Mike Wood

Director of Analyst Relations & Content, Jobvite

1. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

I just have a lot of really good memories of myself, and my siblings. I’m a quadruplet so there’s actually four of us that are the same age (2 boys, 2 girls). I look back on all the fun we had growing up. I always had playmates and I always had someone to lean on if times got tough. We had a lot of fun.

2. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that person?

When I was a freshman in high school, I was a drummer in the marching band. And I had a music director, Mr. Pitts, who was also a drummer. And I remember getting this piece of music one day that was for an audition to be part of the All State band. And I looked at it and I just kind of threw it in my locker and said, “Yeah, I can’t do this.” And he looked at it, and he said “Well, I’ll work with you on it.” And so he and I worked every other day or so after school and practiced and practiced and it was one of those things where one mistake could tank your chances of getting through. I remember going to that audition, and I remember getting to the point where I was just kind of zoned out kind of like the kid in Whiplash when he’s playing the drums, but I nailed it. I put the effort in, rose to the occasion, and made it. And that has stayed with me to the point where I know that if I want something, I can work hard to get it.

3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

I would say relatively recently, it’s just this thirst for knowledge, and just reading a lot. There is so much information out there that I try to read something interesting at least every day. And it doesn’t have to just be books. I listened to a lot of books on tape when I used to commute before COVID. And now I’m just like, constantly binge reading wikipedia looking for information. For example, I’ll be sitting around and wonder “how did the whole legend of dragons start? Were there some people that stumbled upon old bones of dinosaurs and that’s where it came from? Then I’ll look it up and start reading about all these other legends. Like all the stories of sea monsters. Did some sailors see a giant squid? That would scare the hell out of me and I would tell everyone I know. So then I look up Giant Squids and learn that the first live video of one was less than 20 years ago. And they still don’t know much about it, just that it’s big enough to attack whales. Terrifying.

4. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

Now that you know how my brain works, you won’t be surprised by this. My favorite is In The Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. It’s about the whaling industry in Nantucket and

I just absolutely find it fascinating. It’s a true story that was the inspiration for Moby Dick. There was a boat full of the young men from the island and they were going out to hopefully catch whale and get the oil from them. Think Deadliest Catch times 10. Their boat was sunk by a sperm whale and they got stranded and they ended up surviving on open water for a year I think. It was something crazy. And just, you know, what it took for them to survive. Angry whale sinks your ship, now you’re stuck at sea and you have to eat your friends.

A couple other books that I really enjoyed.And it kind of goes along with this, this feeling of adventure. I’ve always had a pipe dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail and I was able to find a book of a young guy who did the whole thing with his dog. Check it out. It’s Lost on the Appalachian Trail by Kyle Rohrig. I don’t know if I’d ever have the time to take six months away from friends and family and go walk in the woods. But I just always thought it was neat that you can walk from Georgia to Maine, and all the different adventures that you have.

A book I’m reading now is Leadership in Turbulent Times. It’s by Doris Kearns Goodwin. And it’s about Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson, and basically, what experiences they had through their life to make them into great leaders. She’s trying to find out if there is a common thread between them. As I get older and get along the ages that some of these people were, I try to imagine what I would do in that situation when faced with that type of adversity. Lincoln, for example, was I think eight when his mom died and his dad left to go find another woman to be his wife. His dad left him for probably like six months or something like that. And it was just Abraham Lincoln and his sister who was like 10. They were alone as kids trying to survive in the wilderness. And they did, but this is the guy that came from nothing. And then, you know, when he’s old enough, he leaves and he goes to one of the major cities, and he goes and starts talking to people and he was just such a magnetic force and such a humble, emphatic, person that the town just fell in love with him. Obviously there’s more in there, but you get the point.

