In 2020, we celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Enablon. Celebrating any anniversary traditionally calls for some reminiscing and pulling up memories of your journey along the way. Our colleague Tom Barr, Knowledge Manager at Wolters Kluwer’s Enablon, decided to take reminiscing to the next level and write a book about his career and his 10-year tenure at Enablon. This month, he celebrates the launch of his book Enablon and Me: the funniest and most insightful memoire-turned-business-book you will read this year.
An excellent opportunity for me to catch up with Tom and find out what happened when Enablon, the sustainable software company, met this self-proclaimed ‘unsustainable old man’.
Tom, you call yourself an unsustainable old man, how did you end up working at THE sustainable company?
“In 2009, as a result of organizational changes, I was part of a workforce reduction at a big U.S. technology enterprise. I’d spent more than 27 years working in various positions at this company, and really enjoyed it there. The job search at the time wasn’t going very well, when a headhunter introduced me to Enablon. At the time, Enablon was in the middle of what I refer to in my book as an exploration. They’d recently set up their North America office in Chicago and were organizing their first North American event: Enablon North American User Forum. While I had no idea what the job would entail and to be honest didn’t know the company either, I decided to go in for an interview with the Knowledge Management manager Angela and Enablon’s co-founder Phil.
I went into the interview and what I immediately noticed was first that the people there were so young, and second that Phil Tesler, during his interview, thoroughly tested me on my ability to respond in a flexible, amicable way and remain cool under pressure. This all to see how I’d deal with the various types of interaction you can come across in your work. At the end of the interview, I didn’t know if I got the job—in fact I didn’t even know if I wanted the job!
But even if it didn’t turn out to be the perfect match, I decided to go for it as I’d get to spend two weeks in Paris in my first month. I’d never been in Paris. As it turned out, the people in Paris were so incredibly friendly and welcoming, that I decided to stay. What I immediately noticed about Enablon, and the people there, is the people-focused culture and how that is based on how the business developed over the years: really listening to customers and working with them on the best solution that helps customers achieve their goals is in the DNA of Enablon. There’s a real sense of ownership and passion that my colleagues have in their work.
As for my interview, I look back at it as a fond memory and realize that this was extremely effective in catching me off guard and testing my ability to engage under all kinds of circumstances: a trait that is vital in my job and key to Enablon’s success.”
What inspired you to write about Enablon and your journey working there?
“About two and a half years ago, I started writing this book, because as my children were getting older, I wanted them to know what I did. A lot of times, we don’t ask those questions because we’re too wrapped up in our own lives, but later on, we regret we didn’t learn more about it. And by then, sadly, it’s often too late because your parents are gone. Not dead – just moved to Florida and don’t want you bothering them with stupid questions.”
And along the way of writing your book, did your audience change?
“Although initially this was intended as a memoire, once I’d started writing the book, because of my experiences it slowly turned into a business book. My publishing agent and I wanted everyone to be able to take some takeaways from the book and resonate with what anyone can go through in their professional life: embracing change and engaging with others. This opened up another door and led me to include those areas with hopefully useful takeaways.”
You experienced many work habits that differed a lot from what you were used to: you even included a short poem in your book on the French work time that will be relatable to anyone who’s been surprised by local business habits:
Early to Bed
Early to Rise
Doesn’t work well
For the Enablon French guys
Come in by mid-morning
And work very late
And you’ll produce software
That works really great!
Do you still experience challenges in your work?
“When I first started working, I was fascinated about Enablon, as well as the French way of working: working late, dining late, extremely accommodating to customers even to the extent that French colleagues like Manuel became Manny and our CEO Philippe became Phil in meetings with American clients. Funnily enough, I see that with the company developing, my colleagues are also getting older, start having families, and start having different responsibilities in their private lives. Change is a constant and inevitable, and as with our products’ end users, we must all learn to embrace that change and continue to be curious. In parallel, I also see our solutions are changing: although they are still highly configurable, they are completely customer-centered in covering their absolute needs.”
Now that you’ve published your first book, are you already planning on a sequel?
“It is interesting you mention a sequel, because I’ve toyed with the idea of a prequel to Enablon and Me. How I got interested in computers and then got a job at a big technology company is still a part to be written. When I graduated from college, computers were not available to the masses, nor was there even a degree in computer sciences.
As for Enablon, I think that the expedition continues. We have many unexplored areas to go to which are even more exciting than the original expedition. With eVision and CGE joining the business, it is exciting to see how we integrate not only products but also people. Being part of and connecting with Wolters Kluwer is opening doors to a whole rich area.”
Enablon and Me by Tom Barr was published on 18 February 2020. Read more about this humorous, insightful business book here. The book is available on Amazon and Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Nook, BAM, iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo.