Category Archives: Career

All I’m Asking is For is a LIttle RESPECT (just a little bIt)

Two things are blatantly obvious — when my division’s boss wants to keep someone, he throws the world at them. And when he (and those under him but over you) don’t care if you stay or walk, they treat you like less than a human being who isn’t worth their time. It’s painful, but they know as well as I do that I can’t walk unless I’m a trust fund baby (I’m not) or criminally insane (close, but not yet.) So they don’t invest any time in caring about informing me of such things as whatever kind of weird demotion I’ve been put through this year.

My new boss sent me a note this morning with my old boss CC’d about how my bonus will be paid out today (great!) and to let him know if I have any questions (uh… not so great, that means I’m not getting my full bonus, right?) Now, this year I’m lucky to get ANY bonus for many reasons —- the state of the world… being kicked out of my role and my old boss clearly wanting to fire me and likely being told by HR to wait until after maternity leave and such (no proof of this but seems to be true) I ought to be happy for pocket change as a bonus. My overall compensation this year due to my stock vesting is insane. A few percentage points in bonus distribution won’t put a dent in that.

But here is the deal — for the last 3 years… even last year when I was put on a PIP—I was paid my full bonus. I didn’t expect it last year. But that set a psychological precedent. And I know I 100% performed better this last year. I wasn’t perfect. Clearly. I suck at communication and I delivered a few projects late, even though that didn’t impact launch dates. My former boss really is over me as an employee on her team. She moved me to report to someone under her—because she doesn’t want to waste her time dealing with me. I frustrate her and she doesn’t want to have to interact with me on a weekly basis. She sees some value in my output—as long as she doesn’t have to be in meetings with me or manage me or—acknowledge my existence as a fellow human being.

So why should she take two minutes to message me and let me know I would not be getting my full bonus? Yes, I’m on leave now—but clearly she wanted to have my new boss share the news in an early review before I went out then they weren’t ready for that in time so it never happened. Instead of being honest about things and sending me a note saying something about my bonus payout and anything else hitting before I get back from leave (Ie any paycuts/title demotions) I was just ignored. Left to see my lower bonus hit my account and to do the math myself. Even the note this morning was super cryptic. “Message me if you have any questions” — from the new boss. Uh, yes I have a question… what is my bonus payout based on as I can’t figure out how this number came to be… unless my pay was significantly cut and I haven’t been told that yet either.

It really makes little sense. My bonus is supposed to be 20% of my pay. But the bonus paid out only makes sense if my salary is 150k (it’s 175k, or at least it was.) If the bonus is a percentage of 175 then I’m not sure how they got 30k. So my bigger concern is if they are flailing around when to tell me my salary has been cut by 25k. Which is possible. Anything is possible. I don’t see how I can report to my new boss as we both are at the same level in the org—so I imagine either he needed to be promoted this year, or I needed to be demoted. This is maybe all in my head, but I’m pretty damn good at intuiting these things. But if any of this is true, they really should tell me before I find out via my paycheck. I mean, if they considered me worth anything. Clearly they don’t. And it fucking hurts.

That said, everyone knows I cannot walk. The value of my stock, at least this year, is way too high. As I’ve noted before it’s a winning lottery ticket in my hand and all I’ve got to do, barring any unexpected layoff, is to hold my breath, smile with whatever dignity I have left, and take the high road until I can take the high road out of there next year. If I can take my ego out of it, I’m in a really good position to ride this out. It’s just a year now. And, I also think my old boss likes me as a person, unlike prior bosses who have fired me quickly, and she deep down wants me to win here, she just gets frustrated by me and has no time or interest in being my coach. She is undoubtedly looking at an even bigger lottery ticket, a multi-year one at that, and she sure as hell isn’t letting little ol me get in the way of wherever that rocketship is taking her. And I respect her on many levels too. I admire her work ethic, her ability to multitask and always deliver excellent work. So I am sad I let her down. That I am in this awkward place between staying and going. But it is what it is. It most certainly won’t get any better. My job is to stay employed 12 more months. To do a few really strong projects between now and then, despite being in the sleep deprived haze of year one of parenting and full-time breastfeeding. Uh, good luck to me.

I’m trying to approach the year ahead as one quarter at a time. Each is an opportunity to earn more than I earned in an entire year before starting this job, and likely more than I’ll earn in an entire year after leaving. Yes, it’s sick how I, at a time when so many are going hungry and not allowed to work, even as an employee considered an underperformer, am being paid so damn much. I don’t deserve this at all, and yet here I am complaining about getting like 85% of my bonus instead of 100%. But I know my company performed strongly this year, and my guess is a small batch of people were given less than full bonuses to manage cash flow and maybe to prevent any layoffs in the coming year should things take a turn given the whole world is fucked right now. And many companies didn’t even pay out bonuses at all, so I’m damn lucky to get anything (and they know that.) Right?

For all I know, everyone didn’t get their full bonus this year. But if that was the case it would be helpful for them to communicate this to be as well. Just some sort of explanation now vs waiting until I come back from leave and have a formal review. Then again my boss apparently thought I was returning in 2 weeks (um, 6 weeks after having my baby) — which is not correct—I’ll be out for 14 weeks, a pretty big difference. Not sure where he got the 6 weeks from but again you would think if he wasn’t sure he might ask me (I also mentioned Q2 before so not sure where he got the idea i would be back in Feb?) Anyway, yet another example of how this company clearly doesn’t give a shit about me. If they don’t want me to leave, they sure as hell are doing a horrible job encouraging me to stay—esp after this year when my stock pool is much smaller. I must be in the bucket of employees titled “meh” — subtitle “let them leave on their own… or not… we don’t care.” I’m guessing this bucket is also the first to be cut in any formal layoff, so knock on wood that doesn’t happen this coming year,

Ok, so the challenge here is how to put out incredible work while being so ripped up about how I’m sitting in horse manure at my company with no path to get out of it. So I have to sit in the muck and smell it all day long and still have a big ass smile on my face and pretend like I don’t notice I’ve been relegated to function in a big ol pile of poop. I can get up and shower and get out on my own, but man does life in poop pile pay well. I think I’ll stay a while. And try to convince everyone I just lovvvveee sitting in heaps of feces, watching my colleagues be wrapped in the finest silk and flown on heavenly jets, and doing my best creative work. Ever. Like some brilliant shit that makes them think, man, we ought to keep her around for one-more-quarter. Just four more times. Three more, really, once I am back. So doable. So smelly. Shit.

But before you roll your eyes at me and my situation, know that even my silk-wearing colleague who took over my role is struggling. I mean, I’m not sure if anyone notices or if he is just overly critical of his work, but he is facing the same roadblocks I did due to the disorganization of leadership and constantly changing direction. People think he is brilliant so he gets away with delays and such, as far as I can tell, but he sees that the whole situation is pretty challenging for anyone to thrive in. I guess that makes me feel a bit better about things. Not that he is being set up to fail as well, but that anyone in that role would struggle (plus I always had that role plus about 90 other roles making it impossible to focus on doing it well, kind of unfair to compare my performance in the position to his anyway, right?)

Well, I should be sleeping as it is 4am but I have a 3 week old who refuses to sleep in his bassinet so I’m currently under him as he grunts and farts away the night (until he wakes up and looks like a bird human from a horror movie, attempting to find my nipples fit his hundredth nightly snack.) This is what matters. I’m trying to separate work from life but it’s hard as work has always been my life. I don’t know how to make it not my life. Maybe that’s the problem. But if you look at anyone in my company, especially those on my team, who are successful — well they live and breathe their jobs. My former boss hasn’t taken much time off since she started at the company, and I’m pretty sure she worked a bit even on her days off. I think she subconsciously resents me a bit too—being able to not only take maternity leave, but also taking vacation days and using them. I took no more than my colleague but I’m sure she forgot how much he took and sees me taking a lot as I’m a mom with kids so obviously I’m not dedicated to my job. Maybe it’s all in my head but I don’t think so. Unconscious bias is real and when you already have a narrative in your head about a person every little plot point will support that narrative unless you actively try to reframe it (or, you know, care to.) Everything I do supports her story of me being a train wreck. Anything positive I do is quickly forgotten. My only saving grace is that compared to a few prior hires who were total asses (or rightfully spoke up for themselves amidst the craziness, depending who you ask) I have generally maintained a ridiculously good attitude about sitting in the shit pile. Instead of complaining about my partial bonus pay or asking for an explanation I just responded with a thank you. When my former boss told me on my half year review that I just don’t have the personality to lead, I shared that I believe one can always get better at things and I will always try to improve myself, but I am open to any role she sees fit for my abilities (and lack thereof.) i guess compared to a few of her former hires and the crapshoot of future ones, I’m at least loyal and do good work. That’s not me trying to keep my job, that’s just me. I care a lot. Too much. It’s a problem. I’m not some corporate robot. I’m in it with my full heart. I can’t be any way else.

