Sitting tight and getting my priorities straight

So, I got the job offer last week. Friday, while I was running errands, the recruiter called me and let me know that the company wanted to bring me on as a contractor first, then potentially hire me permanently.

And it gave me pause. It was actually happening. I was actually being presented with a job opportunity that I’d pursued, that had actually gone well, interviewing-wise, and was about to deliver exactly what I was looking for, career-wise.

Except…

The commute would have been about an hour each way. That is a huge discourager, because I already have fatigue issues, without risking my neck on a commute into some of the worst traffic in the area. No thank you.

I wouldn’t be able to work remotely whenever I want. That’s another huge problem, because sometimes I can’t make it through the day without a 20-minute nap. And the idea of having to drive in, every single day (except on those occasions when I have an appointment), drag my a** through the entire week, and then deal with evening traffic in terrible rush hour conditions… Yah. No.

I have no guarantee of what the ultimate terms of employment would be. I don’t know what salary they’d offer me, exactly, and I don’t know what benefits they’d have, what the vacation policy would be, what kind of accommodations I could get to keep functional… As much as they made it sound like I was practically guaranteed a permanent spot, there’s no guarantee of that, and I’m just not prepared to take that chance.

They’re not paying me what I’m worth. The recruiter was very cavalier about telling me the parent company typically doesn’t pay the full market rate, and I’m sick and tired of being told that. The thing is, over the years, one position after another like that has set me back. Because everytime you start to negotiate salary, they start from where you are currently. And that puts me at an immediate disadvantage. I’m sick of playing that game and losing, over and over.

When I did the math, the whole deal just looked worse and worse. I’d need to cover my own insurance for 6 months, my commuting costs would go up, and lifestyle issues just canceled out any benefit I’d get from the technical boost. It just didn’t pan out. If anything, it would have been a step back, which is something I’ve done far too often in my career.

For the past 10 years, I’ve had to make accommodations for my employers and grant them concessions because of my TBI issues. I’ve had to pass on really great jobs, because they demanded too much. Or I had to leave okay jobs because my health was suffering and I was shorting out. But at last, I’m working at a place where I can build my own accommodations into my job, and I’m a “known quantity” in the ecosystem.

So, it’s really not so bad, after all.

And I’m staying put. I’m better off at this company and exploring job options within its vast corporate complex, than venturing out in to the rest of the world, where everything is a big question mark.

That’s one thing I’ve figured out in the past few days.

The other thing I’ve figured out, is that I need to quit worrying about developing commercially viable products on the side. I’ve tried to “monetize” my blog, I’ve started websites, I’ve launched initiatives, I’ve written eBooks, I’ve dug into all sorts of entrepreneurial modes of working and thinking. I’ve been pretty focused on doing that for over 10 years, because I didn’t feel like I could really function in the 9-5 business environment as it existed. The long commute. The long hours. The rigid rules and office politics. It just sucks the life out of me.

I was right. I can’t function in those conditions. But the solution is not to strike out on my own to make my own way in the world, launch startups, forge a new path through the jungle, etc. Rather, it’s to find a decent steady job situation that gives me the stability, insurance, paid time off, and flexibility in hours that allow me to function at my best.  To have the best of all worlds. And quit worrying about all that work-for-myself intensity that I’ve been wrapped up in since 2006.

I’ve found a situation that works for me now. Who knows how long it will last, because supposedly they’re laying off a lot of people. But the part of the company I’m in, isn’t one of the ones where there’s a huge amount of redundancy. And anyway, getting laid off would involve a package of some kind, so that will be helpful.

But whatever. Bottom line is, I’m taking the pressure off myself and ditching the whole go-it-alone mindset. I realize it’s taken a lot out of me, to constantly be pushing myself on my side projects, and it’s consumed a lot of my time that I could be spending on things like blogging here and just enjoying my life. Catching up on my reading. Actually thinking about stuff at my leisure. I used to do that, before I got caught up in the whole entrepreneurial craze, and I miss it. I want to just relax, for once. More than anything, I need to wean myself from the whole stress thing, give myself time to breathe, and develop the habit of just living well.

Writing what I can here. Minding my own business. Taking care of my home and my health. Getting strong and healthy for the long haul. ‘Cause in the end, nobody’s really going to take care of me like I can. Nobody else knows what I need, like I do. And I’m done with chasing castles in the sky.

