Tag Archives: job

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.

Am I Really That Bad at my Job?

It has been easier in my past incarnations to accept failure and move on after a few tears were shed. This time is different. It’s personal. It’s being reassigned not because of the quality of the work (well, I’ve heard only positive feedback on the quality), but because of who I am. While I get it, that hurts a lot more than being told my work was not up to par. When I see a friend/colleague who is smart and confident and well spoken be placed in my former role, I feel no bitterness towards him, only sadness in my lack of ability to perform as expected. I don’t blame anyone but myself, and yet the gash of the moment bleeds deep.

There is nothing worse after being transferred from your role than being told the work you delivered is of good quality. Any compliments from this point on feel like paper cuts along the way as you smile and wave like a beauty queen on a parade float on the way to your next position that has been defined loosely as a transfer, not a demotion. But it’s a demotion nonetheless. It may not have a pay cut now, but what’s cut is the potential for any future growth. It is the company telling you they aren’t in the mood to fire a pregnant woman or a new mom, so they’ll let me work that out for myself. Work myself out. Out of the company.

I realize I’m a difficult employee in some senses. But I’m also incredibly loyal and care deeply about my work. It’s not perfect. I make mistakes. A former colleague of mine reminds me time and again that everyone makes mistakes. People miss deadlines all the time, even people who hold me up to a certain standard. It’s just that once people view you in a certain way, it is near impossible to change their minds. I blame myself for that too—but I never have the energy to play the game of perception. I just want to collaborate and do good work that moves the needle.

The transfer has been handled with what can only be described as disrespect (or ambivalence) to me, but I am trying to not take it personally. If only there was clear communication, or perhaps sharing my new title with me and the plans to move my colleague into my former role before sending out a mass email to the company about the transition and failing to mention the replacement situation, only allowing that to happen organically as suddenly he is empowered to run what I was running days ago. Surely the powers that be see me as highly disposable, at least in not caring if I leave on my own, and also knowing that my compensation (for the next year anyway) is high enough that I would never walk by choice. They know I have to (and will) give my all no matter where they put me.

My boss positioned the transfer as using my skills in the right role, vs keeping me in one that would never be a fit. Yet in my first meeting for my new role she nearly fired me over how poorly I ran the awkward 30 minutes. I clearly embarrass her, and she doesn’t want me on her team, but she is putting up with me either due to HR saying to hold off until I’m no longer a protected class employee or because every now and again I do really good work that makes up for being such a klutz of a human being. Or both. Who knows.

This is not to say my gratitude is lacking. I realize in the middle of a global pandemic I am lucky to have a job at all, not to mention one that, due to stock growth, has an earnings potential in the next year I would have laughed about just 4 years ago as a total annual income I could ever make, even years from now at the tail end of a long career. So I know I need to bite my tongue and grin and bear it. I’m not fired, like another friend and colleague who was let go last year and had since gone on to an even better role. I managed to survive the last dark winter, and made it through the first months of the pandemic and WFH with newfound energy to prove everyone wrong. And the everything came crumbling down. Anxiety. Pregnancy insomnia. The state of the world. From failure to top performer and back all in the span of a few months.

I’m trying not to dwell on it. Clearly it leaves a dull ache even when I put it all to the back of my mind. But I’m trying to figure out how to pick up and move on. I know where I lack in polish I can sometimes make up for in my good attitude. If I focus on being thankful and do not complain or discuss how hurt I am (that I still do not have an official new title, for example, or clarity in what success means in my new role which makes the whole thing seem like a setup to fail) and just smile and talk as little as possible and try my best to do the work, then maybe I can survive. At this point, it’s the most I can hope for. Not long-term survival, but 18 months. It’s completely feasible, even with a tattered ego and watching my colleague step in with the confidence and swagger and intellect I’ll never have to thrive.

As I watch him step in to the position, I also question how I’ll ever be able to convince anyone, anywhere, that I am able to lead like that. I know folks on here have reminded me leadership isn’t everything—but I’m not talking people management, more senior IC where people actually trust you and look to you as an expert in the organization. I don’t know if I’m cut out for that role either. I think my ideas are generally good. But I don’t know how to gain buy in until the end product. Then, suddenly, people see the vision and are saying that the work itself is good. I am personally never satisfied with it, but I’ve learned to accept done is better than perfect (as long as there are no blatant errors.)

The challenge for me is getting everyone to buy in along the way. I’ve found, instead, I have two options: 1. Let everyone else tell me what to do and execute on other’s vision to the best of my abilities or 2. follow my intuition and do what I know will lead to the best result in the end. I find 1 impossible as I am incapable of doing much of anything when executing someone else’s vision—esp when there are 6 different someone else’s who all want something different that I fundamentally disagree with. 2 is always why I have a job in the first place. People remember my output and not how I got there. But then as soon as they do remember they label me as difficult to work with and put me on the path to nowhere and likely pray nightly that I’ll leave on my own volition, sooner than later.

Is it possible to find a stable job where I can be my best self and not feel like a babbling teenager every time I set foot into a meeting? Is it possible to position myself as person to be respected instead of someone who is there to take notes and churn out robotic work just to check the box and get it done? If I can survive the next 18 months, knock on wood, I’ll be 38 when I go into my next job. That’s my “40 year old” job, likely. At 40 people are either moving up in their career or falling backwards. As a mother with young kids, it’s pretty common to slip at this point in terms of growth and long-term earnings potential. Maybe if I lived a life that didn’t include a 7k mortgage, 2 kids, a goal for one more, and a husband who works part time, I might throw in the towel at this point and say I accept defeat and will take what anyone is willing to pay me. But I can’t do that. There is a certain amount I need to make to pay the bills and a target amount I need to make so we can live the fairly modest but good life I want us to live. I am alone in this and alone I have to figure it out.

I don’t even have a clear vision for who I want to be—this work persona I need to invent—in order to succeed anywhere. Certainly, I want to be seen as someone dependable and reliable. But beyond that I want to figure out how to have swagger. It seems now whenever I voice an opinion it comes across as nails on a chalkboard to anyone listening. Yet others just state opinions as fact and no one notices. It’s that raw confidence that I find is impossible to embody. It is something I need to figure out in the haze of new motherhood next year, preparing for whatever it is that’s next, and doing whatever it takes to prove I’m worth saving until it makes sense to step into my new work psyche make that leap elsewhere.

When You Do Good Work But It Doesn’t Matter.

I struggled through a new process at work that was ill-defined and required leadership where I did not serve the role as leader effectively for a number of reasons. In the past–less than two months–I went (briefly) from a top performer to bottom of the pack. This time, I really tried. But I didn’t get everyone to move fast enough. I didn’t get myself to move fast enough. I committed to dates that in hindsight were unrealistic, but I also didn’t know enough about what I was doing to fully scope the project and understand WHAT I was committing to, which was the biggest problem.