So right now I’m setting a first goal for June 30. At this point of the year I should be at approximately $450k in income for the year. Should I lose my job at that point, I can walk knowing this was still my second highest earnings year ever. While I can make about 200k per quarter for the remainder of the year (and very much want to make that additional 400k) I HAVE to feel good about getting to the end of June if that’s all I can do. That’s just 10 weeks or so after coming back from leave. And barring getting caught up in any mass layoff, or losing my mind and telling them “what I really think,” I should be able to make it. That’s a huge win. Ginormous. I have to be happy with that. And I can still earn more this year… I could take 3 months off and get another job in the fall and still make over 500k for the year. It’s hard to see that as winning if I’m leaving another 400k+ on the table (when it is likely my income will drop below 200k in my next role) but fuck it. I have to feel good about all of this. My husband makes 100k a year yet still makes me feel crappy about maybe losing my job half way through the year. I don’t think he really should criticize me when I have managed to earn so much in a short amount of time. Maybe taking 3 months off this year, should I get fired, isn’t the end of the world. Maybe it’s the start of a new world. I don’t know. I’m tired. Tired of being in their corporate career that makes no sense to me. I don’t know what I want other than not this. I want to write, I think, but maybe movies or tv shows or something. I want to help people. To inspire them. And to be a good mom. I don’t know. I feel like — I am turning 40 in less than 3 years. And while 40 isn’t “old” it sure as hell not young. Fuck I can’t even make those 40 under 40 lists anymore at that point. I’ll have to encourage someone to start 50 over 40 who aren’t yet 50 who suddenly figured out their life’s calling but aren’t old enough to be on lists of people who did that when they were impressively old. Or something. Did I mention I have a 3 week old and I haven’t slept much in 3 weeks?

June. 30. I’m going to get there. Some how, some way. After that every paycheck and vest for the year is icing on this melted manure cake. I’m all for icing, but I’ve got to grant myself some grace. Or whatever. It’s important to recognize that even if I am falling apart in the flesh, on paper I’m kicking ass. And, in reality, I’m just, as always, holding on for fear life. So I’ll keep on keepin on.

433 Days Until Something Better.

I browse job postings on the daily. Usually they just depress me. I feel painfully unqualified for everything. While I’m in a better place than I was on my last job search, now with 3 years under my belt at a public company with a name that would be recognized, my experience still makes absolutely no sense when compared to jobs out there in the real world. But today, I found a job that actually seemed like it might be a good fit at a target company that is about 15 minutes from my new house.

However, I’m not going to apply. I’m tempted. Trust me. But between being on maternity leave and my earning potential over the next 433 days, I just can’t get into the process of attempting to get a new job. But I’m getting close to the time when I should start applying. I’m going to try to wait until 2022 before I start applying, and then I’ll let the resume outflow flood gates loose. Maybe I’ll get lucky. Or not. I guess as long as I have a job I’m in no rush to jump to the next thing. Maybe on Jan 1, 2022, I’ll still have a job. It’s possible.

I’m hopeful. 433 days sounds like a lot. But time still has its way of flying by, especially in the first sleepless year of having a kid. I’m hoping with the whole work from home situation ongoing people will just forget I exist. That’s not going to help me get ahead in my current company, but getting ahead is not actually possible anymore. I’ve lost any chance I had at a leadership role or promotion and am lucky if I don’t get an official demotion this year. So maybe I can just stay quiet, put out a few good projects, and ride the year out without people remembering I’m still on the payroll… at least until next year’s performance reviews and when I’m already at least deep in the process of applying for new roles.

But I’m so tempted to apply now and to get out. My ego is beyond beaten down. It isn’t what happened, it’s how it happened. It is a new leadership team forming for my group and not being told about it and not being placed on it — not being officially demoted yet clearly being removed from any strategic decision making. I am not at all surprised by any of this, I just feel like the least they could have done was given me a new title and explained I wouldn’t be considered a leader on the team anymore. Just some honesty and clarity. But I guess that’s too much to ask for when my boss is probably thinking I’m lucky I was pregnant and that she can’t fire me per some HR policy or something. Anyway. I’m trying not to dwell on it. I am lucky. and she could have still let me go as she has plenty of documentation on my failures and my admission of my mental health issues that get in the way of my doing a consistent good job. So. I know things are shit and they aren’t getting any better. Not at this company. It would be nice to think I could move up again. Redeem myself. It’s not happening. That’s ok. I feel humiliated and want to just put it behind me, but I can’t. Not yet.

I’m trying to focus on how to go into a new role — if I can get a new role — with a new personality. I can’t let any mania or depression lead me to admitting anything to my boss about how much of a mess I am. I need to hold it together. Keep my true self hidden. Figure out how to not overcommit and get everything done on time. I’m scared because I feel like I’m doomed to repeat this mess over and over again for the rest of my career. I need to learn how to control myself better. The last two years have been an exceptional cluster. It’s not new for me though, but normal cluster me with the exhaustion of young children is pretty much a recipe for getting fired. I can’t believe I’ve lasted this long. I put out some good work in between falling apart again and again. So I just have to get rid of the mess part and focus on the good work part. Somehow. Maybe next time I can not crumble as I always do.

It just feels like a lonely road. I don’t have anyone to talk to about this who gets it. My husband doesn’t work in the same industry and he’s watched me fall apart time and again over the last two decades we have known each other. While he used to be worried about it, he has also seen how every time I’ve gone through getting fired I’d find a new job that pays better soon after and he no longer is too concerned. He doesn’t like to hear about my work either way. My therapist doesn’t get it either. The only coworker who gets it is the one who took over my prior role, so that’s awkward. But he knows how messed up things are and how it wasn’t all my fault. I wish I had friends I could talk to about work shit. But I don’t. I mean I don’t really have many friends. I blog because who do I have to talk to about any of this? It’s nice there are people out there who read this blog and can relate, or at least understand this type of corporate environment and can see how it’s not completely my fault or have some context of even if it is then maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s ok to seek out a lower stress role and try to float, or something.

I’m tired of chasing money, I guess. Not that I was… the stock gains happened without chasing them. Now I have this crazy potential earnings amount on paper for this year and I freak out whenever I think of losing that lottery ticket. So I just have to calm the fuck down and carry on. For now. Then… well, then… I have to figure out what happens then. On my own. Because who can help me? Who would even start to understand… how I’m so “successful” and yet have no employable skills. People hire me because they think I’m brilliant and then they soon realize that I’m not. But how else can I get hired? I’ve only been hired because people think I’m special. Well, clearly I’m not special enough.

A Job Without a Title

When I was demoted/layered/whatever-you-want-to-call-it a few months ago, I was told I’m being moved to a new role, reporting to a new person, and didn’t have a say in the matter. As I was about to head into my maternity leave and was gracious to survive last year’s PIP by the skin of my teeth, and some information I knew via the grapevine via my colleague having already replaced me in that position, I knew it wasn’t worth fighting it. My choices were to agree to the change and do my best in the new role or to move on. With my stock package it makes no sense to move on, at least not now, but I’m still struggling with how it was handled and feeling like I failed myself yet again despite having done some really good work last year.

Of all the flubs in my demotion, I’d say the one that hurts the most is not actually having a new title. I was pitched the new role in a way that surely was HR- and legal-approved in advance of my leave (it’s not a demotion, it’s moving you into something that you can excel at!) I was clearly removed from direct contact with my then boss as much as possible–she seems to appreciate my work at a distance and prefer to not have to meet with me on the regular. My new position was not fleshed out. That too was pitched as my having the opportunity to build something from the ground up. However, my plans were ignored, my budget and project proposal not seriously considered, and any ideas I had brushed to the sidelines. It’s clear this role is not a priority and seems to be created for the illusion of not demoting me one month before my leave. Which, given the amount on the table I have to earn this year due to stock appreciation, I should be beyond grateful for. It just hurts. It hurts because I don’t even know what title to put under my name. I don’t even know if I’m still at the same respective level…

My boss initially wanted to have my annual performance review early, before I went out on leave. Then it got pushed a bit. Then I went out on leave earlier than planned, but I didn’t hide the fact that this might happen. So as it stands, I’ll know in a month, via my paycheck, if I managed to get a bonus last year. I should also know if I received any sort of stock refresh once that hits my account. I’m not expecting it, though. And that’s fine. I know they’re throwing the stars and the moon at my colleague who now has my former role. He is smart and hits deadlines so why not? Last year I eeked by with a standard cost of living raise (~1.5%) which was, of course, better than nothing, but also a clear reminder of how the company views me and the value I bring to it. I’m not sure if anyone who keeps their job at the annual performance review gets 0%, so I’m assuming the 1.5% is for the lowest performers in the company who aren’t asked to leave. That’s incredibly motivating.