I’ve got my own realm here on the good earth.

And there’s plenty to occupy me here.

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Second interview, second thoughts

handshakeI had an in-person interview for a new job on Friday.

All in all, it went well, I think. We seemed to connect well, and it’s the kind of work I want to get back into. I pulled together an updated portfolio of my work in a big hurry on Sunday morning. I had a lot to do, this past weekend — including an all-day event on Saturday and a ton of yard work and other chores on Sunday — so I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked.

But I got it all together within a few hours on Sunday, and I’m fairly happy with the end product. It also lit a fire under me to really pull together a good portfolio of my work. That’s the one thing I’ve been missing, all these years. To be honest, I never actually needed it before, because at the level I was operating at, and based on the companies I’d worked for, everybody just knew I could do the job, hands down.

Now things are different, though. We’ve got all kinds of people making all kinds of claims about what they can and can’t do, and the job market is glutted with posers. So, a portfolio is the first and last line of defense for both job seekers and employers.

Even if the job doesn’t work out — and I suspect it won’t, because I believe they have an open work space floor plan, and that doesn’t work for me. I’m a really “visual thinker” and rely on the part of my brain that processes imagery to do my job. So, if my line of sight is not blocked and I’m constantly being visually interrupted, I can’t do my work.

I learned that lesson loud and clear years ago. And I’m not going back to any environment that’s even remotely “open workspace”.

I’m also not a huge fan of long-ish commutes. My commute right now is pretty good, and the route also includes a number of stores, so I can shop on my way to and from work, without disrupting the rest of my schedule. That matters. It makes a huge logistical difference in my life.

I also can’t work full-time in an office. I need to work from home at least two days a week. I might need a nap, and I need to be at home for that.  Additionally, not having to drive my car every single day makes a big difference in my fatigue levels, as well as the cost of fuel.

Plus, the company wants me to come on as a contractor first, then get hired. I’m not sure I’m okay with that. It leaves a lot to chance, and while they may say they’re stable and supported by their parent corporation, I’ve been around long enough to know how quickly that can change.

Anyway, I haven’t heard back from the recruiter yet. Who knows what will come of it… But if it doesn’t pan out, that will be a relief, too, because I won’t have to make any more changes for a while. I can sit out the holidays and take my time off… and not worry about anything other than a few little projects I have going on.

That, and building out my portfolio.

Who knows what will happen? It’s impossible to say. But whatever happens, it’ll work. I’ll make sure it does.

Accommodations needed? Just not recognized?

It *looks* cool – till you try to concentrate and get some work done. Then it’s nothing short of hell. Look at the overhead lights and all those hard surfaces. Good grief. Nightmare.

I had a pretty good conversation with the last interviewer yesterday. They have only been in their present role for 6 months, and they are hiring like crazy to staff up.

So, either they will go for it and try to sign me up, or they will go with someone else who fits better.

One thing that may affect their choice, is that I brought up the types of workspaces they have. They asked what type I prefer to work in, and I said I prefer a space with walls high enough to block out ambient noise and distractions. The whole “open workspace” plan does NOT work for me. I found that out the hard way at my last job, and the main reason I am leaving my present job (sooner or later) is that they are moving — along with everyone else in the cosmos, apparently — to an open space / “bullpen” type arrangement, where there is constant noise and interruption — that’s the point, actually.

The very thought of moving to that makes me physically ill.

I’ve been having a lot of sensory issues, over the past couple of weeks. All of a sudden, I’m sensitive to things that I haven’t been bothered by, for some time. Rough wood grain is a tough one for me — especially wooden eating utensils. Like the wooden “spoon” that I got with a frozen dessert I got about a week ago. The feel of the wood grain on my tongue literally makes me gag. And the feel of biting down on wooden utensils also makes me gag.

I’ve been more susceptible to overwhelm, and when that happens, I get more literal in how I think and speak, and I start correcting my spouse over every little thing they get “wrong”. Like calling an SUV a “van” and not caring that they are two completely different things (in my mind, anyway). I’ve been much more prone to correct my spouse over every little thing, which makes them nuts and sets off their anxiety, because hearing someone constantly correct you can mess with your head.

