Monday, February 25, 2013

Take pride

For a large portion of my childhood, my mother worked in various jobs in the cleaning industry.  Growing up, I would often go to work with her and help in anyway I could.  One of my favorite tasks during these times was using the mop bucket.  I absolutely loved being able to operate the wringer mechanism.

The second installment of "In My Shoes" paired me with members of our BAS custodial team.  This assignment was a very personal one for me, because it tapped into such a core part of my childhood.

One of my first days headed to clean with my mom.

On February 21st at 8:00 pm, I arrived at the front desk of Kerr Hall to start the first half of my custodial experience.  Kerr Hall is the campus facility where my office is located, and it was important for me to see (through a new set of eyes) the building where I work every day.

Though our tasks in Kerr Hall might differ, we both play meaningful roles on our BAS team.

When Maria opened the custodial closet to start our time together, the first thing I saw was a mop bucket. I told her how much it reminded me of my childhood and the countless hours I spent helping my mom at work. I mentioned to Maria that it was almost exactly like my mom's, except for the fact it was plastic.  Maria smiled and excitedly took me to another floor and pulled out a metal version.  I was immediately transported back to my childhood and the hours working side by side with my mom as she taught me invaluable lessons about life and hard work.  When I asked Maria if I could take a picture of the bucket, she did not act as if it was an odd request at all.  She simply smiled and said "Of course!"

It might just be a mop bucket to some, but to me it is a symbol of so many early life lessons.

After the hours I spent with Maria in Kerr Hall and Antonio in Baskin Engineering, I took away some important observations that apply to all of us on the BAS team.  Here are some that really stood out:

Take pride:  Merriam-Webster defines the term "custodial" as "related to guardianship."  When I was a little girl, my mother taught me to take pride in my work.  She said that no matter what task I did, I should undertake it with pride.  Our custodial team members are partners in our efforts to guard and be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us.  Due to the radically changing landscape of public higher education funding, we have had to find new and different ways to go about our tasks.  Often times, individuals have framed this as lowering our standards or doing less meaningful work. This stems from the fact that our team members take pride in what they do, and they want to ensure they are providing quality service to our customers.  However, we must not frame these changes as simply lowering our standards.  Rather, we must remember that it is incumbent upon us to ensure we keep the core mission of our campus and our educational product solid and accessible to students. To do this, we have had to redesign and change the way we provide our services.  Our front-line team members across BAS (not just in our custodial department) should take great pride in knowing that their efforts to refine how we do things has a direct impact on our students who are sacrificing everything they have to be here. We have had to re-prioritize our tasks, but the larger outcome of our efforts makes a difference.  Take pride in our efforts to ensure that students from California and across the globe have the access and resources needed to come to this special place.  When my time with Maria ended and I was headed over to Baskin Engineering, she said "I am proud to be a custodian here." She understands the larger impact of her work and we should all take note.

You did good:  When I was working with Antonio in Baskin Engineering, it struck me how quiet our usually bustling academic buildings can be in the middle of the night.  Though there are plenty of tasks to be done, it can feel isolated at times.  The task assigned to me by Antonio was to mop all of the hallways.  As I undertook this job, I only saw two other people (both students.) When I was done, I went to Antonio to ask for my next assignment and I apologized to him for the fact that I was certain I did not mop the halls with the same skill set he has and I was sure it took me much longer than it takes him.  He said "You did good."  His three simple words meant the world to me and injected me with a new found sense of energy. Our custodial team members do not necessarily have the ability (due to the times of their shifts) to have interactions with a broad set of team members who can affirm their work and give positive feedback. It struck me how meaningful Antonio's affirmation was to me after mopping in isolation. I hope that all of our team members in BAS will find new ways to affirm each other. I would first direct us to those team members who work evening hours and, as a result, do not have the benefit of engaging with others during their shifts.  Let's model the words of Antonio and take the time to reach out to BAS team members we do not see and do not know to say "You did good!"

Our work reflects upon the entire team:  As I went about my assignment of mopping the halls of Baskin, I felt an added sense of responsibility. This was due to the fact that I knew my work would not just be a reflection on me, but rather (and more importantly) it would be a reflection on Antonio.  I wanted to do right by my team mate, and it added a heightened desire to do my best work. As we go about our daily tasks, we must remember that our work is a reflection on the larger team.  When we come up short or do not provide our best interaction with a customer, it not only reflects poorly on us, but it also reflects on BAS, UCSC, and the larger university system.  Let's remember that we are one team and that by doing our best we are doing right by each other.

I knew my mopping work in Baskin would reflect upon my team mate and I wanted to do right by Antonio.
My time spent with Maria and Antonio was very special. I am grateful for them taking the time to let me see our campus through their eyes.  I appreciate their patience and their kindness.  I am also thankful to the custodial leadership team and supervisors who set up this "In My Shoes" experience and helped me get around between jobs.

A slug I am,

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