• Baker Institute Team

"The first step to trust is..."

Michael Squires '13 '19G | Start Up

Major | B.S. Environmental Engineering and MBA Project Management

Hometown | Nazareth, PA


Okay, so I’m paraphrasing a little bit on the words of Tom Gillis, SVP/GM at VMware in the blog title… it's a bit provocative but I’ll explain why I chose it and why it resonated with me. If I had the chance to have a 1:1 conversation with Tom, I would talk about how long in life it took him to arrive at his “connect at happy hour” philosophy, the pitfalls that can come with this mindset, and most definitely one or two anecdotal stories on the subject.

I'm currently an MBA student. When I first got into the real world at an environmental consulting company (my first job after college) I naturally took it very seriously. I was (and still am) very serious about my work; however, I think that I was so mindful of the persona I gave off that I went out of my way to separate work and play. I didn’t want to come off as some young millennial who didn’t care about his job. So while I generally was respected by the people I worked with on a professional level, we never truly connected socially… and then I finally started going to holiday parties, which led to the occasional happy hour occasion, which led to the occasional “let’s have two beers” occasion. It’s hard for me to put my finger on the phenomenon exactly, but Tom also alluded to it so I feel validated saying this – but there’s just an element of trust among people that drink (responsibly,) work together and share the burdens of their work. Being in the proverbial trenches can be daunting, but when you feel like there’s a coworker in there with you, it feels more manageable.

I’ll tell a quick story about a coworker who, in the spring of 2016, got completely given the short end of the stick along with me at work. Between the two of us, we basically had 1 month to do 3 months worth of work. I truly think each of us would’ve been broken had we been on our own, but at the end of a very long week, we decided to get lunch and a beer. Maybe I’m giving the beer a little too much credit, but there was something that changed our work and personal relationship that day, forever. We were open about our strengths and weaknesses, and what had to be done to get the work completed. I was a little better at some things, he was better at others… so rather than just splitting the work equally between us, we both just did the things we were good at, reevaluated, and re-divvied the work as appropriate. To this day, we regularly have the occasional drink together and discuss the big picture, and I think it makes us better at our job. Although there can be stigma around consuming alcohol during the work week, I’ve found it can have positive aspects. Tom Gillis explained his philosophy on this and I was thankful to meet a successful person that could talk about his experiences so eloquently.

If I had the opportunity to meet with Tom for one hour at any place in the world, I would pick a great, up-and-coming brewery, that served great beer, and I would really dive into the dynamics of building a team. I really respect his ability be the boss but also a confidante, something I don’t think I have ever seen someone pull off perfectly. Even though there are a lot of technical parallels between our lives (engineers turned MBA students), I really think our time would be discussed talking about people, and I would cherish every word

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