In the end, I lost my leadership role and was transferred to another position. Which is fine in that I don’t know if I would do THAT much better should I be offered another chance. I don’t think I’m creative enough for the position, or able to produce the best work required by the position. The guy who is taking over (who happens to be my friend) is way more confident, has a clear vision, and is a leader. He’ll do well. He believes in himself and his ideas. I wish I believed in myself but it’s hard when I don’t know what I’m doing.

I’m a bit sad this week because the project was actually launched on time, despite my initial delays that led to me losing my role. There is a lot more to it, but basically my failure to force everything through a new process and timing that I agreed to led to my hitting a wall. In fact, had I not been pregnant, I think I may have lost my job a few weeks ago. I’m not sure. In any case, I am conflicted because I’m proud of the work that I was able to put out and feel like I collaborated fairly effectively with the team, and yet in the end it doesn’t matter because I messed up when it came to certain delivery dates that really had no meaning outside of my setting them.

Talk about self sabotage.

It didn’t help that a project manager came in and threw me under the bus multiple times. That was not a good situation. Again, I take the blame for the dates pushing. She had convinced me that moving the dates for delivery of this one part of the project out a few weeks wouldn’t hurt, and that it was better to be realistic in whatever date I set if I was changing the delivery date. I had a planned vacation in there as well, so the date that was reset to seemed quite far out. I knew it wouldn’t impact the semi-planned launch date (I couldn’t get everyone to agree to a launch date or what launch meant to begin with, which was part of the problem) so against my better judgement (of which I have little) I agreed to the delayed delivery date. I knew this date still gave the team plenty of time to hit the semi-agreed on launch date by end of month for all of the other work that needed to be done once I delivered my part of the project.

Oh, it also happened that the week I was on vacation there was a meeting where my boss joined and the project manager said I decided to move the dates and acted like this was not her idea and she didn’t know why I decided to move the dates or why I was delivering the project so late.

Well, all of this set off a ripple effect of shit sandwich. Everything was hooked up in our project management system so suddenly dates for all the next steps tied to a launch date we never committed to moved out, and everyone freaked out. My boss was unhappy to say the least. I tried to explain that this shift wouldn’t actually move the project launch timeline we committed to (by end of month.) But that didn’t matter. I missed a deadline, which has been an issue of mine that I had to not do again this year, and so, I’m out. Kaput. Well, transferred.

The new role is fine. It’s an opportunity to focus on one area and build processes there and if I can just get shit done on time (and really pad everything even if I get pushback up front on how long the timeline looks) then maybe I can survive the next year and become a better project manager and people will trust me again.

I just wish I was judged for the quality of work and how it will help the business in addition to any pushed deadlines. I should have just said hell with quality and minimized scope. That’s what a true leader would have done. Or any person in their right mind who doesn’t want to lose their job. But I saw the opportunity to do good work and I didn’t want to skimp on anything. This took time and reviews and feedback from a lot of people. I don’t actually love the end result (it’s not even my vision, I took everyone else’s ideas and executed on them generally) but I think it’s solid. I think it will be good for the business. I think it deserves some kind of “not getting fired” recognition for being pretty ok.

What I’m most sad about is I get it now. I could take what I’ve learned and do it so much better next time. But I’ll never have the chance. Not here, anyway. Maybe that’s ok. I can take what I’ve learned and one day apply it elsewhere, even if the processes and people will be different.

On top of this project, I’ve spent the last year building a foundation for a lot of the general processes in my respective area. I’ve done a lot of work that my boss unfortunately doesn’t care about (which is dumb on my part) but I still know it will help the business and maybe, eventually, one day, someone will notice. Or not. But I feel good about that too.

In short, I’ve learned a lot this year and I think I’ve done pretty good work. That is meaningless because I missed deadlines that set and also suck at communication, apparently. Some parts of the communication were easier due to everyone WFH and others were harder. A few slack and email conversations were incorrectly interpreted. There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen and I was just trying to make dinner on time for our guests, but the cooks were all mad at me for delaying parts of the process. Dinner was served on time.

So I’m just frustrated at this point. And unsure if I’d be happier had I met deadlines and kept my role going forward. It would still have been hard, and I still would have struggled to drive alignment and get everyone moving in the same direction. I am sad because my friend (who is very good at his job) was given the role–not because he was given the role–but because of why. Because of all the things he is that I’m not. I’m not jealous or angry or resentful. Just sad. I process things too slowly. I don’t use big words or sound smart and confident when I talk. I don’t have that gusto that is needed where everyone just trusts you and your vision. Nor do I have it in me to put out work that I’m not proud of just to hit deadlines, which seems to be a key skill in leadership. To me, everything needs to make sense. If we’re doing something, we’re doing something that isn’t just to check the box and move on to the next thing. I actually want to put out work that adds value.

I just need to do that faster.

And it’s too late. I have a few weeks left at this point before maternity leave, and I’m already transitioning to my new role. When I come back, I’ll have to build processes from the ground up again. I enjoy doing that, but it puts me at risk for the same issues in a way–because I’m learning how long each part of the process takes and trying to sort that out with a whole other batch of cooks that are slightly different but equally opinionated. I don’t feel good about that. I want to be able to take what I’ve done and learn from it and do better next time, versus start over.

But it doesn’t matter. I don’t get that choice. And to be fair, my boss has given me a lot of runway through the last years, through my mental health issues, through having a baby, through getting a performance plan and then six months later being recognized as a top performer (not by my boss, but still) and then another two months later of letting everything get to me, falling apart, and giving me the opportunity to move to a new role that has less visibility, so I don’t make her look bad. I get it. I’m not upset at that.

I’m sad because I wonder had I just hit those dates, would I still have this job? I know there were other issues with communication and such. I felt like maybe the work I was producing wasn’t good for a while. The more exciting parts of the project requiring more work from others were cut due to reprioritization. I stepped in and filled in the holes versus just accepting that we were cutting a crucial part of the project.

What my colleagues get that I clearly don’t is that you just have to protect yourself. It’s all a game at the end of the day. Good work matters, but we’re already doing good work–that’s why we were hired. What matters is that everyone else sees you as someone they can rely on to deliver. I get that. I don’t know how to do that and also stick to my principles of always delivering high-quality and meaningful work.

In the end, the project was delivered on time, and I’m on-time being delivered to a new position.

I did not get a formal demotion or reduction in pay (likely because of the whole being pregnant thing.) I have no idea what my new title is because things are always so disorganized that no one has brought this up yet. No one has actually even informed me that my coworker is taking over for my role officially. It seems either they are too busy to do this or they are purposefully waiting until I’m on maternity leave to make the transition. However, it’s a whole bunch of awkward given that people keep asking me who will be doing my role and I have to answer them I don’t know. They seemed to want to set this whole thing up to make it look like it was my choice to move into this new role, but they really aren’t giving me a lot to work with to support that story. Meanwhile, if coworker friend takes my title, wtf is my title?

