10 lessons from 10 years of Production

  1. Be prepared for anything. No matter how your day is planned out, there can and will be a surprise. Embrace it, life goes on, it really does. A fermenting tank that just won’t ferment, A beer that just cannot get bright no matter how many times you filter it, A dude that just had a chopped finger doing a job he has done for 25 years, A boss that is desperate enough to do anything for his next job (including bragging about his ability to lie), Your name in a surprise newspaper post in a foreign land (thankfully it was a positive highlight), An exploded CO2 balloon, A guy that just collapsed in your office, A tank cone that just gave way and all the beer is draining while you watch everybody running around frantically, A presentation that gets torn apart by someone you respect above all. Just breathe, if you keep breathing, it all becomes a beautiful memory that paints an upside down rainbow on your lips.
  2. Go deep early. Learn the job. Do the job. Know the job. Listen to the politics, but trust me, if you do not get really good at your job, the politics will wear you out. Knowing your job is a really great entry pass to networking. Always remember that politics lacks a conscience, it only feeds the selfish needs of the powerful. A business is a going concern – be the one that keeps the business going, not the one that talks about its concerns.
  3. Welcome visitors. Every visitor is your ambassador. Treat them with respect, make time to engage with them, treat their recommendations seriously, and embrace their commitments. They will speak in places you might never be able to reach. What do you want them to say? You actually shape what they say. More people have been helped by visitors than you can imagine. Ask Abraham. 
  4. Try not to make enemies. I said try because you will have enemies just because you exist, but try not to make enemies. A lot of misconception and misunderstanding can be corrected in an honest open conversation, if you learn to empty your cup. People are vindictive and they only realize it after causing others great harm. Before you attack, practice the pause and put yourself in their place. How will you feel if someone treated you the way you are about to treat others? How does this individual love to be treated? Please practice the pause. Delay that mail till tomorrow. Hold that outburst till you can get them one-on-one. People are more likely to forgive a great private infraction than a small public disagreement. 
  5. Join new projects, embrace new waves, volunteer. It might seem like extra work, but it brings extra rewards. While going deep on your job offers depth, projects offer breadth and develops your T-shaped skills. If you intend to grow your tribe into a nation, volunteer and embrace the new. The new wave might fail, but the learnings and the relationships will remain priceless. And if the new wave works out, oh my, the bragging rights, the satisfaction from being part of something that succeeded in a world with little success rates for the new, that feeling is priceless.
  6. Be excited about breakdowns and mistakes. The more breakdowns and mistakes you get involved in, early, the more your future problem skills will be appreciated. There are a limited number of problems that will arise in your time (it doesn’t seem that way when they arrive, but there are really a limited number of problems) and the solutions are basically a mix of old insights. The earlier you get involved and don’t flee for fear of blame, the better. Join others in problem solving. Jump into issues that happen in your beat. Do not shift blame. Own it. The value of being involved in breakdowns and mistakes requires second order effect thinking – present pain, future gain. The worst mistake you can make is to cover up or pass the buck – better to lose a job than to lose face, after all, more people die from retirement than from resignation. (Do not ask me for the source of my statistics, it is a bias. I think when people resign voluntarily, they have an unexplainable drive to prove that they can be more, while those that retire spend too much time looking back).  
  7. Care about your people. Your people are your tribe. It can seem like an irrational thing to do, but defend your tribe externally, and hold each other to high standards internally. Please, do not wait till you’re close to retirement before realizing this – your results will fade, but the way people feel about you will remain as long as they live. I repeat – hold people to high standards. Do not drop your standards, but adjust your style to each individual to remain effective. Work with what works. If your style is not bringing out the best in an individual, change it. It helps if you just have a chat with that individual and ask – What motivates you? Then do it. If the results don’t improve, show them that you tried and leave the door open for an easy exit.  
  8. Ask for help, accept help, and give help to others. I wish I knew about this earlier, but when you’re at your wits end, ask for help from those you think can help. Forget about the vulnerability it presents. Great people lift those humble enough to ask for help, it is their energy source, feed it. They actually appreciate it more from those that they secretly admire. Again, refer to number 2, know your job.
  9. Appraise yourself at the beginning of the year and document what you want your end of year report to look like. Then execute. Execution is reality, execution brings feedback – some things will have to be removed, some will change for the better, many more will be added, but without a plan that you can routinely check to gauge your journey, you will ultimately just be overestimating yourself at the end of the year. People are generally better at rating others and explaining what they could have done better, but really poor at rating themselves and demanding at least as much as they expect from others. If appraisal discussions are your moment of truth, you have lost, no matter the outcome.  
  10. Learn reporting and presentation skills by embracing on roles and responsibilities that ensure you report and present. It is inconvenient, but you will get better with time. As you grow, you will slowly move from the one working on the field to the one working on a map. The better and clearer you are at documenting and presenting your thoughts, the more influential you will become. Always remember, those that can hold the eyes and ears of others, dictate direction. 
  11. Say what you need to say to the necessary stakeholders. Speak with candor. Speak your truth. Speak like you are being recorded, because someday, you will be recorded. Be careful with those that are quiet in meetings but cannot stop talking in hush clusters. Do not feed them, no matter how gentle they look. 
  12. Those that really have a choice do not brag about leaving. They just leave. Every company always has a replacement for you. The great companies ensure you develop that replacement, others just get that replacement at a negotiated price. Do not take yourself too seriously. You are replaceable. However, this does not undermine your uniqueness. You too, can have a choice, but if you’re bragging about it, you’re not serious. A personal trick – I always have my resignation letter handy. I read and edit it non-routinely. It tells me a lot about how I really feel. Try it. If you go to your resignation letter often, maybe you should really search for something else to do. Oh and please remember that there will be many uncertain periods of your career. Uncertainty is not fatal. You will have more people come around you “looking sincere” when you’re struggling and they will consciously try to undermine you when success revisits. Don’t take it personal, people need a distraction from the pain in their lives.
Okay, that is it. I said 10 lessons, but there are 12, be prepared for anything. Godspeed.

– Osasu Oviawe

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