Category Archives: Career

The Job Downward Spiral: There’s a Physics to my Employment

Either I’ve done a better job overall this time around or things just move slower in public companies. I think it’s a mix of both. But now a year-and-a-half in and it’s clear I’m past the phase of newcomers victories and excitement and well into the phase of “I suck at this.”

I’ve been assigned a few larger projects to manage and after failing at one or two my boss was really hoping I could pull off the latest and greatest, but nope, I fell right on my face. Looking back I see a few areas where I could have improved, but overall I just feel lost. I don’t know how to help drive collaboration when I’m unsure what the expectations are. I did uncover these expectations along the way (and feel I could do a much better job managing a project like this next time) but the problem is I seem to keep missing the obvious and not getting what I’m supposed to be doing… which at my level, as my boss points out, is not acceptable. She used nicer words, but that’s what she meant.

The good(?) news is that I’ve been assigned a slew of projects that I HAVE been successful at. Unfortunately, these projects are one-off “do not make any sense on a future resume” type of projects. Maybe it’s time I stop caring so much about said future resume and just try to do what I do best–which is run with the punches and take on creative projects that no one else would have the foggiest how to manage versus trying to become a manager of cut-and-dry processes and failing time and again.

At 35, it’s no longer cute to fail or figure shit out. I should have it figured out by now and it’s clear I don’t. I’m scared because without resume-building projects I have no where to go after this. It’s hard to have that conversation with your boss because you aren’t supposed to be thinking about “after this.” And it’s less about moving up at this point and more about maintaining some semblance of a living wage once this job is no more. Maybe I’ll stay in this role until I retire with inflation-based raises, but that’s unlikely. I know my boss sees that I can do SOME things well (otherwise I’d be OUT already) but is that enough? I don’t want to be the easy to cut person in the organization and without adding clear value I’ll be cut sooner or later.

I just wish the last project didn’t end up the mess it was. I really don’t know how I could have done it all better. I still am not sure I could really do it better if I started over, which is the scary part. I don’t know how to get teams inspired to do great work, or to collaborate. Everyone seems to think I go off and come up with ideas on my own and decide everything without consulting others, but I keep asking everyone else what they want and I’m not getting any answers. I guess I’m not asking them in the right way. Or… they just hate me and don’t want to collaborate. I don’t know. My one co-lead on the project was super nice, but he also ended up driving things down a path that made it all more complicated and took away my control–which, funny enough, is what my boss wanted me to have… control to make the project great, but then also be collaborative and get everyone else’s input, but to lead. At the end of the day, I’m a shitty leader. But I’m not going to stay in a senior-level role without BEING a leader in my field. Independent contributor is not worth much and I’m way overpaid to be one right now. Good problem to have? I guess. It makes me feel like crap every day. I can’t even look my colleagues in the eye anymore.

I’ve set 7 time-based goals for myself to stay in the company and just try to survive. And by survive I mean do great work that keeps me employed, but also do not try to move up or gain resume-building experience… just do whatever my boss(es) want me to do and stop trying to do the things that would help me move up but do not come naturally to me. That’s 7 dates across 33 months that I need to survive and then, as long as there isn’t a major recession, I’ll have some sort of flexibility to figure out my next steps… I mean, not a ton of flexibility because if I have a mortgage and another kid, flexibility is out the window unless my husband is willing to move to a lower cost of living area and he isn’t.

It is just all so suffocating… I’m so fortunate for all I have and I know I’m in a much better spot than many others in this country, but I just can’t breathe. I don’t want to get caught in this self pity crap but I also don’t know how to be better. Once I start thinking this way it’s hard to focus and be productive. Every little thing I do I self doubt so much that I slow down my output and my output gets worse and worse until I inevitably get let go. Fired. Whatever. That’s what I do. It’s not funny. It’s not poetic. It’s just my life.

