My team doesn’t know what I do.

A story about that time I sort of got in trouble at work…and the thing I realized I wasn’t doing in my role.

I sort of got in trouble at work recently.

Don’t worry – nothing actually offensive took place on my part. My job isn’t in jeopardy, I’m not on probation, or anything like that! But I had an exchange with one of my directors, and as far as I’m concerned, I’ve definitely made a mistake in my role. Let’s dive in.

Anyone who manages a database knows that the job has it’s less-than-glamorous moments. Not that anyone would call this work glamorous…which is precisely why I love it.


Most of the time, us database peeps work our magic using workflows and other techy spells. We do everything in our power to simplify and automate, as much as is technically feasible…but sometimes, there are good reasons why we won’t do this. And it means that in the interim, somebody’s doing something manually.

Which is where I am now with a certain data point for my team. And when my director found out, they were floored by the manual-ness of it. They asked if my department head understood how this process was currently working. That’s when the light bulb went off.

The people in my org don’t actually know what I do.

It sounds silly to confess this when your role literally has your primary job responsibility in it! But there’s a difference between knowing that your database admin maintains the system, and knowing that she runs weekly reports to manually merge duplicate records entered by your team.

My director has the best understanding of my responsibilities. And my teammates know when they need to bring something to my attention. But for the most part, my org’s understanding of my role lives in a vacuum – based on what everyone guesses that I do, plus whatever specific stuff they ask of me.

I don’t expect anyone to become experts in my line work, or to even grasp its implications. But here’s where I, and many others, really mess this up.

I’m not doing enough to educate others about how my role works.

I tend to spare my team the nitty gritty details of my job. No one needs to know that I probably click my mouse 50 different times before I get two duplicate records merged into one.

But, maybe they shoulddd know that the system doesn’t merge automatically. (BTW. The few times this has come up, I’ve been surprised at how surprised other people are to learn this.)

To be perfectly honest….there might be a few things happening here. Maybe I’m jaded by the parts of my role that seem objectively less interesting, even if I find those parts to be important. Maybe that causes me to take for granted what other folks should understand about my work. And with how busy I am, I don’t make an active effort to educate others unless I’m offloading a task. You’re looking at a solo admin here.

But I could still be doing more. I’m in the incredible position of being on a team with a high level of mutual respect and understanding, one that appreciates and values my contributions. I never want to be in the position where someone is shocked to discover what those contributions look like.

We need to better educate each other about the roles we all play.

For the folks who don’t work in devo – does anyone actually know what development is?

Unless you’re in development, there’s a good chance you see those folks as the weirdos obsessed with gala sales & sponsorships. They’re the team most removed from the actual work of your organization, and they like schmoozing. What is that.

And if you work in development? You definitely have a handle on what your org does. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t dumbfounded when it feels like you’re pulling teeth to get your program & marketing teams on the same page for your appeal deadlines.

As someone with a development past, I get to say these things.

There’s a reason these two sides can exist. While we know what our org’s functions are supposed to accomplish, we don’t always know enough about what that looks like. That makes it harder to empathize, and it puts us at a disadvantage by leading us to (wrongly) assume how those teams truly work.

Executive Directors, you’re a special mystery. The rest of us have no clue what goes on in that office. (But I know what you’re not doing: entering your stuff into the CRM. 😇)

Moral of the story? Let’s let others in!

Our work is a jarring percentage of our lifetime. It doesn’t make any sense, personally or professionally, to confine ourselves or our work to an island.

The crowd doesn’t need to know everything. But let’s try giving them something to work with.

Share your thoughts!