Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What do you do when you start a new job in a new industry ?

Across the last decade or so, I moved across many companies, all of them representing a different industry vertical. In each case, it involved learning about the segment in which the company operated, its customers, its services/products, marketplace, competitive scenario and market standing. Being a part of the executive management team, the expectations were quite high and needed to be addressed with speed.

In such a scenario, there are many approaches that work for different people. Research using print and electronic media is a starting point and it can give a broad perspective of the industry. However the experience on the ground can be a big eye opener ! It's like being in the stands and watching a sport and making references to how the player should play, and actually playing the game !

Is there a settling time ? And if there is what should it be ? Over the last 2 months, I have been through my induction, meeting people, making notes, asking questions, and above all getting to understand the dimensions of IT with my team. Despite best efforts not to get involved in the operational issues, reality is that when the ball stops here, you have to do something with it. People look up to you for advice, resolution and decisions on way forward.

So like it or not, you have to start playing and learn on the job. Depend on your team and peers to help you through the process which will help in reducing the mistakes you may end up making if you were all alone. Organizations are extremely different in many respects but at the same time they are also similar in many ways. Use your past experience to validate what you see. e.g. Finance, HR, legal and a few other functions will behave in the same way across most organizations and will probably have similar issues.

My guess is that within the first 90 days, its a process of absorbing whatever is thrown at you. Validate your assumptions by asking questions and write back or repeat what you understood. This will help in ensuring that you have understood what the other expected you to. Sometimes progress can be a bit slow, and patience helps in these cases. Supplement your understanding by talking to vendors who will be more than willing to contribute to your learning.

What do you do after the first 90 days ? For that you will have to wait another month ! But if you have changed jobs across industries, do share your experience.