Photo by Tyler Meuter

It is 5 in the morning on a Tuesday, and where am I? Flash back to this summer, and most likely I was in a data closet on campus upgrading some network equipment. I had the opportunity over the summer to work with the OIT Network Services team, and my experiences taught me a lot about how much of an impact coworkers have on how much you really get out of a job.

Coming into an environment where I am the only non-professional staff member was a bit daunting to me. Everyone else in the department had been doing the work for years, and then there was me, who had barely touched anything made by Cisco — switches or otherwise. Sure, I had some networking experience, but if you asked me what a VPC was or what the difference was between a single and multimode fiber cable, I would have had quite a deer-in-headlights look. In many work environments, the new guy coming in without a lot of job-specific experience (read: me) is often left behind. Thankfully that was not the case this summer.

From the get-go, my coworkers were nothing short of amazing. Within my first week, my boss had already brought me up to speed with the nuances of the department and invited me to meetings to get briefed on upcoming projects. I was immediately immersed in opportunities to work on projects and start learning the world of Cisco. They made me feel right at home as another member of the team. Sometimes it was something small like asking if I wanted to come to lunch (Chicken Thursday!) or making themselves available if I had a question. Other times it was something more adventurous like asking me to tag along for an upgrade and help configure some new equipment. No matter what it was, they were always there for me and ready to give me something else to learn.

So why does all of this matter? An opportunity is presented for both sides when someone, such as myself, is in the position that I was in. It is the coworkers who make all the difference between a positive and productive work environment and a negative, unsatisfactory experience. For me, it was my coworkers and the passion they showed for their work that made me feel like I should do the same. Just the opposite can be said as well; if your coworkers and bosses do not show any genuine interest or care in their work, why should you?

If you are ever in the position to be that superior or coworker that the new guy looks to for help, take advantage of the opportunity and spend time to get to know them. It helps your and the team’s image and makes the new guy feel welcome. Show them your passion for what you do. If you are the new guy, spend time getting a feel for the environment. Getting to know your coworkers can be more useful than you would think.

Whether providing tidbits of knowledge (like where the good bathrooms are), taking you out to lunch or just being friendly and saying “Good Morning!” to you in the hall, coworkers can make all the difference in a work environment. It may not seem like much, but sometimes it is the little things that make a workplace truly special.