Nasty Monday’s

Right now this feels the Mondayest Monday I’ve ever experienced.

It wasn’t so bad last week. I dragged myself to work, but I was at least reasonably well-rested, and I was curious to get back and see what had been happening, and what we had to do. It was a busy week last week – busier than normal for a first week back – but it was productive, too. Come Friday night, I dragged myself out of the office and through the rain to have a beer (or six) feeling well satisfied with my work.

The second week back, though is a different story. Not uncommon this, I think. Second-week blues is a thing, and I have it.

I usually wait until just after nine to get my first coffee, but I couldn’t wait that long today. I was feeling lost at my desk not wanting to be there and so, about 8.35, I went down to get a flat white – and today a double-shot because I needed it.

I’m thankful that it looks like it may be a quiet day (touch wood!).

I’m actually casting my eyes about for other opportunities, just to keep my eye in. I’m enjoying the work I’m doing here now and have some juicy projects all my own coming up. And, in pure business terms, they currently think I’m the bee’s knees.

The issue is that I’m still underpaid for what I’m doing and, now that I’ve re-established myself, reckon I can get out there with a reasonable chance of getting a better job. My goal by mid-year is to be earning around the six figures, but I think there’s a chance I can leap well beyond that.

Right now I’m sussing things out, here, in the office, and outside it. We have an offsite next week, and apparently, career progression will be part of the agenda. I’m a part of the best performing team in the department, and I’m seen as a safe pair of hands at least, and with some upside. Hopefully, that means I’ll get my opportunity here.

I’m happy to leave. I sort of like the idea of a fresh environment and opportunity. At the same time, I’ve now invested a bit here. I can see the fruits of my labour blossoming – click on the website and my work is visible. On top of that – not that I ever dreamt this would be a consideration – I’m coming up towards long service lead. Fancy that!

I’m having coffee with my direct lead today, and I’ll be reasonably upfront with him. I’m too old to play any games.

I’m happy to continue for the moment, nasty Monday’s aside. I’m keen to get these projects over the line. And in the nearer term, I’m finally looking at a holiday around March, maybe. That’ll be part of the conversation today as well. Nothing too ambitious – Tassie maybe, or maybe Margaret River, or maybe even up the coast the bushfire affected areas.

On the couch

Working from home today, mostly just because I needed a break from the office.

It’s a bit of a mixed bag working from home. I went out and had a cooked breakfast earlier, and in the background, I’ve got the President’s Cup telecast on (the course is about ten minutes from where I live). Generally, I’m productive from home also. There aren’t the distractions of the office, nor the noise and bustle. You can focus on the things that need to get done rather than dissipating your energy in multiple directions.

In general terms, it suits my role also. I coordinate an offshore team, so it doesn’t matter where I am as long as I’m online. And the main dev in the office I would normally work with is working from home today also, so, ditto.

I sit in the corner with the laptop on the coffee table, and I’m coordinating and directing different people in different locations, pulling strings and setting priorities and, when needed, clearing the way. I’m checking out dev-ops boards and communicating via Teams mostly, and sometimes email, and not long from now I might actually make a call also.

You get in a groove. By now I’ve been working at this job long enough that it comes pretty naturally anyway, but there are times when you hit that zone, and everything feels at your fingertips.

Like I said, I needed to be out of the office. After today, there are six working days to go until I’m on holiday, and I reckon I’ll stumble over the line. It’s been full-on for a while, and while generally, I enjoy that, there have been some less savoury aspects lately, and generally I need a freshen up, anyway.

I’m catching up with someone over Christmas who’s offered to give me some free coaching (because she fancies me, I think). Things are on an upward trend, but they still have to be managed. I have to find what’s right for me, and a part of that means acknowledging there’s an underground river of sorrow flowing through me. It doesn’t affect my work, but it affects my relationship to it. I want to be happy and free.

Stand up

I feel like I’ve done enough this week. It’s a bit after 2pm on Friday and I’m grinding to a halt.

It’s been a busy few weeks in general, and this week fractious on top of that. I’ve been holding the fort against the heathens in Sales. They’ve been battering at the ramparts demanding to get their way, but I resisted them because their way was chaos and, in this at least, I believe in and represent order. Ultimately I prevailed, but it was a bruising experience and it’s a good bet I’m not on their Christmas card list.

Doing my job properly meant for me to stand-up against them, though I don’t really have the authority or back-up. It was the right thing because it was the only way to ensure the integrity of our systems, and because there were others who felt the same as me but didn’t have the voice. It was right on principle also, because if processes are there to be subverted by bullies then you have anarchy.

