5 Ways To Be A More Collaborative Professional

The value of successful collaboration within a team is invaluable. During my time as a post-graduate I have realized how sincerely I enjoy working with others who have a “team player” mentality, as it is easy in business to become solely focused on your own goals. I came across a quote recently by Vince Lombardi, American NFL player, coach, and executive that resonated with my perspective on the importance of teamwork:

“Individual commitment to a group effort: that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

When a team collaborates well, everyone feels like they are contributing to a part of the whole without hesitation or confusion. For me, I think there are ways that each of us as professionals can actively pursue becoming a better team member, which includes collaborating effectively.

Being a team player means actively taking steps to collaborate with your team.

Here are five ways that you can become a more collaborative professional:

  1. Embody positive team attributes. There are many qualities that, when combined, exemplify a team player. These traits can include, but are certainly not limited to being empathetic, inclusive, encouraging, honest, and reliable. Forbes Magazine expands on these character attributes, many of them leading to team success.  Be self aware here – look at these traits and assess if there are areas of your professional (or personal!) life that you can take active steps to improve.
  2. Meet with professionals in similar roles, and share best practices. I’ve personally gained so much by reaching out to people within my company who are internal/executive communicators like myself. Most often than not, these relationships can serve you in the future by coming full circle and offering further opportunities for partnership and collaboration.
  3. Use the tools your company or group provides. Does your company have an intranet? Bookmark your team page and actively contribute. Does your small group at school have a group text? Be engaging and responsive there. Many of my colleagues have heard me say “An engaged team is a strong team” and I stand by that phrase whole heartedly because I have seen what a collaborative team can accomplish!
  4. Be well versed in interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. Let’s be real, even the most well functioning teams experience conflict whether that be a miscommunicated email or a failed deadline. Knowing how to communicate and collaborate through the conflict shows a level of professionalism that is appreciated and respected by your colleagues.
  5. Raise your hand to lead and be a part of exciting projects and opportunities that come your way. Working in new settings with new people presents you with a great chance to collaborate and experience new growth as a professional.

 

By becoming a better collaborator you can ultimately help yourself. You help yourself with future team projects, opportunities that come your way, conflicts you will have to deal with, and so many more interpersonal interactions. Let’s make a promise to ourselves to take these steps together, and become the best professionals we can be not only for ourselves but for our teams.

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Have No Fear, Communication Studies Majors!

Last month a staff member from the Biola University career center gave me a call, looking to ask me about what life was like post-graduation as a Communication Studies major. I remember exploring multiple majors in college – from Political Science, to Sociology, and finally to Communication Studies. When I landed in this department during the second semester of my Sophomore year, I recall loving that this major could take me anywhere. However, for some students the ambiguity can feel overwhelming. What can I do with a communication major? Where will interpersonal, organizational, theatrical, or rhetorical communication get me? Would you ever think that a Liberal Arts degree could lead you to the Technology Industry?

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Not too long ago I read an excellent article titled, “Liberal Arts in the Data Age” from the Harvard Business Review, and I remember connecting with some of the main points that the author makes:

  • People are beginning to realize that to effectively tackle today’s biggest social and technological challenges, we need to think critically about their human context—something humanities graduates happen to be well trained to do.
  • If we want to prepare students to solve large-scale human problems, we must push them to widen, not narrow, their education and interests.
  • The CEOs of YouTube, Slack, and AirBnb all have liberal arts degrees.

It has been so exciting to see the industries that my classmates have entered – Entertainment, Action Sports, Fashion, Non-Profit, Education, Photography, and let’s not forget Technology. Students who pursue a Liberal Arts degree should keep their minds open to the possibilities that follow after graduation, including reacting to opportunities outside of their norms. For me, it was accepting a job at a technology company. I remember writing my first ever blog post here about being a “Communication Girl in an Engineering World”and shaking my head at where I’d landed after graduation thinking, “could this industry be any more opposite than me?” Fast forward to three years later and I have grown and progressed professionally more than I could have imagined.

If you are a communications professional, or a student wondering where to use your communication studies education, the options are endless and the technology industry has a place for you. Let’s keep this conversation going – message me on LinkedIn or tweet at me and I’d be happy to chat.

Why Culture Always Wins

During my three years at Dell EMC, we have consistently achieved “Best Place to Work” status, and recently Dell Technologies has been named one of LinkedIn’s Top Companies of 2017. For me, the driving factor in this success is our emphasis on company culture. As a new company, I credit the efforts that our leadership and transformation teams have placed on creating a foundational culture code.

One of the best articles that I’ve read about Dell’s “Culture Code” is What Makes a Company Great? Culture is Key by Dell’s Chief HR Officer, Steve Price.

“As a company that recently closed one of the biggest tech mergers in history with EMC, we made listening a top priority as we looked to unify our company culture as part of the new Dell Technologies. We turned our collective ears toward team members from both former Dell and EMC to define our corporate culture as the driver of how we run the business, go to market, work effectively together and provide inspirational leadership.”

