If you’re an IT professional whose parents simply can’t seem to wrap their heads around exactly what it is you do, you’re not alone. It wouldn’t be surprising if your kids have a much clearer understanding of what you do than your parents do. So maybe it’s time for your organization to have a Bring Your Parents to Work Day.
An increasing number of tech companies are doing just that — a spinoff of the traditional Bring Your Kids to Work Day, enabling parents to get a first-hand look at what their sons and daughters do. And it’s not just the likes of Google and LinkedIn that are doing it. Clarus Commerce, an e-commerce technology provider in Rocky Hill, Conn., gave it a shot last month. According to Clarus CEO Tom Caporaso, about 30 parents showed up, and it was a huge success.
“You could see that the parents were excited to learn more, and I think we did a nice job of balancing what we do at a high level, with giving them enough information,” Caporaso said in an interview. “I talked to pretty much all the parents afterward, and they were very excited about coming in.”
Caporaso affirmed that the idea sprung from reading about tech giants like Google having a BYPTWD.
“As we continue to hire younger folks, since we’re a technology-focused company, to get the parents in here to really explain what we do and how we do it, and ultimately where we’re going, was just a really interesting opportunity for us,” he said. “We always look at Clarus as a family, so it was time to meet the relatives, I guess.”
Caporaso said that given the positive feedback, he expects this to become an annual event.
“I think next year when we do it again, we’ll have a bigger and broader group, just because it really went well, and the feedback was really positive and strong,” he said. “I think the parents felt good walking out of the building, and I think at the end of the day, the ‘kids’ felt really good and proud about what we’re doing here and how we’re doing it.”
Caporaso said at the event this year, he and some department heads gave presentations to explain to the parents what the various parts of the company do, and what Clarus’s vision is. At a post mortem after the event to discuss lessons learned to apply to next year, he said it was agreed that giving the parents the opportunity to actually watch the employees at work would be the way to go. The idea would be for the parents to shadow their kids “to really get an understanding of what a web designer does, or what a software engineer does, and really get in the weeds.”
“Maybe it’s 30 minutes, maybe it’s more or less than that, but really looking through that lens, vs. a higher-level view of what the business does, and how we’re looking at the future,” he said. “I think that’s an important piece, to really look at it from the parents’ view of their son or daughter, and what they’re actually doing on a daily basis. I think we’ll start to integrate more of that, and maybe more breakouts on departments. So if someone wanted to learn more about the marketing department, we might have a breakout session around that. I think a lot of good, positive energy came out of it, and we’ll continue to optimize it for next year.”
The BYPTWD event was part of an ongoing effort to make Clarus “millennial-friendly,” and to recognize what millennials want in a work experience.
“They want to do meaningful work, they want to give back, they want their ideas to be heard, and I’m all for that,” Caporaso said. “I’m not a millennial, but I very much share that vision and that thought around what we’re doing here.”
He noted that the company has a program called Clarus Cares that focuses on giving back to the community.
The company’s 75 employees work in an open, collaborative space with no offices — that includes no office for Caporaso, who works out on the floor — allowing for open, transparent communication. The only downside of that, he said, is that it can be a bit noisy.
“But if it does get noisy, it’s usually laughter,” Caporaso said. “And that’s not a bad thing, either.”
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.