Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I Love My Boss!

It must be frustrating to work under a boss you don't like, to take orders from someone you don't respect. I am grateful I've been lucky in this regard. My first full-time job was as an analyst at a business research firm. With great luck, my first project was in the very domain I'd have chosen if I'd been given a choice - consumer goods. In that very first project, I also found a senior who would become my best friend at work, a girl with whom I not only shared many moments of chatting and girl-talk, but from I also learnt a great deal, whom I not only cared for as a friend but also - perhaps more importantly - respected as a good worker, colleague and senior.

But also, the leader of my first team at work was a woman whom I will simply name as V. In my first team meeting (an informal affair in which we perched on desks around V's seat) I - the newest member of the team - argued vehemently against something I did not agree with, and hardly noticed when everyone else shut up and listened to me. In the next meeting too, I was free with my ideas. I seemed to impress V, for she took the ideas seriously and asked me and my friend to work on them.

Not much later, V was made my career manager. And she was the best I could have had. Not only was she a mentor to me, advising me on personal and career decisions, concerned about my future in the company and eager to help me improve, but she was also an enthusiastic advocate, arguing my case before management during appraisals. (How do I know? Well, word gets around.) I loved working with her - not least because she had extremely high standards and expected the best out of her subordinates - and learnt a lot from her example and guidance. Even today, V is an ideal I look up to and follow.

We also became friends, having not only meetings but also coffee breaks and lunches together. By a strange quirk of fate, I moved into a flat near hers, and she often gave me a ride home from work. She was pregnant: the first person I had seen through that state at close range. She won my everlasting admiration by the way she carried herself through her pregnancy, refusing to be confined, working till the night before her baby was born. Yes, she cribbed - royally - but only to me, and that did not reduce my respect for her. And she did not shirk any of her responsibilities, being as meticulous a manager as she had ever been.

Ah, but the birth of V junior required that my friend V stay at home for a few months. My other friend had already left the company - and the country - and I felt strangely friendless and headless. There was no one any more to ask advice from, to go to with problems, to share girly talk with. It was during this time that I began thinking of leaving - because even apart from the absence of my two friends, there was little that I was enjoying at work.

My luck held more true than I could have hoped. I got a dream job - in my boyfriend's city. I jumped at the offer.

The first time I talked to my new boss was when he interviewed me over the phone. He is based in the USA, so we would never meet, only communicate through email, telephone, and videoconference. It was a novel arrangement, but I looked forward to the freedom it entailed.

My first day at work seemed ominous - I was warned about my boss and informed that he might not be easy to get along with. Importantly, he was also my mentor - and so responsible for my evaluations as well.

So I was surprised to see the way he chatted with me - within a couple of days of my joining, he was regaling me with long funny stories about himself. This was not a flash in the pan - we got more chummy as the days passed, and after getting past reporting (on my side) and assigning work (on his), we would often chat about our personal lives.

So much so that I look forward to these chats with him - look forward to his funny and clever comments and to laughing with him (across those thousands of miles!) at the end of my day (and the beginning of his).

But that is not all. I also deeply respect his abilities, his intelligence, and his knowledge. I have to constantly live up to his standards, and I learn from him - both of which make my work challenging and interesting. He is twice my age, has ample experience, and sometimes comes across as a kindly father-figure - and yet he always treats me with the utmost politeness and respect.

How wonderful it is to do work I love under a boss like that!