But with a toddler and wanting another child, it CAN’T be my life. I’m really fucking scared right now. I don’t know if I’ll ever see the day I have a. job where I’m not worried about getting fired. This is the best situation yet as the head of the department likes my work and has given me the opportunity to do projects seen by our senior leadership team, but that still doesn’t make me professionally immortal. And I know even if I can hold on for dear life these next 33 months, there’s still after that… if my resume has nothing on it other than weird projects that make no sense at another company, or would be comparable to what a much more junior person would do with a much lower salary, I don’t know what I’ll do —

I was talking to my husband and we agreed that our mortgage should be no more than $5000 with his father adding another $2000  in rent (basically $2500 for each of us per month plus $2000 for his father.) My husband really wants his mother to go in with us on the property but I’d prefer to buy separately and just have his father rent from us (his parents aren’t married, it’s complicated, but I am comfortable living with his dad if he is renting from us and it’s clean cut like that.) So we can put down $300k on a $1.5M property which is about $7k a month. That might be doable even if I lose my job, but it will be hard to maintain 30 years of a career that can support $2500 a month. And it’s going to be very hard if not impossible to find a place that costs $1.5M that has a good place for his father to live.

Ugh. When will my life not be a mess?

How many kids do you want? Two… and an accident.

EVERYONE seems to think it’s completely ok to ask a new mom of a 9 month old the question “so, how many do you want?” My favorite is when colleagues ask me this out. loud in a public area where my boss can hear… of course I’m going to respond “I want 8 kids in the next 2 years” so she can flip out.

I don’t actually want 8 in the next two years – but I do want at least one more and I’ve always wanted to have 3 kids, even though rational brain says NO YOU DON’T. So, my answer when friends ask me – how many kids do you want – is “two. And an accident.” My answer to colleagues is… “I’m not sure. Maybe I’m done.”

But my heart says I’m definitely not done. Even though being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (especially being a working mom), I absolutely love it. I no longer am searching for this greater purpose in life — I’ve found it in my son. I love being a mom. I don’t see how I can afford 3 kids but f it, who can? I can afford 3 kids better than most people with 3 kids…

Since I’ll be 36 in November, I don’t have a ton of time to have two more kids. It’s possible it’s already too late. At the same time, I have 2.5 more months of vesting my stock at my company, and while I am focused on doing my absolute best at work, it would be safer to be pregnant during some of this time. They COULD still fire me, but it’s less likely as long as I’m doing my work and the company is doing ok if they know I’m pregnant (**there are no legal protections for a woman who is pregnant outside of not being able to get fired because you are pregnant.) However, in order to get fired while you are pregnant you need to be doing a bad job, versus be doing an ok job but not an amazing job.

I won’t suddenly stop working as hard once I notify work that I’m pregnant (I didn’t last time either) – it will just be a bit of a relief knowing that for a year (9+3 months) they’re slightly less likely to fire me in that time. So I have about 30 months left of survival here… 15 months “pure survival” (12 months until May, get pregnant, 3 months until notifying company – or maybe I’d tell them early?) then 12 months of slightly more security, which gets me to 27, then I just need to make it 6 more months until… some form of freedom. It’s not that long to make this all happen… so if I play my cards right, I can, in the next 2.5 years, have one more child, and hit $1.5M in net worth (which then opens me up to IVF for my final child at 39/40 and my husband would be a lot more open to having a third if I have $1.5M accumulated in the bank/stock market.)

I know I am a bit crazy about my planning but it seems to work decently to have goals and to go for them. After hitting this goal, I want to loosen up a bit. That $1.5M will be a huge milestone, as will having $1M before giving birth to #2. I think it’s very doable as long as I keep this job. That on its own is the single biggest challenge I have. I’m doing better than in past roles, but not perfectly at all. My MO has been staying up all night to get a lot of stuff done always and that doesn’t work anymore being a mom, so I need to figure out new ways to be productive during daytime hours. I already am in a bit of a low this year after a few communication fuck ups so I’m digging myself out one day at a time. I know I have a lot of room for improvement and I’m just hoping that my team sees I’m not only making an effort but actually being ON in hitting all my deliverables and communicating the right amount with clarity and purpose.