And should I even care? I don’t know what I should care about. My ego is trampled on yet at the end of the day, I still have my paycheck. I am so grateful for that. If I can step back and just look at this whole situation from a purely financial perspective, I’m over-the-moon fortunate, especially given the current state of the world. While there is no guarantee I will still have a job at this time next year, it seems odds are increasingly in my favor. So I should just shut up, stop complaining, and focus on doing a good job in my new role. There is absolutely no reason I cannot, in approximately 18 months, look for a position similar to my original role at another company and try this again, if it makes sense to try this again. I’m not sure yet if that’s what I want to do–but with the experience I do have I can actually go in and make a good first impression versus scrambling to figure out what I’m doing.

I think that will be a good thing.

Fighting With All I’ve Got: The Next 2 Years

I’m acknowledging my job isn’t right. My new position, which is a demotion or lateral move, depending on how you see it, is a better fit. The great news is that my pay hasn’t changed.  The bad(?) news is that I have a new role that is vague that I have to figure out from scratch… just when I was starting to get the hang of the old one. Alas.

I am in an incredibly good position right now if I can just hang on for the next 18 months, give or take. I am going to give it my all. And 6 of those 18 months will be maternity leave, so I’ve got a year to make magic. I’m gonna make magic. And hold my breath and hope I can do really great work, make everyone happy, get my shit done on time, and–in the sleepless blur that is the first year of having a child–get through my final vesting periods and hold on long enough to get my bonus before I find something that is actually a good fit for me (if such a thing exists.)

Now, the stock market could crash. I could get laid off. I could still get fired. Anything could happen. I can’t plan to have the money until I have it. But right now the next 18 months have the chance to set me up for financial success in my forties and FIRE in my early fifties. The next 18 months are everything.

But, really, how do I do this with a newborn? My new boss–a man–has young kids. This might be a good thing, because he understands what goes into having children (old boss, female, does not have kids.) On the other hand, new boss has worked his ass off through the birth of his second kid. I think his wife works but I’m not sure what his childcare situation is. I think at least one of the kids is still going to daycare. We aren’t doing that due to COVID. Anyway, I’m hoping that he will be at least somewhat empathic understanding what goes biologically goes into being the mom of an infant. Or he may think I should be able to work as much as he does because he has done it.

I’m scared. I’m not in a good place going into my maternity leave and coming back I am running a new program that will be kicked off before I get back. Who knows what it will look like at that point. There will be high expectations and I probably won’t know up from down at that point.

My maternity leave should end around June, maybe a bit sooner. I’ll be in a good place as long as I don’t overcommit and get everything done on time for 6 months. Once 2022 hits, I can either decide to double down on my current role and stick it out for the long term (maybe it will be great) or start looking for a new job. On paper, timing overall looks good. It looks like survival is possible.

What is leaving a sour taste is how my colleague is taking my (former) role, and it’s not being communicated to me. I understand they are being cautious since it’s probably a liability to demote a pregnant woman a few months before she goes on leave and put a younger, single male in her place. It also may just seem like a natural transition since I’m going out and he is in the same role already, he just needs to be promoted to my level, which can and will likely happen when I’m out. When I come back–I have a new role–and he’s running the show. Everyone’s happy, right?

If I actually thought this could be a long term thing, if I actually thought I could benefit from the success of the company and my contributions were going to be appreciated ever, I would feel worse about how everything went down. But I’m happy for my friend and it’s a great opportunity for him. And this is a great opportunity for me also. I was so close to being fired last year and this year–maybe due to being pregnant and semi protected (but also due to actually doing a good job for some of this year when I was sleeping ok and could think straight before I got far into my pregnancy) I still have a job. And I’ll likely still have a job through to my maternity leave at the end of this year. And I’ll likely still have a job until the end of next year as I can see how to do enough good stuff that they won’t get rid of me that fast (esp after just coming back from mat leave.)

I am trying so hard to be grateful. Because when I get caught up in feeling sad about everything… about failing and about how I am really not good at the other role I had… it makes it hard to do anything. And I have to do a lot. It doesn’t have to be perfect. But it has to be acceptable and done (and without error, which is what acceptable means.) Nothing else matters. It’s 18 months. At the end of 18 months, my family networth should go from 2M to 2.5M, give or take. The next 18 months are everything. Then — maybe then — I can take a lower paid job that is a better fit. I can work my way up somewhere. I can stop taking these senior-level roles I’m not ready for because I never had a chance to actually learn how to do anything right. I don’t know if that type of job exists… but maybe if I can step back I can work my way up again. I hope.

I’ll Never Be the Leader Corporate America Wants Me to Be

Let’s just say I’ve accepted that I am not like the people who thrive in corporate America — or business, for that matter. I rub people the wrong way, I guess. I don’t make enemies, but I certainly don’t make friends. As others move up like they’re floating on political air, I fall down. Hard. On my face. And I look up and wonder where I went wrong. I know the answer. I went wrong everywhere.

Today, I was notified that I have a new boss via an all team email. I’m still not clear if my soon-to-be ex boss thinks she communicated this to me previously, or she just doesn’t give at shit that this list the way I found out. What hurts more is that I literally asked her last week, when she informed me my role was changing, if that means I’d be reporting to this other person. She told me (clearly lying) that she hadn’t even though about that yet. No, the truth is she had thought about that. She just wasn’t ready to discuss it. And then it got announced and she hadn’t told me officially or unofficially about the change.

Clearly, they don’t care if I stay or leave. There is a minimal amount of respect you provide employees that you want to keep. Because I’m pregnant, and I’ve done enough good work, they know it’s probably not work the liability to let me go 3 months before maternity leave. But that doesn’t mean they have to treat me like a human being. They know I can’t go anywhere between needing my maternity leave coverage and the remainder of my stock. They know that I’m a slave to them — and they can treat me like crap and I can’t do anything about it.

I’m trying so hard to be grateful because I know in any other situation I’d probably be done for. Instead, I have a chance to prove myself in a subset of what I’ve been doing all along. I can maybe do an ok job. They seem to like my work in this area. There is no potential for career growth there. I find it hard to be motivated when I’m bumping into a ceiling. I’m overpaid for the role (I guess a good problem to have) and that leaves me more stuck than ever.

My new boss and I also didn’t get off to a good start last year. I think we’ve made amends since, but he certainly isn’t a fan of mine. My “get off the train by July 2022” is still the game plan — the questions are–can I make it that long, and where the hell do I go next?

