In this blog, Michal Dyrda shares how networking helps to grow professionally and personally with avenues to network, exchange knowledge and learn on example of his 10-year experience in Sabre Poland.
One of the aspects I found particularly valuable at work in terms of both social (building relationships while having fun) and productivity (helping one become effective) is networking. Networking to me is about intentionally investing time in talking to people outside my team or the core group I work with on a daily basis, those I know and others I don’t. To me, it’s one of these “important but not urgent” elements that are so easy to let go in the everyday rush, however, if invested in, can significantly influence my work continually.
Here are some of the themes that appeal to me:
- Well-being: networking is a fun and valuable way to spend a break – get some rest while interacting with other team members and come back recharged and inspired.
- Knowledge & experience exchanges: there is a lot of knowledge within Sabre and I learn from others’ experiences which prevents me from re-inventing the wheel when I face the same situation, and vice versa.
- Building the “network”: I get to know whom to reach out to when I or my team need help with a particular topic, without the need to look for such a contact. Reaching out to such a person is often easier when you already know each other.
- Context: I get insights into what’s going on outside of my area of daily focus which allows me to get the bigger picture and context, also regarding matters such as key company decisions that may affect my area and help me understand or proactively prepare for it.
- Career growth opportunities: I learn about various initiatives, products, roles or career paths in Sabre which gives additional development options for my team members and myself.
- Synergy: just by talking about what we do and what our challenges are often results in learning how to support each other, how the needs can be fulfilled through what others can provide – like a role in the team that is the perfect fit for our team member who is looking for new challenges, or how we can cooperate to gain mutual value.
- Learning the unknown: the most valuable part of it all to me though is the segment I call: “I don’t know what I don’t know”. You can search on Google, Stack Overflow or Sabre’s Answers channel – if you know what you search for. Although, what fascinates me is how a simple conversation often results in directing me to new areas of value to my work I was not even aware of.
All the above strengthens my professional self-confidence, increases the ease and certainty of taking actions and helps me do my job better.
The two most interesting and unusual forms of networking I’ve encountered were:
1) Speed dating-based engagement
An event organized to match mentors with mentees as part of Sabre Mentorship Program. During this event, each person looking for a mentor had the opportunity to talk for several minutes with each of the signed-up mentors and exchange mentees’ expectations or areas of interest. Likewise, listen to what mentors have to offer and understand their areas of expertise. Afterwards both sides ranked the perceived level of match. The highest mutual ranked numbers were paired for the mentorship relationships. Though intense (by the amount of cumulative social interactions) the meeting was fun and energizing. I left it not only with preferences regarding mentors but also with a long list of people who I did not consider a good mentorship match but with whom I wanted to meet again to follow up on some of the topics we’d touched upon during this short discussion.
2) “Reverse networking”
This is a term and idea I coined as a mean of helping my team members overcome the difficulty of getting out of their comfort zone and reaching out to new people. I started to invite different people to be guests in a meeting called (due to my team working in the Rail domain) “Meeting in WARS” (a dining car in the Polish State Railways). Our first guest was an Executive Principal Architect who, interestingly, was part of our team many years ago (not known to most of current team members though!) and went on a long and interesting journey into his current position which he shared to inspire us. Then we had a person whom I knew from one of the related teams, now managing one of the Sabre Labs teams responsible for driving innovation in the company, who provided insight into a few key technical and business initiatives the company focused on. The reverse networking idea got positive reactions by my team members: getting to know what happens outside of our small world (one signed up to an Architecture Guild we learned about), learning new possible career paths and getting connected to people who can help learn more on these.
Recent office reopening – the ability to meet in person again, go for a coffee or eat lunch together – is a fantastic opportunity to re-connect, both with our teams and beyond, as well the opportunity to re-engage in networking. Step out of your comfort zone a bit and try it out! Relationships built will in many cases last longer than the code we’ve written. Things learned will help us do our work better as well as may be groundbreaking to the career of ourselves and our team members. So schedule a placeholder in your busy calendar, make a list of people you’d like to talk, reach out to them and be open to a nice experience!