Balancing act: Job shadow day with my daughter starts with trepidation, ends with gratitude

Worlds collide, in a good way, on job shadow day

Published: Monday, April 2 2012 1:00 p.m. MDT

Seven years ago, my then-7-year-old daughter spent a day at work with me. Now she's 14, and last week, we had the opportunity to spend another workday together. This time, it was different ... but still a great day.

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Seven years ago, when I was still business editor for the Deseret News, I wrote a column about a visit my then 7-year-old daughter made to the office for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.

My oldest girl was so cute then. She brought her favorite doll with her. She was thrilled by the snack machines in the break room. She asked to skip one of the meetings I usually attended, choosing to sit in my office eating a cupcake instead. As we left the office at the end of the day she was all smiles and giggles telling me it had been her "best day ever!"

It was a great day for me, too, because I was able to share a bit of my work life with her.

Fast forward to last Thursday night. The plans for my now 14-year-old daughter's eighth-grade job shadow day had unexpectedly fallen through at the last minute. With some trepidation, I volunteered to let her come to work with me.

It's not that I didn't want her to see what I do. It's just that, due to vacations and some other arrangements, about half my team was going to be out of the office on Friday. On top of that, most of my plans for the day were going to involve me reading and working on the computer.

In other words, I was afraid she would be bored out of her skull and not think too highly of my job, even though I'm always talking about how much I enjoy it. I'm all for work/life balance, but this kind of "worlds-colliding" experience seemed fraught with peril.

Still, there she was bright and early Friday morning, looking professional and so much older than she did on that cloudy spring day seven years ago. This time, instead of bringing a doll, she was carrying a purse with her mobile phone, her iPod, a few snacks and a novel to read in case she had some idle moments.

She did have a few of those, but I tried to keep her busy. I introduced her to a bunch of people around the office, and I explained in detail the projects and products on which my team spends its time.

She paid attention. For example, after I showed her an algorithm my team produced for one of our products, she came up with a pretty good one of her own to guide a person through the sandwich-making process.

Thanks to the kindness of co-workers, she also tagged along on a tour of some of the more visually interesting parts of the company (away from the maze of cubicles in which I spend my days). And we had a delightful and delicious lunch together.

All in all, I thought it went well, so I had high hopes when I asked her a few questions about her experience for this week's column. But her answer to my first question, about her expectations for the day, made me think I was in trouble.

"I expected it to be a little more dull, honestly, and I also expected there to be a bunch of people and for it to be this giant, bustling workplace," she said. "I just didn't think that you'd be doing anything interesting. ... I mean, I didn't think you'd be one of the people bustling around."

Ouch! That hurt! But she knew that I spend most of my time at my desk or in meetings, so that comment shouldn't have been a surprise. The projects we're doing are pretty cool from my point of view, but I can see how she wouldn't find them to be terribly thrilling.

She did say she was surprised at the scope of my team's projects and was impressed at the continuing education opportunities offered by my employer — not to mention some of the machines she saw during the tour.

"I really liked interacting with all of the people on your team because they were all super smart, and I got a lot of extra vocab credit," she said, referring to bonus points she gets in school when she hears one of her vocabulary words in daily conversation.

She said it would be fun to work with the people on my team. (And I can confirm that it is.) However, she's still leaning toward some kind of engineering career for her own future. After talking to the employee from our marketing department who led her tour, she's now thinking she might be able to combine engineering with marketing, which is an interesting idea. I think it's cool that her job shadow day at least led her to contemplate things in a new way.

Finally, I asked the big questions: Did she have fun during her job shadow day? And what did she like the most?

"It was just kind of fun all around," my oldest girl said, "because I was learning something new, and that is always fun.

"And I was able to spend a lot of time with you."

Wow. What a great young woman she has become! And she confirmed what she taught me seven years ago: She will be great at whatever she decides to do. She still has a wonderful attitude about work and a sunny disposition that even her teenagehood has not diminished.

Thanks, sweetheart, for giving me another of my best days. I'm looking forward to many, many more.

Email your comments to kratzbalancingact@gmail.com or post them online at deseretnews.com. Follow me on Twitter at gkratzbalancing or on Facebook on my journalist page.

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