Anyway, that’s been going on. And the ringing in my ears is making it hard to hear what people are saying to me. It’s also the ambient noise, that seems like it’s bumped up intensely, lately. I blame it on barometric pressure and the weather in general, when I talk to people. Telling them my TBI symptoms are acting up again, doesn’t create the impression I want to give people — the kind of impression that will get me jobs.

So, back to that conversation about workspaces. I said I prefer a cubicle with walls high enough to block out distractions and interruptions. I need to concentrate. I don’t think people understand just how intensely I concentrate, when I do. Or what that concentration produces. I recognize patterns. I find things that no one else sees. I’ve had to learn to concentrate with single-pointed focus, because of all my issues. And it’s stood me in good stead.

I wonder if that counted against me — not being flexible with the kinds of workspaces the company mandates. Nobody wants someone who’s a complainer or a prima dona. Nobody wants to deal with extra accommodations and folks who are in a position to sue. They can find any number of reasons to not hire you, if you look like you might be trouble. I  know, because I used to be part of several teams that interviewed and hired folks, and there are a million different ways to disqualify someone who looks like they might be a litigation risk.

But it occurs to me that I may have been needing accommodations all along — an enclosed workspace where I can retreat from the stimuli and focus on my work. Years ago, I had an office with an overhead light I could turn off and blinds I could close. I had a desk lamp that provided the perfect amount of light. I could close the door and work in silence, and it was ideal.

Then they moved us to an open space floor plan, and it was hell. And I am pretty sure it did not help my recovery at all. Too many distractions. Too much input. It was so wrong. And I’m at the point now, where I know I need to never go there again, except for short periods of time. I don’t mind it for brief periods, but holy f*cking sh*t, it is miserable and stressful and prevents me from doing my absolute best work.

Which completely negates the whole point of going to work each day.

So, what I come to, now, is wondering if I actually needed special accommodations all along, but never realized it. And certainly never got them, except in rare and accidental circumstances. I know I need to actively screen out and disqualify those kinds of workplaces, and the kinds of companies that are in love with them. And it becomes more and more clear to me that I really need a remote job — either half-time or full-time. I need to work in ways that let me perform at my best, and keeping clear of open workspaces is the first step in that direction.

Anyway, whatever happens with this interview, it’s just a step in the direction I need to go. I’m going to start scoping out companies that offer more than 50% telecommute / remote positions, and see who’s good to work for. And I’m going to keep working on my own projects, so I can get a good foundation in place for my future. I’ve just turned 50, and I have a much better idea, now, what I need to do and how I need to work, than I did just 5 years ago. So, here’s to the next 50+ years of productive, happy, healthy life – with the right choices made for all the right reasons. And the wrong choices left behind in the dust.

Onward.

Another job interview – another chance

Okay, this is going to be interesting.

I have another job interview today, and I am incredibly dizzy. It’s insane.

I’m supposed to be at all these calls today and have all these meetings before I leave the office, but I am very, very dizzy, and I’m not feeling like myself.

Maybe I will work from home until later today, when I have to leave for my interview. That will solve a number of issues

  1. having to get myself going, when I am dangerously dizzy
  2. changing from work clothes into interview clothes without attracting attention at the office (I could just drive home to do it, but that will add considerable time to my drive)
  3. leaving the office conspicuously early and having to explain why

So, a work from home day, it is. I can make sure I’m clearing out the allergies that are making me so dizzy — a little exercise, plenty of water, taking things slowly…. and then get suited up for my interview with plenty of time to spare. Fortunately, I’m able to do that, because this is a great opportunity for me to move forward, not just stay comfortably in one place.

Again, thought, staying comfortably in one place is fine, because it will allow me to finish up some projects that have been lingering. I really need to sort things out with them and just get some of them done. Enough, already. I need to free myself up from them and move on.

So, lots of opportunity… and a handful of challenges. It’s all good, actually.

Onward.

