Note: This post is part of a series of blog posts related to Jebraweb's "This I Believe" statements. You can read about them in our first post, "Welcome to Jebraweb."
One of my clients from many years ago really liked to translate Latin poetry into English. We talked about it fairly often, despite its utter irrelevance to our work together. He would tell me about the latest epigram he was conquering, and together, we'd marvel at the timelessness of these ancient works. Despite my two -- count 'em, two -- degrees in English, I had very little exposure to poetry from so long ago, and somewhere in the midst of our discussions of pixel widths and color pallettes and code, we would relax for a few minutes into something about which he was expert and I was student.
It's a role I've come to relish in the years I've been working as a consultant. My clients understand that when we enter into a relationship, I have some expertise to share -- but what they don't always know is that I never walk out of a project without gaining some new knowledge of my own. Some of that knowledge is related to my work, but most often, there's also something much more fun involved. After all: we are human beings. Very few of us keep our professional hats on at all times outside the office, and everyone has some passion that has nothing to do with work. It's always more interesting and enjoyable for my clients and for me when we find something else besides work to discuss.
I've gotten parenting tips, recipes, hilarious stories about people's pets, book recommendations, warnings about awful movies, and fantastic reality-tv-personality gossip from my clients. We've talked about where we went to school, where we grew up, how our families are doing, and where we go for really good pizza. They've admitted that they're struggling with their aging parents, they hate to exercise, they need a vacation, and they miss their kids while they're at work. My clients have told me to try a fun new local fitness studio, to move my basil plants into full sun, and to definitely wear my red mary jane shoes as often as possible. Corny as it sounds, we've laughed like crazy and given each other looks of deep, warm empathy.
These are relationships for me. They're not "business contacts" or "professional connections" or "paychecks" -- they're people, and if they are willing to share, I want to know them. It makes working together not just pleasurable, but downright friendly. So, please: tell me about your goofy dog, your brilliant son, your awesome casserole.
In my next blog post, I'll tell you about mine.