A change of scenery

For those that have followed me for a bit, you might have recalled me going for a posted position within my company that would have been a promotion. I didn’t get it, but I already knew that going into it based on how the description was written. My goal was more to let upper management know that I’m not opposed to taking on new roles that may be slightly outside of my wheel house for the sake of the challenge. It worked. The new Director starts today, remotely from Colorado, then from Pennsylvania next week. I already know that my current manager and I are going to report to him as well as another individual from the Networking team. My job isn’t changing all that much except that a heaping pile of “conflict of interest” is going away now that I’m not inside the group that I’ve been auditing the last two years.

With the move comes a new desk in a different building but on the same campus. Moving to the third floor of the newest building on our campus is exciting. More so the fact that it will bring with it new challenges from management that is coming in from outside. We already got a new CIO from outside that is already making waves and with a Director to back her up, the change will keep coming. My work is already starting to make people worried in that the results of my reviews and audits are being reviewed and actioned on by senior management with more purpose and intent to get future audits looking better. It only makes my job easier as the more support I can get for the work I’m doing, the easier it will be to have people engage when I ask them for evidence. A recent audit of change requests in one particular group was actually quite poor and the results have not gone over well for those tasked with providing me what I was asking for. It’s probably good I’m moving to I’m no longer in the same building as the people I’m auditing.

The new space brings with it a quieter workspace and upgraded furniture and chairs. Overall, despite the lower cubicle walls to promote “collaboration”, I’m looking forward to not having the kids of distractions I have currently in my soon to be vacated space. You can view the archives for previous posts that detailed my daily living hell putting up with the people around me. I’ll also have a lot more face time with the CIO and new Director because they are in the same building and floor that I’m moving to. Face time as most IT people know is crucial for those moments when they’re trying to figure out who from within is worth promoting into whatever new idea they have and need bodies to run it. Not that I do my job in order to get a better job, but doing my job and being recognized for it is important to me. One of my many motivations. I’ll also be working remote two days per week instead of just one as I’m no longer in the reporting chain that enforces restrictions. My manager sees that I work just as hard (if not harder) at home then when I’m in the office.

Hopefully the rain holds off today long enough for me to move my stuff, freshly minimalized, to the new building across the main parking lot. Otherwise, I’ll have to try to move everything tomorrow. I like change, the more the better.

Too good to be true?

It’s happened, a recruiter has finally placed a potential position in front of me that is too good to not invest some time exploring. The last thing I wanted to do was to start looking for a new job let alone think about switching companies and starting over again with a whole new corporate dynamic. In this case though, the job description, requirements, salary, benefits, and bonus package are, well, really good and my interest is overpowering my urge to stay put. Adding to all these goodies is, amazingly, this job is only 15 minutes from my home cutting my one-way daily commute in half… again.

The last few jobs I’ve taken and excelled with were essentially lateral moves. Jobs that had no more or less responsibility and didn’t advance my career all that much, but did provide other skills and knowledge that have led me to this current moment. This new position is a Director level position and would entail managing people again, something I said that I probably wasn’t going to ever do again. It isn’t that I was a bad manager, in fact, my directs in my previous position often would tell me how much they appreciated my style as a manager. Laid back, hands off, and appropriate blunt and aggressive when the situation required it. I also would lay on my own sword to protect them, deflect the negative comments, and allow them to use it as a lessons learned opportunity.

My problem though, is that my previous management experience, while over a year in length, was nothing close to what a Director is required to do or be in charge of. Stepping up would be an absolute necessity on my part and I truly am not sure if that kind of responsibility is in my wheelhouse or not. I know that I’m technically capable of doing the job, however, the personal side of the job is sort of shaky and up in the air. I’m having a fight in my own head over whether this job would be a good move for me or not, which is a conversation I have every time I start looking or contemplating a new position. I’m technically capable of being a manager of people as my personality is such that I’m rarely considered a friend to anyone at work, manager or not. My radar is always on while at work and I’m constantly observing and processing the environment around me. At Director level though, the game starts to change and I’ve yet to experience that game personally.