Now, in reality – do I think I will last at this company 2.5 more years? Probably not. Being as there’s already a bit of a record on my poor communication skills and missing a few deadlines, as soon as someone better comes along they can get rid of me. It’s just hard to find a replacement for me because I do all the crazy projects that don’t really fit a set job description… you could hire 3 different people to take over for the work I do, because the work I do requires 3 different skillsets, at least. Do I do all of these “jobs” perfectly? No. But when. you can’t hire 3 people, sometimes you settle for one person who tries her best and gets it all done. As I’ve learned as a manager and in my years in business, sometimes it’s better to keep on people who are loyal and who won’t be leaving any time soon by choice, versus hiring someone who constantly has one foot out the door. I’m sure my boss sees me as a bit of a necessary evil–which is NOT what I want to be, but it is better job security than I’ve had in a while. My goal is to, in the next year, really make sure the whole team appreciates my contributions. I think I have a path to get there but there’s a long road ahead. So I have one year in which to really kick ass (as much as someone with such horrible human skills as myself can kick) and then head into my second pregnancy as a worker that’s valued in the organization–not on a PIP or worse.

It could definitely go either way. I just need to get my act together… which is so so so hard on this little sleep. But… I can look at the next 12 months–the next 4 quarters–and within those 4 quarters figure out how I can make sure in each quarter I’ve delivered a few major high-value projects, and also didn’t totally fuck up any internal communication. If I can become the best project manager in the company that would be amazing but let’s be real – that’s not going to happen. I can, however, start setting realistic deadlines, and do my best to get everyone’s feedback on time on projects so we can hit them.

I’m definitely worried this is all going to go downhill fast, but keeping this “12 months of greatest” in my head feels more achievable than the 2.5 years of survival. I have no idea what I’ll do after those 2.5 years, but the more money I can save, the more doors that will open–whether that’s freelancing part time and staying home with my kids, getting a job at a startup that’s really helping the world somehow, or – who knows. There are a zillion things I could do… I just need the money to feel stable enough to take that leap. I’m so fortunate to be in the place right now where I have a winning lottery ticket in my pocket and all I need to do is just KEEP MY JOB.

For someone who has been fired 8 times in her career, though, that’s easier said than done.

 

Why I’m So Stressed Out About Maternity Leave

Three months ago, I met with the director of benefits at my company who, after congratulating me on my pregnancy (then just starting my second trimester), told me point blank that I was not eligible to take more than 6 weeks off immediately following the birth of my child (paid or unpaid.)

Due to the way the California policy works, I would be eligible to take 12 more weeks off (6 of them semi paid, 6 unpaid) once I hit my “year” mark at work, but given I’d only be at 9 months when I would give birth, I was basically SOL.

I did ask if I could use any vacation time to make the leave longer (since we have “unlimited vacation time”) and was told no. I asked if I could take an unpaid leave and was told that I would be let go if I did not return to work at the start of week 7. It basically seemed like I had no choice, so I just accepted it, three months into my new job, grateful to have any protection and moved on.

But now that baby is just around the corner and I’ve been talking to more moms, I’m terrified of going back to work at 7 weeks post birth. Like, I will be nursing every two hours through the night and I just don’t know how I will be able to do this. Even if I do make it to the office I’ll be a zombie and useless. I’ll certainly perform poorly leading to getting let go anyway. I mean, I’m not sure I’ll suddenly be on my A game again after 10 or 12 weeks post birth, but it sounds like at that point baby might be sleeping a little bit more through the night, and hopefully so will I.

So now I’ve contacted the head of HR and I am worried I’m just making things worse for myself right now. But I talked to my (newish) boss who basically told me she wants me to take all the time up front and I tried to explain to her I can’t. Maybe if she talks to HR I can, but really they’d have to work something out as it seems like I can’t do this on my own. I’m already so terrified about pissing my boss off–I am not the type of person bosses like to begin with, so I’m just really trying to keep my head down and get my work done… but now I feel like I’m just a walking target the next time they’re looking to downsize or just get rid of that one person who doesn’t fit on the team.

And it sucks because I don’t even want to take that much time off… I feel like I’m doing ok now… not great, but ok… ok enough to maybe every day not feel like I’m about to get fired. Except when I’m gone for 8 weeks or 10 weeks or more, well, then people will forget about all the effort I put in this year and I’ll be back to square one. And regardless of when I go back I’ll certainly be more exhausted even if I try not to be since I am baby’s food source.

