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The Learning Curve

I did not know what to expect when I started my fellowship at the Wake County Manager’s office. Was I intimidated to represent the program at the largest county in North Carolina? Yes, yes I was. Was I, like how many of my cohort and friends have written about, going through a major life transition after being separated from much of what has been my primary community for the last four years? Yes, yes I was. Was I scared? Absolutely. Which is why it gives me so much joy and relief to be able to write now that working at Wake County has been such a delight, and it is mostly thanks to the culture my colleagues have set. There were a lot of external factors that have contributed to my firsts few months at work being less than ideal (moving back home with my parents, renovating the house I am at now, planning and executing a wedding to my now husband), but my highlight was always the support of my coworkers and especially my supervisor.

What I appreciate most about the culture of where I work is that there is striving for empathy and listening, a grace that allows me to try and fail, and space for playful friendship. When I first got to the county, the Strategy, Performance, and Innovation department was me, my boss, and one colleague; we were expected to more than double in numbers by the end of October. I had liked our team as it was, but was excited to have even more dynamics too. Ultimately, each new person (including myself) brought a different personality and perspective, but it was so cool how all of us worked together to create a culture that emphasized respect for each other and a willingness to try and make mistakes. My colleagues and the culture of our workplace has taught me a lot about what to expect when it comes to work and what kind of mindsets are going to make me the most successful.

When I think back to why I was so scared and intimidated when I first started, I realized a lot of it came from a lack of confidence in myself and my abilities. I was worried about making mistakes and those mistakes defining my character. While those thoughts still come into my mind from time to time, as I gain real world experience about what work is like, I have definitely learned a few things. Here are the top ideas about the self and work that my coworkers have taught me through support, patience, and knowledge:

1. It is ok to make mistakes. In fact it’s inevitable in some ways. But being willing to take a risk, and being willing to fail is necessary to do good work, especially in the Strategy, Performance, and Innovation department. The culture of support has made me feel safe in trying new things and possibly making mistakes.

2. Taking the time and energy to listen to people, to understand what they are really asking for and saying is always valuable; it allows you to understand the work better and have more clarity on the front end.

3. Accountability, while sometimes can be uncomfortable, should be welcomed and asked for.

I am thankful for what I have learned so far, and I’m so excited to see what more I have learned.