I used to quickly cross that boundary of co-worker and buddy real quick. Telling jokes, or being sarcastic before they get to know who I am. This one again, was a one time lesson, I had a co-worker who I was tight with tell me, “dude, you can say that to me, but you just met these people, Know your audience.”

Learning to compliment/Negative Tetris Effect
Though I am only half Irish, I have their inability to take a compliment. I generally see things as being praised for doing what I was supposed to do, or being a bit insincere, when they almost certainly are being sincere. I also tend to only see when people are doing negative. I had just read about The Happiness Advantage and really identified with the negative tetris effect. Which is based on the theory that when you play tetris too long, everything seems to be a game of tetris, for instance, people would be in grocery stores and see products as objects in a game and picture in their head how to piece them together. The negative tetris effect is when you can only see the negative in everyone’s actions. Now that might be how I process things, but I make a big effort to tell people, (with sincerity only) when they are doing a real good job. I never discount a praise, since I learned that in a way you are disagreeing with them, saying that their opinion is wrong. I’ll tell you, it does make for a happier environment.


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