There are things I’d like to do. Things I think I might be better at. But how? I’m going to be 37. I’m a mom of 2 kids. I want another before I turn 39. I know people make career changes at forty, but those people do not have a 7000 a month mortgage and a husband who works part time. The reality is that I can keep doing what I’m doing… in another company… start over… get a job that pays 150k-200k and with my father-in-law and husband’s contributions we can afford the mortgage. And that’s the next 30 years of my life, I guess. That’s 15 more jobs if I last 2 years at each of them on average. If I’m lucky enough to keep getting the same level job as I get older. People don’t like to hire older people for these jobs. I may find eventually I can’t get a job. Then what?

I don’t think I was that horrible at the job I’ve been demoted from. I was horrible at pieces of it. I was horrible at figuring out exactly what to do. I was horrible about being able to take everyone’s ideas and make that into something that made sense. I was horrible at executing on anything because I couldn’t make senes of what I was doing. I missed deadlines because I have too much anxiety and want to make things that are perfect and know that I’m not actually smart enough to do the work so I get stuck and have no one to run my work by to get their feedback because my boss wasn’t interested I helping me in that way. She wanted someone who could run with things and lead. Get shit done. I wasn’t that person. I faked it decently for a bit this year. I thought it was going well. I was recognized by the head of our department as “MVP” of the quarter, which made me feel ill when it was announced because I knew everyone on the team, including my boss, was rolling their eyes. Two months later this MVP is being demoted–so, clearly that title wasn’t deserved. It all makes me feel sick.

I just have to get through the next 15 months at a minimum. The amount of stock on the table is life changing / pay for my kid’s college and build a better safety net so if I can’t get a job for a while ever in the next 30 years I might be ok. I’ve got a hard road ahead–maybe not in the next 3 months before maternity leave where I’m wrapping up projects and doing my best to be my best and hit all committed deadlines and communicate the best I can–but in those 6-18 months when I come back from leave and need to do incredible work while also not sleeping well due to having a baby. I did not fare well in my first year back after having my son, so I have no reason to think this will be any better.

The good news is my new boss–who certainly would fire me to protect himself–also has kids around the same age, and maybe has a smidgen of empathy for me as a new mom (vs my soon-to-be ex boss who is in her forties and does not have children.) I think between a small safety net of HR not wanting to fire a woman who just came back from maternity leave immediately and the fact that I can actually do a decent job was what my new job is (though I know I’ll never be great at it) I think I can hold on tooth and nail to at least make it until the end of the year, and then start looking for a new job. I have no idea what I’ll be looking for. I wish I had the ability to figure out what career I would be happy in and then actually make that happen.

But I’m super stuck. Stuck in the best place possible, and grateful for it, but also extremely sad. Sad because I’m turning 37 and I’m no better off than I was in my 20s when I didn’t know what I was doing in my life. It doesn’t look pretty on a woman in her late 30s. I’m sure my boss thinks I’m pathetic. I mean, my ex-boss. She is probably counting the days until they can get rid of me. That motivates me to do better. To try to change their narrative about me. But I’ve realized I can’t live a lie. I’m not polished. I’m awkward. I ramble and have a poor short term memory so it’s difficult to converse with others in a proper way. I’m known for putting out good work sometimes, but not for inspiring others to do great work. I’ll never be a leader. So what then can I aspire to be?

So I Was Fired. Or Promoted. Or Something.

When I joined my company, my role was ill defined. Someone with more leadership ability–or perhaps someone who is a normal career-minded person–would have nipped that in the bud up front. But like the rest of my non-career career, I’ve managed to become employable for the exact reason I always lose my damn job–I’m a Jill of all trades, master of none. And so it goes.

This time around, things have gone a tinge better. Despite some hiccups as of next year I will have been employed at this company for three years (well, three years minus maternity leave, but you don’t see that on a resume.) Three years at a respectable “real” company (vs a startup that doesn’t exist anymore) is a pretty big deal for me. It’s a huge deal. I need to celebrate that.

With the three years I also need to celebrate that I’ve been extremely fortunate. Through a mixture of luck and having some sense of what makes a good company, I have seen my stock grow to a ridiculous dollar figure, and have largely sold through that growth and turned it into real money and a real down payment. While I could have bought a house without the networth growth this company has provided me, it’s unlikely I would have. Or, at least, I would have spent many more years saving before that was a reality.

But here I am, a day after listening to my boss tell me, in so many words (actually in these exact words)–it’s not working. I’ve heard this story before. Over and over again. I guess it isn’t. I’m only upset because this time I thought I did better. This time, I thought I was starting to figure it out. Due to a hiring freeze (where I was supposed to be getting a new boss) I was put, temporarily, in charge of a new team and given the reigns to lead–not because my boss particularly wanted me to–but because she had little choice otherwise.

Where I got lost is in trying to make everyone happy while also caring about real results for the business, and putting myself last. I was put in a situation with two other strong personalities who didn’t like me from the beginning–and especially didn’t like my collaborative, back-and-forth type of leadership. The #1 trait of winners here is decisiveness, and decisive I am not. It’s not that I can’t make decisions — I don’t trust myself to make decisions with that kind of sweeping authority where people forget what you’re telling them is built on opinion and intuition, not fact. But in a role like mine, fact tends to get in the way (though people use “fact” to support their positions when it suits them.) I guess it’s the politics that I’m bad at. (Not that our presidential nominees are much better. Is it odd the cluster of a debate last night made me strongly hopeful about my leadership skills?)

Still – it stung to get called out on all the things I’m not. I wish I disagreed with my boss’s assessment, because it was quite harsh, but I know she’s right. I’m not a leader, she said, in so many words. I’m not able to influence people or get buy in or delegate work. I don’t come across friendly enough and build bridges (i.e. people don’t like me as a person enough to protect me or stand by me through disagreements.) And I just am not suited to be a functional leader. Pretty much ever. (Ever, ever? I asked. She said, well, maybe one day. One day in the far off distant future.

The saddest part of all is that this project I’m leading isn’t a failure. She even admitted to that. And less than two months ago I was called out as a leader in the company by the head of the department. Two months! But then shit hit the fan. I wasn’t able to run a fairly large project across teams. I made it bigger than it had to be, because given the way our company works you have to go big or go home, and you get one chance to prove out success. I went too big. And then I got anxious. As I do. I second, and third, and 90th guessed everything. I missed a deadline that I arbitrarily committed to. That was a big deal. That was the knife in the coffin. Game over.

In a startup, it would be over. This is the typical job arc from success to failure of my life. I’ve been here before. Except this isn’t in startup time, so through various wins and flexibility and being luckily hired by the head of the department before any of this happened, I have a little wiggle room. But I get it. I can’t run the show.

