Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Taking Stock

I'm at home, nursing this week old sinus/throat/chest infection. I really don't feel that bad, but the doctor's advice was to stay away from work and get better, take the antibiotics and rest. By rest I believe that means mooch around the house and get some gentle jobs done rather than infect the throng at Tin Can, String and Whistle. It also means I can get some jobs I've been avoiding done.

The big job at hand is one set to me by the career consultants. Fill in a questionaire about my work history over the last twenty years.When Sue, my contact said I had to do this I felt nauseous. You mean I have to think about the wasted opportunities, the misery and desperation, the abject boredom... okay, positive, Pandora. "You mean I have to go back to when I was putting price stickers on stuff in the sub-basement of a department store in Adelaide?".

She said no. She asked me to go back to my first real, proper full time job. Ah, London, 1994. So that was the date we decided on. That takes out some of the pain. The four pound an hour admin jobs in dodgy companies in Neasden, the three months at a lease company as a car buyer, the time at the car dealership and best of all, the two months spent in Hounslow working for a recruitment company - yes, I was a recruitment consultant - the only job I've ever walked out of.

What Sue wants me to do is look at why I took the job, what were the key challenges of the role, what my major acheivements were, what skills I used, what the fit was like  for people, culturally and work/life balance and why I left the job. Hmm. More confonting stuff.

I think this is a forum for all the stuff I can't put on these forms that will be going to the Career Consultant.

1994-1999 - Lehman Brothers, London

Why I took the job: My boyfriend at the time had started to work in finance after a few years in the family book shop. He was making eight quid an hour. After working at jobs for half that money it looked like a cash cow and I wanted to prove I could do it. It took me a few weeks, but I got a job doing data entry which lead to other stuff. We'll gloss over the fact that I didn't have a visa to work there. We certainly will gloss over the fact I stayed for five years.

Key Challenges in the role: Abject boredom through repetition. Dealing with mega egos with money. Coping with a bullying tax accountant named Beth - it was my first real experience of being bullied - and I coped by crying, and taking the issues straight to management saying nobody had the right to treat me so. She was reprimanded and gave me a wide berth after that. The main challenge was doing something I really didn't enjoy for 10-12 hours a day for five years. It equated to burn out.

Skills used: Fast typing, attention to detail, nerd liaison (the ablility to talk to both business and technology is a rare skill I'm finding), my sense of humour, the ability to drink large qualities of lager and still get home on the tube. Denying the fact I was miserable for many years - hence the Queen of Denial. My burgeoning IT skills were beginning to out here, but I had no idea how to make the transition. Knowing if my immigration status was found out I'd be thrown out of the country, I kept a low profile and cruised in the drudgery.

People / Cultural / Work/life balance: The people fit was good in parts. I met Lachlan and Verity here, two of my longest standing friends. Most of the traders were arseholes, pure and simple, but there were also come great people there. Culturally, not the best fit. I'm not that greedy or money hungry. I like having money, but not to that extent. Also, working for and American corporate, you're subjected to a hell of a lot of wank. My refusal to play politics didn't help. I'm a bit too easy going for the London office methinks. No work life balance. Ten to twelve hour days five days a week, six in dividends season.

Why did I leave the job: My sister was having a baby and my grandmother was turning 100 and my father was dead. Time to return to Australia. To return to Australia before this would have meant never returning to England. I think that by this time I knew I was burned out from banking.

2000- 2004  Merrill Lynch Australia - Margin Lending Department

Why I took the job: I'd spent the six month on returing to Australia in a dead end role working for the custody department of a Multinational insurance company. I thought the prestige of working for another American Corporate would do me good. I'd done a few corporate actions before I got there and I got lumped in the deep end.

Key Challenges: Dealing with one of the biggest dickheads I've ever worked for in the short term. Dealing with long hours and indifferent management were ongoing issues off and on. By the last year, staying awake was a big thing for me - by this time I was really burned out from banking. I knew it was time to move on, I just needed a kick. Moved to Greece at the start of 2003 for a few months, proving to me that getting out was a good thing, only to have the trip cut short and move back, into the old role. I lasted six months.

Skills Used: Fast typing, organisation, the talent to talk to everybody and anybody, some nerd liaison. Looking back, I wasn't that challenged for not that great a money. Who was I kidding? Time to get out of banking.

People / Cultural / Work/Life Balance: Pretty much the same as Lehman but with nicer traders. Met Blarney and Sam here, two of my inner sanctum and I'm still in contact with a few others. The hours weren't quite as long. The work was just as boring.The money wasn't as good as we were lead to believe. Major self esteem challenges.Too much corporate wank for my liking but not quite as bad as London.

