Eject Eject Eject…

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.

On Brotherhood…

masonic_memorial_gettysburg_2Some of you will know exactly of the brotherhood of which I speak, especially those of you who are brothers I’ve met in person, many of you may have no clue.  This past weekend was a reminder of just how deep that brotherhood goes.

I received an email Friday from a man whom I’ve never met.  A brother from my lodge responded to this man’s email by giving him a call.  I was informed that the two of them would be meeting at the lodge at 1745.  I arrived 15 minute early and opened the place up and reread the email from this man I had never before met.

I heard this man and my Junior Warden approach the lodge, I stood up to greet him and asked him to take a seat.  At this moment I saw what a man obviously heart-broken, torn, and otherwise a sad miserable wreck.  He was bloody, disheveled, at this point, as I would find out, homeless for his current locale and honestly at probably one of the lowest points in his life.  Worse, all I knew at this point was what he had said within the email.  A paragraph that basically stated that he was from out-of-town and visiting to bury someone who was very close to him.

Here was I sitting across the table from him, didn’t really know him personally, but he was looking to me for help.  Before we really began there was an exchange of information, proof he was what he claimed to be, my brother.  As we began chatting he said a phrase, one quite distinct and familiar and I realized at this moment how serious this was.  I asked for moment so I could send a text message.  I told another friend and brother what I had just heard and he immediately left work to assist.  None of us knew exactly what we could do so we listened.  Personally I did what I do best, listen, think and try to provide the words as best I could to help him grieve.

He hadn’t really talked to anyone in a week since first receiving the news.  He spoke for an hour straight without us really saying anything.  He vented, he poured out his soul, expressed the feelings he evidently hadn’t been able to express to anyone else.  I obliged him in every way I could.  Including calling my wife and telling her how beautiful she was and that I loved her.  I’m not complaining, it’s true, but it shows just how hard this blow had been.  As the stories started the brother who initially called him needed to leave to tend to his family.  Myself and my other friend continued on.

My wife after leaving work picked up some food and brought it to us.   This was evidently the first time he really ate in days.  As time went on we were able to move on to happier stories.  Stories from our misspent youth, of happiness, one line quips, and jokes.

After my wife left after dinner we started walking down the path of his grief again.  This time in a room that every brother knows quite well.  We began discussing his travels, differences between lodges, customs, and how things are done.  Then he asked a question, one I was more than happy to oblige, and recited the charge from when lodge is closed.  It was fitting.  It was one of many reasons why there were two men sitting in that room with him and neither one of us was going to walk away and leave him.

We continued on for hours.  Finally we decided to break.  My friend went home to his college fraternity while I took my new-found brother home to sleep on my couch.  He could no longer stand to sleep in her house.  When we got home I went through my library to find a few books in particular to help him.  I handed them to him and told him if he needs anything just ask.

4691297232_8a785ff035_zEvidently he didn’t really sleep much that night, hadn’t at all for the previous week.  We talked a bunch more.  I told a very personal story that very few people know, one I use to help people through grief and loneliness.  Took his bloody clothes and got them in the wash and cleaned up his hand again.

We spent the morning telling stories and watching TV, shows and movies from the lighter side.  Movies where things are destroyed and bad people get shot in the face.  From time to time we’d chat outside while he, “He continued his personal experiment in smoking causing cancer,” which he began 6 days earlier.  I preferred him seeking out nicotine instead of alcohol.

Eventually we went out to lunch.  I drove over to Moscow to CD’s so I’d be in familiar place with friends who could help if necessary.  CD’s was full of its normal lively banter though there were a few moments where the grief caught up to him.  My friends did exactly what I expected them to do, make sure life was good and see if there was anyway they could help.  It felt good to know I had plenty of people behind me to help me help him if necessary.

I had to convince him to get down a pork rib.  This is CD’s smoke pit, you should just want to devour that stuff, but he was back into the no eating stage.  As we left I nodded to my friends and said thank you.  I’ll need to swing by again this week to fill them in.  We began to head towards Palouse to get his car and other belongings.

I don’t know what happened prior to him reaching out to the lodge but I got to play mediator.  Didn’t think twice about it.  I had a nice chat with her father, explained quickly what was going on.  The conversation was straight and to the point.  I left her father to grieve and grabbed my brother’s things.  Hopped in his car and met him a block over.  He followed me back to my house when there I filled him in on the entire conversation and what had happened.  Overall he was happy with what I told him, relieved in fact.

We watched more movies.  Introducing him to movies he hadn’t seen.  Continued to chat and laugh and slowly he began to ease in and out of sleep.  Finally he realized he was crashing and said he was going to go to bed.  The wife and I did the same, evidently he slept through the night for the first time in a long time.

I woke up Sunday morning the wife and I neither wanted to be active but when I rolled out of bed he was gone.  His things were left but then I found a note.  He got up to go to church and wanted to take us out to lunch when he got back.  Janelle and I took this as an opportunity to get some things done through the house.

We went out to lunch, stories continued.  Slowly I saw the light coming back into his eyes.  When we got home we chatted some more and then started down more movies he hadn’t seen due to being over seas when they came out.  Most notably, Zombieland; Rule #32: Enjoy the little things.  We watched The Man Who Would Be King, mainly because it’s a story of two Brothers and their adventure to become kings of Kafiristan.  Most notably though he ate both lunch and dinner without any real coaxing.

This morning we went out to breakfast, said our good byes and parted on the Square.  He was headed to the airport to head home.  He looked like a man again and not the broken resemblance of one that knocked on the door of the Lodge only 2 and half days earlier.

Many would be at a complete loss why a man in his position would seek the comfort of someone he’s never met.  They do not understand the bond forged within that room that ties us all together.  They have never encountered the lessons taught within that lodge room.  We’ve all heard the lessons, sometimes though we may lose sight of them.  Sometimes during life’s trials and tribulations you must seek out a brother to help you find your way.  Sometimes a brother finds you as a lost and weary traveler.  If you find yourself in such a situation, pick him up, carry him, and help him find his way.

May you find your peace my brother.

Faith, Hope, and Charity, the greatest of these is Charity.  For Faith may be lost in sight, Hope may end in fruition, but Charity extends beyond the grave through the boundless realms of eternity.