Category Archives: Career

Too Late to Start Over?

Get me out of here. I’ll miss the microclimates, the waterfronts, the overly-gentrified streets with a variety of boba, fro-yo and ice cream shops, the security of pretending like I fit in here, that I’m one of them, that everyday I get on the train and wear my company with pride like I’m part of a cult where a job is so much more than just a job, the fantasy that somehow if I just work hard enough I can somehow afford a $1.4M starter home with a tiny backyard and raise a family here, and pay for pre-school for 1-3 kids and manage to see them enough to feel like a damn good mom.

It is so torturous to be so afraid of stepping back a thousand miles to get ahead a few feet, should you manage to make it back to where you started years later. Adulthood is not the time to romanticize potential – college was the perfect time for that and I genuinely fucked it up but not figuring out fast enough what it was I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t understand how it felt being in the same office day in and day out, or that I’d be able to do anything worthwhile in the world where someone would be willing to pay me for my contributions. I graduated, but I wasn’t ready to — I am not sure anyone is, or if that is what college is for, but 12 years ago when I received my diploma it didn’t feel like an accomplishment, only a big lie in which said I was somehow certified for life, yet I wasn’t at all ready for my future. I was suffering from a terrible depression and I was falling apart.

If I could do it all over again, I’d probably still fail to get the value out of school — there isn’t enough time, enough credits, to become a master at anything. Extracurriculars enable more time to focus on specific skill sets, as do internships, but I feel like I did a lot of those and yet still ended up with few skills and a whole lot of WTF am I doing with my life? And, it’s such a fucking privilege to even have the opportunity to make something of myself, and I blew it big time. Well, maybe I didn’t, I found a few jobs, I saved some money — but this isn’t at all sustainable.

There are so many things I hate about my current career, I want to just walk away from it entirely. I hate feeling so out of control over the success of projects. I hate having to use data to back up every single decision when I prefer to make choices largely based on intuition, because generally I understand people’s motivations and don’t mind the idea of testing things but data is a crunch in Silicon Valley when people are too scared to think for themselves since you can’t truly fail if the data told you one thing and you listened to it. I hate how everything seems so damn important and life-or-death where you’re being suffocated by stress when in the long run all the small things that felt so enormously important don’t matter – when even your “big” mistakes don’t really make a giant different in whether the company succeeds or fails because you aren’t at all involved in the product itself therefore even if you make it sound great in the long run no matter what you do, the success of the company is not at all in your hands, the product has to be great, and remain great, or at least better than other options on the market, and whether it is or isn’t your job is to make people think it is, to make sure everyone knows it’s the best. Your job is to tell the truth or to lie, it doesn’t matter, you just have to make sure that everyone wants to buy your product. You have to take data and massage it so it tells the story you want to tell, you have to constantly be manipulating everyone and everything with your fake smiles and astounding interpersonal communication skills, and pseudo-empathy and heaps of politics that get in the way of just getting your job done. And you probably don’t actually know what the hell you’re doing because no one teaches you this shit and everyone is making it up but some people naturally are good at sounding like they know what they’re doing by testing things and follow through and some results which maybe make them good at their jobs or as good as anyone can be at a job that has no actual success metric that one can achieve that is meaningful, as you aren’t building on top of work done previously most of the time but instead constantly trying to scale a mountain but starting back at the beginning every quarter and looking up at a peak that is getting increasingly taller and further away. And you have to organize your projects that you think based on data will have the appropriate impact needed and delegate this work to other people and motivate them to work their asses off to make a dent in the sea of impossible victory and you somehow have the ability to get your employees to want to work 24/7 on being part of this “team” and making an impact and doing the best work of their lives that in the end, again, is virtually meaningless, albeit potentially helpful in the short-term and that’s the best one can ask of themselves in a role where success is defined by how good of a bullshitter you are tied to some serious project management and political skills namely the ability to lie with the most brilliant poker face because that’s what great managers do best.