I know it’s not just me. It is just me in that I fucked up majorly a few times last year in ways that could have been avoided. I know that the way things run is a bit all over the place, and to survive you have to just make sense of it all and have a ridiculous amount of confidence to make it seem like you know what’s going on so everyone else believes that you do. I just want to do good work, and that requires time to get the appropriate information. People to collaborate with. Perhaps a boss who cares about any of my work other than is it done on time and did anyone complain that I’m running late. While deadlines matter, a lot, some context for any delays might help. Or some support to brainstorm and come up with answers vs leaving me on my own and saying because I couldn’t handle it on my own I clearly don’t have leadership potential. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I don’t even care anymore about “leadership potential,” but I do care about career path so far as being able to pay my mortgage and not going a thousand steps backwards in terms of reasonable salary expectations over the coming years. As I approach 40, it’s clear that there are two directions to go here–up, or flatline.  I guess it’s the mom track. Or the ADHD track. Or the you-don’t-belong-here-but-you-occasionally-do-good-work-so-we’ll-keep-you-on-the-sidelines track and get rid of you when we don’t need you anymore. You’re easy to cut.

Apparently leadership requires a hyper focus on doing the things that have the greatest visibility and ignoring all of the problems that need solving. I tend to get fixated on fixing vs on making myself look good. That alone is a problem. So why am I not fixing that one?

I know this year is just a year and I’ll do whatever it takes to make it through. I’m so fortunate to be in a position where, as long as I don’t totally fuck things up (or get caught up in a massive layoff) I should be able to survive from now until Jan 1. But then what? My new role has no legs. It’s not like I’m going to stay at this company for 5 years in this new position and be successful. I’ll always be at the bottom of the pile when it comes to requesting budget and getting support of ideas. Even my boss isn’t sure what to do to support me as he also can’t get budget buy in for my projects that he thinks are important. Funny that when I joined the company 3 years ago I was in the weekly departmental leadership meetings. How far I’ve fallen.

It is just scary because I still don’t know what my career is. I have some idea of what I want it to be, but no idea how to get there. And I’m old now. Like, not old, old. But old enough that changing careers at this point is hard. Hard when you’re a mom of 2 young kids and want another and realize your career is 30 years more, max, and that’s maybe 6-10 different jobs, or less, until you’re retired, if you retire at typical retirement age. Those years will speed by in a blur. That’s life. You want to do something meaningful. There’s so little time left. But you have to pay your mortgage. And you’re not actually good at anything. Except writing incredibly long blog posts about how you’re not good at anything except writing incredibly long blog posts.

So, I’ve got this year to survive. And survive it, I will. Knock on wood. But then what the fuck do I do?

 

 

Holy Hell 2020: $850k Total Income (Can We Hit $1M Next Year?)

Ok, let me catch my breath here. Because. What? I just added up all our income for the past year and if my calculations are right (they are) we made $850k in ONE YEAR in actual income (not counting investment gains.) This figure makes me kind of numb. You would think I’d feel rich (because when you make $850k you are rich even if it’s temporary) yet… I’m blinking here and feeling like, wow, even if I never make this much again in one year, I’m shocked that I did this ever. 

  • Shocked because I’m a bipolar woman who can’t hold a job.
  • Shocked because I’m pregnant with my second kid and struggle to be a mom and a full time employee and I constantly feel like I’m going to be walked out the virtual door.
  • Shocked because a year ago my boss put me on a PIP and I was supposed to be fired in July, but I held on for dear life to make this year a reality.
  • Shocked because in Silicon Valley, it’s probably somewhat normal for 2 adults in a household to earn this much in a year ($750k of the $850k was my earnings, $100k was my husband.)
  • Shocked because I don’t deserve to make this much.
  • Shocked because many of my peers and superiors likely made 2-5x+ what I made, and are likely going to continue to do that.
  • Shocked because wealth makes no sense and while many people struggle and go hungry in this country, and I am trying to figure out my place in how to help people while also knowing that due to my mental health issues I need to save a bit more aggressively than the average person, as I could hit a wall and not be able to work at some point.

This income won’t be our income forever. 2021 could easily break this record if the stock market holds up, but in 2022 we’ll be back to about $300k (which is still crazy good compared to the average person, but not holy shit we earned almost $1M in a year good.)

For the record, this has been my income and net worth gains since 2005. Clearly this year is abnormal. (This doesn’t include my husband’s income/savings, which have remained largely flat. If I keep earning like this maybe he can actually quit his job and become a FT SAHD!)

Year Income Networth $ Growth % Growth
2005 $15k n/a n/a n/a
2006 $35k n/a n/a n/a
2007 $50k $24.9k n/a n/a
2008 $60k $15.8k -$9.1k -37%
2009 $60k $32.7k  $16.9k 206%
2010 $120k $88.6k $55.9k 270%
2011 $90k $145k $56.4k 64%
2012 $100k $200k $55k 38%
2013 $110k $253k $53k 26%
2014 $125k $299.5k $46.5k 18%
2015 $160k $342.4k $42.9k 14%
2016 $190k $416k $73.6k 22%
2017 $130k $551.3k $135.3k 32%
 2018  $300k  $625k  $73.7k  13.3%
 2019  $400k  $1.05M  $425k  99.83%
 2020  $750k $1.6M  $550k  52.8%
2021 $750k 2.1M Goal $500k Goal 31.25% Goal

I’m still. Blinking. At my google spreadsheet. It is insane. Absolutely insane how much one can make a year if you hit the RSU lotto. And PLENTY of senior Silicon Valley execs make this every year of their working lives. And are married to people who also make this much. What do they do with all that money? I mean, if I could consistently make this much for even 10, maybe just 5 years I’d be set. Forever.

That would be nice.

My taxes are a nightmare but that was expected. We went safe harbor last year knowing we’d owe a lot. I was running these numbers to figure out how much “a lot” is and it looks like we owe about $50k for 2020. That’s ok, I have that set aside. What I don’t have so neatly set aside is 2021’s first quarterly payment. It’s going to be messy because if we go safe harbor (which we probably should) we have to do 110% of this year’s taxes owed.  Welp, that’s going to be $57k…

Typically, some of that would come out of salary. Now, some of it will come out of my RSU vesting and bonus (if I get one) as that will be paid out while I’m on maternity leave. But my maternity leave pay is much lower than typical pay and no tax is automatically paid on it. I know, boo hoo rich people problems — but we need to be careful because if we don’t pay enough estimated taxes next year we’ll have a huge penalty. The year after will be fine with my income dropping substantially. Next year is… well, basically in April we owe $100k in taxes. Hopefully no additional penalties there… I think we should be ok, as our CPA said we were doing fine on safe harbor as long as we paid 110% of last year (and we did automatically, since my total income went up so much.) But next year… it’s going to be rough if I lose my job at any point as we will be forced to massively overpay early on.

Again, rich people problems. Am I a rich person? Eh, I don’t feel like one. I guess I am? I did just buy a $1000 Roomba and a $35k bathroom remodel. But I still feel like I can’t afford a good kitchen table (we’ve never owned a good kitchen table.) So there’s that.

Next year–my wish is to break $1M income. It will be close. I’m going to have fun building a donor-advised trust as well. It might be wise to do that this year also, but I think I’m going to wait as I don’t have much of a mortgage deduction yet and I’m kind of scared about the tax situation so I need as much cash on hand as possible for the time being (plus who knows what random costs will come up for this house.) By the end of next year I should have a better idea of just how much I can/should put into a donor advised fund.

I mean, if I have some horribly traumatic birth and end up disabled (or dead) things are going to change quite a bit. If I don’t… then it’s full-speed ahead to some serious wealth. People on this blog constantly ask why I stay in Silicon Valley. This is why. I want financial freedom. FAT Fire. This dream is being built here. It’s certainly not a sure thing. But it’s worth it, as I approach 40, to know that I’ll have hopefully a large chunk of my adult life when (earning and saving a lot of) money is no longer a concern. We could always pick up and retire elsewhere and live a life of luxury too, but we love it here, and I think there are still great things for me to accomplish with the right company/team. Businesses to build. Problems to solve. There are a lot of things I love about working in Silicon Valley. I don’t love the craziness behind how people change when they’re chasing their next vest date, or needing to white lie to a board to get that next round of funding. But I do love a lot of the energy here. The desire to always improve things. Never settle. I probably would get bored most anywhere else.

Moving Week. So Long Apartment. Hello House of Holes. (This isn’t a post about porn.)

Sorry to disappoint, but House of Holes is not the title of the new porno I’m staring in–it’s what the house I’m moving into looks like at the moment.

Despite our hopes to have all construction work done before moving in and before having a baby, in actuality we’re moving into a house with a circuit busted, holes just about everywhere (my favorite is the giant dark gaping hole… into the crawl space of doom where the furnace used to be) and my electric panel to replace the one that apparently self combusts without notice is going to make it in sometime around the second week of January, despite contracting for it back in mid November. Oh, and my bathroom is, well, it looks like the early stages of a home remodeling show at the second. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t take 30 minutes to transform from drab to fab.

My biggest concern about all the work still needing to be done is not the holes or lack of lighting. It’s that now we have to live in a house with people coming in and out in the height of the pandemic. We are setting it up so our bed will be in the living room on one end of the house away from most of the construction and hoping between that and going out on the days people are doing work, we can avoid getting sick.