Who can? Oh, my friend can. My friend, who is basically the other me in my department, who joined to fill in for me when I was on my last maternity leave (I was the first one to interview him) is being promoted into my job. My emotions are all over the place. He deserves it (well, sort of) and I think it’s needed for his career and he needs a shot to prove himself. He’s put up with managing projects that make little sense or that melt his brain for too long. He’s earned the promotion (it’s not official yet, but he’s taking over my role, and it’s clear when I’m on maternity leave he will get the title –I’ll explain more on how that’s working in a minute.) He’s done a lot of great work, and more importantly, he’s been consistent. He doesn’t overcommit. I like to build mansions and he builds tiny houses and no one notices the difference–except that my mansions tend to be missing a wing at launch. I get why they’re putting him in charge. I think way too much and run through a thousand “what if” scenarios and he–isn’t like that. He comes up with something he wants to do, and he just gets it done. And because he’s smart–and talks smart–he can get people to rally behind him. People trust him.

So, I’m 3 months from going on maternity leave and I’ve lost my job. Sort of. That’s the bad news. But there’s good news. You probably understand why I find it hard to see this as good news right now, given how this all went down, but it is good news…

Instead of being fired or, well, demoted, I’ve been given a new function to run. It’s funny that I’m being given a new function to run after being told I can’t run a functional area. What she really meant is I can’t run a functional area where I have to shove ideas down a lot of people’s throats and make them rally behind these ideas enough to spend their time contributing to the outcome. My shit will be off to the side–and off to the side is where I’ve done my best work. It’s not clear at all how any of this will work yet–and in typical fashion my boss has asked me to come up with a plan. I don’t know what my title will be, but it sounds like my level isn’t changing. My comp isn’t changing. I’m just, you know, fired from the job that actually had leadership/career potential, and now in a semi-IC role where I can maybe do good work–or at least get work done on time and people will think it’s good.

What’s happening now is I’m transitioning out of my role (which isn’t hard since it was going to happen organically anyway when I go on maternity leave) and when I come back I’ll launch this new official function. If I didn’t know the situation better, I’d say something is awfully fishy here that I’m going on maternity leave in 3 month and losing my job–but they’ve got me cornered. I had a negative performance review last year (coming off of my first year as a mom with little sleep), and here I am again. This isn’t a legal situation. This is a me failing to execute and being me situation. And I realize that I’m lucky to still have a job. Maybe the pregnancy saved me there. I don’t know. It’s funny because I tend to do really fucking amazing work when I’m not leading shit. And they recognize that. They want more of that. So I guess I should be honored. Or something.

They like me, they really like me.

Or, they like the work I produce, but will never see me as a true leader. I get it. I think the fact that my friend is stepping into my role hurts more than I want to admit. It hurts because he doesn’t care as much as I do about much of anything. But he’s good. I don’t always agree with his ideas or choices, but man, can he get people to rally behind him. And, unlike most guys, he’s actually not, well, the typical know-it-all guy. He’s a good person. He’s worked hard and deserves this–at least a shot at it. I’ve joked before that I should report to him. Well, I guess they decided that would be weird (plus it would clearly be a demotion on my side.) So off to new function land I go.

New function land is in the same group that old function land was in, working with the same people. But I’ll be creating stuff for a piece of the puzzle (or piece of lots of puzzles) versus running the show. I have to reenergize and figure out how to build something despite it making no sense in the grande scheme of my career. But maybe that’s ok. I’ll be in new-mom stage for a while again, and running something a bit simpler where I feel a bit more in control of things could be good–especially without a pay cut. At the end of the day all that matters is I keep vesting. The bulk of my grant runs through the end of next year.

This role should–barring any major layoffs–get me there. After I make it to that finish line, I can start thinking about what’s next. And all signs point to looking for a new role closer to my new home anyway. I’ve informally agreed with myself, even before all this went down, that I’ll transition out in 2022 at some point.

That’s a solid 5 years with a respectable company, and the first really respectable thing on my resume after working for over 15 years. That alone will land me interviews. I’m in a great position. I need to focus on being grateful vs hurt. I know where I failed and I can do better next time. it will be better starting on a fresh slate anyway if I’m going to try out the leadership team again. Maybe find a company that’s a better cultural fit, if one exists. We’re filled with type As where execution matters more than building foundations and strategic vision. It works for this company, but what’s clear is I don’t belong here. I could have faked it better–a lot better–but I don’t have the energy for that. I don’t have the ability to speak coherently when I get flustered. When I don’t trust myself or my ideas. So, this just isn’t the right fit. If I wasn’t 3 months from maternity leave and 15 months from vesting a lot of stock, in any other world, I’d probably start looking elsewhere.

But, instead, I’m doubling down here and committing. I want to close out the year strong (the project that I got my “fired” is still in progress and still going to be a huge success if I have anything to say about it) and I have a few more projects I’m working on before I go out. When I go out, it will be a clean break, because I’ll be done with this job. I’ll hopefully have a plan built up for when I get back–my boss wants me to start things when I’m back, not before–so I can take my maternity leave and truly disconnect. My friend will kick ass in his new role–my old role–and show everyone how it’s done. My ego will be bruised and I’ll be embarrassed and ashamed and not so excited to show my face around the office (thanks to covid, maybe I won’t have to.)

The only way to win here, though, is to make this all come off like it was my idea. Like I wanted to go off and start this thing and I’m excited about it and really just make the best of it. I can still show how I can build something and lead, in my own way. In my own little corner. In my own little chair. Or something like that. Maybe this is actually something I can do, sustainably, and be good at it. It’s really the only thing I’ve done that people actually appreciate here. Now I’ll just be doing it full time.

My biggest challenge is this specific role and function is never paid this well. I need to figure out how to position myself to move into a real leadership role in my next gig. I think I’m actually ready for it. But I can’t let myself get stuck in this function. Six months to a year is ok. It really doesn’t even have to be on my resume as a new role — it’s kind of a sub part of what I’ve been doing all along. I can finagle the story enough where it’s true enough to get me a new role, when I’m ready and have the energy to start something new. Until then, this is not a bad place to do good work and hide.

I wonder what this will look like to everyone else. Those who know much of anything will not be surprised. To everyone else, this will look like they’re demoting someone who is going on maternity leave and putting a man who was her junior in her place. That’s not a good look people. But if you know anything you’ll get it. And I’m not going to fight it. I’m not sure I could. I’m not actually losing money. I’m not actually being demoted. So far, I’m still reporting into my boss. She trusts me on this one area so that’s good. Maybe this is all good. Maybe this is all a blessing in disguise as a punch to the gut. I still have a job. And, unless I do something terribly idiotic, I’ll have one when I get back from maternity leave too. My company still allows vesting over maternity leave (though I lose a few thousand dollars due to my ESPP plan pausing when I’m out) and you can look at all this like I’m the luckiest gal in the world. Everyone wins, right? That’s how things should be.