Can I go back to that? I know long-term success in this role is impossible, but short-term stints of holding my breath and trying to play that role are becoming easier each time – but they will never be easy. I can’t do work when I don’t care, even when they pay me a lot, and I wish I could because life would be so much easier that way — I’d be a millionaire in 5-10 years, which isn’t rich but it sure is a nice number en route to serious financial security. But. I. Just. Can’t. Do. This. Anymore. It’s not good to ask oneself if it would be better to jump in front of a train than to go to work one more day as a clear failure… if the embarrassment of failure is worse than the pain of disappearing.

Part of me wants to just say fuck it – to say fuck it because I don’t care if I spend all (some) of my money on – who knows – getting a second bachelor’s degree in something more interesting and maybe more practical… or, taking expensive classes to get certified in something or going back to grad school and getting a master’s degree in something that I can do everyday without wanting to jump off a cliff… even if it doesn’t pay that well… even if it never will pay that well.

But pay that well… I don’t know what that even means. IVF costs $50k+ and I can only “afford” that now because I have (had) a good job. If I don’t have kids by choice or by fate of my messed up hormones, then maybe it all doesn’t matter — I can live on next-to-nothing and just make art, make documentaries, tell stories, feel like my passion doesn’t have to be my professional Achilles’ heel… I just want to find a job where being passionate is not only accepted but desirable. When I get hired people think my passion is an attribute but they learn soon enough that bold and honest passion causes more harm than help in a role where sociopathy is the true required skill for success. I need a job where I can be myself… if that exists… one where my dry sense of humor and wild desire to live ethically and empathetically based on my own moral code will enable me, and ideally those around me, to thrive. I’m exhausted trying to be someone I’m not and clearly failing. I want to start over.

I’m talking to a career counselor now but not sure that will help. I went to a psychiatrist and they gave me a prescription for Zoloft which I haven’t started taking yet (and I may not because there’s a risk for minor birth defects and should I get pregnant I’d never forgive myself if I harmed my child, kind of defeating the purpose of an anti-depressant…) and I’m trying to see a psychologist but all of that is just more bullshit when I know the only thing that will help is taking some sort of action to just change everything about my life, or at least the parts which need fixing (mostly my career.) My husband is awesome and he’s my rock and I love him more than anything but having a husband certainly complicates things as these choices are not my own, they impact him as well, especially if my next steps require me to move to another part of the state or to another state. But he’s pursuing his dreams now and I think I at least deserve the opportunity to pursue mine, if only I knew what those dreams are… if only I knew what way to point my glistening arrow of optimism in an unproven satisfying future before I blindly and clumsily shoot in the wrong direction.

Who Would I Be If I Didn’t Care What Anyone Thinks?

It’s exhausting to spend your entire life trying to be someone you’re not. Even if you are failing left and right and you’re not convincing anyone, it still takes a ton of energy to convince yourself that you are doing things the right way – that there are no other choices – that you must be successful in the sense that you are self-reliant and have a job that is fancy enough not to merit any questions related to “what the hell are you doing with your life?”

Growing up with two narcissists for parents has put me into this situation, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get out of it. I hope. And, in some ways this chasing after being successful has added value to my life — at 20 if I set out to “find myself” I’d have no savings cushion, no safety net, and a whole lot more fear (of not being able to pay the rent, for example) and a much greater risk of having to ask for help. That’s not to say that I couldn’t blow through $500k in savings in the quest to find myself today, but it’s unlikely as long as I’m not too stupid. Continue reading

Focusing on What Matters

Some days are better than others, but I’m feeling a lot more positive about this transition today now that I have been able to take a step back and breathe a bit. It’s certainly not the end of the world — I’ve been through this before and I’ve recovered. Yes, perhaps the three-strikes-your-out mentality is apt for this situation… lasting 6 months then 12 months and now 18 months in similar jobs and roles, improving a bit each time but clearly not fast enough to survive.

