First Job: Paperboy
Current Job: Executive Director, Northern Plains UAS Test Site
1. Time Management
Even at an early age, I balanced school, church, and extracurriculars on top of work. As a paperboy, my papers were delivered on Tuesday and needed to be stuffed and prepped and ready to go on Wednesday. You find time for the things that are important to you.
Some things are not negotiable. The paper needed to be delivered by Wednesday night, and I had to make sure it was delivered on time. People who received the paper expected it, and my bosses expected it. More than that, though – I had high expectations for myself. I had made a commitment.
There’s a sense of accomplishment in doing your job well – and in going above and beyond. Sometimes that’s memorizing which houses need papers, or getting a week with no complaints – and sometimes that’s the incremental steps involved in rolling out a statewide unmanned aircraft network. The details matter.
There are consequences to your actions. If I didn’t stuff and prepare the papers Tuesday night, I’d have to find time to do it all on Wednesday, either before or after school, and Wednesday was also a church night.
You have to account for changing circumstances. If it was raining, I would have to put the papers in bags instead of just rubber banding them – but if you throw them while they’re in a bag, they risk sliding out and getting wet anyway. Anticipating those problems can help you avoid them.
Even though it was a free newspaper, our customers expected the paper on the right night, at the right time, in the right condition. They would complain if things weren’t right. Even people who had chosen to opt-out of the free paper would complain if they got paper by mistake. I learned early on that being reliable when you’re given a task – getting things right – was important.
If my family went on vacation, I needed to find help. If I had a busy night, I need to rely on family or friends to help out. A lot of times, you need to rely on others to make sure a job is done right.
I had to communicate with my boss on a regular basis. I found that the earlier I would communicate, the easier a problem could be solved. I still find that useful today when leading a large team.
Having spending money as a thirteen year old – around $200 a month – brought a certain amount of freedom. It also created self- sufficiency. Knowing that you can pay for things on your own, and that you can rely on yourself to create that freedom and self- sufficiency, gives you a lot of confidence.
10. Learn from mistakes
I would miss houses, or deliver to houses I was not supposed to. I would take that feedback in stride and make sure that I would do better the next time. These are important lessons to learn. Don’t hang your head when you don’t get it 100 percent right; learn from it and make it better in the future.