There are days I think I should just quit but I know I can’t. There’s the salary plus the health insurance plus the fact that my stock is worth a substantial amount and I don’t see any of that until early next year. I’m fortunate to be in this situation but at the same time I’m crying every single day because I don’t know what to do — how hard to I push HR? I’m so new to this job. I don’t deserve any protection. I know that my skillset is somewhat unique and hard to hire for — so there’s a chance they wouldn’t find a replacement for me in the extra six weeks I’d take. There’s also a chance they would.

Part of me feels like I should just shut up, come back to work at 7 weeks postpartum and hold my breathe for the rest of the year until I vest my first chunk of stock and get some of my bonus (whatever they decide to give me) and then if I’m completely frazzled and ready to jump off a bridge I can consider leaving if necessary. I don’t WANT to leave but at that point I may need to. Or maybe I won’t. But at least then I’ll have made it through phase #1 and should be at about $650k networth. It would still be very upsetting to leave as I’d be throwing away my career at that point, along with substantial upside, but I’m scared and feel like I’m constantly on edge and really just not doing so well from a mental health perspective right now.

I wish my husband cared to make more money but he doesn’t. He provides in so many other ways and will be home to take care of the kid while I work, and for that I’m grateful. But the costs of living here are just really too high and he could be making more if he wanted to but he consults for one small business on a part-time basis and never really gets raises so every year his income is worth less and less. Now with baby the flexibility is worth a lot but it just feels like we could be in so much of a better place if he had any interest in financial stability for our family. I know that’s not his thing and I knew that from when I first started dating him, so I can’t put this on him at all. It would just make it easier if we both earned about the same, but we don’t. It would make it easier if I was better at my job or wasn’t having a baby, but all these things are not the case.

I feel really really really shitty about asking HR for more than the 6 weeks, and for every single conversation I have with my boss about my leave. I feel guilty for having a kid and I feel guilty for knowing I won’t be able to dedicate the time I want to raising it because I’ll be so paranoid that I will look bad at work that I’ll probably increase my time and output at work compensate. All the while I’ll likely be extremely exhausted. Maybe I’m thinking too much worse case scenario but how awake can one be waking up every  2 hours to nurse all night?

So many parts of me want to just quit but those parts want to quit because I hate the guilt and embarrassment of being a pregnant woman less than a year into a new job and dealing with crappy US maternity leave policies and also not wanting to seem like I’m entitled to anything just because I made the choice to be a mom. I guess if it gets to the point at 7 weeks where I just cannot return to work for my mental wellbeing, I don’t, and I deal with the financial consequences (which would be brutal to the tune of $100k-$150k+ in lost earnings, depending on when I return to the workforce.)

And I have no one to talk to about this which makes it even harder. I can’t talk to my boss–she wants me to take all the time up front and doesn’t care (nor should she) about the pay or no pay situation. I can’t talk to HR because their job is protecting the company. I can’t talk to my husband because he knows I lose my jobs often and just sees this at yet another one of those situations. I can’t talk to my family, they don’t understand. I can’t talk to my friends–my female friends who have kids have husbands who make $300k+ per year and either are stay at home moms or run part-time businesses. I can’t talk to my therapist about it because this isn’t a mental health issue this is a I need advice on how to handle maternity leave issue. So I just feel really alone right now and that’s what hurts the most and leads me to this very dark, hopeless place. I’m trying to be excited about having a baby but I’m just scared. I know I’m lucky to have even 6 weeks of covered leave at semi pay, but what happens on week 7?

 

 

Another Rough Week – Thinking About the Future

Day 9029230952 where I have at least one mental breakdown in a bathroom stall at work. One project I thought was nearly finished (and got approved by a very senior person) and then theohead of my department looked at it and requested a pretty significant change that requires a ton of extra work and budget and may not even be possible.

