We Are Not One Thing

Last year I starred in a new full-length play, an office comedy titled, ironically enough*, The Oracle, which had a limited run at Theater for the New City, a well-known off-off-Broadway theater here in New York City. And in 2019, just before the pandemic shut things down, I was in six short films while studying acting eight hours a week with the late, great Wynn Handman.

In the early aughts, the first short film I wrote and directed received an honorable mention at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival, and a photo I took in a customer’s parking lot at dusk was published in a calendar.

Last November I wrote a novel in 30 days. #nanowrimo

Earlier this year I picked up piano lessons again and resumed composing.

And this spring marks thirty years that I’ve been working in technology.

Photo: Patrick Smith | Ridgefield CT

My tech career started by teaching bankers how to click with a mouse for the first time. A bit of a gadget nerd, I loved the new technology (Windows 3.1!), and the actor in me enjoyed teaching and performing for my students. And who didn’t love Paint? And Solitaire? Minesweeper?

My various tech roles over the years, including those in call center management, business analysis, project management, and enterprise sales, have all been enriched by the diverse facets of my make-up.

There was a time, not too long ago, when the answer to the question “What do you do?” would put you in a box.

“I work in technology.”

“Oh, I see. You do computers.”

Well, kind of…

I used to “do” computers, could take them apart, knew the operating systems…

Today I work with enterprise customers across multiple industries, helping them justify technology investments, identifying and defining the business value to be unlocked. Together we build business cases for projects they are considering. We look at their current business landscape, their industry, their challenges, how their business is being thwarted by those challenges, and what benefit can be realized by overcoming them. We put together a story and ground it in quantifiable justification.

© Mark Anderson | Used with permission

All of my passions and interests come into play in the work I do “at work.” Film and stage work is rooted in storytelling, and business cases are most effective when they tell a story. Visuals help keep the business case’s audience engaged and drive the story forward. Oddly perhaps for an artist, my favorite class in high school was algebra, and I used to doodle equations in history class. That said, I enjoy getting the financials of the business case — the math — right. A keen eye for language, style, and grammar is also critical. (Did I mention that I’m a member of the #grammarpolice and am developing a solo show titled, First Person Pronoun?) Lastly, a good actor is a life-long student of human behavior and psychology, and these studies are invaluable in understanding and empathizing with customers, knowing their struggles, putting oneself in their shoes.

From another perspective, all of my experiences working in the corporate world, the tech world, have only enhanced my creative work. I make full use of advanced editing software and plugins for post-processing my photography, online acting role submissions are a breeze for me, my planning and critical thinking skills keep my creative projects organized and efficient, and I can read an AEA or SAG contract with the same eagle eye that I use scanning through a company’s 10K for a business case I’m working on.

I believe in a philosophy of being fully present wherever you are, of addressing the person or task in front of you. And 100% commitment to one aspect of one’s life (e.g., one’s art) in no way diminishes one’s commitment to another aspect (e.g., one’s business work). In fact, they both enhance and empower each other.

I’m heartened by the growing focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the corporate world, by the increased discussion of bringing one’s authentic self to work. Although the term “authentic self” is probably overused by now, it is true that people bring vast treasures to work when they bring their “self” (sic) with them. The highest-performing teams I have worked with have been ones in which the team members had different socio-economic backgrounds, races, senses of humor, ages, hobbies, opinions — you name it. There is untold wealth to be gained by harnessing people’s complexities.

Because people are not one thing.

So, when someone asks me, “What do you do?” I hesitate to answer. Because I am not one thing. I don’t “do” one thing.

I am a business analyst, an actor, a photographer, a musician, a writer, a licensed massage therapist, and a natural health entrepreneur.

I am also a brother, a husband, a son, a Buddhist, a grammar addict, a Francophile, a marathon finisher (NYC twice), and more.

And if I sense that my new friend’s eyes will glaze over if I go into that much detail, I default to, “I’m in tech.”

“Oh, tech? Cool.”

*I am currently an employee of Oracle Corporation, and the views expressed here are my own.

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