Thought Leadership

Working on the weekend

By Colin Walls

Categorizing people is something that we all do. It can be judgemental, which is bad. However, a degree of analysis of an individual’s personality type may be useful. I, for example, am an introvert. That does not mean that I am totally uncomfortable with large crowds of people. It simply suggests that I gain my energy from having time alone. An extrovert is the reverse – gaining energy from being with people. I have found this categorization, and my understanding of it, helpful and normally ensure hat I have some “me time” when I have been engaged in social activities.

I am also shy, which is something different and not really that well understood …

The usual perception of what a shy person is like is quite clear: they are quiet, socially awkward and unlikely to engage with people or speak in public. Anyone that knows me would deny the possibility that I am shy. However, my view is that shyness is actually about control or perceived lack thereof. A shy person dislikes being in circumstances where they may lose control of the situation. I, for example, am much more comfortable standing on a stage in front of 100 people [where I am clearly in control], than a meeting with 1, 2 or 3 people [where someone else my wrest control]. My shyness was recognized by teachers and by my parents when I was young. A few measure were taken to address it and help me cope with the world. Then, one day, I had a stroke of luck …

I was about 13 at the time and recall that a knock at the door was quite unusual. Our family was quite self-contained and we did not have many visitors. However, we were acquainted with our next-door neighbors, who were doing the knocking. Their children [younger than me] attended my school. We were on “hello” terms with them and were aware that they owned a shop that sold stuff for boats. It was the shop that they were calling about. They were after a new “Saturday boy”, as their current part-timer was off to university. Although I had very limited knowledge of boats and nautical matters, they had the impression that I would soon learn. After some discussion with my parents and a little thought, I agreed to give it a try. After all, it paid £2.50/day [about $3.75], which was enough to buy an LP record, and this was welcome.

The job involved dealing with customers all day long. This was quite a challenge for a quiet shy boy, but very gradually I began to enjoy it. I found that most people were quite reasonable and often came in with problems to solve instead of simply requesting something off the shelf. My confidence increased with my knowledge and skills and I continued with the job for many years. Seeing other boys come and go, I seemed to be the one who got offered any extra hours and was given more responsibility. When I went to university, I would still often work there during the breaks.

In retrospect, I realized that my little job was a really important part of my education, where I learned a lot about social interaction and how businesses work – not the stuff they teach you in schools! I encouraged both of my daughters to get part-time jobs and I think they benefitted too. I know another family, where the children were forbidden from getting jobs, as their parents wanted them to focus on their studies. Although they have done very well in formal education, I do feel that they missed out. My view is borne out by an article that I read recently.

I have retained an affection for nautical stuff and shops like the one that I worked in. I recently thought that, in a few years, when I retire, maybe I will get a little part-time job in a yacht chandlery again …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at