I watched Solo and Deadpool 2, both of which I loved. Solo felt like the kind of Star Wars movie I've wanted for a long time, since Rogue One at least. It was a great experience and I adored everything about it. Deadpool 2 was about as expected, harsh and crazy. They were simply fun experiences and I'm so glad I saw them in the theater. My wife and I both agreed, which was good because we had some poor experiences in the theater lately.
Now, the heavier stuff. I've had a huge life change and I'm going to write about it here. If you're interested, read on!
My friend had an idea. His company, Labor Ready, was hiring IT people and I'd done that as a day job several times. I was leery about this opportunity because I didn't want to waste 8 hours a day on tech calls. I wanted to spend 4 hours working and then the other 10 of my day writing books. But this was the Golden Age of IT at this company. They had around 600 branches in the US, Canada and the UK. Every single one was cookie cutter: the exact same gear.
Furthermore, they received about 300 calls a week to spread between nearly 18 people. They only received their work through the phone, no email support, no chat. This was 2005 and things were very different then than they are now. Some people worked on art pieces, others ran their personal businesses in between calls. It sounded pretty ideal and if it was true, then it was worth it.
Plus, it paid better than a part time job would. So I agreed to give it a try and sure enough, it really was the golden age. Not only did I write 4 books in my first year there, but I also read more novels than I'd been able to in previous years. It was amazing. Couple that with the fact that the company was actually decent to its people and cared enough about them to provide some support and honest communication, it was an amazing place.
Two things happened that were mistakes in my opinion:
1) I didn't like living with my friend in his one bedroom place. It wasn't that he was messy or even bothered me. It had nothing to do with him at all in fact. It was all me. I needed more privacy and I wanted to be closer to Labor Ready so I wasn't wasting time commuting (while it was only a 25 minute drive one way, I hated the wasted time). So I moved to an apartment less than 5 minutes from my job. This was an error.
2) I didn't get out before the golden age ended. When the company began to change, as they always do, I didn't leave. The place became busier, my job became more demanding and the precious time I wanted to forward my goals dwindled. I found myself in a state where I couldn't leave because I had bills to pay. A part time job no longer would support me. So I became bound and stuck to the company.
I got an opportunity to do music around that time for someone and I ended up with some pretty decent equipment to make it happen. The first Deadly Nightshade Botanical Society CD was written at that time and I met my wife through the process. We became engaged and eventually, we moved in together--away from my little apartment. This took me to another city which added some commute time but it wasn't so bad.
The company changed its name to True Blue and bought up more companies. It was getting intense on the phones and I frankly hated it so I took a stab and asked the senior manager about an opening supervisor position. He was intrigued because he didn't think I had any interest in such a thing. Frankly, I didn't. I just wanted to get off the phones and I didn't have the capacity to quit my job--there were no other opportunities.
I needed a new focus, a new set of tasks. He gave me a shot but not as the supervisor. I took on several duties so he could see how I'd do with them. The guy they brought in, it was like fate. He was flat out terrible and after only six months, he was gone from True Blue. I got my chance and took the role. This came with a sizable raise and a lot of new responsibilities. It also began the most positive experience I've ever had with a manager and a mentor.
Through the course of the next year, I proved myself invaluable to the company. I put in a lot of hours--in excess of 10 to 12 a day in some cases. I received another promotion to full on manager with another pay increase. I was instrumental in replacing equipment throughout our company, building a tracking process for our hardware and mentoring younger technicians into the careers they wanted. I have many success stories that I can cite and they are the things I'll take with me for the rest of my life.
Eventually, my mentor took another job with a different department so I was slotted to take his position. This was how our succession planning worked out. It sounds far cooler than it actually is. But when the time came, not only did I not get the Director title, but I simply had to adopt all the work he was doing as a Senior Manager. This was a bit of a sore spot but honestly, they threw another big pay increase my way and I don't honestly care THAT much about titles.
Nevertheless, I did the work and it was the first time that I really felt that I wasn't doing well. My new manager couldn't convey what he wanted very well and he didn't seem to trust the results I provided. No matter how I presented my information, he always seemed to demonize my efforts. During this time, my wife ended up in the hospital for a full month, fighting for her life. I was dealing with work stress and personal issues as well.
Luckily, I was in a position to be able to take liberal time away from the office to address these things and be with her when I could. Eventually, she recovered and returned home but I still had the crazy boss who wasn't providing me with any real assistance. I was not a partner, I was a whipping post and it got old fast. My patience was rapidly being spread thin and I didn't think I'd be able to handle it much longer.
Note that during this time, I barely got off much in the creative realm. We still wrote music and released CDs but it was such a tertiary thing for me. Work dominated my life, which was the exact opposite of what I wanted when I embarked on this adventure nearly 8 years before. I needed to figure something out and move on, or at least get my boss to partner with me somehow. I sought advice from my mentor.