As both a communicator and a team member at Dell EMC, watching the communications unfold to promote our culture code has been amazing, and our internal communications team has done a great job.

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I’ve really appreciated the way that our culture code is organized because it is easy to embed into the communications I craft for the Chief Technology Officer and his team. For example, at quarterly All Hands meetings we are able to dedicate time to connecting our major wins to our fives values that you see above, which makes the direct connection between the work that people do, and the organizational culture.

In his most recent Direct2Dell article, Steve Price addresses the importance of effective leadership development in the area of supporting and inspiring company culture. He says that it is expected for leaders to embed these values into the way they run their business units, and I couldn’t agree more. In the end, if our leaders and team members are in, our customers are in, and then we all #GoBigWinBig!

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What’s New in the Communicationsphere

As many of you know, I’m a big Twitter user. I practically use it every day to learn more about my industry, my peers, and what’s going on in this big world of ours. I’ve found a huge benefit in using Twitter to stay up to date on the pulse of corporate communications, and I often re-tweet articles or blog posts that I find interesting. Allow me to share a few of the golden nuggets I’ve found while scrolling through my feed recently:

“5 Keys to Engaging Corporate Culture” by Jacob Morgan at Inc.com

The author in this article gives kudos to CEO James White from Jamba Juice, a well known and refreshing chain store just minutes from my office, who has embedded a strong culture within the company that has lasted through tumultuous times. Two of the five key ways that you build a strong culture are communicating from the top down, and actively engaging your community. I believe it is crucial for communicators to have a seat at the leadership table, and I’ve seen a lot of great employee campaigns come to fruition at my company because of this. We even have our culture code listed as an FY’18 objective as a company! I can imagine, however, that there are some companies out there where communicators might not have a seat at the table, and the challenges that they would face as a result of that. From experience, it is SO SO SO important that leadership is onboard with corporate communication strategy. Otherwise, you cannot expect a strong and engaged community.

“How Every Internal Communicator Can Be a Rockstar” by Alison Davis on LinkedIn

In this article written by Davis & Company’s CEO Alison Davis, internal communicators are encouraged to rise above and become rockstars. With a few of her helpful tips, she suggests that you can become a rockstar communicator by:

  • Channeling the characteristics of a rock star.
  • Using evidence to make your case.
  • Sharing best practices.
  • Changing the conversation from tactical to strategic.
  • Focusing on outcomes.
  • Not letting setbacks get you down.
  • Measuring your results.

“The Workplace is the New Corporate Communications Platform”

Intriguing title, wouldn’t you say? This article by WorkDesign Magazine is about eBay, and the gorgeous renovations they’ve completed at their headquarters in California including touchscreen walls, natural light, unique installations, and more. They claim, “These dynamic experiences not only invite guests to engage with the company’s story; they also help transform the eBay workforce into a connected, empowered community.” One of the tips they suggested for starting your own workplace transformation that really made me think was to use your company data to bring your brand to life. Reading this gave me some really great ideas about implementing more data into my own communication programs.

“Communications 2006 v.s. 2016”

If you’re looking for a good laugh, and a trip down memory lane, read this short article and remember the times when social media didn’t exist, there was no such thing as internal communications, and smartphones weren’t a thing!

If you’re interested in more articles like these, give me a follow at @beckyykurtz.

STEM & The Tech Challenge

For me, living in Silicon Valley and working for Dell EMC has opened my eyes to the importance of a STEM education: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. For a long time I have been impressed with the intelligence of my peers, especially because I am in the minority with a “Bachelor of Arts” degree. What’s impressive about the valley is the vast amount of technology companies in a matter of miles. I was curious, so I looked up how many tech companies are in the town in which I work, and the answer is 1,104. In this area, a STEM education is crucial.

Growing up, I personally did not excel in STEM – my academic strengths were always History and English, never Physics and Math. That’s why, when I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Silicon Valley Tech Museum‘s annual event “The Tech Challenge,” I was very impressed with the students and their strengths in this area. You may be asking, what is the Tech Challenge?

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This signature program of The Tech invites teams of students in Grades 4-12 to use the engineering design process to solve a real-world problem. Participants spend months collaborating and becoming deeply engaged in the challenge while documenting their progress and designs. The program culminates in a thrilling two-day showcase in April when teams put their solutions to the test in front of judges.

Although I was only a volunteer, I was able to see hundreds of children using their STEM education in an amazing aways. What’s even more exciting is that so many of these students were girls! The challenge this year was “Rock the Ravine” – design and build a device to help explorers cross an ice field with multiple ravines. It was a competition like I’ve never seen before with 2,500 students, 55 program sponsors from the valley, and hundreds of corporate volunteers. My company, Dell, is the presenting sponsor for the Tech Challenge and I’ve been lucky enough to be involved this year as the Dell company ambassador. This involved sitting in on a few board fundraising meetings, communicating about the challenge within Dell, asking for volunteers, and working with our VIP executive judges.

