Around 1610, Galileo Galilei, pointing his newly invented telescope at the sky, became the first person to see bulges on both sides of the planet Saturn. He didn’t know what they were. It took 45 years before another astronomer, Christiaan Huygens, figured out that they were rings surrounding the planet.
For 350-plus years since then, every view we had of the rings came from the same vantage point: from outside.
Until last month. For the first time, the Cassini spacecraft slipped between Saturn and the rings, turned its camera away from the planet, and started taking pictures from inside the rings.
This illustration is part of a NASA animation that shows Cassini’s trip inside the rings. The inset captures an actual image that Cassini sent back.
Following Cassini’s example, I’ve begun considering how I can look at things from new vantage points. If I’ve always looked at something in the same way, have I really seen it in its entirety? Maybe not.
Here are a few things I’m trying to see from new vantage points.
Mergers and acquisitions
My company, Extreme Networks, has acquired parts of 3 different companies over the past year. As a result, our technical writing team is growing rapidly. New people, with all sorts of different backgrounds, are learning our tools, our workflows, and our corporate culture. A lot of anxiety comes with the experience of being part of an acquisition.
I actually have experience with this. I’ve seen things from the other side of an acquisition. Now is a great time for me to remember how it felt — and thereby to help make it easier for the newcomers to our team.
My recent participation in the STC Carolina chapter’s mentoring program has given me a new appreciation for how hard it is to break into the technical communication field — from finding a specialty (software writer, e-learning developer, scientific editor) to creating a personal brand to simply landing that first job.
Look at the current world scene and you’ll see people with fundamentally different worldviews. More and more, those worldviews seem to be colliding — and the more they collide, like particles in an accelerator, the more sparks seems to fly. The greater the differences seem to become.
I’m still trying to grasp that. More important, I’m trying to understand the people whose worldviews are different from mine. If I can understand the people on the other side, maybe we can find something in common that we can use as a basis for moving forward together. Maybe that’s too much to ask. I don’t know. But I do know that talking beats shouting, so that’s what I try to do.
(If you’d like to try, too, Jesse Lyn Stoner recently shared some practical tips for taking a stand without polarizing others.)
Cassini has been orbiting Saturn since 2004. On Friday its mission will reach its grand finale when it dives into the planet’s atmosphere. When it transmits its last data from inside Saturn’s clouds — a vantage point no one has ever seen — humankind will gain more knowledge about Saturn’s atmosphere than ever before.
How have new vantage points helped you in your professional life? Can you think of other vantage points you’d like to gain?