Understanding the elephant: internal transfers at the company

blog conociendo al elefante

There is a story about a group of blind men who heard that a strange animal had been brought to their village. They wanted to understand what this animal was like, and so although they couldn’t see it, they decided to examine it by using their sense of touch. The animal was an elephant, and each of the men ended up touching a different part of it. When they tried to describe the animal based on the part they had touched, they all had a different perspective, and so they began to argue about what an elephant is really like.

The moral of this famous tale from India is that we may each have our own experience that is true for us, but that experience could also prevent us from considering other perspectives on the truth, or from understanding the truth as a whole. During my time at GMV, I’ve had the good fortune to be transferred into some of the company’s various divisions. In other words, I’ve had the opportunity to “touch different parts of the elephant”, and this has helped me develop a better understanding of the whole picture. These experiences have been tremendously enriching for me, and hopefully for my colleagues as well.

Quantum leaps and Copernican revolutions

During my first 14 years at GMV, I worked on satellite navigation projects. As a physicist and mathematician by training, my entry into engineering and project management was my own personal and professional quantum leap. You could say that I went from feeling the elephant’s trunk to also feeling its legs, and it completely changed the way I understood my profession.

If you would have asked me back then to describe the “elephant”, I’m sure my answer would have been to detail the innumerable wonders. With programs such as Galileo and EGNOS, I found myself working with the highest quality standards and strict technological demands. Determining the positions of 30 satellites orbiting in space at an altitude of more than 23,000 kilometers, with an error tolerance of just a few centimeters, is no ordinary job. Nevertheless, I was still understanding only part of the elephant.

I was then lucky enough to participate in a variety of internal workgroups, where I collaborated with colleagues from other areas related to space (control centers, mission analysis, Earth observation, etc.), and even defense. That’s when I began to realize that “the elephant is more than just the legs”. There were other clients (with their own idiosyncrasies), other needs, other procedures, and other technologies.

As fate would have it, after those first 14 years I joined one of the GMV group’s other subsidiaries, Secure e‑Solutions. If what I had experienced before was a quantum leap, this was my own personal Copernican revolution. Banking, insurance, healthcare, industry ... and nothing involving European space programs at all. Even the software engineering was completely different from what I had been accustomed to. Cybersecurity, big data, and artificial intelligence, among other subjects, had now become part of my daily work.

It wasn’t really any better or any worse, it was just different. And it was also very enriching, personally and professionally. I eventually went back to working in international markets (including space), and by then I had already started to see even the inner workings of the elephant. But more importantly, I had learned that there are many other animals in the world besides elephants.

The cyclical universe

I began this article by making reference to a story from India. In the Hindu religion, it is said that the universe has no beginning or end. Instead, it follows a cosmic cycle of creation and dissolution. It goes through an infinite number of deaths and rebirths.

My work was giving me a chance to reinvent myself. Instead of always doing the same thing, I could periodically enter into a new cycle. Back in my university days, I wanted to become a researcher in the field of theoretical physics. I did have a brief but passionate phase as a researcher, but then I was hired at GMV, where I discovered software engineering, project management, business development, team leadership, and client relations. And innovation.

In one of my most recent twists of fate, I’ve gone back to working in satellite navigation, but this time from Secure e‑Solutions. Now I’ve become a service provider for my previous co‑workers. I like to think that the most essential value I’m able to contribute is my ability to understand everybody: I understand their needs, expectations, and concerns, and I can act accordingly.

Internal transfers at companies

I’m both lucky and proud to work at a company like GMV, where like in the song by the Spanish group Amaral, I’ve been able to live 500 lives. Now I try to share my experience, knowledge, and style of working with anyone who needs my help. But I do this without being egotistical. I try to give everyone maximum respect, by learning something everywhere I go, so that later I can share the things I’ve gathered up in my backpack.

Of course, this is just my own personal story. There are many people who feel completely fulfilled and happy without any need to understand the entire elephant. But it’s also undeniable that having experience in a variety of positions, in different areas or divisions or even within the same one, can help you know when the elephant is hungry, or frightened, or happy, or ready to take off running. Eventually, you may only need to touch the elephant’s trunk in order to understand.

Author: Ángel Gavín



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