The interview went well – I think

Staying in the game

So, I had my in-person job interview yesterday, and I think it went well. People were pretty guarded, but that’s to be expected in a high-power position for someone who is high profile, as well. And that’s how things could end up with this job. High profile. They either really, really liked me, or they didn’t think much of me, or they’re on the fence. They’re having another manager meet with me next week, which means they at least want to move forward. It’s really hard for me to tell what the deal is with people, because being in a new space, bombarded by all the new stimuli, causes me to shut down everything except my proactive interviewing self. I’m performing. I don’t have a lot of leftover bandwidth to figure out what they’re thinking. I literally have no idea. But at least I’m going back. One thing I’m going to work on for next time, is not being so “tangential”. When asked a simple question, I ended up going off on a tangent, losing my train of thought, then having to gradually work my way back to what the original topic was. It happened 2-3 times, and it was a huge stressor. But I kept my cool, and I finished up okay, I think. I’m going to have to think about this, I believe. It’s definitely going to be more stressful, but it’s going to be better for my career. I’m hesitant about jumping at the first real opportunity to come my way in a long time, but in my experience, you have to. Opportunities like this don’t come along every day. Worst case is, I’m there for 2-3 years, and I’m not the happiest camper. But it would be a phenomenal career move. Just smart, in so many ways. The commute is longer. But that’s only when I actually go to the office. Most of the folks I’m going to be working with are located around the country, and the manager I interviewed with yesterday is actually based out of a home office, several states away. So, people there actually know how to “do the remote thing”. And they do it without hesitation. Which is what I’m looking for. Ideally, I’ll be able to work from anywhere – which means I can go anywhere, and work from there. It will free me up considerably. It’s what I’ve been needing. The other thing is that I will be a subject matter expert in this new role, using the depth and breadth of my technical experience — over 20 years’ worth — on a daily basis. Right now, I’m nowhere near that. People I work with don’t even know enough to realize that I am a subject matter expert. The company where I am now is very territorial. People have their jobs which may or may not include expertise, and nobody else is allowed to step on their toes. That means, you have people in key roles who may not actually know what they’re doing, but they’re never allowed to be challenged by anyone else, so you have folks clunking along, doing a poor jobb, and never being required to do more. No competition is allowed. There has to be room for everyone, no matter what. It sounds nice on the surface, but it’s a recipe for institutionally protected incompetence. Now that I’ve cracked that code, I feel better. I know it’s not me. I know how things work. And it’s not a big ole mystery anymore. In a way, this understanding frees me up to move on. I seem to stick with situations until I understand them, I’ve learned certain lessons, and I am actually free of pain and suffering about the situation(s). Then again, it also frees me up to stay, because I have no great investment in the company, per se. It’s literally a paycheck that supports the rest of my life, and in a way it’s a relief to get to that point. I’m literally in the best position, ever. I am working with people who have learned to love me (and vice-versa) at a company I don’t have a massive attachment to. I go to work each day and spend time with friends. I can show up each day, do that simple work, and have my time and energy free in many other ways to develop other interests, finish writing projects, and enjoy myself. I also have the leeway to build other technology of my own, and work on my consulting chops, so I can eventually strike out on my own. Not only that, but I have skills and experience that make me a subject matter expert, and I have the means to bring that front and center. I am getting noticed by companies, particularly this big one who is interested in me Anyway, lots to think about. I’m going out of town on vacation to celebrate turning 50, so I may not be back online till next week. And then I’ll need to play catch-up.  So, I’m probably “going dark” for a while. We’ll see how it all goes. I plan to spend a lot of time just resting and relaxing. Unplugged in some ways, more plugged-in, in others. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Gearing Up for Change

Time to move to a new fishbowl.

I have another two days before I give notice at my current job. The whole weekend. Typically, I am very happy to have the weekend, and it seems all too short, but this time, I am really looking forward to Monday morning, when I can give my notice.

They’re not going to take it well, I’m sure. The department is short-staffed, as it is — and me leaving is going to leave a massive hole in the organization. I’m not being egotistical — I have been doing the work of 2-3 people for years, and they have just let things go, assuming I would take care of everything. All the time.

One of the big reasons I am leaving, is my belief that if you don’t have adequate staff to do all the work, how serious can you really be about success and high performance? I am very serious about success and performing at a very high level — which is one of the reasons my TBI issues have been so excruciating. I need to be at my best, always learning, always growing. I also need to work for a company that is serious about performance and success, and is willing to do what’s necessary to keep high performers at their peak.

