What Do You Do?
Recently, Linked-In reminded me and most of my contacts that I’ve been at CELCAT for over 14 years now - the fifth of August 2003 I believe was my start date when I joined the Technical Support Department. We were using CELCAT Timetabler 5.6 at the time, which for those that can remember, was written using the Borland Paradox database engine. The most common problem was being locked out of the database because a “paradox.net” or “pdoxusrs.lck” had not cleared when a user logged out or the programme terminated abnormally, so you advised the customer to find the file in the relevant file directory and delete it. The customer was then away working again. Everything has moved on incredibly since that time; CELCAT systems are so much more complex nowadays and, of course, so many more offerings than what was essentially just Timetabler 5.6 desktop Client and Web Publisher.
Those reminisces, though, got me thinking. When I was in Technical Support nobody asked “…what do you do?”. They had a problem, you were at the end of the phone, you helped them fix their problem, they’d phoned tech support so you were a tech support person - end of! When someone asked socially “…what do you do?” I would reply “…I work in tech support for CELCAT, a computer software company that provides timetabling for colleges and universities.” “Oh!” would come the reply, “that’s nice (or interesting)” and the conversation would move on to something else. It might have been because they saw tech support as not particularly exciting, or as I prefer to believe, tech support summed up what you did. You supported your company and products ‘technically’ and no further explanation was necessary.
This doesn’t happen very much in the UK now, because I think those in the industry know who CELCAT are, but nearly every conference sponsorship or exhibition carried out by CELCAT overseas we are asked “…what do you do?” Now here obviously they’re not talking about me as an individual but about what our company does. It’s nice that they come and visit our stand (or booth in the USA), they look at the banners at the back of the stand that say ‘CELCAT Timetabling and Attendance’, look down at the freebies on the table and ask “…what do you do?” Very politely we explain “we do timetabling and attendance management software for colleges and universities.” “Oh!” comes the reply, “that’s nice (or interesting), it’s not really my area…” and off they go. One conference in the USA a few years back, the ‘that’s nice’ reply had been going on rather a lot (which is good in some ways as people were talking to us), so when yet another person came up to our booth and asked the question “…what do you do?” we replied, “CEL-CAT - we sell cats!” Initially taken aback, but then intrigued and recognising humour, the conference delegate said “…that’s really interesting” allowing us to continue the conversation discussing in more detail what we actually do. So sometimes, something off the wall like that can have a positive effect and it’s well known that suitable humour is always positive for your profile or as an icebreaker when meeting someone, if nothing else.
Recently my family and I visited my nephew and his family in Birmingham, and during the weekend my nephew asked me, “What do you actually do [in your job]?” This surprised me for a moment or two because he has known for years that I work at CELCAT – a company that designs computer software, he knows too that I travel extensively throughout the UK and various other parts of the globe for my work, but he’s never really known what I do or what my role is in detail. So, this set the cogs whirring in my brain – I’m an Account Manager for CELCAT, what do I actually do? I look after existing clients, answering questions, helping them get the best from their CELCAT software, updating them on the latest products from the CELCAT suite, chasing new business and following up interest in sales inquiries, demonstrating CELCAT software, responding to requests for tender documents. I carry out training at customer sites and consult with them either conceptually (what could we do to make things better for you - our customer) or operationally (getting the software working, or working better for you - our customer). I take customer feedback on suggested enhancements that would make CELCAT better and then liaise with the Development Team, I write blogs for the CELCAT website, get involved in conferences and other marketing activities… the list goes on.
Is it important, though, what I and my fellow account managers and associate CELCAT employees do? Well, internally of course it is, otherwise the company wouldn’t function. But, at the end of the day, when someone asks “…what do you do?” if you can reply “I do my best…” then most of the time your customers will be happy, your employer will be happy and you will be happy with what you do.