Monday, May 12, 2008

Corporate Culture

By Steve Raymund
Chairman of the Board of Directors
Tech Data Corporation

Working as an intern is a great opportunity to learn what it means to live inside the world and culture of corporate America. With open eyes and ears, you can acquire important skills and knowledge that will help you succeed in your future career. Perhaps more importantly, you can learn a lot about yourself and what kind of work environment best fits your own personality.

Quite often that first or second internship culminates in an exciting job offer and the chance to build a career inside a company you now know, and that knows and values your contribution in return. Here’s a few tips to maximizing your success in the corporate America:

You may be a stranger in a strange land, unfamiliar with its social conventions, so take your time to learn how things get done in this new world. Listen, watch, take notes, study and reflect on your experience. Remember, company cultures can differ remarkably from one another. Intel, for example, is renowned for its culture of confrontation, while HP, in contrast, places high value on collaboration. Although a company may have formal procedures and rules, quite often it’s through informal networks and processes that more can be accomplished. So be diligent in learning about your company’s social norms to avoid making a silly faux pas, and to ensure that you maximize your effectiveness.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. If given an assignment, seek counsel and feedback along the way vs. waiting until your finished project is ready for formal unveiling. I’ve seen people waste weeks of work by misinterpreting their original instructions and finishing up with a worthless product. A better alternative is frequent checkpoints with your boss or colleagues during which you’re likely to hear great suggestions to improve your end product. That way you’re more likely to stay on track with the original assignment.

Be timely in everything you do. Show up to meetings a few minutes early. Deliver your reports when due. People don’t like to hear excuses for tardiness, delays and missed deadlines. To be sure, delays are sometimes unavoidable, but don’t wait until the last minute before informing your boss that you can’t deliver your work on time. It’s much better to provide an early heads up, which might in fact create an opportunity to enlist help in flattening the obstacles slowing your progress.