Tuesday, March 08, 2011

More looking back

One year ago today I sat in a meeting with a VP at the company I used to work with and walked out of it knowing I wasn’t going to become official manager of the department I’d been running for nearly a year, but was going to be working under someone junior to me who had quit when I started, prompting my change of jobs. I took a minute to look back at the post I wrote when I changed jobs last year. Thought there were a few things I might comment on.

My reasons of leaving: well, I’m hearing from people more closely-connected to the old company than I am that it’s in some trouble. The parent company spent much of last year trying to unload it, unbeknownst to them. At least till one prospective buyer accidentally phoned them directly, spoke to our president, and prompted a minor heart attack in the man the following day. This was sometime last summer, I gather. More to the point of my reasons… I’m hearing that, surprise surprise, the person they hired to manage documentation blew a deadline – as she did years ago, before I started there. Just shrugged and went home with it not finished, as did her junior, the guy I managed for over a year (little disappointed in him, I have to say). Friday, 5 o’clock, off they went. Clients didn’t get the documentation. While my boss ran things, while I ran things, we never, ever let that happen. This one, so great she was going to be my boss, she’s at risk of being fired. This is largely to the advantage of other department heads, “friends” of hers, who praised her into the job, probably in the expectation she’d drop the ball and ask for the extension that THEY used to have to ask for when THEY dropped the ball. All in all, I’m sorely tempted to email the VP who hired her and ask, “Hey, how’s that working out for you?” Apparently his time’s up, too. He’s here from England on a work visa, and I don’t think it’s going to be renewed. Cheerio, old bean! Don’t let the maple door smack you in the bum on the way out. Anyway, while I’m not happy about having to quit, I suppose it was for the best.

My commute: I really don’t mind taking the bus and the subway as much as I would have imagined this time last year. I guess I’m used to it now. It’s often a drag; it means I can’t get around during lunch or right after work like I used to. But gas is currently 123.5¢/L, about a third again as expensive as it was when I stopped driving to work, so I guess I don’t mind not having to routinely pay that!

We changed buildings a few months ago. I’m a little further from the station now, which means going outside to get to work, or to go to the food court, both of which used to be elevator rides. That I don’t much like. Nicer building, though. Looks classier.

The company: I guess the biggest change is, like dozens of other companies around the world last year, we got acquired by IBM. No layoffs, no dislocation, not even any immediate big changes. But damnation, do these people love meetings and blue tape (three meetings today, one in ten minutes…). You almost need to check with someone just to go to the can. On the other hand, they’re way into helping you build your career, and even move around between positions and locations in the company. So if I can adapt to the culture, it could be a great place to pursue my career. I sure hope so, because I really don’t want to have to look for another job again.

I guess on the whole I’m better off than I was. I have regrets: I’ll never like being essentially chased out of the last company, or being milked like a cow for a crucial year and then being traded for some idiot’s magic beans and missing my chance to really manage. But, you know, one door closes, etc. So here I am. I can do none other.


jim said...

I think it's an illusion we like to keep that we are fully in control of our careers. We're just not. I've watched some of my peers -- in some cases, people I considered to be less sharp and qualified than me -- zoom far ahead of me, because I had two setbacks. One was when a company couldn't afford to pay me anymore, and the other was the Great Firing Incident I blogged about. So twice now I've had to prove myself all over again, rather than building success upon success.

I did make it into management, and have been doing that most of the last 14 years. But the director level keeps not happening, and it is in part because of circumstances beyond my control. Heck, I think I might have had it in the bag this year were it not for a sudden change in VP to whom I report -- now I have to prove myself to her, after having done it to my last boss. All that careful groundwork laid, for nothing.

Lone Primate said...

Man, I haven't been doing anything for 14 years straight yet, so I sure empathize. And I can sure agree, we're largely not in control of our careers, or all that much, to tell the truth.

But hey, from this vantage point, you look like you're doing just fine and are making all the right moves in an enjoying-your-three-score-and-ten kinda way. :)

jim said...

The time I got promoted to management was a lucky break. I ought to blog about it. I changed companies to get out of tech writing, and was hired as a tester. About a week on the job, I walked into the boss's office and told him in slightly less certain terms that their documentation was akin to fresh feces. He said, "How would you fix it?" So I told him. Next time I heard from him, he said, "I'm promoting you to Documentation Manager. Go do that thing you said you'd do."

Lone Primate said...

You're right, that would make an interesting story, JG. In particular I'd be interested in hearing what steps you actually took when the puck was passed to you. :)

jim said...

The post is in the works; look for it in April.