All of that is true in itself and sufficient to have held firm, but there is another reason beyond that which is individual. I do a job, I represent a role and a set of duties, but I’m also a man with my own principles and standards. Never mind anything else, I won’t allow myself to be bullied and are contemptuous of those who would try. I represent myself ultimately, separately to my job title.

In my mind this is the right of every person. It doesn’t matter what job you do or where you are on the socio-economic ladder, we’re all entitled to respect and to stand up for our dignity. It seems to me that many lose sight of this. Your job is just a job. The amount of dollars in your wallet are a convenience or an inconvenience, but says nothing about your character. Where you fit in the hierarchy has bearing on what you do, but has nothing to do with your value as person. Your integrity, your beliefs, your standards, are personal to you and independent of everything else. Unfashionable as it is today, these are things that can’t really be bought and sold – though that’s up to the individual.

In my case I hold true to those values because they’re mine – the one thing that really is. Everyone has the same entitlement, and I wish more were more aware of that. You are yourself: be that person.

Staggering to the line

For the last two weeks plus I’ve been holding the fort while my manager went on holiday to Japan. There was a handover before he left when he instructed me in this and that and alerted me to things that might come up and people I might have to deal with. There were several things, he assured me that I wouldn’t need to worry about.

He flew out on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, I went into work, and within half an hour, one of the things he told me I wouldn’t have to worry about was all I was worried about. A critical system component crashed, leaving swathes of the business without the tools they needed. I was there alone – the team generally come in from 9.30 onwards. I didn’t know what to do, and all I could say was to admit there was an issue, and we would be looking to resolve it urgently.

Fortunately, we were able to get it fixed within a couple of hours, but over the next two weeks, there was a succession of similar events causing disruption of one type or another. Not all of them were in our control – there was a Microsoft 365 problem for a few days, for example, when some the APIs behaved erratically. I learnt a lot over the fortnight, coordinating between teams and people and searching for answers on things I knew little about, and managing expectations across the board.

What it meant is that for the fortnight I was generally racing from one thing to another, while trying to manage teams onshore and offshore. There was little opportunity to go into depth or to develop anything. My time was spent touching lightly and quickly across many different areas and aspects, and in the end, it was fine.

To add to this, last week I butted heads again with Sales as they tried to railroad everyone else into letting them do what they wanted. I had to shut them down, and there were tense exchanges. From my perspective it’s pretty simple: if they want to come play in our environment then they have to be mindful of those already there, and that we can’t agree to anything until it’s been adequately tested and signed off. They don’t work that way, though. Everything’s a haphazard rush, without regard for either good business practice or the needs of others. They’re basically loud and obnoxious bullies who care for nothing than their own profit.

I find these confrontations exhausting. I suspect I’m positioned to take the brunt of them because management figure I’m a safe pair of hands and won’t be intimidated. The problem – as always – is that while they’ve entrusted me with that responsibility, they haven’t given that level of authority. I’m butting heads with the head of sales, who must be earning more than double what I am. I won’t shift, but it’s hard work and takes it out of you. It’d be so much easier if I didn’t have to work so hard to be civil – that’s what drains you.

When I walked out of the door on Friday, I knew that come Monday I could relax a little because my manager would return. We had our Christmas party that night, but I felt so weary and generally exhausted I wouldn’t have gone except that people were expecting me. I think something deflated in me when I knew I’d endured the worse. The adrenalin that’d been pumping through me ebbed, leaving me aching and old.

I went to the party on Friday and it was an okay night, but I was home by midnight. I was terribly weary again yesterday and happy to keep a low profile – but then I’d arranged to catch up with a couple of mates leading into Christmas. We had dinner in Richmond and drinks afterwards at the Corner Hotel and it was a lot of fun. I was okay, except I felt I had no reserves left in me. I got home at around 12.30.

Today should be a lazy day because I haven’t the energy for anything more than that. It surprises me how tired I am. I could barely keep my eyes open yesterday, and it’s the same again today. I feel really run down again, but I think likely it’s more psychological than physical. It’s coming towards the end of a long year, and I’m on leave in three weeks time. I can almost taste it, and maybe there’s a subtle relaxation of mind that’s compounded by the knowledge that I can hand over the tough stuff to the manager tomorrow. In comparison to the last few weeks, I can put my feet up a little.

And though I’ve been going strong, it’s been such a long time since I had a real holiday. I must be tired in body as well as in mind, but you power through it. Maybe I’m not powering through it as well as before this close to the line.


The next meal

From Thursday I’m running the show in my department as the manager will be away on holiday. Basically, it means I’ll have a bit more work to do and a little less support, but it’s no big deal. I’ve done much more.

