A long time ago, in what seems like a lifetime away, I joined a little computer company called Dell Computer Corporation which occupied part of a nondescript business park in North Austin. It was late 1993 and Dell was a growing technology company of about 12,000 employees. Dell had a growing profile in the area and were building their presence in the national technology scene.
I was in my mid-20’s and came to Dell as a contractor to work on training materials for Dell’s international office expansion. There was great entrepreneurial energy with lots of collaboration among the departments who believed they were building something huge. Over the next six and a half years, I held a series of positions from technical writer and content developer for our third party service teams; a business analyst supporting Dell’s trailblazing manufacturing operation which pioneered supply chain management; and a project manager in the product division working on Dell’s first 64-bit server.
Diverse, right? All of these were terrific ways to build my experience and my skills. I discovered how a large corporation supports the technology needs of its employees, how a complex product development group efficiently introduces evolving technology to millions of customers, and how countless teams collaborate toward a common corporate goal.
And during this time and through my job at Dell, I met the woman who would become my wife and my first child was born. In fact, a coworker at Dell became my son’s god parent and we’re still close to this day. Dell grew and I did, too.
I departed Dell in the summer of 2000 to a company that was an internet high-flyer. Little did I know that the dot-com bust was in progress. Over the next nine years, I made a couple of relocations and job transitions chasing new roles and growth opportunities. Each one contributed to my career experience in a new way and I’m grateful for all the opportunities.
In the winter of 2008-09, I found myself between jobs and the country mired in a recession. Dell was hiring and I returned to a great role in yet another area of the company. Returning to Dell after nearly nine years away felt familiar yet different. I had grown in my skills and capabilities. Dell had evolved from a scrappy yet established startup to a global, Fortune 100 corporation. There seemed to be more opportunities than ever! Since then, I’ve worked as a product manager on Dell.com (among the top 5 ecommerce sites in global revenue); director of the learning and development program for Dell’s worldwide marketing organization; and a program director in Dell’s Client Solutions division.
And after all those roles in five distinct divisions and over a collective 13 years at Dell, some things remain true to how work gets done at Dell:
- Collaboration rules: Dell is BIG. Over 100,000 people strong and growing which brings tremendous opportunity to work with many people across the organization. Working together is imperative. Not just among your cube neighbors in a ‘what are you working on?’ –kind of way, but finding the right people to talk to, uniting around purpose, and working together toward better process and optimal business impact. Dell is a matrixed organization and working together is the way anything gets organized, implemented and done.
- The relationship matters: Because collaboration is so important, relationships get started. And nurtured over time. It’s not uncommon for working teams to span dozens of people. And before you know it, you know scores and hundreds of people across the organization who can be counted on to help you out. And soon that becomes an asset as your tenure grows in the organization. Your network can definitely help you get things done and support your career growth.
- Diversity is positive: It’s been over twenty years since I first started at Dell. In that time, Dell become a global organization and I routinely communicate with people from around the world. But not just over the phone, but in meetings and hallway conversations. Our population is from everywhere which brings a breadth of perspectives from extraordinarily bright people. That, in turn, makes me think different and value the diversity of backgrounds at Dell.
- People help each other: Grow and Learn Sure there is plenty of on-the-job learning and formal training opportunities at Dell, but the most beneficial, in my opinion, is learning form others. As you work with people, you learn about what they do, how Dell works and how to work best together with all types of people. This is the type of instruction that you never got in college!
So, as I get plugged into my sixth role and fourteenth year at Dell, I’ve moved into a different part of the organization where many things are different yet still the same. I’m at a new campus, in a new division, doing a new job but the name on the door is still the same. And I work with a lot of new people, but we still collaborate to achieve our mutual goals. I’m looking forward to what we’ll do together in the future.