I need to work for a company that does things very, very differently from my current company. Everyone is just in it for themselves, climbing over everyone else to get where they are going. How pointless. I’m sure that there will be some people like that at the company I’m going to. The magical part is, I’m going to this new company on a long-term contract, so I’m not locked into the politics and organizational dysfunction. I just want to go to work each day, do my best, and NOT have to worry about what saying such-and-such to so-and-so is going to mean for my long-term career prospects.

Seriously. I just need to go to work, kick it, and go home at the end of the day with my work finished. No more getting up at 5 a.m. to make international conference calls. No more staying up till 10:00 at night, troubleshooting issues with colleagues on the other side of the planet. I have hung in there as long as humanly possible, and I have really enjoyed working with a lot of the folks, both at home and abroad. But enough is enough. I need to catch up on my sleep, my reading, and my life.

I counted the number of hours I have lost, over the past 2.75 years of the longer commute — it comes out to about 600 hours that have been wasted — over and above my original commute time, which was 20-25 minutes, tops. Driving half an hour longer, each way, each day, and never being able to get home till after 7:30 p.m…. to eat dinner at 8:30 or 9:00 — that’s not good. It’s not good for my health, it’s not good for my spouse’s health, and it’s certainly not good for my sleeping schedule. It’s a little tough to get to sleep before 10:00 p.m. when you’ve eaten dinner less than an hour ago.

Yet more issues that will be solved with this new position.

Which is why I can hardly wait till Monday. Part of me wants to email my manager and tell them this weekend, but in fact their manager (who is a bully who threatened my teammate who left several months ago) is flying away on a trip on Monday, so if I time it properly, I can give notice without the bully being in the building. I’m not afraid of them, I just want this to be a clean break and stay positive and not get into kicking up dust and muck, just to get the hell out of there.

So, I’m trying to keep a level head, chill out, and rehearse my resignation. I’ve got the letter written up, and I’ve identified the key points I’ll bring up, when people challenge me about my decision. I expect that they will. And I really don’t want to get heavy with them. They don’t want that. I need to really manage my “state” this weekend, keep cool and calm and collected. Keep myself busy doing engaging things — juggling, dual n-back training — and also getting plenty of rest.

I’m both energized and exhausted, and I need to keep myself in good shape, while I can, so I can handle this transition smoothly.

Will they try to stop me? Perhaps. But there is really never going to be a good time for me to go, so they might as well cut their losses, figure out how to transition my work to someone else, and just let the next two weeks pass without any more upheaval and drama than necessary. If they push it, I will go to HR and raise a stink. And I certainly am NOT going to discuss my situation with the bully in charge without another person in the room. I will put that in writing, if I have to. I will go public with things, if I have to.

I just don’t want it to come to that.

So, I’m all jazzed up and juiced. I’ve got ample adrenaline coursing through my veins, and my senses are all on high alert. The ringing in my ears is deafening, and my stomach is in knots. That’s par for the course with a high-pressure situation — which might mean I’m making this into a bigger deal than I should. But I know that people are going to kind of freak out when I give my notice… Who else will do the work?

That’s not my concern, to be sure. I will do my best to transition the work from myself to someone else of their choosing… keep a level head and an even keel, and just keep plugging away. I don’t want to process it all with everyone I work with, I don’t want to get into all the drama with folks who are staying on, I don’t want to spend endless hours discussing my choice, etc., etc.

So, I made up a sign to hang on my cubicle to explain to people that I cannot talk during office hours — as well as when and how they can reach me, if they do want to process the situation.

I’ll do the best I can to do right by these folks — ironic, considering they haven’t exactly bent over backwards to make sure they did right by me. Whatever we all do, it’s on us. We reap what we sow, and I don’t want to sow anything I don’t eventually want to reap.

That all being said, my main goal for the next 48 hours is to remain calm, to keep my fight-flight from taking over, and focus on the here-and-now, not what may or may not come to be.

The weekend is waiting.

Onward.

Come Monday, a lot is going to change

So, it has finally happened. I had some phone screens for a new job, followed by interviews, and I got — and accepted — the offer!

Holy smokes, it’s actually happening… After years of fits and starts, fumbled attempts, and being pushed aside, I finally found a company that is looking for what I’m offering — and who can offer me what I’m looking for.

They contacted me after finding me on LinkedIn, and we’ve been trading phone calls and emails for about a week, now. I had a couple of phone screens with two different hiring managers… we decided together that one of the positions was better suited for me than the other… and I had live meetings with a number of folks I’ll be working with in the future.