5. What personality traits do you have that gets you the most in trouble? And what kind of trouble do you get in?

I see people as people and not titles, so I approach everyone the same and try to get to know them as people first. I’m also a pretty laid back guy who likes to laugh. I don’t think you need to put added pressure on your team or yourself and create this professional mask. Yes, there is a time and place for everything, but I think you can do great work and enjoy it. You will be working your entire life, but what you will remember when you look back is the people you’ve met and the relationships you’ve fostered.

6. If I were to go to people who don't think very highly of you, what do you think they would say about you?

I think there are some people who I’ve worked with in the past who may see me smiling, joking with the team, and not being stressed as me not working, but just because I’m not complaining about all my work to everyone within earshot, doesn’t mean I’m not doing hard work. Do work you can be proud of, but relax. There is no need to be the workplace martyr. I used to run in a 5K club every week and had the same philosophy. On one hand you had people who were only focussed on bragging about their mile time, trying to get it lower, talking about things like their water strategy to everyone. I just went and tried to do better each time while having fun. When I was relaxed and enjoying the experience, that’s when my times came down.

7. Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?

My parents are extremely conservative politically and I was brought up to take their word as gospel. I looked to them like I did the government, that I should believe their word and that ultimately they were looking out for me. I’ve been becoming more of a democrat each year, but this year really did it in for me. I live outside the Boston area and we were one of the first areas to get hit with COVID. All of a sudden, we were expected to work from home, with our kids around and a daily death tally in the background on CNN. Not to mention the worry that your parents, friends, or even yourself could get sick from this virus and you’d end up in the hallway of a gymnasium with someone trying to ventilate you with an empty plastic Coke bottle because they ran out of hospitals and ventilators. And even worse, there was nothing they could do and you’d have to die frightened and alone. What did our government do to help? The president ignored it, basically left us on our own, minus $1,200 to get through the next 6 months. I was lucky that our governor stepped up, but I will never forget that we were left to fend for ourselves. I could talk all day about this and many more reasons why I’m happy Biden is our next president, but I don’t think I’ll ever vote republican again.

8. What do you think is acceptable today, but will become taboo tomorrow?

Anti-intellectualism. The amount of stupidity I read about and see on a daily basis is insane. We have all the information in the world, but we still have people that think the world is flat. Seriously. They’ve never looked out at a horizon and noticed a curve. We even have the technology to send a guy with a video camera and a Red Bull into space and take a look.

And it gets worse. An actress says that vaccinations cause Autism, now we have people not only not protecting their own kids, but not protecting yours from diseases that shouldn’t be a problem. I still have people on my Facebook feed saying that COVID is fake. Our children’s children are going to look back at us and wonder how we could have been so ignorant. We need to trust the scientists and praise science.

9. What’s the last image on your camera roll? Care to explain?

I’ll have to check, but I took a picture of my almost one year old, I was walking her outside. And it’s a little cold here in Massachusetts now. So I put her in this like kind of like, cover up thing that looks like a bear. And it’s just really cute. So I just took a picture of her smiling in it to send to my wife, and it was very cute. But my other daughter, who’s almost five, likes to grab the camera and take pictures of extreme closeups of her lip, nose, eyeball, feet. So I’m sure there’s a lot of nonsense on there.

10. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently

I just got into cycling a year ago to ride from Boston to Provincetown to raise money to fight MS (my father in law died from it). I had bought a bike off of some guy on Facebook for like $200 and rode it for the race and a few more rides after. This year, we were in a lockdown starting in March and I was dying to get away from my family and get outside. I brought it in for a tune up and it had a crack in the frame. And the guy calls me and he says it is not safe to ride. It’s a total loss. And I was not expecting that phone call. So now I’m without a bike. And I couldn’t handle being stuck inside with two small children trying to work. So I said you know what I’m going to get a new bike and I’m going to get something good. So I got a new bike. I spent $1,600 bucks on it, which is more than I would have wanted to spend on anything at the time, I was able to ride it all summer long and more.

11. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

All right, if I can own a bar and I can design it any way I’d like a revolutionary war style bar. I grew up probably about 20 minutes away from Concord. And so the Revolutionary War stuff is very big out here. And I just always thought it was kind of neat to have, you know, some sort of themed bar with the, you know, the chalices and you know, the tri corner hats and everybody looking like Samuel Adams, I thought that that would be really cool.

12. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?

If I survived the zombie apocalypse, I think I wouldn’t be the strongest person killing zombies left and right, but I would do what I had to and find a way to survive. Once I found others, I would try to be the one that brings everyone together, finds out what they can do in terms of resources, like who can farm, any doctors, etc, and start to rebuild society. Like a mayor who says this is what we need to survive and gets people working together. I like that. Mayor Wood of Zombieville.

13. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

You can’t really put innovation on there, but I tried to think outside of the box. And I believe if I think about a problem long enough, I can find a solution, and different ways to solve it. I’ve a gotten a couple Innovation Awards by just thinking about, hey, what if we did it this way? Or, you know, let’s try, let’s try this. Because a lot of times, you can try something. And if you fail, whatever, it’s fine, you least tried it, you can pivot pretty quickly. So I think I try to bring those good ideas to wherever I am.

14. What decision makes you say ‘What was I thinking?’ when you look back on your career?

Early in my career, I was, I didn’t think I was being promoted fast enough. I looked into a job that was nearby, and it was involved with music and I thought, Oh, I love music this would be a great fit. I went through the interview process and I got the job. And I remember the first day I walked into that office, as a new employee, I knew I’d made a huge mistake. The culture was not for me.

I didn’t stay there long, but as as a young kid, I was like, I remember thinking that that was a huge mistake. Why did I go to this company and what am I going to do? How am I going to survive getting out of it? Luckily, I was laid off during the recession so it solved itself. But I learned throughout that process what type of work environment I didn’t want to work in.

15. What hiring heuristic do you generally go with?

If I was hiring for my team, I would try to look beyond the prepared presentations for what they would do on the job and look to see if this was a genuinely good person, someone that will work for the team, not just their own personal ambitions. Will this person contribute something to the team that we don’t have, and help us rise up together? The worst teams that I’ve been on have a lack of trust because they were filled with people that will step on each other to get ahead.

16. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

I am nervous that events are going to take a while to come back. Personally, I would look at what Las Vegas can do. Because if anyone needs events, it’s them. So if they find a way to figure it out, I think things will start to come back. But I miss the human connection of our industry. What scares me the most is what it’s going to look like when they come back. Are people going to be afraid to talk with someone without a mask? Can I finally get a hug? I miss those.

17. Name one person from your professional life who has had an extraordinary impact on your career. What did they do and what did you learn from that person?

I first met Laurie Ruettiman at my first HR Tech in 2013. I was young and new to the industry, but as I attended more conferences and events, I got to know her more. She’s one of the rare leaders in an industry that is approachable and wants to help. She encouraged me to do my first DisruptHR talk. I’ve learned so much from her about the value of making connections and helping others, and to go after your dreams, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have a straight line to success. I am proud to call her a mentor and a friend.

18. If you could witness one moment in history which one would it be and why?

One event I would want to witness would be the start of the American Revolution in Lexington and Concord. I think it’s amazing that the local townsfolk banded together and stood up for themselves. I have ancestors that were there and one of my distant relatives, Samuel Prescott, rode with Paul Revere on his way home to concord after being out past midnight at the home of a lady friend.

19. What is the number one thing you would recommend every person in the world to practice from now on in order to increase their happiness and wellbeing?

I started listening to guided medication with my daughter to try and get her to fall asleep. We’ve listened to the sleepy sloth and traveled to the land of the unicorns. I had limited expectations, but it really helps you fall asleep. Give it a try!

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

The next person to do this should be Robin schooling, because she is hilarious. I like to call her America’s HR lady. She’s tremendously intelligent and knows what she’s talking about in terms of HR and has dealt with a lot of different HR scenarios, but she’s very, very funny, too.

Thank you to Mike Wood for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune.

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