Friday, October 28, 2005

Professionally Speaking

Isn’t it odd that we are faced with so many decisions each and every day that we make without even really thinking about them? We get so engulfed in routines that you address the simple decisions just by shooting from the hip.

We get wrapped up in the idea that we know who we are, what we want, what we will and won’t accept. We’ve been raised to be a certain type of person whether you’re a ‘path of least resistance’ person or confrontational; quiet or outspoken; angry or happy; honest or dishonest; taking or giving.

We are the product of our parents, our environment, what we’ve been taught, our life experiences. These things all make us who we are at the core. You reach a point in your life where it’s up to you to complete who you are meant to be.

For many of us, that is a journey that will be unfulfilled in this lifetime. Not sadly so, because I am pleased with the person I’ve become and I look forward to all I have left to learn. I wouldn’t trade the fact that I’m 42 for anything (okay maybe 10 years for a certain someone who has an age hang-up…). I have the privilege of life experience and I am thrilled I have it.

Often times I have sage advice to offer my friends when they need it. It’s advice I could not have given 15 years ago. I like that about me. I like that I am able to look at the big picture in life and weigh everything out. Not always successful, but most of the time. Again, it’s a journey.

Today I was driving into work thinking about some of the day-to-day decisions I make. I’ve gotten into such a routine of perhaps making the same or similar decisions about how I deal with Aries or the choices I make at work, etc., that I realized it’s entirely possible that I’ve created an energy that’s a not productive.

Let me explain. As a parent, I deal with Aries a certain way. A way that’s familiar, a way that she’s come to expect. And I agree that consistency is good. But with her getting older and smarter, I should think outside the box a little more. I should think of different approaches that help her think and grow – that give her different choices.

Though she is thriving, as her Mother I will only grow so much if I limit myself to one style, one way. If I expand my thinking it will by default expand hers. And my only job in this lifetime is helping her become a balanced, accepting, loving, decent human being. If I don’t help her grow emotionally (and correctly), who will?

Work is a whole other ball game. I am liked by everyone with whom I work. I have excellent relationships with various departments, teams, management. I am knowledgeable about how to get things done, who to go to when you need something, what process works and what doesn’t and more importantly what back door to seek when all else fails.

I was the only Unix System Administrator for almost seven years for a mechanical contractor. All things IT went through me. I was critical in that role.

I was the Technical Lead managing a team of nine guys for Fred Meyer Corporate supporting 380 Unix servers. I trained Microsucks geeks in Unix. There, too, I was an important component.

I came to Company X as a Senior Unix Engineer. I become a Certified IBM Specialist. I worked on what was at the time the biggest project Company X had ever rolled out. I was the only person on call 24/7 for over a year supporting the 26 IBM servers that I had built for that project. I handled calls from developers in India in the middle of the night, every night, for over a year. I was critical to that project.

When I tried to get off that project, I couldn’t ever successfully move to another project because I kept getting pulled back into the old one. It didn’t pay to have that knowledge – it ended up sabotaging me. There was no easy way to transition out.

I left the Unix team after three years and went into IT Security. A well thought out plan. I ended up being sexually harassed for the first year while on that team and paid for it. Being the victim of that bullshit had so much backlash, my career never got off the ground. (That person no longer is part of our team).

I spent the next year reaching out, project after project, trying to be successful. I was promised the Lead position and then it was given to someone else. I was trying desperately to take my power back. I went from working for someone who took friendship too far to working for a different manager who told me I should put my lifestyle under the covers and not be so open. This same manager tells me I need to “soften the moxy” because I’m too forthright with people.

Confrontational does not always equal bad. At least people know where I stand and walk away from conversations with me not wondering if they got their questions answered.

During a meeting this week with my manager I find out he is “worried about me” because I haven’t a project that I can call my own. I haven’t anything that I can “take ownership of and be proud and look forward to coming to work each day for.” Well, gee, ya think?! He said he “hasn’t seen the tiger in Marilyn in a long time.”

All I could do was agree and for a brief moment feel excited that he realizes I have more to contribute than I have been. Ahhh, a light at the end of the “I made a bad choice coming to this team” tunnel.

Then I heard him offer to help me find another job on another team if that’s what it took to make me happy. Shit, I realized I’ve been too much for him to handle. I’m the odd man out. I have spent two and a half years in Security spinning my gawd damn wheels and have become the one person on the team who is more expendable than everyone else.

At least that’s how it felt.

I’ve never been in this position before. I’m the go-to guy. I’m the backbone. I’m the key to success, baby! Seriously, what the fuck has happened here? Am I being punished for being the way I am? Is it dealing with me too complicated? Is my personality too strong? My honesty offensive?

The bigger question, which is why I wrote this blog today, is what could I have done differently? I am 100% responsible for my 50% of this situation. Did I stop being accountable? Did I stop caring?

Each day I come into work and I do similar things – I make similar decisions – those made instinctually. At what point in my decision-making process with regard to my success here, did things go awry?

Each day I should come into Company X and treat it the way I do my life. How can I be a contributing [professional] today? What did I do yesterday that I would change? What can I do today that will push me [and my technical skill set]? Am I becoming complacent? If I am bored, change it.

I’ve stopped asking myself those questions professionally which is a huge failing on my part.

I feel like I’ve been so gawd damned beaten up on this team that maybe it’s true, maybe I stopped caring. Other people get away with shitty work ethics, poor performance, lack of knowledge (not specifically this team but in general) and they are rewarded for that behavior. My old manager couldn’t find her ass with both hands and kept getting promoted.

Though I am generally pleased with my work ethic and am not one of those people, how long is a person supposed to care about their jobs when such behavior exists.

I let it get to me. I stopped looking at myself and let the surroundings get to me. I became bitter. When the reality is I am but one component of what’s supposed to be a cohesive organization. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing – I need to focus on myself and my contribution. Turn inward and remember what’s real.

I hope that my manager’s concerns are just that, concerns. But I can’t help but feel that his inability to feel comfortable working with me will be the ultimate demise of my tenure here.

I know one thing, I’m not going down without a fight.

It’s entirely possible that I am being too hard on myself today. It’s entirely possible that tomorrow I will read this post and disagree with the fact that I feel my 50% of the responsibility outweighs Company X’s 50%. But for now, I won’t make any more decisions without really thinking about them. I’ve not lived my life in a vacuum, personally or professionally, and now’s not the time to start.

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