I’ve really enjoyed working in the technology industry because, although my course of study did not take me through Engineering training, I’ve been able to become a part of the tech community and encourage the next generation to pursue a STEM education.

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My husband and I volunteering at the Tech Challenge – two rivaling tech companies coming together to support STEM education for students!

Will your New Years Resolution be to Videoconference More?

Recently when I was doing my daily scroll through my Twitter feed, I came across an article titled “What I’ve Learned from 30 Days of Videoconferencing.” Immediately I clicked the link to read more because I am and will always be a fan of using videoconferencing in business to interact with your team internally. Tools such as Skype and FaceTime have also played an integral role in my life as my friends and family are scattered throughout the country.

A lot of times, especially at work, I am surprised at how little we utilize videoconferencing despite the tools we have at our fingertips. In agreement with the article that I read this week, I have found a few reasons why you should integrate videoconferencing into your routine at work.

  1. Building camaraderie. Getting to know each other is essential to team building, especially when all of the team members are not present in the same office as you. In my eyes, a good team has a strong bond, and how can you achieve that if you never see each other?
  2. Strengthening engagement. There are many times on calls where we can become distracted or disengaged with the discussion. With video conferencing, you feel like you are there in the room with your team as a vital and important part of the matter at hand.
  3. Nonverbal Communication. Who has ever experienced the long and awkward silence when asking a question over the phone? You can’t see me now, but I am virtually raising my hand! With video conferencing you are able to read the nonverbal signals that your teammates are giving you as you speak – nodding of heads, smiles, postures, and even eye contact. Trust me, it makes all the difference.
  4. Breaking global barriers. In a perfect world, each of us would be meeting with our teams face to face, but then we wouldn’t have the wonderful and diverse community that we do within our company. We need to have team members in every country to function successfully, and an easy way to break down the barrier of distance is to turn on your video camera and engage in your meetings face to face.

Now let me build the case for those who may still be skeptical. The two reasons that I find most teams and individuals do not use video regularly are because they forget that it is an option or they or someone on their team are not comfortable using video. My colleagues at work also reminded me of the occasional technical difficulty that it brings after I posted this blog internally to hear more thoughts on the subject.

I’ll tell you one thing – as someone who works at a small location with her team spanning different locations, it means the world to me when managers and colleagues hop on video chat to meet me face to face. When someone takes the time and effort to remember to use video chat, I do not forget it. Second, I have had the pleasure of being a part of a team over the past two years that is bi-coastal; one made up of a diverse group of individuals with different skill sets than my own, and one consisting of BOTH introverts and extroverts alike. I can speak for the team when I say this using video conferencing for every single one of our team meetings and manager 1x1s made a transformational difference in the way our team functioned.

If anything, I hope that this reflection has you (at least) consider integrating videoconferencing into your work and personal routines.

2016: The Year of Change

If I could write a story headline for 2016 I would choose: “2016 brings tumultuous change, opportunity”

If I could pick three phrases to describe 2016 I would choose: “Patience”+ “Confidence” + “Business as Usual” 

If I could write a blog post about my professional year in 2016 I would say:

2016 brought unexpected change with the announcement of my company’s acquisition. I laugh as I write this because one should ALWAYS expect change, especially during such a time as now when many companies are pairing up with their “dancing partners” to re-evaluate their businesses, partner together, and make waves within the industry. The days leading up to the early September merge were ones of anticipation, as we were told to continue business as usual, and practice patience with all of our might. When you know that major changes are coming, you want to do all that you can to prepare, but at a certain point you must take a deep breath and mentally prepare yourself knowing you are not the one responsible for making the change. 

Overall, my year was great. I continued working with a strong group of professionals as we polished our best practices, learned more about how to engage our community, and truly enjoyed each other’s company. 

Highlights for me at work this year included:

  • Running a diversity & inclusion campaign in early 2016 
  • Collaborating with the Social Media team as a live blogger on “Day 1” of Dell Technologies 
  • Tapping into my creative side as I learned to use Adobe Illustrator
  • Participating in the local Asian Circle Diwali festival and winning a prize for participating in their fashion show
  • Planning and executing a successful innovation event in December, bringing together 10 global locations and 700 participants
  • Transitioning into a new role with support from the people in my professional life who matter the most

During a year long acquisition you are tempted to give up, to be pessimistic, to speculate…but in the end I learned that your reaction to change is what will set you apart (and also keep you sane!)

4 months post-acquisition I am proud to say I was and am a part of the largest, most tumultuous merger in the history of the technology industry. Now that 2016 is behind me, I look to 2017 with confidence for whatever it may bring. Happy Holidays, friends!

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