I’m scheduled to have a phone call with the head hunter this week, to talk about the prospect. This is the equivalent of the HR screening call where they review resume details, listen to how I speak of my past, what I’m looking for in a company, etc. I already know the salary is there and its much closer to home, but the discussion later will determine my next step. I just hope that I’ll be okay with all the next steps in 6 months to a year regardless of the resulting decision.

ITIL Training = Eyelid Olympics

My company decided that it was time for me to take ITIL Foundation training.  For those of you not in an IT field, this is essentially an industry best practice of standards on how to efficiently and effectively perform change in the IT organization.  I’ve been in the IT industry pretty much the last 17 years or so and practically live and breath the standards that I’m now learning about.  So I don’t refer to things with proper names or terms like they talk about in the training.  I know the methodology regardless of knowing the names of what I’m doing or not.

I can admit that ITIL is not the most exciting, rather, it is one of the more dry and tedious content subjects in IT.  Not even with CISA did I struggle to keep myself motivated for a mere three day class.  The scary part is that there are several levels of ITIL that you can obtain, each certification test getting harder than the previous one.  I’m wishing that the content as you get more detailed picks up in excitement where I can describe it as more riveting than watching paint dry or catching the latest episode of Bass Masters.

There is one more day of endurance training for my eyelids before I sit down to take the 40 question certification exam.  I’ve taken all the practice tests and online test preps and am averaging well above the 65% passing score required.  For me, this really is common sense and as long as I keep the hundreds of terms straight and not get caught up on tricky questions, I should do just fine.  The person that I’m taking the training with unfortunately is not in the same situation.  He’s younger and has less than 5 years experience and is struggling with understanding the terms and how to apply the standards.  I hope he passes.

I probably won’t have another post until Thursday when I give all of you another installment of Three Things Thursday, one of which will hopefully be a passing score on my ITIL Foundations exam.

Can I work from home? Denied!

workingfromhome

No, this isn’t me.  I laughed at the picture though, because I’d totally geek out working from home like this!

Had a 1:1 recently with my boss. I again, brought up the request to work from home one day per week. He again, told me that it is difficult or near impossible to get something like that approved for the long term. The current policy as it stands is:

Working from home is available upon request for any colleague and is at the discretion of next level management. Work from home criteria and objectives should be set between the colleague and his/her manager to set appropriate expectations.

The annoying thing here is that “next level management” in my case is actually two levels above me and their discretion is hopelessly set at an “as needed or required” level without the hope of any type of regular approval for a weekly work from home day. My director in this case has been working for the company for over two decades and is very much stuck in the realm of old-school thinking where working from home is horrible and anyone doing it is just skipping on work. Here are the reasons I think this man is a dinosaur stuck in the middle of a modern workplace:

  • Everyone is using a laptop, there are *no* desktops
  • Internal phone system is VoIP through Skype for Business
  • Completely an Office 365 shop (Outlook, SharePoint, Office are all hosted)
  • 80 offices world-wide, on average, 80% of my communication is electronic or on phone
  • Mandatory methods to track and verify productivity

I will often give the benefit of the doubt with resistance like I’ve received at the onset of convincing someone to give an approval for something they’re initially opposed to. However, in this case, a direct conversation with said Director resulted in “I don’t approve work from home.” I was promptly asked to leave his office if there wasn’t anything else I needed to talk to him about. Not one to back down from a challenge, I took a different approach at first. I started looking up research on the benefits of working from home for both the employee and the employer and found quite a lot of positive information. The other side of the coin unfortunately had just as much negative information that contradicted the positive. There was information to support either point of view rather convincingly.

dinosaur-in-office

This is how I see my Director right now

As I think I may pay a personal price for the next action I’ve taken (not played out yet), I went to HR to talk to a few people about the origins of the policy and where and when it was set. In my logical mind I had a plan to work behind the scenes to get the policy updated by whatever committee set it in the first place. The committee in this case, was made up of several people….. that also included my Director. My posture must have changed as the HR person asked if there was a problem. I asked her when the policy was set and it, unsurprisingly, hasn’t been updated or changed since 2005. 11 years ago!! I went on to explain what I was after and if it was, in her opinion, something that had a snowballs chance of being changed. She didn’t need to answer, he face said it all. I got up and thanked her for her time.