It didn’t help that I have been sick for the last few days and the head of my department keeps telling me to take care of myself and work from home, and then a few moments before a senior lead in HR, who apparently heard I was sick, told me I should go home — and, I didn’t want to say “but if I am working from home then I know I’ll have less of a case to make to take time off after I have a baby because our unlimited vacation policy is confusing and I just feel like I have to be at work and show my face in order to have any chance of ever seeing my kid once my leave is up” and I just, well, I was a mess today, breaking into sobs about once an hour, and trying to make it look like the red eyes were only due to my cold and nothing more. Continue reading

10 Years from Now…

In 10 years, I’ll have an almost-10-year-old. I’ll also likely be at the same exact level in my career. I’ve been writing a lot about this lately, because it’s on my mind a lot. I see others my age who are already much higher up in their careers, and even though I know it’s not the right fit for me, I can’t help feel disappointment in myself and a bit of jealously.

It’s nice to work in a larger company where there are some older folks (late 30s, 40s, etc) that are in mid-level roles and probably will never go much further. It’s hard to accept that for myself. But it’s so hard for women in my industry to get ahead, even if they’re rockstars and socially capable.  Continue reading

Thinking I might need a new gameplan…

Although I really like this job, I think I’m going to fail at it because there are quite a few unrealistic expectations and I am now thinking I should be proactive in looking for what’s next before I fall on my face.

While I appreciate that I have been given the opportunity to lead a few high-visibility projects, I have very senior team members who are unhappy with their progression. I feel like I’ve done my best in managing them (a billion moving parts) but I am not delivering fast enough, and although I don’t think my job is necessarily at risk, I am not in a state right now where I can handle being yelled at for doing my actual best. Continue reading

Never Get a Promotion Again: I Can Only Hope

Along the lines of my post the other day “Why I’ll Never Ask for a Raise,” today I decided I really don’t want an increase in job title ever again. While I’m sad that my earning potential is likely at its plateau for the rest of my working career, minus a few cost-of-living raises here and there, I’m fairly set on the reality that my abilities stop at this level.

What I’m not is a manager of a big team. I’m not someone who sets strategies and has other people do the work. I do the work. And that’s ok. It’s ok, because I feel in control of the output. And I don’t want to take credit for anyone else’s contributions. The best way I can help an organization is by getting shit done. My biggest challenge is not overcommitting, and focusing on adding value doing what I do best. Continue reading

Who can afford to own a house?

I’ve committed to remaining in our $2500/month one bedroom apartment for as long as we can stand it with our soon-to-be child. I’ve even gotten to appreciate the forced closeness we’ll have living in a small space with kiddo, especially in the first year when it’s recommended baby sleeps in the same room with parents…

However, I’m very concerned about what happens “next.” Yes, we can leave this overpriced corner of the country and live somewhere that a much lower salary would enable home ownership. I don’t even care about “owning” so much as I care about being able to afford some sort of residence that feels less like an apartment and more like a home. A townhouse would be perfectly fine, especially if it has a little grassy area in the back, and a community park nearby… Continue reading

Why I’ll Never Ask for a Raise

At my last job, I negotiated like a boss coming into my role. I managed to be rewarded with a base salary of $190k–even though it made my hiring manager clearly feel uncomfortable–and I regretted that negotiation every day on the job, feeling like I couldn’t live up to that value. That job lasted less than two years.

In my current role, I was fortunate to have a hiring manager who knew me from a prior position, and I trusted he would get me the best / fair offer possible. Could I have pushed for a few thousand dollars more a year? Sure. But would leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. The comp package was quite attractive–base salary a lot less than I had been making, but I knew making less would me feel more comfortable in my position. With bonus and such, the comp would be about the same as my prior role — but bonus isn’t real until it happens. Continue reading

Nothing Lasts Forever

My last boss (the one who fired me) — who joined the company after I was there for about a year and a few months — has apparently left after an even shorter tenure than the one I managed to maintain prior to getting the axe. I have no idea why she left — I can only guess, and I have plenty of guesses–but why she left doesn’t matter. The fact that she left less than a year after firing me means that clearly I wasn’t the problem. Or the only problem.

Now that I’m in my 30s, I’m trying very hard to view my job as just a job. I mean, it is. My job is to help my company make more money. And, if I do this, even indirectly, I likely can keep my job. We’re not curing cancer. So I try–incredibly, ridiculously hard–to care, but not care like that. Continue reading