Friday, April 18, 2008

I'm Here, Rather Than in Synagogue

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Doesn't Feel Like Friday Night

Today, the gorgeous weather made me feel like I was back in Bangalore, except that leaves on trees here are just beginning to bud, even though our tulips and daffodils already have bloomed.

Earlier this week, Pat arranged for a nearby nursery to plant a baby willow tree along the fence in our back yard. She researched it and learned that willows grow fast, and soon, it will block a view of one of our neighbors' houses. And we're finally getting rid of some wild junipers because they're just unappealing and Pat's researching what to put in their place.

Writing about trees in our yard is relaxing, the way that looking at Pat's photoblog relaxes me, too. What a contrast from the photos she took while we were in India!

A Colleague's Career Growth

This afternoon, I had a treat accompanied by a bit of anxiety: A colleague who's a friend, a mentee and a former employee on a team I managed was named an IBM manager.

She reminded me that I was her first IBM manager. I had hired her into IBM.

We had not seen each other face-to-face in a number of years, and yet we spoke monthly by phone. I love that I was with her on the day she was named a manager. It's a big deal in this company, as only 10% of our 386,000+ employees worldwide are managers.

I said to her, "God, please don't strike us down [for pride/lack of humility], but you can drive home now, saying, 'I'm an IBM manager! Not just any manager, but an IBM manager.' I mean, we are a hot company right now, [please, God, keep it that way!] and you're among our leadership."

When I said goodbye to her, I ran into another colleague and introduced the two of them, asking my other colleague to remind me where she was from originally. She told us and it was from the same part of the world as my friend.

"Guess what! [She] was named a manager today!" I exclaimed, and I saw that my other colleague was sweetly happy in response. Here we were, two women, celebrating a third for being recognized for her leadership skills and potential. It's not an every-day occasion for anyone of any gender to be promoted to management here.

I'm sitting here, thinking that I want to keep our monthly calls going and assume she does, too, but now, they'll feel more like peers, talking. And there's a wistfulness in that I used to feel certainly useful to her as a mentor, and now, I hope I can be still, but feel less confident.

At lunch, I went on about an academic book I'd read about mentoring, saying that the definition by the author Laurent Daloz was that a mentor was simply someone who had been there before you. I felt silly, lecturing her, and I guess that was my insecurity, leaking.

When she came to see me in my office after lunch, after the announcement call, I saw the recognition of her enormous, new responsibilities in her face. She looked awed like I've never before seen her. It was an honor to witness that expression.

It's awful to have to admit, but seeing her good career fortune made me wish for my own triumph in whatever is the next step in my career. I know that must be natural, but it feels self-absorbed, and it is, whether or not it's human nature.

I'm remembering Pat, telling me once, "A real friend is someone, who is happy for you when things go well, not just when they go badly." Coincidentally, a daily reading I read this morning talked about unconditional love, not just for others, but for oneself, too.

It would help me to let myself feel a mix of anxiety about and joy for my friend without judging it.

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