So, What Do You Do?

So, What do you do?

During my career as a Telecom Engineer and now as a Software Executive, many people ask me; “ So what is it that you do?” My wife of almost 20 years is still confused by it. I usually start off by saying; “ You know the telephone lines you see on poles? I help companies get those there, and know what they are and where they go.” That usually ends with a disheartened acknowledgment and a sort of confused look. I get it, I understand that I am not an astronaut or fireman, but I do love my job. Often I reflect on how I can better answer that question and maybe I should say, I help my clients solve problems! I’m sure that I would get looked at like a calf staring at a new gate for that one.

When defining problem-solving, the number one step in any definition is “Clearly Define the Problem”. So many times in my career I have been asked to solve a problem that wasn’t clearly defined. When you start looking at alternatives and start formulating and evaluating plans without understanding the problem, the execution ultimately fails. It fails because the problem is never clearly Identified. This happens every day in every aspect of life and work. We face a problem, and we instantly want a solution to solve it. In reality, we don’t really know what the problem is, because we didn’t clearly identify it. So how can we find a solution, implement a plan, and resolve the problem? As a software solution provider, we get asked all the time, Will your software do this?, or Can it do that?, when in reality the buyer is saying “I have a problem and I want your solution to solve it for me, so tell me it will”. This is where experience comes in. It is my job to dig deeper and find out why they want our solution to do a certain task. Usually, it turns out, they have bad communication, or a lazy workforce, or managers that don’t hold employees accountable for failing in processes and procedures, so they want a solution that will take all of that away. This is when hard conversations have to happen. Many times, we pass on sales opportunities because the problem that the buyer has is much deeper than a function of our software can solve. I stress to my staff, and to our prospects, that at GEOGRAPH Technologies, we don’t sell software; we solve problems. This means a lot of times, we have to tell prospects that we are just not a good fit. They may have poor data or poor processes, and our solution is not going to change that. In fact, it could magnify the problems, which in turn further frustrates our new customer. What the prospect has done is moved on to step two of problem-solving without completing step one, and it is our duty to keep that from happening.

My number one goal in my life and career is to not cause problems for people. I try to always be aware of what’s going on around me and courteous of others’ feelings and thoughts and to have the discernment to act when I feel things aren’t quite right. This is an important philosophy we promote at GEOGRAPH Technologies. We want to be aware of what the industry is doing and be mindful of our customers’ problems. We do this by listening to their needs and concerns, and offering solutions to help solve the problems that we can or direct them to solutions that will. My goal at the end of the day is to ensure that our customers can say, “GEOGRAPH helped us solve a problem we were having”. This is why, when people ask what I do, I want to say, “I solve problems.”

Until Next Time, Map on!

Bruce Smith