Monday, October 01, 2012

Work blah-ness

Work continues to go reasonably well for me. I have switched over to the "Project Manager" ladder from that of “Scientist and Engineer”. This was initially a hard decision for me. I spent a few years getting rave reviews annually as an S&E3. Then conflicts with a coworker started to gurgle and I suddenly (despite doing the same job) wasn’t exceeding expectations anymore. Nope. I stood up for the project and our very demanding client at the expense of a coworker's perceived security blanket and was immediately noted as a trouble maker and my annual rating suffered, despite the fact that I was bringing in millions of dollars of project work. No, that wasn't the official excuse, it was actually couched as “well you aren’t doing science anymore” – but given that I was doing the exact same thing the year before and received exceeds expectations I knew I was both a victim of the elusive moving target of promotion and also “getting my due” from the coworker experience.
I made a commitment to get back to the science and stop doing the work that people were coming to me to do (lead projects). Well that next year was a hard one for funding. But those people with funding, didn’t stop in asking me to lead things for them and I got to do some really neat little projects and even mentor young staff in their learning to run a project! Then the next annual review came in and once again, I was barely meeting expectations, but was recognized as an “incredible project manager”. Right there and then I requested to be moved over to the other career ladder then upon noting that the elusive moving target to the next level had swung completely out of my reach. And with the usual quickness of government moves, I was transferred over about 6 months later.
I take issue with the S&E ladder and promotions here. For so many years I was “right there” for the promotion. But routinely criticized because I didn’t have my own area of research – I was not an expert at anything really, just did good research for a number of different clients based upon their needs. I had a good reputation for delivery. A Jane of all trades. Someone who could walk in and take whatever research (as long as it wasn’t bio) forward and provide results, present the results, build on the prior research, etc.
Now further down the road and I am seeing all these people with their niche areas of research and funding scrambling for work. What exactly are they  encouraging by forcing people to hone in on one area of research in order to get promoted? What happens when you have one client for your niche area and that client goes belly up? I have known too many people who were laid off this year when their clients quit providing and they couldn’t switch gears. I see it ongoing into FY13. That type of promotion? Not sure I want it.
I have been here 10 years and I have this place pretty well figured out. I have accepted that I will never promote to the next level, but am working my tail end off to promote within the project manager sphere.
But you know what? I could go anywhere and manage projects. I could go somewhere where the project manager actually has the authority they are supposed to in the project manager model and not in some obscure space where no real authority exists without one standing up in manager after manager’s office and pounding my fists that “something is wrong here”.
AB came home the other day with the mildly grim news that his contract with his current employer will end in Sept 2013. The big question of the day was would he wait till his end of contract to start looking (thereby securing his end of contract bonus) or start looking early. And when is early?We knew this job was not permanent from the start.
Then we started talking different options. Maybe not just the “next contractor in line” here locally. What if… since my job was no longer reliant on “being a scientist and having a lab”. What if we jumped ship?
Then AB went “home” to Alaska for a funeral. And the talk became more serious. There are numerous engineering firms in Alaska, I could “probably” secure a position as a project manager… and AB is very employable as an engineer. And the idea began to grow with us. Maybe we put off the backyard renovation in favor of saving money to move? How much would we need to move? Could we find an employer or two that would pay relocation? What about a headhunter?
And the idea of moving to Alaska grew with me. AB and I asked ourselves, what do we have here? The answer? Our friends. We have our friends. Sure we have a nice house in a good neighborhood and good schools. But the only thing not replaceable is our friends. But we would be moving somewhere with FAMILY. We haven’t really ever lived near grandparents – wouldn’t that be nice for our kids? Ok, so I have a flexible job with good benefits. But really, is that irreplaceable? I don’t know.
And so the idea took root.
And then AB got a phone call out of the blue the other day offering him the position of his dreams (for this location and what he has currently been doing) at “name your salary” and the expectation that he would be in that role for 2 years after which he would move up the management ranks and “into town” (eliminating his 1 hour each way commute). We hmm’d and ha’d it. We kicked it around for a few days until we finally agreed that he had to at least explore the option. AB sent in his resume with a salary request that made us both chuckle a bit. I mean, if they want him, maybe they would consider it? And if not, if they just laughed us away, where would we be? The same position we are now. Not a bad place.
And so now we wait.
And AB has a bit of a fear that they will actually accept it and his current company (a subsidiary of this parent company offering the job) will immediately know and may counter offer. Then what?
As I put it to AB – we make a decision.
So Alaska? On hold and potentially put off indefinitely.
That’s ok. I like my job. I have work this year (many people I know do not). I have interesting projects I am working on that are going somewhere and a relationship I am building with a potential new client.
But that itch to try it out somewhere else needs scratched. Wanderlust again.

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