Speaking of getting sick, my husband’s grandmother, age 96, caught COVID at her nursing home this week. The window visit to see her yesterday was scary and surreal. So far she’s doing “ok” in the sense that she was moved to a larger nursing home and is sitting up and communicating, but she got a positive diagnosis just 4 days ago (her entire group home got sick – ugh!) so at this point, who knows. I thought the window visit would be regulated somehow… I mean, it was probably fine, but after nearly a year of being so careful to avoid humans who might have COVID, it felt strange to walk a path around the nursing home past windows (hopefully all closed) with my husband and son (wearing our masks of course) to a window in the back that they opened for the visit. She sat 6 feet away, supposedly. She seemed happy to see us and my son. We haven’t seen her in nearly a year. The group home where she was went into complete lock down in March, or so we were told. I can’t even imagine what the last months were like for her. We’re not close or anything (she doesn’t talk much and is quite introverted) but still… what a sad life–already a sad life being a widow in your 90s stuck in a small house waiting to die. And then corona comes along and you can’t even see your family. Horrible.

She is 96 which is pretty incredible and I’ve read people over 95 tend to actually fare better with COVID because they have really good genes, so we’re hopeful. We, of course, don’t want to lose great grandma, and certainly not to COVID, but on top of all this–when my husband’s grandmother does pass away, it will set off a domino effect of logistical nightmare for my husband and his mother, as his mother lives in her mother’s house which is filled with half a century or more of thrift store hoarder heaven. Undoubtedly the brother who is managing his mother’s care will be quick to want to sell the house, which means it will need to be emptied and we will need to find a place for my husband’s mother to live. That alone will be a huge stress and mess whenever it happens. If it happens to happen the week my second child is born (which would be perfectly on schedule for my curse, by the way–my grandma died 4 days after my wedding, dad died 7 days after my first son was. born) then, well, it’s going to be what it is but I know my husband, faced with the reality of this situation happening now is having a heart attack every few minutes at the moment, besides being devastated that his grandma caught COVID just weeks before a vaccine availability for people her age.

I was not feeling optimistic about her situation until seeing her yesterday, and now feel a bit more hopeful. We talked to a guy who works at the nursing home (he was wearing a mask and we were outside but he got close to us to take our temperature which I found kind of crazy as if WE had COVID we weren’t going to give it to anyone during a visit where we stood outside, and HE was clearly around COVID patients all day and got, you know, within 3 feet of us to take our forehead temps. I held my breath when he took it but of course my 2 year old son did not know how to do that (he was wearing a mask, but I’m not sure how effective masks are when you’re that close.) So I’m feeling more optimistic about my husband’s grandmother recovering from Coronavirus and less optimistic of me not having Coronavirus when I go into labor. Even if I didn’t go to visit her, my husband was going, and he wanted to take our son, and it was outside (and his grandmother was sitting inside 6 feet away and we were all wearing masks), but I just feel uneasy about that whole situation. California is going to shit when it comes to our Coronavirus numbers, but in this case we chose to go near a facility with known patients. In my 35th week of pregnancy. With a husband who has high blood pressure. And a 2 year old who would probably be fine if he caught Corona unless he had a horrible reaction to it, but who knows what it does to kids over the long term?

So that just adds another layer to everything right now, everything which has so many layers I’m just letting them build up at this point and not attempting to peal them. I can’t. It’s too much. Even my upcoming performance review (which was now moved to January since I’ve opted to work a bit longer after finding out how much money I’ll be losing if I take off the extra 2-3 weeks before my delivery date) is barely registering with me, despite the occasional mental loop about how my boss and my former boss with (possibly) cautiously tell me about my demotion and how I’ll never be a leader and carefully document all of my mistakes last year so they can throw me out as soon as I get back to work after maternity leave and pass whatever HR qualified period is required to not fire a woman who just had a baby. Of course, I’ll do what it takes to be GREAT for as long as I can when I get back (which is difficult when you just had a baby and do not sleep–my first PIP came a week after I got back from maternity leave and I was losing my mind, so who knows what will happen this time.) I don’t know. I have a lot of money on the line right now. And I feel like my new role is actually good for me in that I can get the work done to an acceptable level. Maybe that’s what my former boss is thinking too. She is actually a nice person and seems to like me enough and she knows how much $ I have on the line and if she wanted to she could have fired me last year (I gave her quite the runway between the PIP and announcing that I’m pregnant so she didn’t have to feel like she was stuck with me) and she decided to keep me, or decided to not make it a priority to get rid of me at the time. Because I did do some good work. She even said so. I was doing really well the first half of the year. Then I had 3 bad months. Then I was demoted and told I’ll never be a leader.

Anyway, maybe it’s true. Or maybe I’m just going through a lot in my personal life right now and it’s not the time to lead. I just wish I could have a job where I didn’t have to constantly worry about getting fired. Layoffs happen and can’t be avoided, but I don’t want my performance to ever be part of the equation. I look at my friend who is just so confident and always gets his work done, despite his work not being too complex yet, and how that led to his promotion into my former role. Now, said friend is seemingly really good at strategy for this specific position, and he deserves to move up in his career and have a shot at running the show. Still, I’m unclear how the work I’ve done (and what I’ve put out) is so horrible over what he might do. People just have a negative perception of me because I’m a bad project manager, but all of my contributions have been solid as far as I know. I just missed a few deadlines (which for the most part didn’t even push out project launches, just internal deadlines that were set too aggressively in the first place.)

Where I really failed was in not focusing on a strategy that tied to my boss’s plans close enough. But even that was pretty difficult to do as those plans changed and there was no strategic guidance. So I came up with a plan based on whatever it was I picked up on working remote from the various teams and people seemed happy with it at the time. I tried to execute on that plan and I did execute on it, but not in the way I should have. I should have made things simple, delegated work to lots of people, and lead in making other people do things so things got done and everyone was aligned and excited and motivated and everyone was like, damn gurrrrlll, you are the best leader ever. Instead I came up with a plan (collaboratively, mind you) and then tried to get the work done by reaching out to people across the organization vs mostly on my team. Stuff was pretty complicated and I wanted to make sure I put out things that were accurate so it took me too long. I set unrealistic deadlines, but for me deadlines are always unrealistic because I have a mental flaw where I can’t actually focus on work until the last minute, and then somehow the brain block opens and suddenly I am doing work that would take someone 2 weeks in one night. And no one knows the difference. Except when I’m so anxious about the situation that I can’t even get that one night. Or a bunch of people review the work and change their minds after they told me one thing, so I have to change it again. And I don’t know how to say “this is done” because I want to make everyone happy.

Anyway, wasn’t this a house about those dark holes in my house? The point was, I’m just not super focused on my job situation right now in that I have little time to dwell on it outside of hoping that whatever this review is, I’m given some sort of opportunity to take the rest of the next year to do my new job and am not given an actual demotion yet. Even if my title drops to the next tier, if I can keep the same pay and vesting schedule I would lose out only on a percentage of my bonus next year. Which would be sad but not the end of the world. I don’t know if they can take back any stock grants at this point, even with a demotion, so hopefully I can hold on to that.

Maybe after I’ve moved to my new house, set up an actual office (vs working for the past year FROM MY BED in my ONE BEDROOM APARTMENT) and have gotten past the first few sleepless months of having a baby, I can actually do a decent job. Decent meaning I unlock the mystery of making plans for a project that everyone is aligned with, from starting ideation to launch and beyond, and every single project I manage is so perfectly executed that no one can say a  negative word about me. There is absolutely nothing I can do to move up in this organization again, but that is not my goal. I have 15 months of survival, and then I can evaluate where I’m at. In 15 months, I hope to have this job, a healthy baby (in addition to my healthy toddler), a healthy husband, a vaccinated family, a house that hasn’t burnt down (and hopefully is free of holes outside of the purposeful ones in the plumbing and entryways), and then I can stop and figure out the rest of life. Do we stay a few more years? Do we move? Do I get a new job? Do I keep this one if I’m actually good at it (despite no room for advancement?) I can figure that all out then. Right now, this is a month-by-month, week-by-week, day-by-day survival game.

The current level involves figuring out how to hire a GOOD handyman to fill in the 3×3 hole into the vortex of doom in my closet (not to mention a matching portal into the attic), and how to fix the electric circuit that my bathroom remodelers say they didn’t break (they probably did but they claim the HVAC people did this, despite us knowing it was working the night of the HVAC work being complete), and all the other things that will undoubtedly go wrong once we move in. I’m trying to just embrace this all as the sitcom of my life, because when you just accept that you’re living in a comedy, even the most tragic can be spun up with hilarity to get you through it. I’ve found no amount of money can protect you from the chaos that is life. Or maybe, with some ridiculous amount you can cushion yourself from it a bit (at some point you can have an electrician living with you in your contractor’s quarters) but generally speaking, life is shit for everyone. It’s good it is, I guess. It’s more shit for some people but everyone suffers at some point, $100M in the bank or not. So I embrace my varying levels of suffering, from my first world problems of a hole-ly house to those that are a bit more substantially shitty, such as when my father died a week after my son was born in a rehab facility that I’m still convinced was negligent/not where he should have been in his condition.

