“My work matters,” you think to yourself. In a small studio,
shop, or a startup, everything you do is significant. You can
see your contributions pushing the business forward every day.
You feel good about yourself.
If you’re 1 of 3 people in a company, you’re almost a
superhero. If you’re 1 of 30, you might still feel you’re
contributing. But if you’re 1 of 3000, can you recognize your
impact on the whole business every day? If you leave for three
months, you’ll find the company somehow survived without you.
To be more specific, write down everything important.
Early in my corporate career, I asked an experienced designer
what had helped him make the transition from a small agency to
a big company. He suggested that I should keep a permanent
track of what’s happening for myself. Projects change and
people come and go so it’s hard to keep everything in memory.
People often ask me, “How do you like working in a big
company?” and I always answer, “I like working with my current
team.” The look I get back reveals that people think I’m
hiding something. I’m not. It’s just that I’m not comfortable
projecting relationships and attitudes of my closest twenty
colleagues to tens of thousands other employees across the
Many people are passionate about their craft. They spend most
of their working time in deep focus fretting about perfection.
At times they need to present their work to senior leaders who
think more about long-term strategy. I’ve sat through many
meetings and witnessed a complete mismatch between those two
worlds. Craftswomen and craftsmen often dive into technical
details because they want to show complexity or how they’ve
elegantly solved a problem. However, those things are not
relevant to senior leaders who usually get lost in minutiae.
“You need to have an opinion.”
It wasn’t the thing I wanted to hear, but there it was. My
experienced colleague was explaining the subtleties of working
in a big company and this came up as something you need to do
if you have or want a leadership position. The thinking goes
that the more “up” you go, people will look up to you and ask,
“what to do”, “what do you think about this move”, or “how
will this affect us”. You can always say “I don’t know” or
just stay silent in a crowded meeting where other people will
jump in. However, if you want to be seen as a leader, you have
to have an informed opinion. People don’t follow individuals
who don’t communicate where they’re heading.
If you want to read more, check out the