My career doesn’t win. But maybe it doesn’t lose either. Maybe this is a neutral step–a temporary window of time where I can build up confidence again and get my bearings. If I were to stay in my role for another year or two, I’d have more of the same to show and talk about. I’m sure I might have something a little better to show for it, but not exponentially better. I already ran things enough to say I ran things. I feel good about what I’ve accomplished and the story I can tell. When I’m ready, I’ll be ready to present well to my next potential employer. All good.

And my plans and timeline still seem to make sense. Maybe more sense now…

  • 2020 (36) – pregnant
  • 2021 (37) – baby #2 / vest final year of stock
  • 2022 (38) – new job ~Mar-May, try for baby #3 Jul-?
  • 2023 (39) – baby #3
  • 2024 (40) – super mom of 3

The timing of the transition between this job and my next job is key because I want a third child and I’m running out of time. I need to be in my new job for 12 months before I give birth. That means, for those of you bad at math, 3 months before I get pregnant. It will likely be had for me to get pregnant (due to age and medical issues) so I suspect I’ll need to go the IVF route. It may take a while or it may never happen. But I can’t even start trying until 3 months into a new role. And I want to be pregnant by 39 at the latest. I can start trying for #3 in July 2022. So, I should have a new job by ~April 2022. Which is actually exactly aligned to when I want to leave this job. That also means when I come back from maternity leave and into this new role, I should be able to wholeheartedly commit to it for 10-12 months of solid light-up-the-room horsepower to remain gainfully employed while getting my ducks in a row for what’s next. It’s really an ideal timeline. I think making this a 1 year contract to knock of the park makes a lot of sense. Then I’ll feel really good about my contributions and be able to leave on a positive note.

So — I should be celebrating. Maybe, deep down, I am. That doesn’t take away the fact that it still hurts a lot to be told basically that I’m a loser who doesn’t have the skillset to lead. It wasn’t like — you can grow in these areas. It was more — you tried to grow in these areas and failed. We still like the work you do and want you do to more of it, we just don’t want you to ever be a leader here.

At the end of the day, I’m not an asshole enough to lead. So maybe I don’t want to be a leader anyway.

Saving for a Two Million Dollar Networth by March 2022

Life has been busy these days. I’ve been busy saving 2 million dollars. Well, not yet. But I’m shockingly well on the way to a family networth of $2M before I turn 40. This number seems ridiciously large AND small at the same time. It’s obviously large. If $1M seemed large, $2M seems much larger. It is an amount many people would consider “rich” — although not in the Bay Area.

I also don’t really consider my networth close to $2M, since I actually track everything on a post-tax basis. I map my investments to an allocation plan that my former CFP provided. I also have a chunk in cash (not seen below) because that’s for the downpayment of the house I will be buying soon (hopefully, house TBD.)

Screen Shot 2020-05-10 at 7.48.24 AM

The orange are areas where I’m underinvested. I’m quite over in large cap but that’s because of my probably too high concentration in company stock. My company has performed quite well (so well that I do kick myself for selling my RSUs at a fraction of the price it is today.) I’m glad I held on to a good chunk of my ESPPs (for now) as it is unwise to do this financially speaking (you get a discount up front you’re supposed to sell immediately and not take a risk on that money) but I decided to hold a little under 1000 shares and it definitely is helping get me closer to achieving my goal. I still have a significant chunk of RSUs and ESPP coming in the next two years… so that’s where I’m estimating my family will achieve $2M PRE TAX by the time I’m 38. Maybe we’ll get there post tax by the time I’m 40.

Do I feel rich? NO. But I do feel INCREDIBLY LUCKY to have a job that pays well, let alone a job at all right now. It feels weird and I’m looking for ways to give back. I donated $100 to a local food bank but that’s not enough, so I’m considering how to give more while also still staying on track to our goals. My donation plan was always to save as much during life, invest well, and then in your will put a % of your savings towards charity. That way if times get tough later in life you have the money if you need it, but you still have a plan to give back to the world. But right now the world clearly needs it, and I’m overwhelmed by trying to figure out where to give and how much. It is definitely on my mind — but so is buying a house and having a 12 month emergency fund and hopefully being able to work part time in a few years because…

I’m apparently pregnant.

Shh, don’t tell anyone. It is top secret. It’s super early and only my husband knows. We started trying this month and thought it would take a while because last time I needed infertility treatment to get pregnant. Low and behold, boom, happened right away. I’m excited and scared and will write more about this later but clearly it shifts our financial picture. Before I was considering moving further from my office to have more space in case I had another kid, now I definitely am thinking about this option. We’re still talking about $1.5M homes, but they are much bigger and right now we want space and with another kid we will def want that space. We could still rent for a few years but I want to settle down in a neighborhood where my son can make friends  and we can meet other parents and just feel at home. I’ve been living semi frugally my whole life (we’re still in a 1 bedroom apartment even though we can clearly afford more) and I guess I’m ready to take the plunge.

I did run some numbers based on a more conservative house buying formula and found that we need the following amount in savings/cash before we buy a home for the following prices:

House Cost Cash Savings
$1.5M $436,542
$1.7M $494,000

I also determined that to have 30% of our networth be in home equity (and emergency fund) that we’d need approximately $1.95M in networth to buy a $1.6M home. (My gap analysis below) but clearly we’re not going to get there before we buy a home now, so I’m going to do my best to try to reduce the home cost while also buying something we can grow into. More on that later.

30.0% 43.0% 5.0% 27.0% 5.0% 12.0% 8.0%
23.1% 33.1% 3.8% 20.8% 3.8% 9.2% 6.2%
43.00% 5.00% 27.00% 5.00% 12.00% 8.00%
goal $450,000 $645,000 $75,000 $405,000 $75,000 $180,000 $120,000
gap $450,000 $284,705 $47,142 $252,465 $47,525 $160,066 $89,103

 

Right now my estimates have us at about $1.96M pre tax in March 2022. That’s so soon! If I can do this, it will be pretty incredible. I just have to keep my job. Through a pandemic. And a pregnancy. How hard can it be?

But the reality is I’m scared. Yes I have a lot in stocks I could sell to cover the mortgage for a while… and right now I have a job. But will I have a job in a year? Who knows. My company may need to have layoffs at some point. I really don’t understand how they would decide that and who would be laid off, but I definitely am not “safe.” So I have to assume that at any time I could lose my job, and at that point it would be hard to find a new one. I will just hold my breath through my vesting periods and pray (even though I don’t pray) that I can get through the next 19 months until I get most of my stock. That’s 8 months of pregnancy, 3 months of maternity leave, and 8 months of being exhausted and holding on for dear life.

Please, wish me luck. I’ll need it!

