Take Your Children To Work Day – Training The Leaders Of Tomorrow

Yesterday was Take Your Children To Work Day – the 20th anniversary of the event. For the first time I was able to participate – my eldest finally being old enough to join in – and I was very impressed. But still, it was quite weird.

I certainly remember heading to my own parents’ places of business as a child – from the very young ages drawing endlessly on notepads in my father’s stuffy office to working miscellaneous drudgery projects at my mother’s business, it was never a very fun occurrence for me. There were no official days set aside to watch my parents work at those times – it was more that on school holidays, or occasional evenings and weekends, my parents had no other option but to bring me into work with them, and somehow find a way to occupy the time.

I remember meeting countless adults, shaking countless hands, being told countless times how I looked like my parents. I remember the cookies and candy the nicer secretaries would offer. I remember sitting perfectly still, even more silent than in the library, trying to act like the little adult that I was expected to be.

Now from the other side of the equation, I now have spent the day with my own son at work. Sure, he had been to places of my employment before as well – there were enough weekend and evening trips on my own part, with him tagging along just as a means to keep him occupied. But yesterday was different – the whole purpose of the day was for him to see where I worked, what a day of work was really like.

It’s hard to explain to your kids the vagaries of work – and it’s even more so when your job is not one that is frequently seen in mass media. Sure, my kids know what a doctor, teacher, police officer and store clerk all do – hell, they tell you exactly what a Power Ranger, Superman and Darth Vader do to occupy themselves during the day. But seeing as how I have a job that even adults don’t grok, explaining it to my kids has been even tougher.

The theme this year was “Growing Opportunity”, and cheesy though it was, it gave our company a framework around which to organize the day. With a background video of a basketball stadium being converted to a concert hall, playing on a loop in super-quick-time in the background, the kids got to decorate flower pots and plant seeds, they got to add to the company’s TYCTWD “Quilt”, and they got a free pizza lunch. But the kids also got a lot of valuable lessons – and if even a couple of those lessons hit home then they will have gotten a lot out of the day.

I guess the best part of the day for me was the Treasure Hunt – kids were provided with a map of the office, and were looking around for the offices of key people. Once found, these staff members – a marketing professional, one of our data auditors, our recruiter, the head of sales operations, a software engineer and the head of client solutions – would tell a little bit about how their job fits into the big picture driving of the company. A puzzle piece was handed to the kids at each area, as well as a treat – mostly candy, but also some glow sticks and a little doctor squeeze toy were bigger hits than the sugar.

These were just folks in the office – some obviously had trouble talking to young kids, while others seemed right at home. My favorite was the software engineer, who gave a demonstration on how hard it is to program every last tiny detail into a computer by building a peanut butter and jelly sandwich by following the kids’ instructions. When he, the computer, didn’t understand “spread the peanut butter onto the bread”, the kids realized he first had to open the jar – and every mechanical step involved in even that seemingly simple process. When he finally got to adding the jelly the kids started to realize that he would have to hold down the jar with his left hand, and twist the lid counter-clockwise with his right while applying gentle upward pressure.

My son had ample opportunity to learn about the company, including a presentation from the President about what we did. One of the kids asked him “Do you find the meetings boring?” Kids really do know what their parents are experiencing at work J

My seven year-old got to sit with me at my desk as I did some real work. He got to attend a team meeting (“the worst part of the day – it was so boring!” he exclaimed) and he got to schmooze with my colleagues the whole time. It was a touch strange for me – having two very disparate parts of my life converging quite drastically – but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world.

On the way back home I asked my son what he learned most from the day – what part of it stood out to him that he thought he would really remember. He referred me to a conversation with my boss, first thing in the morning. I introduced the two of them – we all made some small talk and as we were getting ready to leave, my boss and I discussed a brief work matter. My son told me that was the most memorable part – me telling my boss, “I’ll do what you say” when we discussed how best to proceed on a client issue.

There are certainly worse lessons he could have gotten from the day, and I was very proud of him not only for his demeanor and attentiveness through the day, but for actually learning some valuable things from the whole experience.

Perhaps most telling of all: this morning, as he got ready for school, and I got ready for work, he followed me around much more closely than he has done in a number of years. Seven year-olds are “cool”, of course, and he has long outgrown the “follow-Daddy-around-everywhere” stage. Still, it was heart-warming to me when he asked, “Can I come to work with you again today?”

3 Responses to “Take Your Children To Work Day – Training The Leaders Of Tomorrow”
  1. I love the expereince you and your son had, and the themed event your company orchestrated. I don’t think any of the kids who left my office yesterday had a clue what anyone did, nor experienced a bonding moment with their parent. The Forbes cover rocks!

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