It tastes bad to be forced out, but the taste is always bittersweet. At the tail end of one opportunity is the beginning of the next, even if I can’t see it yet. I’m optimistic and for once feeling ok about taking some time to just pause and take time to figure it all out. My focus right now is shifted to finding health, happiness, and building a family. Continue reading

Every Business is the Same.

Unless you work for a non profit, you know the routine — business has one motive – to make a profit (eventually.) Business is a mathematical equation which pits the variables of humans against an improbable outcome measured by quarterly earnings and loss. What goes up must come down, despite the general theory of relativity not being related to business, it’s still quite relevant.

It doesn’t matter what product or service you sell, how much it cures a rare disease or makes the sky rain tar,  if you’re in business, you must decrease costs and sell, sell, sell, and compete against others who are your mortal enemies due to deciding to work for a company names X instead of Y, and you have to be so sure why you’re better and why you are the best (despite your products/services known shortcomings) and you all must drink so much of the kool-aid you get a stomach ache and end up in the hospital for gulping down too damn much of the saccharine, chemically-endowed beverage. Drink up. Continue reading

What’s Next: Thoughts on the Future While Firmly Planted in the Present

May 9, 2017. Tuesday. I’m in a state of purgatory between employed and unemployed, a limbo where my employer has kindly provided a period of time in which I can complete a few key projects and look for a new job.

Although I’m well aware the logic behind this is to help minimize risk for the company, it is a luxury to have any sort of a transition period after being shown the door. Even though I collapsed into an embarrassing ball of tears upon being let go, I know they’ve done this in a very respectful way. I’ve yet to step foot back in the office — though I will later this week — and I’ve attempted to mitigate my supervisor’s faux interest in creating smooth communications regarding my “decision” to leave the business for new opportunities. Maybe others could play this game well, but I’m a horrible liar. Everyone knows (or will know) that I’ve been asked to leave, and I don’t imagine I’ll attempt to adjust the story if asked. I just want to be heads down, get my work done, and survive the last few weeks of this job before… who knows what. Continue reading

Day 3: Unfunemployment

Day 3. Told husband. He’s sad, but not surprised. He knows I’ve been struggling for a while (i.e. all my life.) The reality of the situation is sinking in. The “transition” period my boss mentioned is now clearly going to be two weeks at most, likely less. At least I have a few days to wrap up projects and try to leave on a positive note, vs the ‘ol being walked to my desk and out the door.

I regret how I handled being notified of my firing as I was not prepared in the moment and thus my reaction was shock more than anything. It was in some ways a release of accepting that I was in far over my head, or that my anxieties rapidly dug me into a hole too deep to every dig myself out of.

Looking back, I am trying to embrace this as a learning opportunity to determine where to go from here, and how to make sure I don’t fall flat on my face when I get there. In terms of my career, in 2010 I started doing some freelance work for a company that sold software to other businesses. Seven years later, I’ve worked for 4 businesses like this, and in each role have learned a bit more. I’ve never learned how to effectively build and lead teams, but I’ve learned a lot about my specific area of business, and what works and what doesn’t.

There’s still the very real issue of my poor interpersonal communications (and just overall people skills.) Had people in the organization liked me more personally, they might be more willing to forgive a few less-than-stellar moments. But I have no social skills and I don’t think this is going to change significantly enough to impact the outcome of my career.

As I meditated on life in a park yesterday in between doing probably too much work for the day I was told to not do any work, I thought about the people who I worked with over the last year and then immediately thought about my childhood — as a kid, I didn’t fit in with the kids who were highly political, smart, yet extremely competitive. I work with a clique which I clearly am not capable of being part of — a sorority of people who say they’re nice and accepting but really who want only other people like them on their team.

That’s not just this company – that’s most companies, especially small companies where people really do become this odd sort of family. I’m that odd duck cousin that no one really wants to invite to the holiday party but they do anyway to keep up appearances, and then everyone talks about me behind my back the second I walk out the door “isn’t she odd.”

I haven’t actually worked for a company where I felt like I fit in, with the exception of one which at times I felt connected with the team because they were a bit more quirky and open to weirdos like myself. The issues I have with interpersonal communication were still quite present, but the feel of the whole company was more open and accepting, so less of my energy was spent on failing to fit in.