He said 'I've got a job opening in my department you'd be perfect for'. It wasn't a manager job, but rather a reporting position that would allow me to build SQL queries all day. Minimal supervision, working with the customers directly and best of all, out from under that guy who didn't want to work with me (or so I thought). It took me a couple days to decide but ultimately, I felt like the Service Desk had become a sinking ship under my efforts.
So I took the job and moved to the other department. That was the first time I left the Service Desk since starting with Labor Ready nearly 7 years earlier. It was a trip and I have to say, it was painful too. At first, I did NOT have the SQL chops to handle my work load. I had a panic attack about it but before we get into that, when I told my old crazy boss that I was taking the other job, he expressed shock.
He actually said 'I think you'll be bored. You're amazing at this job and you've been doing great'. Please note I'd never had an ounce of praise from this guy in the entire time I'd been working for him. Not once. It was absolutely insane. I felt like I needed to slap him. I did say 'It would've been nice to hear that sooner than today'. But I'd already made up my mind and moved.
This came with yet another pay increase. I was looking at 6 weeks of vacation a year. It was a sweet deal. After I got over the initial hump of 'Oh my God, I can't do this job', did what I always do: I owned it completely. Someone on my team gave me some advice that I have applied to everything I do now: treat it like your personal business. You aren't getting support from anyone else. It is all you. Sink or swim on your own.'
With that in mind, I partnered with people all over the company and become an invaluable resource. There were 7 people doing reporting and by the time I was ready to move on, I was the only one--adopting their reporting duties so I was doing the work of 5 full time employees alone. I still didn't feel particularly stressed and during that 16 month stint, I got back into writing. I produced the Society novels and even started the comic series. It was a pretty good period in my life frankly. I had the best of both worlds: creative outlet and a decent day job.
But then things got tossed up at work again. The CIO was out. She'd been pretty out of control and didn't really know IT that well so they wanted a stronger tech person in the role. The first guy they brought in, I thankfully had no dealings with. Apparently, he was a total maniac. The second person, the full time guy, brought a grand vision to the company. One that I think sold a lot of people.
My mentor had become fed up. He was working directly for the guy I couldn't handle and it came to a head. My boss, a man who had worked at the company for over 15 years, offered to step down as a director to become a technician. This was an agreed upon situation and he would even take a major pay cut. That's how crazy our boss was (he was just a few steps away from being a character in Horrible Bosses, as far as his ability to work with people. Super nice guy personally, but hard to work for).
Along comes this new CIO who finds out my mentor was amazing with Service Desk. In my absence, my old team floundered. They were failing big. Their reputation was in the toilet. They had hundreds of requests which were not being fulfilled. No one was able to get them under control because the only manager who cared had been tied by his inept boss telling him he was too harsh.
My mentor received an offer to become a senior director of the department. He would be in charge of the service desk teams in Chicago and Tacoma. I wasn't really aware of this in my reporting hole, but we'd acquired a massive company that made quite a bit of money. They had technicians in India, something we'd never done before. There were a lot of opportunities in this situation and it became apparent this might be a good decision.
Most importantly, my mentor would work directly for the CIO instead of that crazy guy that we both fled. This sounded win win honestly.
So I was approached to go with him--return to the Service Desk as a supervisor, partner with my good friend and a man I'd mentored into a supervisor role, and make the ITSD shine again. It sounded like a great opportunity and I was totally willing to jump on board. Partnering with my mentor again was a dream because we were solid when it came to our work ethic and what needed to be done--we agreed on path forward and the important things that allowed us to be successful.
Unfortunately, we had some problems to overcome.
1) In order to make this happen, the CIO wanted to 'trim the fat'. There were a lot of legacy IT people in the company who'd been there for over a dozen years. There were others who were doing a poor job. This meant 34 people would be laid off in a single day. One of them was my friend who was supposed to be my partner--but when we tried to bring him back, we were met with a statement of 'no, that will paint a bad precedent'. I had to fight a hard battle to get him ANY job but got him back.
2) We had to learn the new regime and a new business line with our friends in Chicago. I can say I didn't have as much interaction with them but it quickly became apparent they were mismanaged and poorly organized, a big company with a start up mentality. They wanted everything instantly and when they couldn't have it, they threw tantrums. They were a huge source of our problems--and ultimately, they built a negative reputation about us from all their complaining.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the work. We made things happen but suffered from some uninformed management. Our CIO wanted us to become a 'Solution Desk'. He wanted us to do more but we didn't get additional people. More and more duties fell on our plate and we absorbed it. Our statistics suffered and we ultimately looked terrible. And the CIO was a volatile sort. He'd swear at people in public and literally destroy them verbally. It was pretty incredible.
