What I Do

Have you ever had to explain what you do for a living, beyond your title, to someone?
For seven years after I graduated from college, the answer to that question was, \”I\’m a consultant\”. Well, that doesn\’t tell anyone much, so the follow up question of \”what do you actually do\” quickly followed; and was a tougher question to answer.

If you\’ve ever struggled to really describe \”what you do\” you know that it can make you question yourself. \”That\’s a good question… what is it that I actually \’do\’?\”

I initially tried to explain what I did for a living to people (like my parents) by saying: \”Well, I go to companies that are trying to improve their business processes or implement new systems. I help them do that.\” That explanation was usually met with blank stares.

So I quickly changed my answer to, \”I work with computers.\” To which I got nods of approval and understanding, even though that explanation didn\’t really give much more information than my title of \”Consultant\”. The unfortunate side effect of this simple description is that any time someone has a problem with their computer, they assume I can fix it because I \”work with computers\”.

Over time my answer evolved. I started to describe myself as a \”High-Priced Temp\”; which was an accurate description. I was at a company between 6 weeks and 6 months (usually) and charged between $100 to over $250 per hour. Of course I didn\’t see much of that money…and more importantly there was NO way I was worth that sort of money, but that\’s the world of consulting.

These days I work as a Project Manager in Health Care Insurance. But what do I actually do? For awhile I described myself as a \”Glorified Admin\” because much of what I do involves scheduling meetings for people to get together and talk about stuff. That description evolved to become \”Professional Babysitter\”. At meetings I would hold everyone\’s hand so the discussion could be constructive. Keep people on track and on topic, suggest things be taken \”offline\”, and so on.

Lately I\’ve come to realize that the value I bring (or my \”value-proposition\”) is that I\’m a human router. Actually, I\’m better described as middleware. I take in information, translate it, and route it to the correct source. The business team I\’m working with sends me emails, I translate them, and send them off to our parter company who we are working closely with. Even more fun is in meetings my business area tries to explain something, and I have to take that, rephrase it completely so others can understand. It\’s actually become a crucial role as of late. I\’ve left work on a few occassions in the past couple of weeks feeling good about my day and what I did. What a concept!

So what do I do? I\’ll probably stick with the title of \”Professional Babysitter\” for now, but the follow up of what I \”actually do\” is easier to answer now.







3 responses to “What I Do”

  1. monkey Avatar

    One of the stock suggestions for grad-students/post-docs/scientists (especially if they’re on the job market) is to develop an “elevator-ride” description of their research/work. The idea is to imagine you’ve stepped into an elevator with a colleague/interviewer/stranger/expert/ignoramus and give them a description of what it is you do — the catch being it needs to be accurate, understandable, reasonably complete, and wrap up before either of you gets to your stop — say 20 seconds. Daunting. But a great exercise, and it comes in really handy if you develop a good answer.

    Trying to boil that down to a two-word title is… interesting, and frequently brings you right back to the beginning (so what is that, exactly?…). Before hitting industry, I had no idea what a “project manager” was. Now, I understand that some are “glorified admins” but the really good ones are “human routers” (good phrase!).

    Of course, referring to yourself as a Pro Babysitter could open you up to even less pleasant after-hours tasks than “fix my computer”…

  2. anderswa Avatar

    Well-well look. I already told you: I deal with the god damn customers so the engineers don’t have to. I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?

  3. Brother Mark Avatar
    Brother Mark

    I love “human router.” You should copyright that phrase and market it. While I admit from our past conversations “Professional BabySitter” might be the more accurate term, I’m proud to refer to you as an HR anyday.
    Did I also mention “Excellent Brother” or about you being a gifted “Parent Situation Dealer?”

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