Category: Life


Hello again everyone. It’s that time of year again when I…wait who am I kidding? What time of year? I post randomly, and we all know it.

I’m about to embark on a bit of a journey this year that is somewhat new and scary to me. I’m about to switch gears entirely and go back to school. I had always intended to go to college at some point and earn a degree. Somehow I kept getting sidetracked along the way. I had originally attempted to attend college 11 years ago when I was living in Ellensburg. At that point in my life I had far too many distractions and ended up having to drop. Shortly after that when I moved back to the Puget Sound region I ran into some more personal obstacles, of the family variety. No, I’m not referring to children, just family.

Fast forward a bit through some minor work here and there, a marriage and a divorce and I finally found myself taking a longer term position on a team at Microsoft. The problem was that although it was a “rock star” team, the pay was not all that much above minimum wage, and I wasn’t being paid for my overtime. Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea let me clear up a very fine point. The fact that I wasn’t being paid overtime was not the fault of the FTEs I worked with at Microsoft. No, that was solely an issue with the contract agency, who shall remain nameless since I don’t want more calls from lawyers. I wish that was a joke.

After well over a year on that team I had a choice to make. There was another team that wanted to make use of my skills, and they were offering to pay me nearly double what I was currently making, and even assured me that overtime would be properly paid. I was really happy and thought that this sounded amazing. That should have been my first warning sign.

I’ve learned that when things seem to be moving along a little too easily that something is coming up around the bend to surprise me. Sure enough right around the time that I was starting to transition between teams I started getting phone calls in the middle of the night. It was some kids calling to harass me because they had somehow managed to social engineer some of my contact details from various companies. This started a period of life where things were stressful for months on end. I had to notify law enforcement to carefully screen any calls they received about my home address as I knew some of the group involved in the calls. They were responsible for harassing others, and ‘swatting’ was a method that they loved to use to cause problems.

This led to some really hard times for me. I wasn’t able to focus nearly as well as I would have liked, and this led to issues both at home and at work. The quality of my work itself never suffered, but my ability to take criticism was definitely impaired. I ended up leaving the team I had transferred to, moved, and took a new position working on a different project. Then just over a month after I started the new positions that team was disbanded.

Since that point in time I have met someone who is truly amazing and has stuck by me through all of the hardships that we have had to endure. Money has been very tight, and finding work has become very difficult for me. It’s rare that I get calls, and far more rare that I land interviews. I had a position with one company that was basically canvassing for a well-known TV/Internet provider. It was basically bundling folks into deals. After months of work where I actually had a decent success rate they handed me a check for $18. I immediately dropped them since this was obviously not going to be sustainable.

I then went to work for another company where I was doing fundraising, actual legitimate fundraising, for various groups. I was doing well there, but was then offered a chance to work on another contracted project for Microsoft. I was ecstatic to be getting back to what I’ve known best. I jumped at it, and within 2 weeks I was unemployed again due to a bit of a legal entanglement related to the family issues I had mentioned form nearly a decade before. The past was finding another way to come back and haunt me.

That was nearly a year ago, and since then I’ve had less than a half-dozen interviews. I’ve put myself out there, and I’ve went for the work that I know I am best suited for. Out of all this time I’ve gotten just a handful of contacts, and it’s usually the same story I hear each time. It’s some variation on, “You’re over-qualified, and we cannot afford to hire someone who would leave us for a better position.” That is one of the most infuriating things that someone can hear that desperately needs work. In my opinion if I am qualified to do the job, and you’re willing to pay me fairly at a rate that we can both agree on, then I’m yours. I have only made a decision to the contrary of that position twice in my life. In one case it was to make a ton more money. In the other case it was to escape a job where you were on shaky ground every single day.