Why did I leave the job: In the end, the abject boredom and need for change sent me back to "do my teaching papers and go be an English Teacher". The plan was to go into a temp job that would let me out for evening lectures and top up my degree to an English Major - then do the Dip Ed. Needless to say, I've never done the Dip. Ed. Strangely, this was the best move I've ever made.

2004: Banking Bastards  R Us- Custody Division: Custody Officer / Test Analyst

Why I took the job: It allowed the flexibility of temping as well as I could get out for lectures at 5.15 at Melbourne Uni. Little did I know it would lead to a career change.

Key Challenges: At the start, keeping awake and not strangling my very inefficient manager. Once on the project it was about getting up to speed with new skills, including testing software and the joys of systems and UAT testing.

Skills used: Fast typing and organisation. Things got better when I got moved onto a project which involved testing corporate actions for the new custody system. Project Centaur - or Banking Bastards R Us speak for White Elephant. It did, however, introduce me to the word of software testing. We have to be thankful for that.

People / Cultural / Work/Life Balance: Surprisingly good. Banking Bastards R Us were actually really good employers and my friends who are still there are really happy. They have good HR, the managers are on the whole pretty good and I was allowed to develop. It was an eight hour a day job, the people on the project in particular were great. Being an Australian Corporate, wank was kept to a minimum.

Why did I leave? They were going to send me back to the business, processing custody crap. After a year in IT, there was no way I could go back to processing stuff. I got out. Also, the salary, being in the business doing the real work was twenty grand lower than what I should have been earning in IT.  It was time to get ahead.

2005: Semi Government Grey Cardigan Brigade - Test Analyst - Project Aquarius

Why I took the job: There was a twenty grand a year pay rise to do work I could do easily. It was a chance to improve my project and testing skills. Also it was near to home and the people seemed nice.

Key Challenges: Working to tight deadlines and having to discover all about a new system in a new sector. Learned more about testing and project management. Started to do some mentoring and training. A good six months was had here.

Skills used: Burgeoning Testing and QA Skills. The ability to beg an antacid tablet off one of the aging grey cardies who worked there proved useful. Generally a good stepping stone project.

People / Cultural / Work/Life Balance: Pretty good, though a bit "grey cardigan / public service" for my liking. The people were great, management good, eight hours a day for most of it. Can't complain about that.

Why did I leave?  Contract was ending, found another position.

2005-2007  Dangerous Software Technologies - Senior Test Analyst

Why did I take the job? More money and a "real testing job". A good opportunity to hone skills and possibly move overseas. This was what was dangled in front of me at the interview anyway.

Key Challenges: Learning a heap of technical stuff. Staying awake. Finding out what it was like to work for a company that wasn't a large corporate. Working in the strangest environment I'd ever experienced with some of the strangest people. Dealing with one person I had absolutely no time for. Collected Alice at this job, as well as still being in touch with a few people. Great socially. Good professionally, just not a place to stick around after a year or so - or you started to drink the cordial neat and smelling like cabbage.

Skills Used: Testing Skills. Found technical skills I never new I had. Patience and a sense of humour needed in abundance.

People / Cultural / Work/Life Balance: People and Work/Life Balance were excellent. Culturally not a great - it was a strange place. It had the feeling of decay. Two years on only half the staff are left there - most have left very disillusioned. It's a pity - they're great people.

Why did I leave? Other than a manager I nicknamed Barney Rubble who I couldn't stand, staring at a computer screen all day did my head in.

And that lead me on to Tin Can, String and Whistle.

But that one if for another blog.

Well, that's the unofficial version. A tale filled with ennui, lost opportunities and quite a lot of movement. I'm so glad my hobby jobs have helped to keep me sane. Now, as the career consultant has told me, is a time to go out and get what I want.

I just have to work this out. At least I know know what to avoid, what I'm good at and what I can bring forth given the right mind set.



JK said...

The London stint sounds awful..
You know you actually can put all that in the offial version, it all helps them help you find what you actually want and don't want.
I've done this myself (though I paid a career consultant firm), and it was actually very worthwhile.
Good luck.

Kath Lockett said...

Your progression and learnings have got me thinking as well, as I sit here pondering my recent resignation. You're an inspiration.

Narender Kumar said...

nice story i like it hmmmm. Dealership software

magical_m said...

Your 1994-1999 pretty much mirrors my experience... just substitute Lehman Bros London for Credit Suisse London and you'd about have it. I was PA for some of the most wanky people I've ever had the misfortune to meet... and a few good ones who've remained good friends.