Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reflections in transition, redux

Yesterday was my last day at the company I've worked at for over four years. Technically it's next Thursday, but I'm taking my vacation time next week in order not to have to deal with the person they've hired to head my department. It's a long story, but I guess it can be condensed to the following... my manager resigned last May, recommended me to succeed her to a guy the company parachuted in from England to oversee a restructuring of our office. He dithered, listened to armchair quarterbacks and took their advice where our department was concerned. He let me work all summer completing projects of once-in-a-decade importance to our company and left me hanging on my status. When it was out of the way, he told me I wasn't getting the management position. A couple of months later, he gave the title to someone in the company with a department head title but no departments to head. Still, I was the effective day-to-day manager, setting deadlines for my junior and myself and tracking our tasks. I kept things on course, even when this fellow interfered with his "good" ideas for documentation. Apparently, he was ineffective, because the fellow from England decided to replace him... not with me, but with a junior writer who bailed from our company just after I started. It was the last straw. It took me four weeks, but I found a slightly better-paying job elsewhere, and now I'm out.

This is weird for me. I spent the last ten years of my life in that building, working for two different companies on two different floors. I've been amusing myself looking over my comments from THAT transition, here on this very blog. It's funny how little difference there is in some respects. I chickened out on walking the floor and saying good-bye, same as last time, and for the same reasons. I also don't have that bright, happy "bang, zoom!" feeling in taking this new job, either... it was a matter of survival and salvaging a little professional pride, not seizing a great opportunity. But this time, I'm not driving to the same building, parking in the same spot. Those days are over. This is a bigger adjustment.

Ten years. I was in that building on 9/11 when my friend Jody in Texas paged me over ICQ and told me the first tower had been hit... and then the second. I was in the place when, about a year later, his dad called me up to tell me Jody had cancer... and in the building two years later when he told me that, during a meeting I was in, Jody had died. I was there two years after that when I was told the father himself had also died of cancer. I spent weekend mornings and afternoons in that place alone, doing some of my most productive, satisfying work, feeling like I belonged and was really contributing. I feel like I really matured in my job and was rightly on the verge of something better, but at the last moment, it was denied to me, and with this insult in terms of the choice of the person to whom I would be reporting. After spending three years documenting a new product, getting the suite of manuals created, reviewed, and correcting them – when the hard work was done, that's when the English guy saw fit to hand all my work over to some half-experienced girl to simply maintain... a shopkeeper. Yeah, you could say I'm a little bitter about this. Stepped over twice, and never told why. Never told the issues, given the challenge, afforded the chance to right whatever was supposedly wrong.

But what can you do.

Well, you can email everyone in the office with a pointed, but professional, exit note, like I did...

Hi, everyone,

I know I should have come around and said this in person, but I’m really awkward at this kind of thing, so I hope you’ll forgive me for wimping out. Today’s my last day at [company name]. I’m not happy to be leaving, but recent decisions about the management of my department have made it plain to me the future of my professional career lies elsewhere. I’ve enjoyed my four years here. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve, and I’m better for having worked and learned here. I would have liked for it to have gone on for years to come, and I worked hard to make that happen over the past year since [previous manager's name] left, but that’s not how it’s panned out.

To those of you who were subject matter experts for me: my sincere thanks. I literally could not have completed the tasks that I did, without your indispensable help. Some of you came through for me at times when you yourselves were under the gun with your own projects, and for that in particular I’m especially grateful. If I failed to say so then, and I hope I didn’t, well, I’m saying it now. Thank you.

I really do wish you success in your endeavours, here and elsewhere, as your own careers progress. I can be reached at...

So, anyway, the new job will be at the other end of the subway line I live on. A bit more expensive than just gas, and longer than my comfy 15-minute drive, but on the other hand, I won't have to face all that nerve-wracking traffic in the winter. And the subway leads directly into the building, which, I admit, really does kind of jazz me as very cool and very cosmo.

Not sure what else to say. This just seemed like the kind of thing you really have to blog about, if you're going to have a blog at all.


Jim Grey said...

There are few signals more clear than the one you got that your career future lies elsewhere. I'm sorry you had to deal with those corporate shenanigans, but I wish you well in the new job.

You said "documentation" earlier -- are you a writer?

Lone Primate said...

Hi, Jim, yeah, technical writer. :) I work in the software industry.

Jim Grey said...

Well isn't that a hoot. I've been in the software industry for 21 years now, the first 12 of which were as a technical writer before I moved over to the dark side of QA. I manage test automation, service pack testing, and technical writing at my current employer.

Lone Primate said...

I STC U 2, dude. ;)

Unknown said...

Interesting symmetry:
When I left my job a little over a month ago, I gave a speech at my going away drinks. The President and General Secretary saw fit to attend the drinks as well. The backstory there is that the President has decided to take our industrial relations into her incompetent hands and has been fucking things up and withholding our dues.
So my speech was very much about extolling the virtues of working with my co-workers/comrades and included a pointed message to both the Prez and the Gen Sec that they should seriously reconsider fucking over the staff who work very hard for them.
Not sure if any of this information sank in but, damn! it felt good to tell them that what they've been doing sucks.