Why everyone should spend some time as a waiter
Everyone should be a waiter—or server—at some point in their life.
This thought pops up quite often; like a few months ago in Gettysburg, when I was sitting in a restaurant with my husband after an awe-inspiring day at that great battlefield.
A sharp whistle from the table next to us had pierced through the noise of happy hour and when I glanced up, I saw a man furiously pantomime-signing a check. I was surprised at his fervor, because it was so crowded and our server had been doing a great job with our table. I couldn’t help but think that, in that moment—even in Gettysburg—some people have trouble with one of our most hard-won propositions as Americans: that we are all created equal and it should reflect in our behavior to each other. Regardless of whether we are with a friend, a client or a stranger serving us seared tuna.
The thing about being a server is: you can’t help but embrace this proposition if you want to succeed. I should know, having logged hundreds of hours of long shifts on my feet back in my school days.
When you do this day after day, you develop strong intuition and communication capabilities with customers and coworkers from all different backgrounds and situations. It enables you to quickly understand how to meet their needs while multi-tasking (so you avoid being “in the weeds”). Over the years as I advanced my education and career, I realized that the mental, physical and project management skills we servers hone out of necessity translate into empathy, insight and agility that is universally beneficial for any profession.
Here at Hyland, creator of OnBase, we put a significant value on interactions and conversations with our customers in all roles. We are aware that—despite having both the best technology and sharpest minds in the industry designing paperless, mobile enterprise solutions—in order for our customers to realize the full potential of their goals, we must first uncover the root of any barriers.
This requires understanding from all perspectives of stakeholders, from the top down. It is in these moments of empathy and awareness that we uncover the crux of where our technology, industry expertise and services can help an organization succeed in its mission.
Sometimes, giant barriers require only small adjustments to yield great value. Simple changes, like inserting front-end scanning for paper-intensive processes, or digitizing microfilm or microfiche to electronic formats frees staff from time-consuming tasks and allows them to focus that time on those they serve.
It is in these conversations where great solutions are born. Like our automated solutions for Higher Education – developed by Hyland, but incorporating customer requests. They vastly reduce the time, cost and paperwork of time-sensitive processes including admissions, transcript capture/evaluation or financial aid. But we also know that a great solution is not a golden ticket forever; as institutions depend more and more on enterprise technology, the need is imperative to incrementally fine-tune, or optimize existing systems and processes, and continue to seek to understand the issues that users find with those systems.
For example, two of The Top 10 IT Issues in Higher Ed for 2015 according to the Center for Digital Education are: one, developing an enterprise IT architecture that can respond to changing conditions and new opportunities; and two, improving student outcomes through an institutional approach that strategically leverages technology.
One of our Imaging Services customers, Cynthia McCurtis at The Michigan Education Association (MEA), recently described the value of converting microfiche documents to electronic PDFs:
“After our eighteen years on micro fiche, and now with a machine that literally does not work, we were ready for turnaround, and the timing was critical. Our Hyland rep was able to get us a proposal really quickly for close to two million images that would be scanned to digital format onto 50 DVDs and organized according to our process needs… [I]t was like working with a well-oiled machine for me to be able to work with Hyland, with someone who truly understands our company and maintains that relationship.”
After more than a decade of writing about software enhancements, industry solutions, customer experiences and successes built on OnBase, what repeatedly rings true to me is that understanding and empathy are how great partnerships are made and how great work begins.
I didn’t know this when I started as a waitress at Friendly’s in northern New Jersey as a teenager or when I served at The Faculty Club at The Ohio State University (Go Bucks!!), but the lessons have long endured.