I actually began writing this a year ago as some other issues illustrated at the beginning were seen. It was my hope that it would never actually have to go up. Meaning if you’re reading this, well shit happens. I started writing this up as I became more and more disgruntled at my place of employment. As stated in the disclaimer, I will not name names. Suffice it to say I was passed up for promotion when I really shouldn’t have been, didn’t get a clear-cut answer as why, all the while I had volunteered into an interesting project that I thought would give me some awesome opportunity. Which at this point I now realize I was suckered in.
It was an awesome opportunity, I learned a lot, and I was basically doing the job of a Lead Software Engineer while only being an Associate Software Engineer. When I shifted from one group to another I expected at my next review to be promoted. When it didn’t come I was very upset and honestly I probably wasn’t as confrontational as I should have been. There were many reasons for that, the biggest was that at the time I needed my job. The wife was unemployed and I just said screw it, deal with it unless you really luck into something or you really get burned. My former boss expressed his concern to me as he was also a mentor for an internal development program as he expected me to advance. The goal I was given to advance was to complete said development program. Here’s where things get confusing. On more than one occasion I had to cancel training at my managers request to continue spending time on the project. Remember, lone wolf engineer trying to understand a product designed by a larger group. As time went on I got some awesome fire support from people quite familiar with the project. To them I am thankful, but it still took a massive amount of time between design, modeling, specifications, working with support on other parts of the architecture, and then I was the guy stitching it all together.
So, when I got passed up this time around, things became, well quite personal When I first wrote the beginning of this post a writing this post I didn’t get passed up for promotion and I thought this post was just going to die. Back in May (2012 my mentor (former boss) started talking about promotion again. It was at that time I started also thinking about “plan b”. What am I going to do if I get burned again. I had the option of switching to a different group within the company but that would have landed a new problem. Odds are I would still miss promotion because the new boss wouldn’t be familiar with my skill set and abilities. This happened to a buddy of mine when he moved down the hill before. Even then an internal switch isn’t a full option because I was one of the few people they could get to work on this project. They could just keep me on this project until it’s completed. Why would I work on this project at all? Well Bob Lee Swagger said it like this:
I’m still enough of a sucker,you press that patriot button, I’ll sit up in my chair and say,”Which way you want me to go, boss?”
They came to me with the perfect storm of a project. I did learn a lot, and over all I think it was beneficial in a lot of ways. At the same time though for the year and a half prior with my previous boss, he and another coworker gave me a awesome set of precision tools. The tools for the most part were useless on this project since it was a modification to an existing platform that started while I was in high school. At this point I feel like that particular tool set has become quite dull from not really being able to be extensively used. I tried to work on pet projects when I could to keep it sharp but that only goes so far.
After I started writing this post they did finally promote me and I got a decent raise. Then about 4 weeks ago (at the time of my updating this part of the post) I was involved in an email exchange. The email exchange left a very sour taste in my mouth. Ask me about it in person some time, I’m not going to quote it on the blog. I had already started a pretty good cynical streak as I noticed things weren’t exactly adding up and attitudes internally were much like this. That’s the root of that email chain.
After the email exchange I went to chat with a family friend for advice. That discussion basically clued me in that my run with the previous employer was coming to an end and it honestly probably isn’t salvageable.
Again, chat with me in person some time. I love the people I work with, even my immediate manager. Moving up the chain though and seeing what was happening in other groups it was obvious that the company values had become lost.
I spent a lot of time at that point starting to job hunt, talking with the wife, and trying to find options. Why did I want options? I needed a plan because I was starting to apply pressure and at 40 lbs, something like this was going to happen and I knew it.
Even though I wasn’t in an aircraft, things were going to go into a radical shift. No matter what, the odds were we were going to have to move if I pulled down the curtain. We bought our house, planning on being here at least 8 years for full vesting. No plan survives first contact with the enemy and well things are going south.
I’m loosing altitude and airspeed and I’m running out of options. The last thing I really want to do is fully auger in and I know I could continue to limp it along almost indefinitely but that wouldn’t be enjoyable for me. I needed to have a plan on how to minimize the trauma before I ejected. I needed to ensure the following:
If it was just me, I probably would have ejected a while ago. The thing is, my wife was going to be involved in this ejection. My choices would affect her employment, her happiness if I started working away from home, she is in the cockpit with me and that matters. Delaying ejection however is bad, especially since it can continue to affect my career into the future.
It has become clear for example that I should have ejected a year ago as the first clues appeared. My delay in doing so has increased a gap. Let me explain:
For the past two years I’ve been on a project whose design, software, and principal hardware dates back to when I was in high school. To be clear, that’s when the product was released, I was in middle school when many of the design decisions were made. 14 years folks, how much has changed in the tech industry in 14 years?
Yeah, I did not gain any skills with modern tools, methods, or solutions working on this project. Then to make matters worse, I haven’t touched a single line of code (for my employer, I’ve been coding on my own) for over 8 months. Instead I’ve been writing policies, work instructions, and procedures. As I was working on these items for the project it became obvious that whoever was in this position, my self or someone else, would be doing nothing more than paperwork and traffic management for the next 3 years on this project.
Can you say a great way to kill your career?
Overall it has left me feeling unappreciated like that also means I’m probably underpaid. Being underpaid accumulates and actually is bad. May work great for the company to “save money” but kills morale and ultimately just pisses people off. In hindsight I have delayed in ejection for a lot longer than I should have, I think mainly because of the raise they gave me a year ago with my promotion. It wasn’t enough to cover the pay gap at that time, and actually at this point the gap has gotten worse because of how far behind I was before they gave me the raise.
So if you’re reading this, it means I’ve finally decided to pull down the face curtain and hold on for the ride. I’ve adjusted my ejection vector to give me the best chance of coming out on top as quickly as possible. Pulling the face curtain means I’m saying goodbye to the Palouse and on to a new pasture. It makes me sad because I do love it up here, I have a lot of friends and a solid network of people I can ask for help.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the upcoming months, I’m not entirely sure how rough the landing is going to be. We will survive, life may be rough, but in the long run I think we will come out on top. I am working to get in with another local company and ultimately my goal over the next couple years is to fire up a start-up for a project idea I have. I’m going to execute as much as I can on the side so hopefully I can get the start-ups running without a lot of pain.
*I would kick off a start-up now and make it all happen but I do not have the capital to do so. Further while I’m confident and feel that the reward will be high, there is always risk and given my family I can’t just jump in both feet first. (Oh how I wish I could. As my dad would say, family is nothing more than a hostage. You may love them to death, but they’re the biggest factor that often will restrain people from taking risk.
Barron is the owner, editor, and principal author at The Minuteman, a competitive shooter, and staff member for Boomershoot. Even in his free time he’s merging his love and knowledge of computers and technology with his love of firearms.
He has a BS in electrical engineering from Washington State University. Immediately after college he went into work on embedded software and hardware for use in critical infrastructure. This included cryptographic communications equipment as well as command and control devices that were using that communications equipment. Since then he’s worked on just about everything ranging from toys, phones, other critical infrastructure, and even desktop applications. Doing everything from hardware system design, to software architecture, to actually writing software that makes your athletic band do its thing.