Things had been okay half way into the summer. Then, I had a five month long career hiccup triggered by denied aspirations.
Driving progress through research and contribution has been my thing, I am obviously more suited for academia than commerce. Turns of events however forced me away from that path - dealing with the aftermath of experiences like that from On Cancer takes enough time, effort and substitutions in life plans. Restarting Master's at 25 with not much in terms of social insurance, physical need for settling down, and earning enough to sustain myself was out of question.
So I went ahead and got hired and deliver. Am I passionate about it? Only slightly. I still do all I can to pursue my passions, even though time is limited. I keep updated on my field of study and hope to maybe save up once to be able to return to academia. I also enjoy filming and editing video in the proper way, planting another potential skill of trade.
Working for a business moving its product from question mark into star stage of life had me all excited and optimistic. What I wish to have had understood is how all stars inevitably turn into cash cows, of which investors are cautiously aware and re-staff in preparation for that. They now need cash cow kind of people, to hold rather than drive market share, impose cautious pace on development, and protect their passive income for at least a decade.
In case of my then employer, the angel investor placed their own HR manager in to "help out" with growing workload, later taking position of HR lead because "there was no other suitable candidate." Product lead, who made the product a star, was demoted for safety, I suppose. And most importantly, the computer scientist of a CTO was driven to submitting his position to prince Charming from Shrek 2.
Their reasons are legit but I scowl at how unfair towards the people who worked toward something great under significant budget constraints. Significant portion of their legacy was sold to a cash addict who hits them with a glass ceiling.
Personally, I asked for the extra budget required to provide analytics solution that would employ my entire skillset and benefit the venture, rather than pretty charts with far outgrown backend. Regardless, the scenario from other departments came for me. Miss me with that shit - I am 25, not 60.
Because I saw it coming, I took precautions by interviewing ahead. CoViD pandemic obscured the process, though. Interviews took form of conference calls, driving expectation disparity. I got to see my opportunities, came to understand that employers are much more to be dissected than applicants, and made a wrong choice at the end.
It was Wunderman Thompson, a consulting company with surprisingly decent reputation that fills skill gaps in businesses looking for creative solutions. I had some achievements presented to me but the experience itself was dreadful.
The first interview was a recorded one-on-one with the voice of my boss to be. With my camera on, I outlined my skills, said what I am good at, outlined my expectations, and did my skill demonstration task. I was given name of their client the work was for and got excited.
Week later, a display of red flags I did not see was on. The data science lead and my future duo colleague were in, the former on camera. After feedback on the previous call, I asked questions and lay down expectations such as a requirement of a decent computer.
Most disappointing was my duo colleague, a 35ish woman with an attitude who drove an Audi and used Windows Server VM to run scheduled scripts in Python. Some worked, alright, but her legacy database I was assigned contained obsolete, redundant, incomplete, or scattered mess with no documentation whatsoever. Asking for help, which she encouraged, caused me more confusion. Requesting access to the load scripts, I was told her previous colleague never needed that, later even that I was likely to steal the know-how and leave.
I lasted two months, asking superiors for help and trying to be constructive, before being profane in a recorded meeting. I confronted her before hanging up, wrote a farewell e-mail, and navigated to LinkedIn. My boss or the skill group manager never met me in person. And the latter had the audacity to require in-person meeting to discharge me.
That was not quite the way to go. And because it was early in the month and employers onboard new people on the first day of month, I was left with little over two weeks of mental health leave and a job to find. At the beginning, it felt easy - I would do three consecutive interviews every other day. There was no need to to leave my table and there was a with substantial amount of time left for reflection, learning, and gaming.
My ability to detect the red flags of job market transaction negotiations had developed throughout the period. And so had that of understanding my own priorities. I spoke to headhunters, middle managers, HR operatives, friends, former colleagues, even self-proprietors. I had responded to fiveish job ads a day, whatever showed up, but still hoped to hit the bull's eye and be finally satisfied with my job after six months.
I had also came to identify with the story of Chandler Bing - I am good at what I do and I enjoy it, but there are things I enjoy more. There needs to be work-life balance - productivity and leisure generate utility, which an agent seeks to maximize. And that is where one must start when assessing potential employer.
The Englishman interviewing me for position in centre of excellence of a Fortune 500 company said that my story is all disappointment and lack of resilience. The first was true, the second was nonsense. Resilience is a great character, not a realistic job requirement, though. Yes, one must resolve difficulties without breaking down, but there is a threshold beyond which no job is not worth it. His lack of acknowledgement here does not play well for any Fortune 500 company. Care for yourself first.
Contrasting opportunity was Dolphin Consulting who have amazing teambuilding activities, car pool to share, and even mentioned a dolphin wedding. It all sounds great and I agree that working with friends makes good experience. But I have friends I wish I had more time for, which would only be made more difficult, should I try to blend in.
Turns out the handful of interviews I attended in person was relatively more productive, exposing the employer and their culture beyond choice of videoconferencing software and views of employees' living rooms. The interviewers seemed more humble and honest with respect to their activity. Besides, the caution to see candidate in person in spite of having to wear a face mask and taking other precautions is a good sign, right?
The Right Opportunity
By the end of the month, I had three offers that I considered on hand. Two from in-person interviews, one from an online call. And I picked the one that offered some diversity, felt most familiar in its description, and seemed to be accounting free.
I work as web analyst at online marketing department of our nation's largest newspaper publisher. The portfolio of sites I get to work with is vast, the technology behind them is quite well thought out, and the team consists of cool people I even share interests with.
Now it is up to me, I suppose.