When I think about what meaningful work means to me is that your activities and what you’re doing connects to a larger purpose. And in my case at Philips, we’re all about healthcare and improving patient lives and we do it across something we call a continuum of healthcare from birth to when you might be towards the end.
I know that the activities and the things that I do and working with my team has a direct benefit to helping somebody diagnose an issue or to be treated for something and I gain a lot of pride from that, and I feel like I have a connection to something bigger.
For instance, my brother has a liver condition. And in one of the aspects of his treatment to maintain how he’s doing is he goes in for periodic ultrasounds…the technology that I’m working with is helping to ensure that his treatment is appropriate and that his medication and his levels are stable so that he can have the best life possible. So that’s probably the closest example I have to what I do at Philips and working in the ultrasound R&D group.
Philips…talks a lot about how it’s working to make the world a better place and aspects of that include sustainability with where the energy is sourced. So, in the Netherlands, a lot of the energy comes from wind. At the campus I’m in, in Andover, Massachusetts, we have a solar farm, which provides a portion of the electricity consumed at that site. We have as part of our training and our process and just our culture is a really thinking about what’s your impact to the world in terms of be a carbon footprint and in energy we use or when we recycling materials, we have composting, we have plastic recycling, battery recycling… it’s not what we’re there to do, but it’s something that’s in the forefront.
I would say another aspect of it is really kind of connecting to that purpose where, if I’m working on a piece of software that helps to enhance something that’s going to lead to a better treatment and diagnosis of somebody, I know that that work product is going to affect tens upon hundreds upon thousands of people’s lives, when that’s available to them. So, I know that there’s an always growing impact, I would say, in a positive direction with the things that myself and my team were doing.
OK, remember that what causes you to feel like you directly see and connect how you’re helping others is different for different people.
So what moves you is likely to be slightly different than Steven, and that’s ok. But I want you to understand that the first step is understanding this so you can see what those things that move Steven. He’s got a great idea of what creates more meaningful work for him, here’s how he applied that knowledge in the job interview.
I went to do my research ahead of the interview. Phillips was transparent and shared the list of people I was gonna talk to. I looked them up on LinkedIn, and so, “Wow, okay. This person’s been here 23 years. That’s interesting.” That’s very out of the ordinary from what I was used to with managing people and having people come and go from my teams and whatnot. It’s like that. That’s pretty amazing. And then it’s like, “Okay. I’ll get the next person on the interview list.” And it’s again, like 25 years. When we look at the next guy. Yep, same kind of thing.
So, then I drive to the campus to go for the interview and… I get there a little early and I’m walking around just to kind of prepare. And in the parking lot, there are these a special set of reserve parking spots close to the front door. And they said quarter-century employees as a quarter century. Okay 25 years, and they were mostly full. And this is about, it just in my line of sight at the time, about 20 of them. Oh, this is just different. There’s something going on here, I don’t know what it is, but I got to learn more.
And then talking with the people, they just talked a lot about the support the company had given them, invested in their career, they felt a sense of purpose. There was a lot of camaraderie and strong relationships. And I said, “I really like that, that sounds good to me.” And so, I had that comfort level right in the beginning.
A while back, I had the privilege of talking with Christy Wright, one of the people on Dave’s speaking team. She shared a little about her career with the YMCA before meeting Dave and his company. She started there as a very young director for a brand new YMCA center.
I was charged with building a department from the ground up. And that center here in Nashville became the fastest growing center in the country at that time. And so the need was just unending and I think that’s what it is, and nonprofit and ministry specifically, the need is attending and businesses, traditional businesses may have traditional hours, and nonprofit, you never really off, and so a lot of times you feel like you’re trying to catch a tidal wave with a teacup. And it becomes very easy to get overwhelmed with just the need that’s just non stop. And so it’s very easy to burn out. And it’s very important to have balance and boundaries in order to kind of stay the course in that type of history.
It was a great season and it gave me incredible career experience all the skills and management that I was thrown in the deep end.
So I had really developed a lot of that kind of leadership very early on in my career that laid the foundation for the things that I get to do today.
After three years of being in that location, I kind of really just felt it was time to move on. And it was time to do something different. And so that’s when I really feel like God told me honestly that I’m going to go work for Dave Ramsey.
I was standing on my deck one day… and I thought, I just I’m never going to find a company. I believe in as much as this one. Like, I really love that we change lives and we help people. And I, however you want to explain it. I heard the voice in my head up God say, “You’re going to work for Dave Ramsey.” And I’ll be honest with you, Scott, I had no idea who Dave Ramsey was. I need to go Google this guy, because I don’t know who it is.
