Leaving a job you are comfortable with can be one of the most gut wrenching decisions of your life.
Currently I am a week into my two weeks notice for a company I’ve worked for the last (nearly) five years. The decision to leave did not come as easily as it has in the past. I’m older than I was, I’m more comfortable with being comfortable. My career, like many these days is in the technology field. People like myself are known for “job jumping” and when I was younger, staying at a company a few months or a year was fine but as I hit my late twenties, the desire for stability outweighed the desire to make a few more bucks.
I’m a different study when it comes to careers. There are many others like me but we aren’t *extremely* common. I did not go to college and I rely on my considerable experience, references and resume. The fact that my forte is in a niche area of IT and in fairly high demand helps as well. In a few less words, I am extremely lucky to have had the turn of events happen in my life that propelled me into what I do now. While at one time in my life this might have made my head grow, these days I’m simply thankful for the abilities I have. For these reasons and others not mentioned here, the decision to leave my latest employer was one fraught with indecision, weighing of possible outcomes and straight up fear. On the other hand, it has also instilled a renewed sense of purpose, the attraction of new challenges and a sense of child-like exploration.
The company I am leaving is one I love dearly. Long after I’m gone, many things I created, designed or built will live on. The history I have here is one filled with memories of a smaller company growing quickly into a larger one. The challenges and the fun that go along with this will be something I take with me when I walk out the door for the last time. Would I come back? Absolutely. I’ve never said that about a company but the people and the environment here changed my perception of “no second chances”. Perhaps age and wisdom have something to do with it as well.
So how did I know it was time to go? This question is different for everyone no matter the career they call home. For some it’s a gradual procession of decision making, for others it’s a culmination of small events and one in particular “breaks the camels back”. I find myself to be a little of both. I’ve been asked my reasons for leaving by my peers and I’ve answered in a way that gives them enough information but not all sides. This isn’t out of mis-trust or anything of the sort but rather because there was no “last straw”. Instead, a turn of events beginning just over a year ago sub-consiciouly began pushing my path toward a final exit.
Some of my peers expressed shock that I was leaving. Some were not surprised at all. Some acted shocked while privately not being shocked. Some asked why, some asked where but most just said good luck when my notice was made public. The “why” was the most common and I’ll try to explain without too much delving into what my career consists of.
Until about a year ago I was a happy Engineer in a happy team. A team with the exception of myself, that has had no turn-over for six years. I worked with (and continue to work with for another week) some of the best minds I have met in my field. At times our personalities have clashed as happens with people trying to achieve the same thing in different ways. All in all things ran smoothly within the team. A new director was hired, we will call him Stan, away from another company and I took to him immediately, even traveled with him. He hired others from his embattled previous employer including the director who I began reporting to. This particular person, we will call him Clint, was in many ways the polar opposite of his good friend Stan whom he reported to. Immediately our entire team began complaining to each-other about Clint but had no one to turn to because of the friendship and history between Stan and Clint. So we endured. Not long after I began reporting to Clint, there was an episode in his office. Myself and another engineer were talking about some issue. It was obvious that Clint was extremely frustrated. Clint’s frustration was in my opinion born of the fact that he was not at all technical and that he was getting pressure from above to resolve this issue. Clint is a big man, tall, broad and with a deep and rumbling voice which he uses to “command” his team. Clint is also quite a chameleon in that he can act like he understands something when he has absolutely no idea what is being talked about. This personality trait did not fool our team but I’m sure he has used it to rise among the ranks to where he is today. So Clint stood up and loomed over his desk at me. Clint raised his voice and began yelling in my face. I’m an A Type personality to the core, the other engineer is more B Type. The only person I’ll allow to scream in my face in such a fashion is my mother who bore me and deserves to vent on me when needed.
I do something strange in situations like this. I become very calm. I annotate my words precisely. When I was younger, other kids called it “scary quiet”. I quietly explained the Clint had two choices. One was to sit down, lower his tone and resume the conversation calmly. The other was to have me go around the corner to HR and have them mediate. He chose to calm down. You might be cheering me, you might think I won but that is not the case. From that moment on, Clint did not like me much. He was level to me, he was professional but I suspect behind the scenes was a different story. Actually I know it was. Since I gave my notice I’ve found out some interesting things about what Clint thought of me and how open he was about it to other directors and VP’s including Stan. I had been there years before Clint and I still had my network of people in all ranks.
Shortly after the argument, Stan pulled me in his office to offer me a promotion. Stan had always been good to me at least in person. He “took care” of our team when he first got there. As he moved quickly up the ranks, he had less time for us specifically but that is to be expected. I was offered a “promotion” to another team. This was a year ago and somehow I knew this promotion would be then end of my time at the company. Stan congratulated me and said he understood the transition would take some time. At first there was no change except the pay raise but change was coming.
Just after the promotion a catastrophe hit one of our databases. One I knew the most about. I took charge, directing those on my team to do this or that. I felt like I was contributing and I felt like my team was stepping up to a huge challenge with grace. Senior people in the company including the owner were on the conference calls. We came through it with no data loss. I got calls from people I didn’t even know knew who I was thanking me. One man in particular who had a ton of sway in the company shook my hand in person and thanked me. I felt like I had shined. I felt like my team had shined.