In general, I’m much more positive on the work front. The new role has given me a much higher profile and on view to a greater range of people. I’m fortunate that I’m the sort of person who appears competent and in control (even when I’m not), and I get a lot of brownie points because of that. No matter what else they think of me, most believe me to a reliable and capable operator. On top of that, now I’m in a position to innovate – my sweet spot – and that’s going well also. I think I’m well poised for higher duties if and when they come along.

Ideally, when the next opportunity comes along, it’s elsewhere.

I’ve just come from having coffee with the RM of the chatbot business we’re a client of. I met him about seven months ago, and we hit it off right from the word go. He’s about my age, an ex big-wig at Optus who’s trying his hand at the gig economy – he works on a contract basis, with other irons in the fire. We’re similar types, though he’s more garrulous than I am. We’d happily share a beer or two, but in the meantime, we’ve had a lot of coffee.

He’s moving into a venture of his own, which sounds fascinating and exciting. He’s sort of living the life I would if I could. In any case, he’s not sure about his tenure in his present role, but we’ve committed to keep in touch. All that is very cosy, but he also raised the option of me doing some work in his new venture if and when it gets off the ground – “no promises.” I think it’s unlikely anything will come of it, but it’s nice to be wanted.

A couple of weeks ago, I caught up with the ex-Digital Manager from here for coffee down St Kilda Road, where he works now. One of the first things he said to me is that he’s always looking out for opportunities for me. He’s one who thought I was under-valued and poorly used in my previous role, and was instrumental in me moving into my current position. One of the interesting things he said was that my last manager was scared of me, which is why she would sideline me. I thought this myself, but it was interesting to get it also from someone else.

Besides looking out for me, he gave me some advice to follow up on, believing still that I’ve got a lot more to offer .

All of this leads me to believe that something will give eventually. I’ve broadened my network, and there is apparent goodwill towards me from people I respect. You’d hope to think that’d translate into a job at some point.

There’s the moral aspect too. When I went through my tribulations, I wondered if I’d ever come out of them. And if I did, I wondered if I’d be the same man. I had big doubts, which is normal I’d suggest when you’re coming back from homelessness and virtual bankruptcy.

It’s funny; you even question the things that should be beyond question. There were times I wondered if I was a fraud. If my previous achievements were a fluke or exaggerated. I questioned if I was as smart as I’d thought I was, and if my experience was as valuable as I’d believed.

They call this impostor syndrome, and it’s quite common, I gather. That’s interesting in itself. I’d never really suffered from it before, but then I was like a shark that cruised the waters seeking my next meal.

And that’s the other part of it. Was I still a shark?

You know, attitude plays a big part. And when I call myself a shark, it wasn’t in any unfriendly way – simply that I was always on the lookout for the next opportunity, and didn’t pay much attention to any doubt. I just did it.

The big question was if I still had that mojo? I’ve asked that a lot in recent years, and the answer has been different every time. I think the answer is yes, but it’s different from before. And others recognise it, too.

All this is reassuring, for my material prospects, and my soul. I’ll wait to see what comes next, but I’m confident that whatever it is that I can do it.

Busy being

I’ve had a busy and productive week at work, which accounts for my inactivity here. It’s been full-on, but I’ve enjoyed it. As they say in the vernacular, I kicked a few goals this week.

One of the reservations I have about the role I’m in is wondering what I’ll do when I’m finished with all the process improvement and innovation. There’s a fair bit of that to be done, which is a large part of the appeal. I’ve been given a free pass to get it done, and that’s a big plus as well. I started on this a way back and made good progress, but this week implemented a couple of things that were highly visible and potentially will make a significant difference to the segment of the business I’m in. This is good, and there’s a lot more to be done, but in 3 months when I’ve ticked off the big-ticket items, what then?

The obvious answer is I’ll worry about that when the time comes, but I know I’m not the sort to happily maintain the status quo. And that’s not how you want to use me either if you’re smart. I’m really good at the innovation stuff because I have imagination, experience and a big-picture perspective – it’s all about connections and integration and synchronisation. I’m unafraid too, and that counts because you’ve got to be bold to carry these things off. What I’m not so good at is sitting in the corner watching it tick over while I twiddle my thumbs.

It’s funny. In my experience, most people are the opposite, but I get bored if things aren’t moving and changing. But – I’ll worry about that later.

For now, I’ve been flat out doing things and reckon this week past is probably the most productive week I’ve had for years. It’s exhausting in a way, but in a way that you’re happy to be exhausted. And, besides the fully anticipated resistance of the office Luddites, was very well received – lauded, even.

