A letter to my younger self, Ann Moffatt
I HAVE HAD A wonderful life and a wonderful career. Like most people, I have had my ups and downs. I’m very glad I have had the opportunity to set it all down. Let me end on the lessons my career and my life have taught me:
TAKE TIME TO OBSERVE
Often a solution to a problem is simple but counter-intuitive. In my experience, it is often the most junior staff, who have time to observe and ask why, who suggest the most successful solutions.
PUT YOUR OWN NEEDS FIRST
This is something I learnt late in my career. We women are often taught to put the needs of others before our own. It seems selfish, but I have found that you are better able to help others if you meet your own needs first.
It makes sense when the flight attendant on an aeroplane announces that you should put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others and it works in life.
TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOUR PHYSICAL AND MENTAL WELLBEING
We each have only one body. It is important that we treat it well and maintain and exercise it regularly so that it will be fit to support us in all we want to achieve in life. I have had more than my share of trauma, physical and mental, and keeping healthy in both areas has helped me a lot.
PROMISE LESS AND DELIVER MORE
In providing estimates for IT projects I have always slightly overestimated. This not only provides a margin for error but it delights clients when projects are brought in under budget and ahead of time.
In my Masters program I was horrified when one student said he always underestimated. If management knew the real cost of projects they would never get the go-ahead. He said once a project was part way through more budget and time would always be allocated. I consider this attitude to be dishonest. It has been the scourge of the IT industry. IT is a service industry. Professionals must learn to provide accurate estimates.
Life is too comfortable when you are surrounded by yes-men and yes-women. We need to be with people who constructively challenge our ideas and recommend alternatives so that in a culture of mutual respect other people’s views are heard and the outcome is the best and strongest solution.
APPOINT A COMPETENT DEPUTY
In this way things can continue successfully if you are ever away from work through sickness or on holiday. It also means you have the choice to take on interesting opportunities as they arise.
REWARD YOURSELF WHEN YOU ACHIEVE SOMETHING
I hate public speaking. The first time I made a presentation to a group of over 500 people and received a standing ovation, I bought myself a very expensive hand knitted jacket. Whenever I wear it I recall the event that led to the purchase and I feel a million dollars. Something as simple as a small piece of jewellery or a nice book will serve the same purpose.
MAKE TIME TO PURSUE ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE YOUR CAREER
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And Jill a dull girl. Everybody needs enjoyable interests outside of work.
If you do not look forward to going to work each day you are probably in the wrong job. Have the courage to get out of a situation you are not enjoying.
I will leave you with a quotation from the 16th century essayist, scientist and philosopher, Francis Bacon.
‘I hold every man a debtor to his profession; from the which, as men of course do seek to receive countenance and profit, so ought they of duty to endeavour themselves, by way of amends, to be a help and ornament thereunto.’
I have certainly enjoyed the fruits of our industry and enjoyed making a contribution to our profession.
This is an extract from Ann Moffatt’s book, The IT Girl, which is to be published in November 2020.
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