For the last 5 or so years, I’ve pushed very hard with my current and previous companies to get a permanent arrangement to work from home setup and approved. What I was asking for was a single day to work from home that wasn’t a Monday or Friday; rather Wednesday was my preferred day. It provided a break in the middle of the week that helped greatly on both the front and back end of the week with an estimated 20% increase in productivity. A very non-scientific study conducted by me, subjectively, where I had a feeling of greater efficiency and effectiveness. Well, the few weeks I was able to do so that is.

Here is my current push, with highlighted justifications and benefits below:

  • Online no later than 6:30am / Offline no earlier than 4:30pm (company gets the hour I’d be commuting, at a minimum)
  • Activity time tracked through Skype for Business and correlated with VPN logs
  • First complaint related to remote work would end the agreement (puts skin in the game)
  • Important meetings or training would override a scheduled work from home day
  • Short weeks would override work from home day (holidays)
  • Any measured drop in effectiveness or efficiency would require a review of the agreement

Personally, I think this gives the advantage to my company. They’re getting more work out of me, a potential 52 extra hours, just for allowing me to work from home one day per week. My estimation has that closer to 40 when you take out short weeks and the occasional 1-2 meetings per quarter that would require my physical presence. I’m certainly not a 9 to 5’er, often getting to work by 7am and leaving around 4pm, so around 9 hours per day as I typically don’t take a lunch away from my desk, most times. I’m getting close to that mindset where I will stop overproducing for a company that isn’t willing to approve a simple request that is more than justified based on previous performance. I’ve been here before and I ended up looking for and getting a new job eventually. I’ve not worked for a company in my career that I actually enjoyed coming to work for everyday though, so I’m in a tough spot.

It feels like I’m fighting a losing battle. Why can’t more companies embrace modern and progressive ideas?

I’m the outsider

awareness

Totally need one of these on my desk

Acute awareness of anything is not always a good thing. For most people it brings clarity in a confusing situation, lets you see something that you didn’t realize before, or lets you empathize with someone else to help them through something. In my case though, I’ve become acutely aware of the fact that even after 7 months at my current job, I still feel like an outsider. Nothing specific that makes me feel this way, just little hints that I’m still not one of the crowd or a trusted member of the company fold. Sure, everyone is courteous and friendly and will often engage in conversation at the drop of a dime. Free coffee here is our “water cooler” and conversations at the coffee pot are an hourly occurrence if you’re inclined to participate.

My introverted nature I’m sure doesn’t help this feeling though. In fact, I’m almost sure its detrimental to me in situations like this one where I’m the “new guy” in a group where the average tenure of an employee is well over 12 years. I work with people that in some cases were hired by the current CEO, not many people can say that at a company that exceeds a few hundred people, let alone a company that is pushing 5,000 employees. I’m 7 months in and still feel that I’m navigating the political waters of how management operates. The learning curve here is mighty steep and has proved to be a difficult journey to say the least.

Having to adapt to a corporate environment here, if you can call it that, has been daunting after having worked in what I consider normal environments for the better part of 18 years. There are so many levels that you have to fight with to get anything done and partnering that with an ever changing focus and direction makes it all but impossible unless you know people. That’s where my issues comes into full focus, I just don’t know the people I need to in order to get certain projects completed. I’m viewed as an outsider with my crazy notions of how something should be done and asking questions as to why it isn’t. My radar doesn’t quite tune to the “I built this process you’re shooting holes in” negative attitude that normally greets me during some conversations.

There is a very real sense that work is done to propel a career or protect a legacy of “it’s always been done like this” that, if changed, requires people to learn something new. I’ve found through experience that changing a routine in a corporate office is probably the hardest thing you can do as complacency takes root and is as hard to remove as a weed with a 2 foot long root into the ground. All of this struggle adds to my awareness that I’m an outsider and until I yield to the status quo, I will continue to be an outsider.

I’m not sure that my future with this company is going to be along one. I keep pushing forward handling obstacles as they come, but my energy and motivation are taking huge hits while doing it. My only hope at this point is that the retirement train keeps moving ahead and some of the crusty bits go away. My dealings with other “new people” (essentially 5 years or less with the company) have been positive. If some of those people can get their way into the vacated positions, I think I might have a chance to make a real difference. Until that happens though, I have to struggle to get anything done as the “outsider”.

The summer is going to be interesting….