Monday, September 26, 2011

100 Days of Gratitude - Day 5: Yukon Huang

Yukon Huang
"Dennis, can you come into my office for a couple minutes?"

"Sure, I said," and I walked in my boss's door, closed it, and sat down.

It was March 1993, and I had recently returned from a five-year stint in the World Bank's Jakarta office to start work in the Bank's new Russia department.  My new boss was Yukon Huang.

"I've been thinking about you," said Yukon.

"Great," I replied, and smiled.  I was flattered, because Yukon was known to be a pretty tough character.

"You know, I 've been looking at your file and I see you haven't done a damned thing since you started working at the Bank seven years ago."

I was stunned.  "What?  What do you mean?" And I started blabbering, listing things I had worked on over the years, many of them prestigious Bank initiatives.

Yukon replied, "Sure, you have worked on various reports and projects.  I know, I read about them.  But you haven't really DONE anything.  You are one of these guys who knows how to talk in meetings, how to dress, how to act, all that.  But what have you really achieved?  Nothing, as far as I can tell."

Silence.  I didn't know what to say.  So I just sat there for a minute or so, anxiety rising in my gut.

"So why are you telling me this?" I finally squeaked.

"Because we have a problem with [one of our projects] in Russia," Yukon replied.  "And I want you to fix it."

"But I am not an expert in that area."

"I know that," he replied.  "And that is why I picked you to fix it."

"What am I supposed to do?" I asked.

"Just do what makes sense," he replied.

So that's what I tried to do, with a great team, over the next couple of years.  We did not solve all the problems (far from it), but we made some progress and had an impact.

That conversation, seven years after I started working, marked the beginning of my real career, and it has heavily influenced my trajectory (and life) ever since.

For that, I could not be more grateful.  Thank you, Yukon. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a boss like you sometime (hopefully early) in their career.