Well, I applied for a position doing a youth product. So as the youth product coordinator, and it’s interesting, because I’ve never done products before, but I’ve done programs through my nonprofit, I was aquatic director at the YMCA here in Nashville. And so I was over all types of swim lessons and swim teams and sports and that kind of thing. And so I was able to kind of make a case for myself in the interview process that I’ve done programs, same process for products, it’s just tangible goods. And so that was the position I was hired for. And I started there in the fall of 2009.
And so how I got into speaking, which is what a lot of people ask me, everywhere that I go is another crazy story that makes no sense. But Dave’s daughter, Rachel Cruz… she was actually in college at the time, and so and the spring of 2010, there had been an arrangement worked out where she was going to go speak at a conference all summer. And there was gonna be 20 different conferences. So she’d be in a different state every single day speaking at these conferences, and somehow during this whole process, I inherited this arrangement.
And so about two weeks before she’s supposed to go on the road…we get the travel schedule from the conference company. And they had booked the cheapest flights possible. And they had two and three connections. It was a complete nightmare. You’re going to New York to California to get to Texas. You’re in an airport 16 to 18 hours a day. It was just a disaster. And so her dad, Dave Ramsey, really, with a lot of wisdom said she’s not doing this. She’s not doing this travel schedule.
And so I as the newly one with this company got to be the bearer of bad news to them, that [Dave} would allow her to come to 1010 of those conferences… And he said, “Christy, I’ve got her slated. I’ve got her booked for 20 keynote presentations to at these different conferences all over the country. What am I going to do for those other 10?” And I said, “I’ll do them.”
So I want you to know that summer we went, you know, on the road, and Rachel did 10 events and I did 10 events, and then that fall, they created the speaker’s group, where we identified a real need for message bears because we were turning down 3000 requests a year for Dave to come speak and so they wanted to have a new group of speakers and message bears, and I was slid into that group, no addition to application, no questions.
One concept that seems to come up frequently when we talk about meaningful work is having a connection. Christy, for example, felt like she was missing something, but as she started working with Dave Ramsey’s 0rganization, she started to see the connection between what she did and how she helped people with their finances and businesses.
Earlier in this episode, we heard Steven talk about how he intimately felt the connection between what he did and how it help others – specifically how it helps his own brother. I also talked with Kasia Wiacek, who also works at Philips as a Supply Quality Manager. She described how she needed something more tangible and useful.
So, I started to work as a researcher and to University. And by coincidence, I was also working on the medical research. In the area of, well, electrical engineering, actually, and software, but for the medical applications, so that was the start. Somehow, I changed the certain moments from the research to industry. And I think maybe I wanted to have some more touchable results. Research is going often to be published and that’s it. And, it’s not always turning into the products or into the… something that is usable. It might end up somewhere in the draw and or a few publications and that’s it. I think I’m a practical person. So, at a certain moment, I thought, well, let’s do something practical and not only theoretical.
What it was, I think there are different definitions of growing for some people growing means getting higher in the position and higher and having more and more people reporting to them and doing less and less. But for me, it’s more that I like to do things and to make it interesting. It has to evolve, it has to have some new elements on things I can, I have to learn for, to do it correctly. But of course, I can also use my previous experience. Because, experience in one area can help you to understand better another area that’s not really exclusive if you’re working somewhere you will never use your experience from different positions, different areas.
CREATING MEANINGFUL WORK FOR YOURSELF
So what does all this mean?
It means that you must understand what you want and need most. What creates meaning for you.
It means that it’s not just about meaningful work. Having meaningful work but not having other elements that allow you to flourish can take away from the connection you feel and the impact that you’re having.
It means that you own this and nobody can answer these difficult questions for you.
But it also means that once you understand these truths building a career around what creates much more meaning for you becomes possible. It goes from unrealistic to completely realistic for you.
Taking the time and energy to more meaningful work is definitely the harder road, but for those that are willing to take charge of their career, they believe it’s completely worth it. I think it can be for you, too.
Thanks to Philips for their openness and access to both their leadership team and employees as we put this all together.
Listen to the 3-part podcast series:
What Creates Meaningful Work for High Performers?
How Top companies provide meaningful work (and how to recognize those that don’t)
Finding Meaningful Work: 3 Stories of finding career purpose
If you’re unsure where to start in your journey for meaningful work, you can always go to FigureItOut.co and that will get you started in our 8-Day Figure-It-Out mini-course to help you determine what you need most to create a fulfilling career.
Also if you know of a company that you believe is doing a fantastic job with creating meaningful work, I’d like to know about them you can email me directly email@example.com and that will make sure that me and my team know about them.