Right now, I don’t know how many more bad things I can take. Birth is scary as fuck and so many things can go wrong. We don’t hear about them because we’re told as long as mom and baby are healthy/alive, then things went well. That’s not really true. Lots of things can go wrong and mom/baby survive. My first birth was not horrific compared to ones I’ve read about since having my son (you know, compared to woman who had emergency C sections where the numbing meds didn’t work AND THEY FELT EVERYTHING) or those who hemorrhaged and blacked out after giving birth and aren’t sure how they’re alive) so I’m a bit terrified of what could happen… but for the most part births are pretty standard and women have their babies come out one way or another and either way is fairly safe and babies don’t typically come out not breathing and have to go to the NICU like my son and even if they do they eventually adapt to the world and thrive like my son is doing now.

But it’s hard not to worry, especially 5 weeks (or much less) until I do this all over again. I’m both oddly looking forward to it (a redemption birth, a glorious smooth birth where baby comes out and is placed on my chest and crawls to my breast and latches with no problem and we just have that beautiful, peaceful moment I hear so much about) and terrified out of my mind about all the things that could go wrong. And then just thinking through the logistics of how to make sure my son is safe while we go to the hospital… we have somewhat of a plan but it isn’t perfect. If I’m induced, it would be a bit more controlled (pick up my MIL, bring her to our house, set her and my son up for a few days of safe living) but if I go into spontaneous labor (which is the hope) then it will look more like driving 30 minutes to the hospital while I’m screaming in pain, dropping me off, either picking her up after and driving her back to my house (another 45 minutes) then driving back to the hospital and parking (another 45 minutes) until my husband gets back to be with me (leaving me alone for a good 2 hours+ while in active labor) or he drops my son off at her house which is fine for a day but not safe for an overnight, which is going to happen if it seems like I’m about to pop (I think that’s more realistic… we book it up to her house, drop my son off and continue on to the hospital together. It would be about 45 minutes from home to the hospital at that point, with the stop.) Then once I’m in recovery and given the all clear, my husband can head out and drive my son and his mother to our house, and then at some point come back to be with me and baby at the hospital. Or if I’m doing exceptionally well he can stay home with my son and his mom and get some rest while I manage baby at the hospital overnight, and then get picked up to go home in a day or two and come home to a husband who isn’t out-of-his-mind exhausted (this may be the best scenario.)

I can’t believe it’s five weeks away (and there is a chance my doctor won’t let me go beyond 39 weeks which, good ol math tells us is FOUR weeks away.) FOUR WEEKS until I knock on wood have ANOTHER kid. Life is so strange. I have definitely adjusted to being mom to one. My son is awesome.  I don’t see him as a little kid. I mean, I do in that he’s just innocent and honest and has those moments of pure joy that only someone without a grasp on the hours of the world can have. But he’s also just this little person with his own ideas and opinions and needs. And I love him to pieces…

And I don’t know how I’m going to love another kid but I’m told you just do. I think I can. I’m crazy and want 3 kids. I feel like at the end of the day, what matters to me most is family. I grew up with such a big extended family and now it’s really just us. My husband has some cousins nearby with older kids, but we don’t see them often (even pre COVID.) I wish I could be more social with them but they’re just rather adult and normal and I don’t know how to connect with adult and normal people. I mean now we can talk about kids, which is something to talk about, but I just feel like a teenager around them and they’re all such grown ups. I may be 37 but I get along with people who are mentally 16, which is the problem. They are super nice, but if I went to dinner or drinks alone with them (esp the two women who are in their early 40s who are both super nice but just superrrr normal) it would just be awkward. Not that I really connect with my extended family, but they’re at least east coast types who have big personalities and I feel a bit more comfortable around them. Anyway, I want to build my own family. And I can… I have. And to me, 2 kids is great and 3 is even better. Sure, there’s no guarantee my future kids will not be little demons but… I don’t know… my heart wants a fairly big family. Not huge. But 3 seems like the right number. It always has to me. I’ll get through #2 and see if I still feel this way. I’ll be 38 before I can start trying for #3, and I’m throwing around the idea of doing IVF both to minimize risk of defects at that age and also sex selection. Which is horrible in my politically correct mind where one should not care about the sex of their children but then I also really want to have a girl and I think I’d be sad if I didn’t at least try to make that happen. IVF will be expensive, so I’m saving up for it, but at 38/39 even if I didn’t want to do it for sex selection I still might need it. So that’s possibly in my future. But for now, I want to have a healthy birth and a healthy baby and get to know my new kiddo.

My heart is so ready to see my son meet his sibling. He’s 2.5 years old and seems to sort of get that a baby is coming. He knows I’m growing a baby and we watch YouTube videos of funny babies so he understands what a baby is. I tell him baby is coming in January and he says “NO! FEBRUARY!” and he often points to my stomach and says “BABY!!” I hope he does well with all the change coming up… the move next week (we’ve been bringing him to the house often and he definitely is comfortable being there, but I don’t know how he’ll feel when we no longer can come back to the apartment) and then they’ll be a new kid living with us! But in February grandpa will be moving in and that will be great for him since grandpa is his best friend. Grandpa has a fall and hasn’t been to the doctor as he apparently didn’t enroll in Medicare Part B (eventually I’ll write another post re: my learnings of Medicare’s insanity) and he also wants to avoid doctor due to COVID concerns (which I understand) so grandpa who is living with us to help with our son when we have our new baby will be less able to help and also prevent us from hiring help until vaccines come out since we can’t risk exposing him to the virus, so there’s that. At least grandma loves to watch our son as well and she never uses her time off so she can spend some time with us and  our son too, even if she doesn’t live with us. It will all work somehow. I don’t know how people do this without any help. I just want us all to survive.

I’m so ready for 2021. And filling the holes in my house and those in my heart opened during my last birth. It’s been a rough 2.5 years. Through all of it, I’ve held down a job, increased by net worth substantially, and have set my family up for a clear path to $2.5M in net worth by the end of 2021 or early 2022. We should clear $2M in the next week, once the rest of my stock vests, even after all the taxes I owe for this year. I don’t know how that doesn’t feel like an accomplishment… not long ago I was looking at $1M like… that’s never going to happen, and here we are, $2M with 1.5 kids and a mortgage and so many crawl space and attic entrances!

Things are really good, despite being also not so good. I want to see my mom again soon (even though she’s a narcissist, I still miss her), and I want to see my sister and my extended family and I want life to go back to normal. I want my husband’s grandmother to kick COVID’s ass (this woman will live to 110) and I want to have one of those childbirths that starts with contractions at home and ends with a birth at the hospital where baby comes out screaming in a good way. I can’t plan for 5 years from now or 3 years from now at this point. It is now until April 1, 2022. That is all that matters. We get through this, I keep my job, we don’t get sick, we pay our mortgage on time, we fill those house holes (maybe with the play doh we’re giving our son for Christmas), and we learn how to be adults. Maybe we too can become normal adults and I can go to dinner with my husband’s cousins (or invite them over) and discuss such things as my son’s school and how to maintain a backyard and house hole filing. Or whatever normal adults talk about.

What’s clear is that this now is life and I’m going to live it the best I can. Accept the holes as part of what makes it interesting. And survive until April 1, 2022, with 15 months of potential life-changing net worth growth ahead, I’m in such a good place to set my family up for many years of relative stability (even if we stay in a HCOL area), and for once I feel really good about making it. Not forever. But 15 months. I got this. Maybe even the holes will be filled in by then.

Finding Confidence and Value

There are some things I think I’m pretty good at. Work wise. The issue is, I’m not consistent. I’m not able to put the final polish on anything. I’m a starter. A connector. I can understand complex ideas and opinions and simplify them so they make sense, whether that be streamlining messaging or a complex process. I see the big picture and follow all the pipes through their knots and see where we can move the fewest pieces to fix what’s broken. I enjoy solving problems like this. Building systems.

I do not enjoy executing on said systems or taking projects across the finish line. I get things going. I step in and see what can be optimized. Lack of logic, failure to appreciate efficiencies, and the worst–internal politics and recognition for perception over performance–are what gut me the most. Reward for following broken processes vs a culture hungry to always do better. To solve real problems versus do what it takes to look like you’ve got things in order. Fixing the foundation instead of swimming in quicksand and dragging everyone in with you.

It really hurts that I was not put on the new leadership team in my group. I’m not surprised. I sometimes talk even more than I think. But I’m not valued for what I do best. I’ve been demoted to a role where I primarily am a project manager, which is just about my weakest skill. I’m trying to see this as a positive — a year of getting better where I can really use time to improve. It’s ok. I like being able to focus on this and figure out how to be a better communicator and get super organized with project plans and such. It’s painful for me, but necessary to learn how to do this better.

