I’ve been throwing around the idea of starting a regular blog post about my 9-5 job. I manage a team of web developers, analysts, database administrators, designers, web strategists, and QA personnel. Everyone’s asleep now, right? Everyone has moved to the next blog already. Dear God, please don’t tell me she is going to bore us about management.
Wait though. In real life, I care deeply about the twelve people I spend 8 hours a day with. I get bureaucracy out of their way so they can do amazing work. I search for opportunities to make sure that they have the absolute coolest projects to work on. When their personal lives fall apart I make sure they have meaningful work with whatever bandwidth they can give, and I remind everyone to be kind to each other, because we are all human beings. I’ve called my team one by one on a weekend when our coworker passed away, because who sends that in an e-mail? I help them learn and capitalize on their strengths and find them partners to shore up their weaknesses. I inform everyone that “we all do shit work” but no one on my team does all the shit work. I have spent 8 years trying to create a team who cares about their work, each other and delights our clients. Rumor has it I’m not bad at my job.
I swore I would never be a manager. I scoffed at my managers in my early twenties. I rolled my eyes as they slinked out of the office at 6:00 or 5:00 or (gasp) 4:30 when my day was easily going to last until 9:00 or 10:00. I railed that they were never with us when we worked Saturday and Sunday. Early in my career I was a technology consultant where my worth was literally determined by the number of hours I put in: I got paid for overtime and we billed by the hour. I made money and my company made money when I worked constantly. My claim to fame is that I worked a 116 hour week once. Yes, I collapsed getting out of bed one morning and was stuck on my Sioux Falls hotel room carpet for an hour until my legs decided to work, but I went to work that day, dammit and didn’t mention my collapse to anyone. I barely remember the managers who told me I “exceeded expectations” and that my areas for improvement were “to clone myself,” to “do a better job coloring my spreadsheets,” and to “stop rolling my eyes in meetings.” Want to bet I rolled my eyes at that comment? I was a workaholic who turned out reams of code and could optimize any process you handed me, making four hour reports run in 4 seconds. People put up with me and I did what I needed to do with little support from above.
In hindsight, the managers in that job weren’t set up to succeed. They were expected to work the arduous hours I did, but they were 5 years older. They had young families, but couldn’t be honest that they needed to slip out to go to their kid’s doctor’s appointments or school play. That was career death. No one was willing or able to stand up to the consulting machine and say “We are all humans here, can we be kind to each other?” The company was set up for retirement at 40 and the only way you achieve that is by working all the hours most people work by the time they are 65 in 15 less years. You could have a personal life at 41, except you really can’t live that way. Eventually I left when I started realizing that I wanted a life outside work too.
Two jobs later I was told that a first level management job was going to be posted and that no one else was going to apply, and no one else did. I found myself in charge of a team and I stumbled through two life changes simultaneously: learning how to be a manager, letting go of measuring my worth via my own personal accomplishments, and learning how to be a mother, letting go of measuring my worth via my own personal accomplishments. All the while, the voice in the back of my head kept taunting me with that line from the monster.com Superbowl commercial, “I want to claw my way up to middle management.” Was this what I really wanted in my life? (Oh man, I just watched that commercial again. It is so gut-punching.)
Like most people, I have no good answer to the “what do I want with my life” question. I don’t have the wisdom or the perspective to say if I’m in the ideal job for me. I am happy I made the transition to the manager role and am really proud of what our team has become. I enjoy being involved in the decision making process, the business development process, and the people development. I feel like a fraud, because I don’t have an MBA. Everything I’ve learned has been through books, trial and error, and instinct. I long for personal accomplishment still, but often when I try I just become a logjam in all my other roles. All that said, I feel like I have some stuff worth sharing:
- How do you decide if a job is right for you?
- Should you work in the public or private sector?
- How do you find work life balance?
- How do you help your manager give you a more constructive performance review?
- What tools are out there to learn your strengths and what do you do about your weaknesses?
- Oh crap, I’m a new manager, what do I do?
- Competition or collaboration?
- When do I know it’s time to leave my job?
So I’ll spend a few months trying this topic out and see if there is any interest.
The insight from today’s post? We are all human. Try to be kind to each other.