One day he finally did it to my mentor and boss. The situation didn't go over well and it ultimately resulted in my boss moving on out of the company. Seventeen years, he was simply fired. He did have time to get out and a severance but ultimately, he was just done because this guy couldn't keep from being an ass. Furthermore, we were overrun by Contractors in high up positions. They were making changes to the company and had no vested interest in our success.
I was put under an interim director, a Contractor who could be pretty volatile but ultimately, I figured out the style and rolled with it. I shouldn't have. But I was in a position where we didn't have much of a choice. Our bills were high, they didn't quite rise to a level of living pay check to pay check but they were crazy. I needed to keep the job and I went through half a year of total insanity. We're talking being called at all hours of the night for all manner of minor and stupid things.
At one point, I was told that I had been considered to be fired because one of the contractors didn't like me but I won him over. So much so, they promoted me in 2017 to a senior manager position and gave me a raise. I suddenly made over 100k a year working at the company I started with 12 years before as a lowly phone technician. The incremental pay for me changed just about every six months after becoming a supervisor.
This brought a new director to the job. He proved to have quite a vision but he was hampered because he came on working directly for the CIO...then the CIO got fired. Which shouldn't have shocked anyone. He was out of control. The new person started and didn't understand why a director was working directly for the CIO. She moved him under my old pal, the crazy boss I wanted to never work for again.
Full circle. And by the way, I'd now been passed by for that director position several times. I did most of the work several times. It was incredible. All along the way, I watched friends taking off or being fired. High talent moving on just to get away. My mentor landed a job and told me 'you have no idea how bad you have it. It's amazing away from there. You need to get out'. And that's probably true.
But I was still bound up in the cash and we had bills that couldn't be ignored. Plus, I didn't want to drive 40 to 60 minutes one way for a job. This is the allure of True Blue, you see. It's location. People can't find work that pays like this in the Tacoma/Lakewood area so they're stuck. Eventually, people don't care and they're willing to suffer because any more time in the job is simply not worth 20 minutes to home.
I applied for other jobs. I even got offers but when I weighed the benefits of leaving, I didn't take them. My boss got fired--again. I applied for his job and one just like it at another place. Someone eluded to the fact that I was practically a shoe in for the director job at True Blue. "You've been doing the work and I've received a ton of great feedback.". So I turned down the other job and waited to see what would happen at True Blue.
Just under a month ago, I received the bad news that I did not receive the job and it went to someone else. To call myself disappointed and disgusted would be an understatement. This would be the 5th time I was overlooked for that job. Plus, if I was to be very honest with myself, I was getting sick of being shit on all the time. The service desk is the dumping ground for whining and complaining.
We went from the most highly lauded part of the organization to the whipping boys thanks to the start up mentality coming down on an enterprise. We lost our credibility because when we asked for more head count to support acquisitions, we were denied. Our wait times skyrocketed from under 1 minute to over 10 minutes because we were forced to go 24/7 without additional resources.
Honestly, the fact I made it 13 years is a total shock to me and probably to others as well. As I sit here writing this, it's an emotional moment.
My last day is June 22nd. The company has reorganized and I do not have a place in it. My departure was interesting and I look forward to getting out. The corporate world is not a place for a creative individual to thrive. It's full of pettiness and complaining, hatred and seething from people who are inept or mad on a moderate amount of power. For profit companies are the worst but it's no different anywhere else.
Thirteen years ago, I set out to find a dream. I'm going to list what I took away from the True Blue experience because it wasn't all bad:
1) Insane organizational skills. I can coordinate people and resources like no one's business.
2) A beautiful home that is ideal for what we want to do. We have a dedicated studio for our work and that's awesome.
3) The ability to pay off our debts. We paid off all our debt this year, leaving only a few small things on our plate.
4) Experience and education. I know more about the world and the corporate world than many people. It has helped my creative life.
5) A mentor that I cherish more than anything. He's been incredible. He was at our wedding. I treasure our relationship.
6) The resources to get my wife's business going. She's a successful, professional voice actress because we didn't have to make her work out at some shitty job.
7) Two additional and awesome cats. These guys have filled our days with countless challenges and joys. I wouldn't have them if I'd done something else.
8) Friends and connections. Some of my best friends have come out of that company and I still have contact with them.
9) Many comfortable years financially and far more iTunes movies than I'll ever need.
10) My wife and partner, the most amazing and precious gift to come from my time. True Blue had nothing to do with our meeting or union but it did allow her to survive her time in the hospital without putting us in some kind of insane debt. I will always be grateful to them for that.
Now, I'm looking at what's next and it's exciting. I look forward to this new world I'm facing. I can't wait to share and I look forward to writing more.