Rethinking What I Want Out of Life

I always thought there were two choices in life — work your ass off and live a comfortable life (not luxurious by any means, but have enough to afford a house and a basic middle class lifestyle without a totally crazy commute), or opt to work less and/or do something meaningful (i.e. create art or help others.) Accepting my new truth—that you can work your ass off and not be able to afford a comfortable lifestyle–has led to a major reality wakeup call and revisiting the age-old question: what dafuck do I want out of life?

Now that I have a child, I definitely see things differently. For starters, I’m sitting at a cafe this Sunday morning writing a blog post on my own. Pre kid, I could take all Sunday enjoying solo time. Now, every minute I spend on my own that isn’t at work feels like I’m missing the little time with my son that I have to be a mom and bond with him. This morning, I’ll be at this cafe for under 2 hours, but I question the use of every second of my “free” time. I’m also primarily here to catch up on work that I didn’t finish during the week, especially one deck for an important meeting tomorrow.

I know I can figure out how to be more productive at work, plan better in advance, and mostly avoid these weekend work sessions. I can’t, at least in my current career/job, get hours during the week to go to the park with my son, or teach him things, or enjoy those lazy afternoons and cuddles and naps together. I come home from work at 6-7 and am exhausted. I hate the mom I am then. I try to engage but don’t have the energy. I count the minutes until my son’s 9 o’clock bedtime, when I can slip away to my room and mindlessly browse the internet until I fall asleep, and then wake up to do it all over again.

The money right now at least feels like it’s worth it. I’m making more than I ever thought I would in a single year, at least if I figure out how to keep this job. It’s not forever–I have two more years of stock vesting and then I’m back to a pretty good but not amazing salary. And that’s fine too. But I don’t see this lifestyle being worth it for anything under what I’m making now. And, at some point, if I could actually make what I’m making now ($400k-$500k a year–crazy, I know, esp for someone who never made more than $190k previously) I’ll have saved enough and I won’t HAVE to work as much anymore. But I won’t sustain this level of income. Even if I keep this job, I’ll be back to $200k a year–which isn’t BAD–but it isn’t enough to get me to early retirement. My company definitely doesn’t value my services enough to give me a major stock refresh (I mean, they’re on the verge of letting me go, so I’m not surprised.) But this impacts how much I’ll make in the future, and makes me wonder what I will do after these two years are over (or sooner, if I get fired from this job, which I’m hoping I can avoid!)

The stock market crash this week hasn’t phased me much, but seeing $100k or so disappear from my networth kinda felt like, oh well, that money isn’t real anyway. Nothing is real. I live in a one bedroom apartment and cannot afford a house. Well, I can afford a house if I can continue making $500k a year for the next 30 years. Which won’t happen. I mean, if I was actually good at my job and could move up to a VP-level role in the next 5 years, it’s realistic I could make $500k a year for the next 30 years. But I don’t want to be a VP, even if I could. I see how much work (time) goes into being successful at that level and don’t think it will ever be worth it.

I can do this until I’m 38. And I’m all in on trying to keep this job for 22 more months. I want to do this by delivering my projects on time and making all stakeholders happy and not overcommitting to anything. I don’t think I can do this because my creativity is not consistent and I go through long phases where I get stuck, especially without being able to collaborate with others (i.e. I have to come up with three directions for a video script right now and figure out how to present these in a clear way and I feel kind of lost, despite having 3 general ideas.) I don’t know how to do my job and my whole coaching plan centers on being more confident in my work and upleveling how I communicate my ideas to everyone (which means do not ask other people to collaborate until you have something polished to show that you believe in.) I just want to sit in a room and brainstorm with a small group instead of solving these problems on my own. But it’s hard to group write and that doesn’t really work either.

Anyway, I’m not going to be a VP. That’s pretty much the short of it. The short short of it is I’m walking a fine line between failing miserably and keeping my job longer than the length of this coaching plan. I am still unclear if the coaching plan is a “protect the company to document everything wrong I am doing” and a plan to actually help me succeed and learn how to be a better team player. The stress of wondering which is true makes it even harder to do good work. I wonder–should I be looking for another job? Am I missing the memo here? Does my boss think she’s being kind giving me a 5 month coaching plan so I have a lot of time to find a new role while I finish up some key projects and the departure is a win win for everyone? If that’s the case, I wish she would tell me. But of course, she can’t tell me that. So I’m left to wonder. And stress. And distract myself more from getting my work done. It’s not good.

The best I can do right now is forget about the coaching plan (other than the actually helpful guidance on how to be a better employee documented in it) and just do my best to do my best. That’s the best I can do. I’ve already missed a deadline, though, because I freaked out about not knowing how to solve for feedback on a video and feel like I’m spinning my wheels with the editor on it vs being able to give clear direction and wrap the project up.

I’m just frustrated. Not with work, but with myself. With my role and career. Because there are moments where I feel like I’m in my element, that I’m delivering good work. That I’m offering something to the company with my unique viewpoint and skills and abilities. But mostly I just feel like a total cluster. And everyone else sees that. I don’t know how I can, in the next four months of this coaching plan (and beyond) change that. I have some ideas how to fix parts of this, but I’m already perceived as a mess and it’s next to impossible to redeem myself.

The easy answer is get a new job and start over. But, there are many reasons to stay at my current company. I like the company. I like our product. Did I mention I’m making $500k a year? My boss is actually a wonderful, inspiring woman who I am, as Insta-influencers would say, #blessed to have as my supervisor (despite that she is kinda over my #hotmess nature), I like my coworkers, I think I still have a lot to offer to the company, and I don’t want to leave. I’ve said I’m not leaving by choice (in my brain, every. morning) and I mean it. They have to ask me to leave. I don’t want them to ask me to leave. But I don’t want to start over.

Amidst all of this, I am getting a new boss. A new boss who is basically being hired to do my job since I failed. It may be a good thing if new boss can help me learn how to do the things I need to do in order to succeed in this role, and give me a framework for how I can lead better in the future when I do take on a new job outside of the organization. Maybe this is a great thing! However, it’s just going to be another layer of politics, and I can’t imagine someone coming in will be happy to have me on their team. Typically I get a new boss and they throw me under the bus immediately to buy them more time to fail (last company new boss fired me then left the company eight months later!)

Well, that’s life right now. I’m trying to just take it one day at a time. I feel better knowing I have ~$1M in stocks (though also knowing that could drop 20-30% next year is kind of scary.) I’m putting all my RSU vesting straight into my downpayment account and hoping housing prices come down in the next year as well, so we can get a good price at least. And, I’m going to try to keep my job, somehow.

Hold On for this Very Bumpy Ride

22 months. I hate to wish them to go by fast–because who the hell knows how long I have left on this crazy earth–but if I can survive at my current job for 22 months a world of life possibilities will open up. I won’t exactly have achieved financial independence (FIRE), but I’ll be close enough that I can take more risks in my career, take a step back as needed, and really focus on what types of companies I want to work for (and what I want to DO in life) and not so much on the money.

