I was fortunate enough to be in a position to take a decent length of paternity leave to help my wife with our two young girls and to enjoy some time together as a family. We made good use of our time by showing off Isla to our friends and family scattered across western Canada.
If you are in a position where you can manage and afford to take parental leave, I would urge you to take hold of the opportunity. Getting away from my work routine for a while was a great way to recharge and reflect on my current situation and goals. The precious first months and years of a child's life pass just as fast as the cliches say. Slowing down to experience and savor this special time with my children while I'm able is a privilege that I wouldn't want to pass up.
Returning To Work
Of course, on an emotional level, we all want to be missed. It's a wonderful feeling to know that you're missed and appreciated while you're gone. From a personal standpoint, being missed is great. That got me to thinking about whether I want to be missed on a professional level as well.
To be successful professionally, you need to become indispensable to your team. I believe that there are two varieties of indispensability -- one good and one bad. Let me illustrate using a couple of examples and see if you agree.
Mr. Smith is indispensable to his team. When the OIU system goes down (as it often does), he is the one who knows just how to diagnose the problem and get things back up and running. Last month when he was on vacation, it took his coworker three days to fix the problem. Mr. Smith can usually sort out issues in a matter of hours. The operations team loves Mr. Smith, because he's always so quick to dive in and troubleshoot their problems as soon as they call.
Mr. Brown is indispensable to his team. He is always ready to lend his expertise to help a colleague solve a technical issue or discuss a design question. His software is always high quality, well documented, and easy to maintain. The junior developers love him because of his valuable mentoring. They prefer to maintain and enhance Mr. Brown's projects because the code is clear, well designed, and easy to work with.
You can probably see where I'm going with this. Mr. Smith and Mr. Brown are both considered indispensable for wildly different reasons. Mr. Smith uses something called "institutional knowledge". Over the years, he has become an expert in the internal systems of his company (institution). This knowledge, while valuable, can sometimes even be hoarded. With all of this valuable information held only in his own head, Mr. Smith essentially holds the information for ransom. He ensures his own job security while maintaining a charade of expertise and talent.
Mr. Brown, on the other hand, tries to offload institutional knowledge. Instead of hoarding it, he documents the details someplace where anyone can easily find it. Sure, it may take an intern new to the project some time to get up to speed, but that's only natural. Instead of banging his head against the wall or interrupting Mr. Brown with unending questions, our intern can simply read and reference the documentation as he stumbles his way through the project. This leaves Mr. Brown free to concentrate on his own work, while empowering others to do great things.
What I Hope They're Saying
What do you want people to say when you're gone? Tell me in the comments.