I try not to think about how I’m not in the leadership group that is clearly focused on strategy and direction. I’ve gone from trusted advisor to my group’s VP to someone she would rather never talk to. Yes, it’s that bad. No, I’m not imagining things. I don’t think she hates me, per se, but she doesn’t see me as supporting her own goals right now outside of maybe a few projects I’ve put out that have gotten enough recognition for the team. But does she value my ideas and strategic vision for anything? Clearly not.

In exploring some ideas this morning, I thought for a moment if there might be anyway I could regain her trust and move back up the ladder. But… it’s impossible. The only way to move up in this organization would be to leave my department entirely. I’m stuck. I can do amazing work the whole next year and it will get me nowhere (though worth doing to keep my stock at the moment and focus on this project management and communication skillset I so desperately need to improve on.) But it hurts. It’s not like we’re a giant team and only a few people are in this leadership group. It’s pretty clear I’m not in it when I should be in it, if I hadn’t screwed up so badly. If I hadn’t gotten myself into a situation where my boss probably has had multiple meetings with HR on the best and safest timing to fire me.

Sigh.

I’m trying to just focus on reminding myself that I am good at some things. I think this is just the wrong job for me, and probably the wrong department. I have no idea how to chang ecareers right now but in a year… if somehow miraculously we can get close to the 3M networth mark, well, then maybe I can really explore this. Go back to school. Try something new. Take a risk. Take some time. Stop feeling like the scapegoat of my organization which just makes me perform worse.

Since I can’t compete with the polished professionals who thrive in corporate culture and manage to put off the impression they never make mistakes (and get really mad at you when you do), I need to find a career and environment that encourages people to collaborate and fail forward and be themselves. That isn’t here. I know that will never be here.  I thought, for a while, my unique viewpoint was valued. I felt happiest when my boss asked me to review something she was working on and provide input. Then that stopped. I’ve been banned. Blacklisted. Relegated to the bottom of a very short totem pole that is top heavy. And I’m trying to avoid jealously because it’s useless and really I know I did this to myself. If only I hit deadlines this year… even if my work wasn’t as good… I’d probably still be clinging on to my previous role vs, well, whatever this is. This limbo of title-less existence. Being forgotten and either purposefully forced out or given the “we hope you leave” treatment so eventually I do. Well, I’m sad about it. It is what it is. But either I am good at what I do and I’m undervalued or I suck at what I do and I desperately need to find something else TO do as I’ve got 30 some-odd years left of work to go and while this is definitely work it sure isn’t working.

I don’t know anymore.

This morning, like many mornings, I woke up excited about my job. I had finished a small project with high visibility, hit a pretty unrealistic deadline, and the quality of the output was actually strong. By noon, I was a mess of tears, after getting scolded for sharing the project too early, not communicating properly, and failing on many levels. The thousandth time I broke down in tears this week.

I can’t win. I really can’t. I know communication and project management is not my forte. But I feel like no matter how hard I try I ALWAYS mess up. No one cares about the quality of my work. As my coworker friend told me—I put out products that are consistently great. I care about the quality of work I put out. But our company doesn’t value that. They are about perception and quantity and speed. And the people who can look like they are on top of things get ahead. No one cares about the actual work quality. Although they seem to get caught up in random details and hack apart your work until your confidence is entirely gone.

It’s really not a good situation right now. But I have 12-15 more months in pure survival mode and then I can focus on a significant transition. These last few weeks of emotional roller coaster before I am out for a few months. Coming back and not over committing and hoping they forget I exist long enough.  Then what? I don’t know. I’m unsure I can get through next year. I just want to feel like my work is appreciated. I know I’ll never be seen as a valuable employee. To the head of the department, he will always see me as the small company employee who has no pedigree. My value is no longer valued. We can attract better talent now. Every time I do something half decent I’m told why it is definitely more than half horrible.

I just don’t know what I am good at. I am tired of jobs where I’m hired to do too many different things. I burn out too fast. But if I do just one thing, what is that one thing? Why am I not allowed to hire a team — and instead am left to fail on my own? Why is it the guy who is stepping into my former role was handed a strong agency to support him, and told he would get a headcount? I get why people trust him (he comes across as super confident) but how can I succeed when I’m put into another role where I’m not given resources or support to succeed. Or maybe that is the point. Maybe they want me to fail. Or don’t care. They don’t have time to deal with me either way. Meanwhile they are asking my coworker what they can do to make him want to stay. They treat him like royalty and me like horse manure. Yes he has done some great work, but is mine that bad compared to what he has put out? He just sounds better when he talks. I sound like 2 seconds after a train wreck.

Someone commented on my blog that I should leave Silicon Valley. Yes, I should. I feel stuck. I don’t want to leave and I have been fighting it as this place has been my home now for 15+ years. And my husband grew up here. But I no longer feel like I want to stay here. I no longer feel like it’s worth this insanity. I want to spend time with my kids. Have a nice house for, I don’t know, $600k, with enough money to travel and enjoy life. Our networth is basically $2M right now and all I can do is think about how I’m going to be the scapegoat employee for the rest of my life just to pay the mortgage. Why?

I started talking to my husband about moving in a few years. He doesn’t want to, but also the idea of early retirement is appealing to him. And early retirement, esp in another year or two, is very possible for us. I think with $3M (including home value after sale) we could buy a $600k house somewhere else, work flexible jobs, travel, enjoy life, do what matters. He is intrigued. I worry about moving somewhere new with kids. I know people do it, but it will be hard for us. I don’t have many friends but I have a few here. I worry about starting over.

I don’t know what it will take to convince my husband we need to leave. I don’t seem to have much of a say in it—despite being the breadwinner. I don’t know where I want to move anyway. And we just bought a house! — but I’m really over it all. Covid is yet another reminder how short life is. I never thought I’d be looking at a family networth of $2M but here we are. It feels hollow—nothing to celebrate. It is incredible and I’m grateful—but who cares?

I want more than whatever this is. I’m tired and stuck. In a year, I need to find something better here, or GTFO.

One Week to a Horrible Performance Review!

I shouldn’t be surprised that it was bumped early, but having to listen to a half hour reminder of my failures over the last year is not the way I want to spend the last day of work before I go on maternity leave. Nor is having a joint review by my former boss who has already demoted me (though an official title demotion will likely happen AT the review) and a new boss who doesn’t like me and who is likely being forced to manage me for a few months until he can decide if I stay or go. Probably. Who knows.

Last year I was put on an unofficial PIP. They gave be a “3” on my review, which was overly kind, and the only low number that doesn’t lead to being immediately fired. I was given a 1.7% cost of living increase and told I have a few months to shape up or I’m out. And for a few months it felt like maybe I could pull off a miracle. Even my then boss said I was doing well. I had turned a corner. I stepped up and she seemed happy with my performance. Briefly. Oh-so briefly.

Then, I crashed. I couldn’t keep it up. It became clear I would never be a leader. She reminded me of this at my half-year check in. I’m just—not likable—or something like that. I don’t have the right personality to lead. I never will. I’m going to be put in a new role. I was not given a new title. I was not informed how my colleague would be replacing me (though I basically knew because we are friends.) Nothing was communicated to me other than that I suck and I’m being moved to a role that’s “a better fit for my skills.” In other words “we aren’t firing you yet because you are pregnant and we are making a role for you that sounds like a lateral move so you don’t sue us.” Not that I would. They have enough on me and my failures. I have enough on me to last a lifetime of I give up.

I cry a few times a day. Still. 37 year old grown ass woman and mom of almost 2 and yet I cry because it feels so hopeless. And now that I’ve been banned from all strategic conversations I feel like I’m at the end. Again. But holding on as long as I can so I don’t have to try to find a new job with a newborn and a toddler. And, mostly, so I can try to figure out what job I can get that is remotely sustainable. I don’t know what I’m good at. I have spurts of energy and contributions here and there, but I’m not consistent enough. And I have a personality like nails on a chalkboard, apparently. Either I should run for President of the USA or maybe settle for … oh, I don’t know what. The low paid jobs are the hardest. It’s easier for me to hold a higher paid job than a low one. But I can’t hold any job for that long. The three plus years at this one included 6 months mat leave, and maybe — if I don’t get fired next week — I’ll make it to 4 years with another sleep deprived post baby hiatus. That doesn’t really count. The reality is, I can’t hold down a job. I am hired because I work my ass off and do a billion jobs ok enough until my company is big enough to hire people who know what they are doing. Then they get rid of me.

This performance review is going to be humiliating. I am glad it’s via zoom as I can pinch myself constantly off camera as I do when I try to keep myself from crying or blurting out something pointlessly defensive. I will listen and hope that this review doesn’t involve firing me a day before I’m scheduled to go on maternity leave. That seems pretty harsh, so maybe that isn’t what is happening. Maybe it’s another performance plan, to kick in when I come back. Maybe it’s a long list of documentation of all the ways I fucked up this last year. It certainly isn’t a “4” or a “5.” I’m lucky if it’s a 3 and no financial demotion and no PIP. How could it be anything better than that?