I still have few ideas re: what’s next. I spoke with the head of a small agency who does some work for me and told her I’ll be leaving the company, and she offered to provide some consulting work to me if I was interested – which really meant a lot to me because I work with her often and she knows my talents and lack there of, and she didn’t have to offer. I might take her up on that and will at least explore the option of freelancing for a while.

I wanted to experience management and I have, and it’s not for everyone. Or, it may be for me at some point in the future, but in the mean time I want to really focus on being good at what I’m good at, and with that improve my communication skills versus trying to do this AND trying to figure out how to manage. It’s just too much at once. I’ve got plenty of time to be a manager in my career if I want to be, maybe in 20 years after my “kids” have grown up and moved out. So I’ll be 55 and then can be a manager. Or maybe it will happen sooner — or maybe it will never happen again. Freelancing can be quite lucrative as well… so that might be the right path.

No more shoving this square peg into perfectly round holes.

Was Today Always the Day?

While the timing was a surprise, the act wasn’t. Here I am, yet again, told that “it’s just not working out.”

Usually I have a good idea that it’s going to happen. I knew my boss was not thrilled with my work overall, but I thought our meeting today was going to be an opportunity for her to detail out exactly why she’s disappointed with me and then I’d get a formal warning and I’d be on my way out with a last chance effort to show that I’m not so shitty of an employee. However, when I walked into my meeting and saw the head of HR sitting there, clearly not concluding another meeting, I heard a loud stunned voice in my head go “oh. shit.” Continue reading

Rationalizing Depression and Hopelessness

There are plenty of days when life feels so incredibly overwhelming in its abstract and concrete abilities to suffocate the soul. Life is shit and beautiful all in the same blob of time, this conveyor belt with tall walls surrounding that we’re trapped on from birth until we part.

My life has become my job, and I’m not even any good at it. Regardless of what or what wasn’t told to my new boss during her interview process, she’s very quickly seeing that I can’t keep up – at least not at the level I’d need to be at for my title and compensation. She swooped in and minimized my role either hoping I’d quit or be productive enough to be worth keeping on, at least for now, and I’m trying but it’s all a big cluster.

Continue reading

What Does it Take To Be Successful in this Business?

Removing myself from the equation, I ponder what persona would be successful in a role like my own. I seem to care far too much personally about everything I do, which renders my work occasionally high quality but too often belated.  The quality, the “artistic merit” of the work is not valued – only its completion, it’s project management of other people playing their parts and getting their projects done faster and more effectively than anyone else, or at least making it seem that way while in reality surviving on little sleep to make sure everything gets done and no one has to ask twice regarding the whereabouts of a deliverable.

It’s the alienating daily experience of being an “NFP” in a strictly “NTJ” world… welcome to Silicon Valley, oh sensitive artistic one.

Everyone appears to be satisfied with this world, stressed, maybe, but focused, determined, and given those drawn to this industry are the types who always got A’s on their exams and submitted every last ounce of extra credit assignments possible, I feel like a complete outsider. I’ve never actually fit in anywhere, so the outsider role is at least my status quo. As I observe those in the world around me and age in the industry where I’m no longer the youngest in the room (now, far from it), I feel even further removed from the center of gravity here. I’m off kilter, wobbling about and hoping no one notices I’m slipping sideways, that is, until the inevitable face plant. Continue reading

Time to Move On… But Where To Go?

I thought maybe, just maybe, with a new boss and a more focused role I’d be able to keep my head down and get my shit done and I wouldn’t be a total train wreck. I knew that was highly unlikely, but the hope was there.

The historical self-sabotage rears its ugly devil head yet again, and I’m on the fast track out of this org, as soon as my superiors have enough documentation on the things I do wrong and enough new resources to manage the pieces I still run so nothing so much as briefly falls apart in my absence. The clock is ticking and soon my time will be up. Continue reading