This week at work I had one of the biggest “AHA!!” moments of my career. Let me set the scene.

An organization that we have been working with has decided they need to have 120 of their employees brought together for a company retreat. The company recently conducted an employee engagement survey and found that a large population of the staff felt detached from their work and the company. They felt disengaged.

So we pulled the leadership together, reviewed the results of the survey and found a common theme. The staff didn’t feel that their daily work mattered. Staff didn’t have a line of sight as to how the work they did as individual contributors impacted the organization.

In a more simplistic way of putting it, they didn’t know why the came to work every day.  They didn’t feel valued or that the work they were doing mattered.

So we worked with them and decided we needed a day where EVERYONE sat in a room and got a better understanding of the company goals. How each division and each role mattered in accomplishing those goals. How do the parts make the whole?

My moment of “AHA!” came during the retreat. We wanted to get the ideas  of the staff heard by the leadership. In order to do this we did some real time, anonymous polling. We asked questions that were sensitive and allowed people to give their opinion of the managers without a chance of repercussion. We created a scenario where people could safely voice their concerns on sensitive subjects that may be uncomfortable in other settings.

During this time, I was in charge of capturing all of the data and results of the polling. Every answer that was given, every vote that we took, I had to collect the information, create a graph or chart, interpret it, and create a Power Point slide in a stint of 20 minutes, then get up and present it and discuss what the the company needed to do to improve employee moral. 120 people giving passionate heart felt answers and turning that data into something usable in 20 minutes….Let me tell you, not an easy task.

Nothing says "novice" like my cousin and I catching bait fish with a colander.

Nothing says “novice” like my cousin and I catching bait fish with a colander.

In that moment I had a realization, I had done this before. For 3 years in college.  Not in the same capacity but the skill set was the same.

In college I took game time stats for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. I captured scores, assists, fouls, turnovers, everything that happens over the course of a game, while the game was being played. It was a high stress scenario and everything I created had to be interpreted and delivered to coaches by halftime and the end of the game.  Quick turnaround.

This was the “AHA!” This seeming irrelevant experience that I had nearly 10 years ago had paid its dividends. I was using those skills in a completely different realm, but they saved me! I was able to capture, create, interpret and report an immense amount of data in just a few minutes with no hiccups.

It is a beautiful thing to witness when you realize all of your experiences come together to make you the professional you are today.  Those moments weren’t wasted. On the contrary, they are more valuable than I could have ever imagined.

It makes me wonder, how many other experiences do we have that at the time, don’t really mean much but eventually they shine through?  Of those that do come through, how many do we over look and not realize how important they are? Or, better yet how do we recognize them at the moment and take them in as valuable experiences?

I think the moral for me and the insight I gained is, no matter how irrelevant the task or experience may seem at the time, (Just to plug my ego, I was making $7.00 an hour keeping stats for a team I got cut from) take it in, do it well, and learn from it.  It will eventually pay off!