So starting this week I’m actually speaking to admissions at some schools. I’m figuring out which program will work out best for me, and seeking the best level of aid that I can find. It’s time to get out of the position I feel stuck in. I don’t want to be told I’m over-qualified for positions x, y, and z, but under-qualified for a, b, and c. That’s such a frustrating place to be, and I’m done being there. I’m going to be heads down working on things trying to go through school as quickly as possible. I’m hoping to be able to finish with an undergraduate degree, and then a masters within 5 years. I do plan on taking my first set of courses a little slowly so I can get back into the swing of things. However, once I’m back up to speed I fully intend to just dive in and get it done as quickly as possible.

I don’t know where this journey is going to take me, or what I will find along the way. However, I do know that regardless of the outcome I will be a better person for having gone back to school. I will have more knowledge to share, and a better ability to share it. I’m hoping that someday it leads me back to Microsoft, where I feel I belong. However, if someone else decides they want me more then I’m not going to turn it down. The work itself is what I want to enjoy, and if that means doing it somewhere else?

Well, I’m OK with that.

Hey everyone. This is going to be an audio update. Moving forward there will likely be more audio entries than articles for a while.

I haven’t given Podcasting a fair shake, and this feels like the time to do it.

If anyone knows a great free Podcast manager for WordPress please let me know.

Oh, and pointing out a good free Podcast suite would be awesome. I’m using Audacity for the moment since this preview is meant to be very rough.

http://www.rtoadm.com/PreludeToPodcast1.mp3

 

Things have changed a lot (once again) since my last update in September of 2010.

Here’s a breakdown of the big events (focused on the professional side):

  1. Accepted a promotion on the Xbox LIVE team I was working on in September 2010.
  2. Asked for a demotion May 2011 due to my work/life balance being completely out of whack.
  3. Accepted a job offer (still contract) on a different Xbox team in August 2011. It was offering twice the pay, and seemed like a good idea at the time.
  4. Had my contract ended on that team in December 2011. I won’t go into details on why, since it would make them look pretty bad.

The logic I was given for the 4th item still makes me do this about every other day:

I am uncertain as to what my next step should be. I was so confident that Microsoft was where I wanted to be; and I made the classic mistake of not having a backup plan. I spent the last decade preparing myself to work at Microsoft. I tested every piece of software they would let me, made contacts, and even some good friends.

Don’t get me wrong folks, I’m still a huge fan of Microsoft. I still rock a Zune, carry a Windows Phone, and prefer Xbox over other platforms.

I think a portion of why I feel so uncertain has to do with my Dad. The two things he drilled into me growing up were, “Always work like you’re trying to work yourself out of a job,” and “Any job worth doing is worth doing right.” I took those concepts to heart and have tried to make sure that I apply them to every position I’ve ever worked.

For retail this meant studying product specifications, making sure everything in my section was in its place, and that customers were given the correct information. For the answering service/dispatch I made sure that account updates were correct, other agents were notified of changes, and I was available at all hours in case they were short on staff. For Microsoft I always provided my honest feedback, always made my position on security known, and made it clear that it is possible to advocate for both the customer AND Microsoft at the same time.

I was talking to my Dad after my contract ended in December, and he told me something that has actually left me a bit shaken. The rules that he had given me, that had been set so firmly in my mind, no longer apply. He explained to me that employees and customers can no longer afford to be loyal to employers or brands. The reason being that employees and customers are now viewed as nothing more than disposable commodities, numbers on a spreadsheet. Companies no longer care if you’re competent, but if you’re obedient and are qualified on paper. They do not care how long you’ve worked for them, or the knowledge you have gained in that time. If you cannot sit down, shut up, and play the game you’re out.

This leaves me in a situation where I’m having to re-evaluate everything I have taught myself to believe in when it comes to professional ethics. What is the value in doing things correctly if it leaves you unemployed? Where is the benefit of having experience if you are punished for that experience? What is there to gain in being loyal if no one cares?

These are the questions that keep me awake late at night, long after I should be asleep.

 

Do I keep pushing for the life I thought I wanted, or do I start over?