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A Life Experience Inside and Outside of Work – The ShoreTel Battle of the Bands

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2013 was a special year for me at ShoreTel.  It was the year I was able to learn how to play guitar, as part of ShoreTel’s educational program – The Battle of the Bands. Let me tell you why it’s more than just about learning. It’s about learning about life, because it goes by pretty fast, and you better enjoy it while you can because nothing lasts forever.


Earlier in the year, ShoreTel kicked off an educational program on ongoing learning called the Battle of the Bands. This brings people together into bands all of which have never played an instrument.  It’s a great employee retention program, but more importantly, it’s a great way to keep people focused on learning – and having fun and improving teamwork at the same time. We formed a band called ROCK OVER IP with Jerry Nguyen on drums, Chih-Hsaing Chou on piano, Isabelle Bounkeua on vocals, Magnus Martikainen on bass and myself on my beautiful Fender electric guitar. Lots of practice and sore fingers from guitar strings, but nothing could stop us. Everyone was amazing!

Last Saturday we had the final battle at our Sunnyvale office holiday party. Our other offices hosted similar gatherings this month, and the winning bands from all regions will compete in mid-January in NYC to crown an overall winner. On Saturday we gave it our best along with three other bands, doing “Smoke on the Water” and “If Everyone Cared” – as high energy as possible. Ok, we didn’t win, but I would say no one lost.  Because we all did something we have never done before. In this world, there are winners and there are learners.  I feel like both! And you can take that with you for the rest of your life. How cool to chill out with my Fender acoustic on my hammock in the backyard between two redwoods and mellow out to some music.  I could never have done that a year ago.

As I close out the year, I always reflect back on all of the achievements. You don’t really work for a company. You work for yourself, and have your own balance sheet of experience, integrity and all things you believe are valuable to yourself and others. At the same time, you market yourself to a company for which your income statement represents the value you bring to that company. Life is short, so you have to assess was the year time well spent. What did you learn?  What did you enjoy? And what can you do next year to build the balance sheet even more? I have been fortunate to have chosen to work at ShoreTel for the last 5 years, and have had the fortune of overseeing a great team and working with some amazing people. The music program is definitely a life changer, and I can honestly say if it wasn’t for ShoreTel, I would never have picked up an instrument.

I turn 50 next year.  If I can do it at 50, you can do it too, and you will enjoy it!  And even though I may never be able to play with KISS, who was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this week, I’m famous enough to play music in my back yard.  The trees love it!