We all really liked each other, and there was a mutual respect and professionalism that has been sorely lacking in my current situation. I’m not sure why the people I’ve been working with think it’s okay to behave the way they have been, but everybody’s different, I suppose.

At least now I’m going to be working with folks who have a more similar outlook to my own.

Pretty amazing. My head is spinning. Still.

I’ve been very on-the-down-low about this, because I didn’t want to jynx it, get cocky, make any assumptions, or otherwise let my guard down. This is important to me — so very important — and the company is GOOD. They’re well-known, and they have a department that matches what I’m looking for much, much more closely than anything I’ve been able to find in years.

The best thing is, they’re really excited about me starting, too. We really hit it off, on all counts, and everyone has been really enthusiastic about me joining their team.

I am so profoundly grateful for this. And I know that the work I have been doing with the dual n-back training and the juggling has actually helped me.

Just the boos from watching myself learn and grow over the past week, has been a huge help. Realizing that I actually CAN learn to juggle… seeing proof that I can remember things and improve my dual n-back testing response times… it’s been great. Just great. And I wish I could pass this amazing feeling on to everyone who struggles with these kinds of issues. Because there are things we can do to help our brains work better.

And that includes rest.

I am exhausted. It has been a wild ride, this past week, and it’s going to get even wilder for the next two weeks.

Off to bed I go.

Getting it all together

I’ve got a meeting with a recruiter later today – just an informal get-to-know-you type of meeting. I’m preparing in advance, with a fresh copy of my resume, a portfolio of work I can show them, as well as familiarity with the rates that are being offered in the target areas where I’m looking. I’ve figured out what I need my rate to be, and I’ve figured out the logistics of simplifying my life along specific lines — being able to take public transit, having a regular workday (instead of a non-stop constant push to produce for the sake of being busy), narrowing the scope of my work to be a handful of things, instead of everything, and getting out of the office politics business.

I think I’m probably better prepared now, than I’ve ever been for any other jobs I’ve ever gotten. Before, it was just take-what-comes, and then worry about fitting myself into a position later. That has kept food on the table, but it hasn’t made me all that happy. No situation is perfect, but I’ve had to shoehorn myself into some pretty unpleasant situations — and that’s largely because I was not the best prepared with my own requirements and clarity about what I wanted to do with myself.

This time, it’s very different. I’m getting all my ducks in a row, getting clear about what I will and will not do — and making careful notes to myself that I can reference. I have a lot of options available to me, and at the same time I’m surrounded by people who have plenty of agendas of their own, which I need to watch out for.

In the past, I have just “winged it” — but this time I am getting things in order, so I can be thoughtful and aware and put my best foot forward. It’s a change that feels a little uncomfortable, because I like to fly by the seat of my pants at times. But so often that has gotten me flown into a bunch of sh*t coming off a fan. And I’ve had some pretty unhappy results.

I think probably the best solution for me is to simply contract. The times when I have worked on contract were actually really freeing. I didn’t have to worry about the politics, I could just make my money and go home, and not have to worry about bonuses and all that. I friggin’ hate bonuses and performance reviews. I just want my money up front. Pay me what I’m really worth — what my work is worth to you — and be done with it. Enough of the politics… the stupid, stupid politics. The games, the maneuvering, the intrigue. Screw that. Show me the money.

Well, anyway, we’ll see how it goes today. I’m feeling pretty positive, overall, while not getting cocky about things. Just preparing. Planning. And showing up as present as I can be.

Onward.

 

Yeah, I did that

Stylin’…

I’ve been working on my online portfolio for the past couple of days – the job search has made it obvious that I need to get something online that people can look at, so they can see the depth and breadth of what I’ve done.

I realized last night (yet again) that one of the issues I come up against, over and over, is that people expect me to talk at length about my work and what I’ve accomplished, and to be able to be a fascinating conversationalist with regard to my work.

But I can’t stand that stuff — all that talky-talky-talking stuff — it just sounds like so much fluff, so much grandstanding.

I’d much rather just do things. I can talk about them later, when they’re done. But then when I’m done, I don’t feel like talking about them anymore, so I’m on to the next thing that I want to do.

So, I never really talk much about what I do or have done.