Yes, in two years, it is possible my husband and I will be approaching $2M in net worth. This seems ridiculous given just 15 years ago we had next to nothing. I am so grateful that this is possible, yet it has put me in the worst state of terror everyday fearing I will lose this job. 22 months might as well be 22 years right now. It feels that way. I don’t see how I can take my current tasks and succeed in them enough to achieve my targeted tenure. But maybe I can pull it off. I’ve lasted this long — haven’t I?

I’m trying. I’m REALLY trying. I know my boss sees that. But is it enough? And how can it be enough when I’m handed projects that are impossible at worst and next-to-impossible at best? My role is so all over the place, I have no idea what I do, which makes it hard to figure out how to get good at it. Well, it seems what I do is try to keep my job and to do that I need to make people like me by delivering quality work that effectively reflects what everyone else wants. My opinion doesn’t matter. I am nobody. I am the executor of everyone else’s ideas, great, or not so great. And I better not question them or complain or try to recommend something better. Nope. Just, shut up, heads down, GSD, pray I make it to my next vesting date.

That’s 8 more vesting periods, if you’re counting (who’s counting?) 8 isn’t a huge number. It feels more achievable than 22 months. It will soon be 7. Seven is close to six which is close to five which, if you ask my toddler, is somewhere near two. These are just weeks. Weeks that provide me a lifetime of security if I don’t go crazy and spend my earnings like a nouveau riche lotto winner. I can do this. I know it will feel so incredibly good at the end of this rainbow where I get to my fully vested pot of gold.

You know, it’s sad in a different way than my past career flubs. I actually like my boss. I want to help her succeed. I want to be a good employee (I mean I’ve always wanted to, but I haven’t always fully respected the people I work for.) I respect her a lot. She works her ass off. She deserves her success. She tries to be a good boss. Unfortunately, I’m not able to help her win. So instead of flat-out firing me, she’s bringing in someone to basically have my job title… and I’ll report into them. This is going to go splendidly, right?

With a new boss coming in next month, a handful of impossible projects, and a performance plan that will be passed on to him or her to introduce my work ethic and talent in the absolute best light ever, I’m kind of fucked–but I’m going to try to make it work. As I do. As my former colleague and I used to joke–I’m Katniss. I’ll survive. Somehow. At least until the sequel.

I Was Put on a PIP (Personal Improvement Plan) and I’m Going to Beat It.

I thought the job situation was improving. Sure, I struggled a bit to meet a few deadlines, but I was getting on top of all of my projects. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’ve been let go from jobs numerous times, so my current pickle is not exactly surprising. Nonetheless, it’s pouring salt on a long-time festering wound that I’ve been trying to heel, and I’m equal parts upset about it and wanting to fix my problems and be a survivor at my company, at least for the next year.

Looking back on the last year–the year that was officially reviewed–it is easy to forget how in January of 2019 I had just come back from maternity leave and was still pumping 3x a day at work. I pushed out some of my maternity leave to take later in my son’s first year, so I actually was out 6 weeks in 2019 beyond my typical PTO. Nonetheless, none of this was mentioned in the review, in writing or otherwise. Instead, I got handed a “coaching plan” which is a nicely phrased version of a PIP which is a nicely phrased version of you’re going to be fired soon and we’re just covering our behinds.

Many of my friends have advised me that this is writing on the wall and there is no use to trying to address the issues in this plan… it’s far too late at this point to recover. I should be focused on finding a new job. Maybe they’re right. I could regret doubling down on my current role and trying to fix the issues noted in my PIP. So many are subjective, it’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever successfully “pass” it. But there are some changes organizationally happening on my team that might help (or hurt) and my gut tells me to give it my all, wait it out, and see what happens. I’ve accepted I’ll never get a promotion in my company, but I don’t need a promotion. I need to survive and collect the RSUs that are rightfully mine if I’m able to stay. It’s that simple. Just. Don’t. Get. Fired.

My boss SEEMS to want to help me, but I’ve learned long ago to trust no one. I mean, I trust that she’s going to do what is best for the company and her career. If I’m not what’s best for the company or her career, I’m out. The big question is–am I already out in her mind, or can I come back from the dead like one great big corporate zombie that everyone loves?

The whole thing makes me feel ill. It’s hard to sleep and concentrate, so that makes it extra challenging to recover from my issues in the office. I’ve reviewed my PIP multiple times and have come to the conclusion that the issue isn’t my missing deadlines or failing to collaborate effectively with others–it’s that I can’t actually do my job. It’s not the type of job one gets training in–you’re either good at it, or you’re not. And I’m, well, I’m good enough to get by in it if its not my primary responsibility, but it’s pretty clear I’m struggling with the fundamental requirements of the role.

BUT. But. I’m also thriving with parts of the role–I don’t want to toot my own horn (because it’s rusty and busted anyway) but I can’t think of anyone else who would be successful in this role. It’s not because any of my individual tasks/projects are so difficult that no one could do them… it’s that my job is so allllll over the place that it would be hard to find one person who can do all of these projects even remotely effectively. I wear many hats, which seems to work in my favor, until it doesn’t. The hats go flying and no one cares enough to catch them.

I’m in such an emotional roller coaster right now I’m trying my darnedest to hold it together. I need to. For my family. For our future. For my self worth. And because I really want to know–am I failing at this role because I’m not good at it OR is there something else going on. Can I be successful at it? I have some pretty specific marching orders. Even if “success” in these areas is as subjective as whether that dress is blue or gold, I can at least focus on trying to do what the plan says. I can meet deadlines by better project managing and getting people involved in these projects my earlier on. I’ve learned that I need to see myself as a project manager versus creative. I am not the expert here. I am the consolidator of expertise. This kind of goes against the next bullet in the PIP which is have a strong viewpoint about my work and believe in it–but I can do that without it being my viewpoint. Turning in quality work will be challenging because I always make stupid mistakes (I miss the details, thank you ADHD, and sometimes miss stupid things like when I used the word tantamount and meant paramount and the VP caught it and did I mention I’m an idiot?) Other than that, I just need to pay attention in meetings. Ok, I can do that.

Everything above seems simple. If I just show up at work early, leave late, make sure that I’m project managing vs creating then, well, maybe people will stop hating me so much? I don’t know if it’s possible as whenever I turn something in everyone has SO MUCH FEEDBACK on it and wants to change what I’ve written. I don’t disagree with their feedback, I just wonder why I can’t think of these things myself so I can deliver something they would actually like. That’s my real goal and I don’t think I can achieve that… which is why I know I’m long for this career in general. But if I can hold my breath and hang on for dear life for the next 2 years, it will be an incredibly bumpy ride, but also incredibly worth it. I hope I can.