Filling out the self review was rough. I couldn’t think of anything to write and then at the last minute I put too much. I’m embarrassed my new boss (who was not so long ago my peer) will see it. I’m embarrassed that he will also see my compensation, which feels weird as I might be making more than him, which would make him even more likely to give me the axe ASAP. My old role at least made sense at that comp level. New role, not so much. So maybe they reduce my pay. Maybe they want to rush to do the review so I’m not surprised that while on leave my salary has gone down $30k a year.

Or I’m overthinking it and they just want to go over everything so when I come back in April or May they don’t have to deal with it.

Regardless, I’m hoping it is less painful that I expect it will be. I can’t imagine there will be any surprises. They’ve mostly come already. Except a financial and title demotion. That would hurt. But it’s possible. I hope not. In any case, I have one year to hold on and then it’s time to start looking for a new job. I don’t want just any job. I want one where I can be a 4 or 5. I hope I can find it. I am seriously depressed and trying to keep my mind off my never-ending failure. I guess right now I have to breathe through being told how horrible I am by 2 people and thank them for their feedback and then put all my energy on surviving next May through December. The home stretch is in sight ahead.

It is all my fault, the failure and such. But I also can’t figure out how not to fail. I spend too much time thinking about how many months I have left until my life insurance policy makes it past the 2 year look back. I don’t think I’d ever really end my life but sometimes it seems like a good option. I don’t know. I just want a path to being ok. I’m far beyond wanting to be exceptional at anything. I’ve moved on to wanting to support my family. But I can’t even do that consistently. If I get fired now, it would be my first time getting fired as a breadwinner, and with two kids to boot. I’m used to getting fired when there is no mortgage to pay or mouths to feed or lights to keep on—but what happens now? Sure I have a sizable emergency fund but it’s just another sign that I’m incapable of handling life. So. I don’t know. I don’t know how to do any of it. I’m putting so much money into this house and my contractor makes me feel like an idiot and my husband reminds me how I can’t communicate and blames me for the contractor’s confusion and he’s probably right. Meanwhile the circuit for our overhead lights is out and our hot water won’t turn on and I have no idea if any of the work on the house is being done right and I don’t know how to be assertive and ask in a way that gets real answers. This whole house fixing process is a whole new layer of me feeling like absolute shit all the fucking time.

There really is no joy to be had in anything anymore. Except sometimes seeing my son and his happiness and remembering that once upon a time I must have been happy too. I mean, I’m not sure when. From a young age I was taught everything is my fault. That I’m broken. And for a while I thought maybe that was a false narrative. I tried to escape it. But that’s actually the truth. Something is wrong with me. Know me for more than a few minutes and you would notice it too. And, so, this is why I cry. Maybe it’s self pity. Hopelessness. A muffled cry for help that I silence because there is nothing that can help. I just have to keep moving. Get through a day at a time. Eventually the days will add up. My investments will compound. One day I’ll get somewhere. But I don’t know where it is I am going. And I don’t even know if I’ll notice when I reach the destination.

A Bruised Ego and Preparing to Move On

I wasn’t a good fit for the role. Not in an environment where my boss wants someone who leads by being aggressive and confident to the point no one else’s ideas matter. I don’t want that job anyway. My idea of leadership is meeting with different team members, understanding their needs, solving their problems. Maybe I didn’t do that well either, but I will never be the kind of leader she wants so it makes perfect sense she has replaced me with my coworker.

Is my ego bruised? Of course. It’s painful to fail. It’s painful to look back and think — “If only I…” which in this case is pretty much if only I focused on not fixing things in the weeds and building an engine but instead just focused on producing high impact stuff that got noticed then maybe I would still have my job/title. I’d still be struggling, though. My best bet is to take my learnings here and apply them elsewhere. The timing is bad to do that though, and for all of the bruised ego and feeling like despite doing some good work this year no one has noticed or cared, I have to say I am ridiculously fortunate to be in a place where I am about to be able to step away from work for a few months, have a kid, reset, and come back to a new role that clearly isn’t my “forever role” but one that I can likely hold onto for the rest of the year — if I can manage being shot in the gut daily with reminders of both my failure and how my overly confident work friend is basically going to leverage the engine I built (and got no credit for) to be hugely successful. If he maybe would make an effort to recognize this publicly it would feel a bit better but he won’t. And I have to bite my tongue and smile and pretend I’m ok with how everything has been handled, which I’m clearly not, but what does it matter?

I wish I was in a position to succeed with the new role, but it’s already a mess. I realized I need to basically—at all times—focus on “the next 30 days.” That is, in a marathon, or war zone for that matter, you can’t think that far out. So I have 30 days to survive and then another 30. I can plan a bit for the future but primarily I need to be heads down for these mini sprint battles. I need to give them no reason whatsoever to say I didn’t achieve my commitments. I need to deliver quality work but more importantly I need to deliver work on time. As I watch my friend build his empire and try to not be too jealous. Because at the end of the day he deserves the opportunity to grow in his career and even if I held onto the role for dear life it was never going to be a fit for me. Neither is “this” job, but I think from a pure survival mindset “this” job allows me to get through the next year, put out some decent work, and prepare to move on. It’s really a blessing in disguise. I need to focus on gratitude and not all of the other shit. So my coworker is basically taking the woman I hired and the system I built to make his plans successful without giving me any credit (though he has told me as much.) Why do I care? Should I care?

What hurts most is going from being a strategic leader on my team to being kept out of all planning. I don’t understand why I can’t be involved at all. I mean, I do — my boss clearly doesn’t like my ideas and thinks I would overcomplicate things — but this whole transition is so horribly unprofessional and petty I can’t help but be hurt a little. I’m sure in her mind she’s thinking I’m damn lucky to still have a job (true) but things like how I still don’t have a new job title (hasn’t even been mentioned) while my coworker is clearly getting promoted into my current title doesn’t sit well. I’m planning to not ask and just keep my title on public channels for as long as possible. It will help immensely when looking for a new job.

Now, I know my long-time readers think that it’s probably all me… and a lot of it is… but I often end up with bosses who don’t jive with how I work. I respect my boss for her ability to function like a machine and get lots of power and not care about people or what makes sense much so she can focus on the business stuff that matters and will help her survive and continue to move up. She is a beast. And I say that in a good way. Really. But I don’t like working for people like her. I like working for people who are inspiring and collaborative and who want to work together to achieve common goals. I hope to find that in my next role. Whatever that is. Whenever that is.

There is a slightly but growing possibility that I may make pre tax 700-900k next year. Which is absolutely insane. Now, I know you are thinking holy hell shut up and do you work whatever they ask of you even if that means standing on your head in a vat of horse shit for hours at a time. And, hey, I’m with you. Before this job the most I made was 190. Which is nothing to shake a stick at salary wise, but I never dreamed I would make 700k+, let alone in one year. Even after tax it’s an impressive number.

Knowing I am making that, possibly, I understand the not-so-nice behavior of my colleagues, esp those in more senior roles who are likely looking at 2M+ in one year. We are all in the boat of tight golden handcuffs. The difference between everyone else and me is that I want out, so while part of me is sad I’m not looking at $700k+ total comp in perpetuity, another part of me is ridiculously grateful that after bonus season in 2022 I won’t have a strong compelling reason to stay. I figured at that point I need to find a job that has at least 250-300 total comp to be equal (and less the following year as I vest the last of my early grants) — still a lot, but at that point, if I’ve really saved 300k+ after tax and after expenses this year, I feel like it’s a good time to take a step back, make a little less, and find a job that isn’t destroying my sanity for once. If such a job exists. This company and (past) role on my resume will likely open a fuck ton of doors that weren’t available to me years ago. I’m lucky. I’m in a good spot. I need to be happy for my friend who is moving up in his career, happy that it worked out (as planned) that I am somewhat protected for a few months through maternity leave towards my final vest date (even though I could get caught up in a mass layoff and that may happen and would be sad), happy that my boss sees value in this one area I’ve done well in, where I can “live out my dying days” making stuff people will probably like enough to not immediately fire me.

So. Yeay. Woohoo. I did it. Or I’m close to doing it. I’m 60 days (or less) and counting to maternity leave. I’m remodeling a bathroom. I’m hoping I don’t get COVID in the hospital. I’m staring at our nation’s leadership in bewildered terror that our president is trying to kill democracy, and he has his followers convinced the election  was a sham while presenting absolutely no proof of fraud. There are a lot of big problems going on in the world right now. People out of work. People going hungry. All my little petty shit above is nothing compared to what’s going on right now. I’m in a little stressful bubble but boy does that bubble pay well—and I keep reminding myself even if I make it through just half of next year, my earnings will be substantial, and I can take some time off and figure out what’s next. As long as I make it to mat leave I’m in a really good place. If I make it to end of next year, a really, really good place.