The other thing that’s been a bit of a stifler, in this respect, is that I’ve often worked for companies where everything we did was highly confidential and proprietary, so I literally couldn’t talk about it. It’s a little like having been a spy or an under-cover operative. There’s only so much I can say, because I’ve worked on some very high-profile projects that had a lot of sensitivity to them.

So, I haven’t been active on the forums where people strut their stuff and show off their chops. I haven’t been a talker on a lot of the online communities that are about what I do for a living. Aside from the confidentiality issues, I literally haven’t had time — I put everything I have into my work, and at the end of each day, I’m wiped. I just don’t have the time or the energy for chatting with folks about this or that.

I just don’t.

So, I’ve been a little bit freaked out about what that means for my job situation. The conversations I’ve had with individuals — and the test I took that I did really poorly on — have not reflected exactly who I am and what I’ve done. There’s this disconnect between what I do and what people hear me saying I do, and I’ve got to fix that.

So, I built myself a website yesterday that will have my portfolio on it — screen shots and examples of all the stuff I’ve done over the years, so people can see it. I’m also posting details on what the projects entailed, what my biggest challenges were, what my greatest successes were and when I came up short. It’s a private website that no one can see unless they know the login and password, so I can talk about the confidential aspects of my prior work and not worry about it going out into the world at large.

AND people will be able to see what I do — and what I can do — without getting all stuck on my serious unwillingness to run at the mouth and be “emotionally intelligent” with the rest of the world.  So much of what we do, these days, seems to be geared towards making a good impression — making sure we “represent” and have a “presence” in the world. But what about those of us who are more about doing, than talking, and who are quietly brilliant, instead of gregariously pretty-good?

I get so sick and tired of being measured by my sociability, how well I can put people at ease, and how well I can communicate to people who just don’t know as much as I do, yet are in charge of me for some strange reason.

So, I’m building my case for people to get a grip and see just what I’m capable of doing. I’m going to put this all together and then turn it over to people who are considering hiring me, and have them review this material before they come anywhere near me. I really don’t want to waste my time on projects and companies that don’t know enough to realize how much I know, and aren’t able to respect me because of their ignorance. That’s how things are now — the people I work with have been doing things a certain way for years, and they think it’s fine, but obviously it’s not, because executive leadership is putting the pressure on. But rather than take stock and get a grip and approach things strategically and systematically, they continue to just throw stuff at a wall and see if it will stick.

Sigh.

Anyway, that’s not going to be my problem for much longer. I’m going to whip up a kick-ass portfolio that people can see and read and become familiar with — and that I’ll be able to tailor the way I want it to be. I have just been doing this way too long, to have to put up with this ignorance, and I need to give myself credit for what I’ve done.

And I realize that this is one of the issues that’s come up since software and web development got popular and everyone started doing this kind of work — there’s a huge glut of people who haven’t been doing it that long, who know all the catchwords and have certain skills in certain technologies, but they don’t have the breadth and depth of real-word experience — the kind of experience that can mean the difference between doing something right the first time… and spending untold amounts of time and energy and money fixing sh*t that’s broken, weeks and months and years on down the line.

So, you’ve got a whole lot of “talent” that’s of variable quality, and the ones who rise to the top are the ones who make the most noise and have the most glitz… not always the best quality.

And then there’s folks like me. Who just know how to do stuff and are so low-key about it, nobody things we’ve got anything going on. But we’re like the bass players in the band — we stand at the back, we do our part and don’t move around much, but we still lay down a mean line for everyone to follow, and without us, the song just wouldn’t sound the same.

I guess it’s always been that way. I just need to do what I can to make the most of what I do best… and I need to do that. I’ve built a site that can hold all the details of my work over the years, and now I need to build it out and really kick some ass showcasing what I’ve done.

Because I’ve done a lot. The more I dig into my past, the more I realize it. I’ve done some great stuff over the years, and I need to be recognized for that and also compensated appropriately.

So, it’s time for me to quit bitching about the general work situation and go do something — time for me to fill in the blanks about what I’ve done with myself and how and why… and let the world see what I’ve done, in ways that I can express myself best.

So I’m not particularly verbal. So I don’t test very well. So I have trouble “selling” myself when I talk to people.

So what? I can write, I can design, I can code. I’ll use them for my own purposes, and just get on with my life to the best of my abilities.

