Tag: work

Managing Expectations

by on Sep.08, 2010, under career

After nearly four years at my current job working for ‘the man’ and over a year acting as the lead dog in my team, I’ve been officially promoted to management … though of a different team than I had recently been leading.  I’m very happy with the transition, I agree with the changes that were made, and I feel that I will rise to the challenge.  But it is impossible to avoid having some level of trepidation when taking on a new role.

I’m a tech geek.  And every job I’ve had has required me to be a creative problem-solver.  In many of them I’ve been an army of one, so while I often became accustomed to being the go-to guy, the things that I flubbed on or that slipped through the cracks often were glaringly obvious and sometimes led to breaking points (usually by my choosing, but not always).  I’ve never had a job where I could blend in.  And even if I did, I don’t know that I could.  In even the more recent roles where I have had a team, I’ve managed to stand out (in a good way, of course).  But this shift has come with some hesitancy – some of which came from me.

You see, in my last job I had become a rock star in my role.  So the powers that be felt I could easily rise to the challenge of managing something bigger.  And not knowing fully what I’d be getting myself into I leaped forward with confidence and optimism.  Unfortunately, my new role was equal parts avoiding doing the things I used to do so well and being a scapegoat for anything that didn’t go well as a result.  It wasn’t a good experience.  I was fortunate enough not to get canned and ended up stepping back to my previous role after a lack-luster 90-day run as a Project Manager (they realized that the title of Scapegoat would generally be unappealing to most comers).  But as they say, with some things there is no going back – while I certainly climbed back up to rock-star performance levels and was greatly appreciated by most, some members of management didn’t know how to drop a grudge.  So I looked for my next opportunity.

Luckily that next opportunity was where I am today and my only regret is that I hadn’t discovered this company sooner.  And after I got through that initial ‘learning the ropes’ phase, I quickly attained rock-star status once again.  But any time that management came up as a career path, I gave it pause.  This job was too good and too important for me to fail again as I had before.  And the last thing I wanted was to shift to a role where I didn’t get to do the trench-work that I so enjoy (seriously!).

But this shift now is different, and it’s better.  First, I’ve had a good stretch of time to adjust to being able to delegate to and manage other resources as a team.  And as such I’ve stretched my own skill-set to be able to think as a member and leader of a team rather than a single point of service.  So now as I make this transition, I know what I’m getting into, I know what is expected of me, and I know that I can rise to the challenges I’ll face in this role – most importantly I know the team that I’m leading and I know that they won’t let me down in this transition either.  Plus I know that even with this change, I will still be allowed and even expected to ford some trenches of my own.

Am I excited?  Yes.  Am I nervous?  Definitely.  Am I worried that I’ll go down in flames?  Not in the least.  I know where I stand, I know what is in store for me, and I know that I’m not walking this new path alone.  What will I do when shit starts hitting the fan?  I’ll manage.  I am now, in fact, ‘the man’ (well, one of them at least).

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Lessons Learned

by on Aug.08, 2010, under family, philosophy

They say (whoever ‘they’ are) that you learn something new every day.  I’ve learned a few things today.  To name just a few, I learned that I’m going to be an uncle once more over, that I am apparently boycotting Target, and that even though I know very little about the new Showtime series, “The Big C”, I have no intention whatsoever to ever watch it.

In many ways my life is currently about development.  For one, I am currently one of the lucky members of a company-sponsored leadership training program at work.  Myself and 11 others were selected from over 50 people who applied for the program, and we collectively meet for 2 hours a week to learn how to be better leaders.  There is also a project component to the program (there has to be some sort of measurable benefit, right?).  Some seem to be of the opinion that the project is more important than the training to the powers that be, but while I doubt that is necessarily true, even if it is it seems that the project is an important one and what better way to enforce the lessons at hand than practical application.

Additionally, I’m learning how to manage my kids more effectively.  When every suggestion/request/command that I issue is greeted by my daughter with inquisition and and by my son with either ignorance, abject compliance, or abject defiance, it is difficult to avoid yelling from time to time.  But I’ve noticed that yelling often begets yelling and can rapidly deteriorate even with the best of efforts to steer back.  So I’m making an effort to avoid yelling at all (it is a true test of stamina sometimes, believe me).  Now I just have to groom them not to yell back … I’ve got time.

Also with my kids, I’m learning to be careful what lessons I pass on.  I was explaining how picking flowers is traumatic to the plants and in doing so anthropomorphizing the parts of the plant to better impress upon her the pieces of it and how the interact (e.g., the roots are the plants mouth, the leaves its arms) – while she got the message that the plants had little chance of survival given her incomplete extrication, in the end I get a shrug and the statement “but I love the way their butts feel on my face.”