Regular work resumed, most of it dealing with the failure and how to be better prepared for it. This took most of the rest of the year until this past summer.
I regale all of this so you might understand events leading to my departure. Late in the summer I was finally moved from reporting to Clint and put under another director. He was extremely hands off. I was on his team for months before he even acknowledged me much less met with me to discuss strategy. Meanwhile I kept helping out with what I had always done. No one complained but Clint started directing his team, my old team, to keep me away from as much as possible in order to continue the transition track. This was expected. What was not expected was an argument that would be the final nail in my coffin.
Shawn and I had worked together since the beginning. He and I had not only dug trenches but worked in them. As the only two people specializing in what we did within the company, we worked non-stop. Shawn was and is the best engineer I have ever worked with. As part of my transition to my new role I was tasked with writing documentation about all the things I’d worked on, developed, scripted, built and completed over the years. Due to how thin our team was stretched there wasn’t always time for docs. Things had calmed down and it was time. I began writing docs in a Wiki application. One day I got in early after a tough morning at the vet with one of my dogs who had eaten a bottle of Tylenol. I had also been dealing with some health issues, had surgery and was just having a generally bad time of things at that moment. I wrote for a couple hours, not saving my work in the Wiki too often. Shawn jumped into a doc I was writing and added some comments of things that needed to be added. Somewhere along the line the doc got destroyed and the last save had been hours before. I was upset. There was too much going on in my head that had nothing to do with work. I ran over to find Shawn and found him in Clint’s office. I asked him to come to my desk as soon as possible. He came over and I was upset. To make a long story short it escalated in front of his team as Shawn had recently been made a manager over the team I had left.He refused to discuss it and an hour later I was called into my director’s office. I was about to have the most in depth talk with my new director then I had ever had in the time I’d worked for him. To put it lightly he was extremely hands off. He told me that Shawn and his entire team were upset with me, that they had told Clint I was impossible to work with. They even dredged up a misunderstanding I had with another team member months before to which the other team member, realizing his mistake, apologized to me. All of this was coming from Clint as Shawn reported to Clint. I felt betrayed by the team I had helped build, had mentored and for the first time, a team in my career I cared about. My director told me this could go to HR. All I could think about was that over the years, Shawn and my ideologies had clashed over things but we were always able to settle it and move on. This time I thought, he went directly to Clint. This argument happened on a Friday and I was so full of anxiety that I drove to the office on Sunday to make sure my badge still worked. I threw up several times that weekend. Monday came and went and no one came to walk me out. Shawn was still not talking to me and wouldn’t until a week after I gave my notice.
I started looking for a new position out of the fear of repercussions from what I thought was a mild argument. Apparently I was the only one who thought it was mild but no one would come talk to me about it. I was an island. As the week came and went I heard things from people including my director that had nothing to do with the argument but added to my anxiety and cemented my decision to leave. This was a terribly difficult decision but I felt like my back was against a wall. I loved this company but I couldn’t talk to anyone about the issues. My director didn’t want to talk about it. I couldn’t talk to Clint and Shawn wasn’t speaking to me. On top of this, the role I was promoted to turned out to not be the role I was sold the year before. According to my director the path for this team had “changed overnight without and forewarning from the powers that be”. I found out some other interesting things about my new team that in addition to the argument pushed me over the edge and into LinkedIn to start the job hunting process.
I found several opportunities pretty quickly. Interviewed and on Halloween day gave my two weeks notice. My director wasn’t surprised, after all he had said that if I thought I wouldn’t like what the team was now to become, he would understand if I started looking. As I mentioned earlier, some expressed shock some didn’t but the ones who acted shocked but were not, like Clint, were the most interesting. He emailed me to “ask if it was true” a couple days later but I knew he had found out moments after I gave notice. Shawn sent me a text message asking as well but I ignored it. He IM’d me a week later and asked again and I simply said yes. Then he said he wanted to clear the air. I had expected this, Shawn wasn’t one who liked rifts with people he knew. I replied with “There is nothing to clear” but he persisted. We spoke on many things that hour. He genuinely seemed shocked that I was leaving but I don’t understand how he could be. I spoke level, not bringing up the fact that our argument and the ensuing anxiety was the straw that broke the camels back. We ended the conversation in good spirits.
I’ve probably given more detail then needed and if you’ve made it this far I congratulate you. With a week left before I begin my new assignment, the anxiety that always rears it’s head in situations like this has cropped up. “Will this be a good fit”, “Will I make a good impression”, etc. These are things only time will answer. I leave the company I’ve worked for the past five years with mixed feelings. Certainly there are a ton of great memories. There is also the undeniable mark I myself and the team I loved made on the company. There were triumphs to celebrate and failures to learn from. I take away a berth of knowledge that I didn’t have when I came on board. For this and the friendships I made, I am grateful.