And there we have it.

Rethinking my position

Getting perspective

So, I’ve had a lot to think about, in the past 12 hours… The interview I had yesterday has become one of those slightly bitter pills that will probably turn out to be good medicine, but isn’t very comfortable going down. I’ll take the pill. I’ll swallow my pride. And I’ll use the experience for what it’s worth.

In all honesty, I started out this interview process not really expecting much to come of it. I was off to a good start, but I still wasn’t sure about whether I wanted the position. It’s at a company that’s over 60 miles from home, and at first I rejected the idea because of the commute, but the recruiter I talked to and the hiring manager I talked to both said I could do a lot of remote work, so I wouldn’t have to do that commute everyday. I had my reservations, but I decided I could probably make it work.

Then I talked to a friend of mine who had worked there, years ago, and they really loved it there – they regretted having to leave (because of the money). They said it would be great if I could work there, and I took their word for it. I started to get excited — invested. I was starting to get pretty enthused.

Then the interview… and now the expectations I had in place have to be adjusted… and I am back to thinking about what I am really looking for, what I really want to do, and I’m realizing again that I let my opinion be swayed by others — first the recruiter, then my friend. I stopped listening to myself — the reservations about the commute, as well as my reservations about the company not paying well, not to mention the really long hours I hear they require of people. (The hiring manager said, “Well, this is technology, so…” meaning — I assume — that there will be plenty of long days around release times.

So, I’m back to square one — square two or three, actually — more firm than ever about what I am looking for, and not nearly as willing to settle for less. I am also keenly aware that I really need to keep up with this industry I’m in. And it may make sense for me to take on long-term contracts for a while so that I can do a variety of interesting things with a variety of interesting people. Every time I get into a permanent job situation, after a few years the situation sours, and I get really fed up with people and their self-defeating patterns. I get fed up with office politics and people not pulling their weight. I get fed up with bosses who don’t know what the hell they (or others) are doing. And I feel trapped in their webs of posturing and politicking, without a viable exit. Contracting, on the other hand, helps me breathe. Whatever stupidity is happening around me, I know it’s not going to last forever. And it gives me a chance to try different things in different places, which is the way to keep sharp in this economy.

It really needs to be about the work.

And I’m realizing that it needs to be about pretty advanced work, too.

The thing about the test yesterday, was that it was pretty easy. Maybe too easy. Maybe it was so easy that I overly complicated it — and that’s where I screwed up. I think that maybe I have been selling myself short and not going for advanced enough situations. I have been thinking about myself in a certain way — doing one sort of work — when maybe the place where I really need to be is in more abstract work — the behind-the-scenes work, where logic interacts with machines, and a specific sequence of commands produces a specific result.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ve been selling myself short, and looking in the wrong places for what makes sense for me. Maybe I’ve been setting my sights too low, not going wide and deep enough. Maybe I’ve allowed myself to be “sold” on the ideas of others, when I should really be working towards my own unique, specific vision of where I want to go and what I want to do.

I think that could very well be the case.  I think I’ve gotten caught up in my eagerness to just get out of my current job situation, and it’s blinded me to the other skills I have that are more complicated, more advanced, more abstract.

Looking back on my past job history, I can see a lot of instances where I sold myself short — even though everyone around me was telling me that I could do more. I have held myself back, that’s for certain. And for no good reason, other than fear and anxiety. I just didn’t want to chance it — to take a shot and then look like a fool, thinking it would be the end of me.

Well, I pretty much looked like a fool yesterday, and it didn’t kill me. So maybe it’s a good thing that I had that experience. It’s happened to me pretty seldom — because I’ve always avoided high-stakes situations where I might not look good. And I’ve missed out on a lot as a result. Now I’ve had this really bitter experience, but I’m still here. So maybe I can start pushing the envelope to see what else I’m capable of, knowing that making a fool of myself isn’t going to destroy me.

Well, anyway, I have less than a week till I go on vacation for 10 whole days. It’s the longest I’ll have OFF work, that I’ve had in three years. Every now and then, it’s good to go on vacation. It’ll give me time to think, time to catch up with myself, time to recalibrate and get my strength back. I have a very busy six days ahead of me. Non-stop, actually. Till all hours of the night.

So, I guess it’s time to get going. Onward.