To elaborate on some of the learnings of the day, firstly my sister-in-law seems to be expecting her second child.  We are all routing for a girl (other than Cricket, the rest seem to be boys on my in-laws’ side).  Target apparently stepped in it with the homosexual community by contributing $150,000 to the right-wing political action committee, Minnesota Forward, who then used the funds to promote Tom Emmer in the Minnesota governor’s race, who happens to support banning gay marriage.  Being generally anti-right-wing-wingnut and of the stance that everyone should have the right to be happy in whatever shape or form suits them so long as no one is getting hurt (non-consensually), I think this is a big step in the wrong direction and is disappointing coming from Target.  I won’t likely be picketing, but I do tend to shop there semi-frequently due to my dislike of Walmart.  But I’m sure I can find somewhere else to purchase my random household items until they dig their way out of this one.  Finally, the last item is related to work and is frankly the main reason that I’m up and on my computer at this hour on a Sunday night/Monday morning.  I will likely be sleeping in a bit and going into the office late to cover for these late hours (they’ll live).

My final lesson learned for today is that is likely smarter once all is said and done and obstacles are cleared to going about ones preferred business (in my case, going to bed), spending a half an hour delaying that by writing an arguably cheeky blog post about nothing in particular is not the wisest course of action (especially since the motivations behind writing said post are mostly vague feelings of guilt and spite).  And I know that in such a state, I’m not likely to go back and proofread it either to make sure I didn’t make any important mistakes or make an ass of myself (not that I often avoid those things anyway – it keeps things interesting), so this post could be doubly dubious.  But I’m nearly done, so I may as well let it be what it is.  After all, you live and you learn.

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Have Funds, Will Travel

by on May.30, 2010, under career, family, money, technology

I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten into a habit of writing nothing but book reviews lately.  That is mostly because I’ve been doing little else but reading in my spare time.  I’m sure there may have been other things to write about in the meantime, but a lot of that writing time I’ve been, well, reading.  So today I will break that trend (and then tomorrow I’ll likely write another book review).

It seems that June is going to be a stressful month in many ways – some positive, some negative, and most of it stemming from a confluence of just a couple of events.  My company is sending me to two conferences that take me in opposite parts of the country.  Also my wife will be managing a farmers’ market launch and juggling a few photo shoots including a wedding.

I’m both excited and nervous about the conferences.  While they will be fun and positive experiences and allow me to see some new sites (one is in SF, the other in NYC), and it is great that the company is willing to pay my way (it seems the worst of the effects of the recent economic downturn have passed – at least for us), but it is a long time to be away from my family and it is a lot of money to spend in a short amount of time between food and lodging.  I don’t envy my wife’s role in this – a 3-year-old and 6 year-old all day every day for 2 weeks without reprieve is a test of anyone’s patience.

Additionally, the second conference will bring the added pleasure of traveling, rooming, and spending most of my time with a colleague who has a rare talent of pushing my buttons (he knows it too).  Professionally, I can respect his talent and appreciate his contributions.  But personally, he can drive me crazy sometimes.  I’d be remiss to say that his affect on me hasn’t had an upside – his insistence on challenging my ideas has drawn me to rethink some and become more confident in others.  And I’d like to think that I’ve helped steer him towards being an improved version of himself (you can never be sure how much is your influence and how much will stick).  But while we’d learned to worked well together, lately we’ve been pushing each other’s buttons more than we intend to and I worry that this conference could bring the straw that breaks one of our backs.  Most likely he will push my buttons, but I’ll roll with it, stew over some of it for a few days after, and then flow back into our regular routine.

Anyway, two weeks of conferences with travel should be fun.  But I know that tensions from my absence from family and/or work will build up.  I’ll likely have to work on both while I’m away.  Still looking forward to it, though.  I just have to remember to pick up some books to read on the planes.

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If Only I Had Insomnia

by on Feb.27, 2009, under career, health

Tonight is the fifth night that I have been awake until 3:00 AM or later and it is catching up with me.  I wish that I could say that I’ve been up doing something fun.  I wish that I could say that I’ve been up doing something productive and worthwhile.  I would even be content to be able to say that I’ve been up because I wasn’t tired and couldn’t get to sleep or because my kids have kept me up.  No, unfortunately this series of late nights have been work-related and the majority of that work has been waiting  and monitoring. (continue reading…)

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Win Some, Lose Some

by on Oct.31, 2008, under career, sports

This week is a bittersweet week for me.  On Wednesday night, I went out to a bar with a bunch of colleagues to watch the Phillies win the World Series, which was awesome.  But the real reason for the outing was a farewell to the CTO and founder of our company as he was resigning and Thursday was his last day with the company.  So I find myself sitting here on Halloween, on the day of the celebration parade for the World Series win, on a day that I will be getting a catered lunch and get to leave early to take the kids trick-or-treating, in a rather ho-hum mood. (continue reading…)

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