As my blog title notes — money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy freedom. It’s so true. Life is short. I don’t want to spend life constantly worried about paying for the basics. I like working. I want to work. But I want to do work that is meaningful. That I am proud of. That I wake up in the morning excited about. I hope I can find that. I know all jobs and careers  have these issues. But this one, after 15 years in it, is clearly not the right fit, despite how shockingly lucrative it has become.

Needless to say, if I make it to the end of the next year, I owe you all a drink.

 

What Comes Next? Vesting and Career Investing

It’s funny. I filled out my performance review this year and in tabulating all of my contributions since last January, including ones that arguably delivered (significant) quantifiable ROI, I feel jolted into a sense of satisfaction meets unease—pride paired perfectly with the PTSD of being constantly reminded by my boss that I am not a leader, that I’m bad at running meetings, and that people generally don’t like me.

The reality is we are both right. I have a long way to go to be able to take the quality of my work and have a presence to match. And maybe I made a bunch of poor strategic choices this past year, but it’s hard to say when the only objectives my boss set for me was to hit deadlines (I was doing ok at this until one big project slipped) and make people like me (well, I don’t think I made major inroads in becoming queen popular this year while holed up inside my bedroom working in my PJs—though non interaction seemed to solve for this over a chunk of the year when people probably forgot I existed until I put out some decent work.

My issue 100% is consistency—which in a creative role is a massive challenge for me. The end product is usually good but the path to get there never clear. When I’m off on my own doing creative work and/or managing an agency I can GSD effectively. But throw in the kitchen sink of stakeholders / opinions, especially in an environment where I’m told my opinion doesn’t actually hold the same weight as everyone else’s, and I can’t seem to move things forward as I should. If I was just a project manager, I could do it. But as project manager and creator I find myself so often stuck. I know better than to stay stuck, and if anything it is best to just push forward and put out something vs drown in the sea of trying to make everyone happy and making no one happy.

But to be fair to myself, I was also put in a hard to win situation. My boss wanted me to lead, but her idea of leadership is somewhat incompatible with the processes designed to be collaborative. She made comments on how I brought too many people into the process (probably true) and yet in the end this collaboration was actually one of the most positive feedback notes received during the review of what went well and what didn’t.

What didn’t go well is not knowing how to guide people to my strategic vision and instead trying to execute on “theirs,” however conflicting it all was. My boss was not involved much—she just wants the person in this specific role to lead and figure out what to do and get buy in, but she has little interest in participating in determine what any of that is. She wants someone who will list be excellent. Trusted. Smart. Influential. Charismatic. Assertive.

She, apparently, wants my coworker. I mean, to do this. She put him into my temporary role and moved me out of it without clear communication to either of us. As she was, it seems, prodding him to step up and lead and equipping him with a career path to taking over my role, she was quietly plotting to move me out of it. I’ll never know if I still have a job because I am pregnant or if the leadership team actually sees value in me and wants me to stay (perhaps a little of both) but I’ve been put into a role where success is even more unlikely given again I have no control over the work I’m doing, only put in a position where I’m expected to both drive projects forward and make everyone happy.

I’ll do my best.

What is most challenging right now is that I’m being tasked to come up with a strategic plan for next year, yet I can’t move forward with this until other planning I am not involved in is done, yet I go out on maternity leave in less than two months and there isn’t much time remaining to move forward on a plan let alone create a plan. I take one step forward and two or twenty back. If I don’t plan, I am told I am not making enough progress. When I try to move things forward, I’m told I’m moving too fast and I need to wait. Somehow, no matter what I do, my former boss (now boss’s boss) seems to find fault with it. Luckily I have a few projects to take me through mat leave, and I’m hopeful they won’t ask me to leave between now and then with so much that needs to be wrapped up. But upon my return from baby 2 this spring, I acknowledge my days are numbered. The question is how long can I produce good enough work assigned to me and never miss a deadline so their argument to throw me out becomes one of documenting every last word choice made in emails and meetings and not one of failed project delivery. That won’t save me forever, but it’s possible with the right focus I can make it to the end of next year. I really hope I can.

But I also realize that there is no where to to here but down. I’m seen as a mediocre performer at best, saved by occasional delivery of projects that make my team look good. I want a job where people respect me for my strategy and results, not random output that has no greater value. So maybe I can find that next. This job, despite its ups and downs, has truly been life changing for me. Financially, I will be walking away from a few years of stock appreciation mostly sold and now safely in my bank account and diversified across index funds (and a new house.) While I’m sure had I been an A+ player I’d have even greater wealth due to rates and large stock refreshers I did not get, it all works out in the end as there are no golden handcuffs after next year, and it’s much easier to seek out a new role with a comparable package since this company has made it clear they don’t care if I stay (and clearly prefer that I don’t.) But I also take with me a solid chunk of time at a respected company that is not a startup no one has heard of. And while my role may be shrinking into oblivion, my resume has grown enough to at least land me interviews (or I assume it would) vs what life looked like job hunting prior to this role. This is not to say I’ll easily get hired anywhere, but I do think I have a shot at being high on the list of who to call when I submit my applications.

The real question is — how do I make it through next year? The amount of money on the table is non trivial and losing any of it would feel like taking a winning lottery ticket and dropping it onto subway tracks with a train coming at full speed, instantaneously blowing it away as if it never existed. So. I have my personal marching orders. Survival. Survival in the hard months upon returning from maternity leave when sleep is practically non existent. If I am able to continue to WFH due to covid this may help—but it also may prove challenging as partially the return to an office last time enabled a mental split from mom life to work life, and my occasional naps in the breastfeeding room out of sheer exhaustion were not interrupted by a toddler screaming out the alphabet for the nine thousandth time in a row. So this will be interesting, to say the least. An interesting year of being good enough that they won’t fire me. Or at least that they will wait until performance reviews next year to do so, giving me a few months of safety upon my return to work. It’s all possible. I think I can deliver on what is expected as long as I do not over commit and I hide as much as possible. I say little, in meetings or otherwise. My only objective is driving positive sentiment about interactions with me. Everyone should say how easy I was to work with, how they felt heard in meetings, and how I helped them deliver on their vision. If I can do this, barring any major unexpected layoffs, I should be safe. Unless I’m already on the chopping block.

But I don’t think I am. It would be in poor taste (and with questionable legal standing) to fire me a few weeks out from maternity leave with the delivery of a number of successful projects in the recent past. It would be equally questionable for them, within 3-6 months of returning from maternity leave to fire a woman who is performing at least at moderate levels. I never try to contribute anything less than exceptional work, but the reality is after you have a baby (and I hear after you have a second one) sleep is non existent and it’s hard to perform at the same level for a little while, until baby starts to sleep through the night and isn’t waking you up to nurse every few hours.

So on one hand, I feel good about where I am. Two months out from maternity leave, if that, with a clear line of sight to half of the remaining vesting periods. I can’t (and wouldn’t) slack off at this point, but I it feels very possible to make it through that, in the least. Then, I have my 6-12 months of holding on for dear life. And figuring out what’s next. I’d love for my company to acknowledge my contributions and fight for me to stay, but that clearly isn’t going to happen. I’ll be lucky if I see any sort of raise this year (I received a <2% COL adjustment last year with a tiny stock refresh valued under 10k a year compared to my initial grant of 50k+ a year) so I’m clearly in the bucket of employees who are good enough to stay but not good enough to fight to keep.

Would I feel blissful if my company suddenly gave me a massive stock refresh this year as thanks for what I’ve contributed? Sure. That would be nice. It’s not happening. I probably am making more than my new boss right now with my total package, at least should I ever get a refresh bringing me back to where I started. It’s not happening. I don’t even have a title right now. They put someone into my role and moved me into a new role and didn’t have the respect to clarify what my new title is, or to even make it clear that my colleague is stepping into the role I was performing (outside of just organically allowing it to happen.) The whole situation is just unprofessional and unsettling, but who am I to complain when I’m looking at my stock vesting account and see the amount I may receive next year? I really can’t complain. I’m so grateful. And I want to stay and stay not just because HR is saying something about keeping me until legally I’m no longer protected, but because I actually am doing good work. If I am going to leave in early 2022, which is the plan, I want to leave on a very high note.

While it seems like a very long time between now and March 2022, it really isn’t. Especially not in returning to the first year of motherhood. It will feel long and yet also fly by in a blur. I need to have a plan for what’s next since I’m the breadwinner and carry the insurance. I can’t just take time off. I’ll have to be on the top of my game when kiddo #2 turns 1.

Every last ounce of me is determined to make it happen. I am not going to be a superstar or anything close to it, but I’m going to make it through to the day I receive all the stock offered when I joined. And I’m going to surprise no one when I put in my notice, but I’m going to do so after a long period of consistent, high-quality work and everyone feeling good about whatever it is I’ve done, so in the years to come people will remember the positive about my contributions and maybe forget about how socially awkward I am and horrible at communicating. I’ll say as little as possible and hope that gets me across the finish line.