Earlier today I received a text from a colleague, Dave, from my previous job whom I hadn't talked to in almost a year. I was very happy to reconnect with him and am looking forward to catching up properly after tonight's Thanksgiving festivities. His note made me reflect on what I gained from my three years at Sungard where we worked together. Though I learned a lot of skills at Sungard - real estate finance, data center design and construction, managing and growing teams - I realized that it was my friendship with Dave that's really the longest lasting asset from that job.
In a similar vein, just a week ago I visited my friend Balz in Seattle whom I worked with at RealNetworks for three years. Outside of work, Balz and I played soccer together, and once went on a snowboarding expedition to his hometown of Arosa in Switzerland. Before last week we hadn't seen each other in almost eight years yet we reconnected just like old times and talked for hours. Ten years after out time at RealNetworks, I can barely remember anything useful from that job but I do remember many things I learned from Balz and nearly all the good times we shared.
I thought back to every job I've had and in each there has been one genuine friend that I've remained close to. At first I thought that one friend was pathetically low and may be indicative that I was lousy at making friends or maybe it's that I didn't remain connected with people after we parted from the various firms. But maybe it's also true that with genuine friends you don't have to try so hard to stay connected but when you do chat it's comfortable and fun. And in this regard if I gain only one long-lasting friend at each job that's not terrible.
Incidentally, I noticed that everyone of my best friends from work have all been older than me. In some cases a few years, in other cases a decade or two. I wonder if it's because the age difference allows us to bring something new to each other without necessarily being competitive.
Seven years ago I wrote my essays for my MBA application to Stanford where the main essay was "what is most important to you and why." The essay was maddeningly hard to write, not least because there was no word limit. About three hours before the application was due I decided to rewrite the whole thing to what I really believed versus what I thought Stanford wanted to hear. And I wrote that what was most important to me was the friends I had, both personally and professionally, because that was what remained with me the longest. I'm almost certain this was the main reason I got in the program as the rest of my application wasn't that strong.
So on this Thanksgiving I am thankful for the friends that I have made at various jobs throughout my life. I'm thankful for what I learned from them and, most of all, I'm thankful for them making work and life fun and memorable.