Love Your Work, Love Your Team

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With a career spanning three decades, I’m enormously lucky to have a job I love.

With a career spanning three decades, I’m enormously lucky to have a job I love—and getting here has certainly been a journey. I studied finance and computer science in college, and upon graduation took a job with a consulting firm in northern Virginia working as a developer on, you guessed it, financial systems. Perfect match, right?

I quickly learned that my professional satisfaction stemmed from “solving problems,” and being a developer was a great outlet. I always enjoyed being an individual contributor and never had any interest in management. I liked being able to think, analyze and solve. In those early years, I was lucky enough to get on a small team with a group of folks I enjoyed working with—almost right out of the gate.

Was I not good enough? What could I have done better?

A couple of years in, my manager left the company to start his own firm in the consulting space, taking some of my peers with him, but not me. It made me take a hard look at myself and wonder why I wasn’t part of the club. Was I not good enough? What could I have done better? Truth be told, yes, I was smart, and, yes, I was cheap (on the wage scale), but I certainly was not driven. My day at the office was my starting and ending times, and then I had other priorities. Probably not much different than the typical 23- or 24-year-old in their first job.

At the time, I didn’t realize how rare it was to find a group of professionals (even a small one) that I simply enjoyed working with to the extent that the “what” of the work was rather irrelevant. Fast forward years later and, while having worked with plenty of people I liked, I hadn’t found that perfect team dynamic again. Then I happened to fall into it.

As part of a centralized quality assurance team (in Virginia—I had transitioned from development to quality assurance), I was assigned to a relatively small, independent, full-life-cycle team of innovators (in New York City). Their job was to build new, cool, “key” experiences. A product manager, a few designers, some developers and, finally, a quality assurance resource to wrap up the package.

Titles and responsibilities didn’t matter—instead, it was all about getting to the end result and building a product together as a team.

I was quickly impressed with their abilities and intelligence, but what really sucked me in was how close they were and how nothing mattered but the task at hand. They all worked together to solve problems. Our product manager would hop in and help with code. The designers, as well. Titles and responsibilities didn’t matter—instead, it was all about getting to the end result and building a product together as a team.

While working remote from them should have been a challenge from an integration perspective, it wasn’t in the slightest. I was welcomed and my ideas respected, regardless of whether they were QA-related or not. To top all that off, they were, simply put, good people. Good hearts. Good heads. Folks you could trust. As the months turned into a year or more, I consciously knew what I had, and I sure wasn’t going to let it go. I folded in with their mantras, their work ethics, and enjoyed every single minute of it, no matter how many there were in a given day.

Fast forward a few years, as those bonds and trust deepened, and the move to a startup happened again—with me along for the ride, this time. And what a ride it has been. That’s how Townsquare Media was born and how Townsquare Interactive was created. We all came together to build digital products because we wanted to work with each other, regardless of what we worked on. I was blessed enough to be a part of that—part of building something with a group of peers I loved working with and respected the hell out of.

I look for people that I would really enjoy working with.

Recently, as Townsquare Interactive has grown and I’ve been tasked with more and more responsibility, I’ve had the opportunity to build a large, nearly 80-person team of my own. My experiences with that core group of peers have led directly to how I hire. I look for people that I want working for me, obviously. But, more importantly, I look for people that I would really enjoy working with. The more collaborative problem solvers we can bring in, the more good people we can bring in, the more positivity we can bring in, the better our team will be as a whole.

So, for anyone out there who loves what they do because of the who and not the what—hold onto it.

As a leader, what better thing can I do than try to give my employees the best chance possible to find that group of people that they’re going to love working with? I can’t think of too many things. So, I look at my old crew (they know who they are—those that came before me or those we added along the way), and I thank them. And I look at the people I see that in on my teams today, and I just smile and think of how blessed I am to truly love my job. So, for anyone out there who loves what they do because of the who and not the what—hold onto it. It’s not something you can force, or go searching for. It’s just something that happens over an extended period of time, and it’s really hard to find.

 

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About the Author | Eric Wedge
Eric grew up on a small island (Kwajalein, Marshall Islands) before moving to South Jersey for high school and college. He now lives and works out of northern Virginia, traveling to Charlotte for one week every month.

He’s married to his amazing wife Susan, and they have twin soon-to-be 5-year-olds named Ryan and Sophie. He is extremely proud that his daughter insists Superman is way cooler than any princess and that his son has properly converted to the Philadelphia sports fandom.

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