Updated: Dec 30, 2019
In this post, I reflect on how different the work culture was from my expectations and how I didn't quite fit in when I first started out at my job.
EXPECTATIONS | Working in IT
Prior to starting this job, I had this notion that the people who worked in IT were going to be kind of like the computer programmers who work with my dad — the type to send emails with Dilbert cartoons back and forth!
my dad had the Dilbert calendar and I read it nearly every day when I was a kid
I expected mega-fans of Star Wars and Star Trek. The kind of guys who would host D&D game nights (some of my coworkers totally do this). They might help friends with formatting their websites, maybe even make a website for their dog. I thought they would be the kind to poach the sales at the GAP…. Perhaps spend a night with a roll of bubble wrap?
oh wait now I’m just ad-libbing from Weird Al’s White & Nerdy
To sum it up, I expected my coworkers to be nerdy and introverted. When I asked my dad how he would describe the programmers he worked with, he called them “square”, and I always imagined the guys of IT to be just like that!
While I didn’t find any Dilbert calendars in the office, I found that my coworkers were united in a different way. They all watch anime and play video games! I expected water cooler talk involving heated debates of Kirk vs. Picard, but instead it was smoke breaks involving energetic discussions of One Punch Man and My Hero Academia. My coworkers even saved their vacation days for video game release dates!
I found myself in quite the pickle, as the only video game I really played was Frogger 2 on PS2, and I had never watched an anime show other than the first few seasons of Pokemon when I was a kid! I couldn’t relate to them. I had a great disdain for video games, as my husband had just overcome a video game addiction, which nearly tore us apart. I didn’t like anime at all. I tried to watch some of the shows I was recommended — I thought the animation was impressive and the music was very nice, but I just couldn’t get into it, not to mention I simply didn’t have the time to watch TV.
To be honest, I don’t mind hearing about anime shows. They honestly seem to have interesting premises and the most ridiculous tropes. It just gets tiring after the above situation happens for the fifth time…
My coworkers came to understand and we just talked about their other interests and passions, what they wanted to do in life, or what things were like for them at home. It was refreshing conversation compared to the constant chatter about the newest video game or the latest anime everyone was binge watching. However, when I relocated to a different site in downtown Dallas, I had to go through the same conversations about anime and how I don’t watch it… all over again!!
Despite their united fondness for anime and video games, I joined a fairly diverse and open-minded set of coworkers. They span all walks of life (fathers, military members, young adults still living with parents, newlyweds, there’s no particular way to label anyone), bringing different insights and perspectives to the table. Luckily, I get along with all of my coworkers and they’re pretty great to work with, even though I get the occasional oddly pushy anime recommendation.
My advice to anyone starting out in their career is to realize that every workplace is different.
Your experience may not be the same as your parents, your friends, or your peers, but it’s your experience. Each workplace has a different culture, and it’s okay if you don’t fit in. As long as you learn new things from the people you work with and grow from the experience, you’re on the right track!
Because I don’t share that fondness for anime, I’m the coworker who talks about other things with my peers. I ask them about their other interests and passions, what they want to do in life, and how things are at home. It leads to conversations more focused on who they are and where they are going.