It’s been important – I think – in shoring up my position. The new manager has come in, and we’ve met now and had some overlapping stuff, and out of it, I think he’s come to trust me. That’s the first hurdle cleared. He may even like me – I’m certainly different from all the marketing people he deals with. It means that those who were looking to muscle into my area have been dropped by him. I think in this I probably got support from those outside the area I’ve worked with, including the vendor.

The question remains what I want out of this. I may not get a huge say in how that plays out – in recent experience what I want and what I can get are very different things. But I think I’m gaining more leverage now, both at work and in general. In my new role, I’m more exposed to important decision-makers and wield more influence, and out in the world I can point to a few more strings to my bow.

I say I want nothing to do with really pushing it anymore, and it’s true. The job matters less than the work, and at the end of the day I want to walk away from it and let it be somebody else’s problem. But then, I can’t stop doing things, and one thing leads to another, and I’ll always want to make it better and shinier and, regardless of what I say, get possessive of it. I don’t want it fucked up, and the best way to guarantee that is to do it myself – and push comes to shove I’ve got the muscle to hold my ground and even forge a path. I enjoy that, too – the rough and tumble have never bothered me. And I end up in that position, and I look around and no, no, no, I think, let someone else take the responsibility, but this is my place, and this is what I can do, and ultimately, I want everyone to know it. And I want the money to go with it.

Figure that one out, Sherlock. Or is Jung?

In between

I had a meeting this morning with my direct manager. These are pretty casual affairs. We meet offsite at a café downstairs, and the conversation tends to be pretty candid, which is how I like it.

There’s a bit happening at the moment and a fair bit of uncertainty with it. People have left, and their replacements have only recently started. There’s been a state of flux these last 4-6 weeks, and a few have been jockeying for position having spotted an opportunity in the uncertainty.

I’ve not really involved with this – it’s not my style – but I’ve been wary and increasingly concerned that others are trying to encroach on my territory. I’m not easy to push around and I’ve held my ground, but the outcome of all this will influence my plans going forward.

I’m waiting for the dust to settle, also waiting to be engaged with – as promised, but as yet not eventuated. In the meantime, I applied for an opportunistic job over the weekend. On top of that, one of the guys recently departed has been in contact and wants to catch up regarding potential roles at his new employer.

You know me, I’m always figuring things out – things outside me, and things inside too.

By my reckoning my situation has two distinct elements. Almost by accident, I’ve invested a lot of time and brainpower over the last 12 months in the AI space. I’ve enjoyed it and, with respect to my career, have identified it as an opportunity that I wish to take adntage of.

In the beginning there were three of us involved, and I was at the pointy end of it. The other two have gone and I’m left as by far and away the most knowledgeable and experienced person in this area – I practically designed the platform here.

This is what’s under threat, though. Others seemingly have identified the same opportunity, though till now they’ve been uninvolved, and are trying to muscle in.

When I took this job on I sought assurances that I could keep doing it. I had a form of ownership, but the people who gave me the thumbs up have gone now. It weakens my position, but I’m not about to meekly rollover.

The secondary element is something I actually managed to articulate quite well to my manager today.

I’ve got an awful lot of experience in senior roles and in delivering serious projects of all kinds. I consider myself knowledgeable and smart and curious besides. I like to know and understand things and keep myself informed. All of this means that I sit here watching on while others talk about or do things that I’ve done before. I’m surprised how poorly informed many people are, and often, how poorly or incompletely things are executed. Mostly I let it go, but at times I’ll chip in with my 2c worth.

The problem is there’s hardly anyone here who knows my background. The people you’d think might be interested have never bothered to inquire. That means when I speak up, it comes across as opinion only when actually it’s based on knowledge and experience. It’s frustrating, but mostly I let it ride.

What’s tougher is when things happen that are in my area or directly impact upon me that are poorly conceived or executed. I hate sloppiness of any sort, and it makes me sick to the stomach to see it. I can hack it if I look away, but when I have to confront it I just can’t rest until it’s made right.

The kicker is that I don’t want to take responsibility for these things. As I explained to my manager, I’ve taken a step back from that sort of responsibility. I don’t want to live it. I want to walk away from the job at the end of the day and be myself. I’m full-on when I’m doing it, but when I’m out of there I know it’s only a job, chill. But then, nor can I watch the car heading for a crash without looking to prevent it.

This sums up my predicament. I’m in conflict with myself, determined to step away but unable to stay uninvolved. I dunno is if it’s a sustainable position long term. Effectively it’s a battle between an ascetic desire to keep it personal and private on the one hand, and my ego and perfectionism on the other.

What this means if I choose to step away from this place is anyone’s guess. I figure I’m going to have to make a decision. But that’s why I’m also targeting AI as a transportable skill that means that one day – perhaps – I can be a visiting consultant.