Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Professional Life or Lack Thereof

Professionally, I help develop young technology companies, moving them towards financial stability and success. And while I consider myself good at moving companies towards this goal, I’m not nearly so good at obtaining these goals for myself. The very assets I bring to the table necessitate my ruffling some feathers, changing corporate perceptions and actions to help the company advance. But this generally speaking pisses off some people, and leaves me vulnerable to dismissal.

Every company I’ve been at cites my hard work, dedication, and the accomplishments I’ve made at the company. I work my tail of, accomplish tasks that company people thought not accomplishable, and I do it quickly and efficiently, although sometimes the companies don’t completely realize the role I had in bringing about the desired outcome.

But I don’t tread lightly, doing whatever is necessary to accomplish the task at hand. As such, my resume is littered with good companies who have done well, companies where I have contributed, often greatly, but where I have not been recognized for my contributions, and have not ended up in a permanent role with a company.

I do not think that I am a jerk, or that my personality makes me impossible to live or work with. Actually, I think I can be a pretty nice guy, and I have great friends in my life as a result of it. And when I first get into companies, I think they like me as well.

It really is more a matter of doing what is necessary to succeed. Coming in as a manager, I’m responsible for the success of my department, and that requires taking the unpopular stance at times to improve my department’s performance and sometimes even the whole company’s image to the outside world. If I don’t have the courage to take the less popular road, the company never improves and we never reach our goals.

Take my last position as an example. I was brought in by a young technology company to develop their Customer Support department. And it needed work; the company’s customer base had quadrupled in the past 6 months, and the infrastructure had not grown adequately. Customers were experiencing slow service or no service on a regular basis. Problems called in were often not attended to expeditiously and customers could get different answers from different Customer Service reps.

The department was consistently playing defense; more often then not, the customers knew about issues before the company knew about it. Often the problem had gotten out of control by the time the department had realized it was more than an isolated incident. Many times the issues customers were experiencing were a result of improvements being made in the technical departments, and no communication between the departments was established to inform the CS reps.

These were issues I attacked immediately. I established better channels of communication and documentation within the department, so we would be able to more quickly determine when an issue was isolated or when issues were linked. I established regular lines of communication with the tech teams so that we would be informed of procedures that could affect customer performance, and worked with them to put these issues off until times when customers don’t use the system.

Periods of serious outages were less and less frequent and often happened when the system was relatively unused. Before issues could occur, we let customers know so they could be prepared for situations ahead of time. We knew about unplanned issues before the customers, and had common, technically based information to provide callers. And customers were happy about the improvements.

But to make these improvements happen, I had to rub some people the wrong way. Of course the technical people would rather make their improvements during the normal work day, as opposed to before or after hours. Having to inform CS of major operations can be seen either as an inconvenience or an intrusion. And the CS reps would not want to record and communicate the issues their facing 100% of the time. But only by making these things happen could I be successful at my job.

I lost the position because I didn’t “fit in with the corporate culture”. I had only been there two months, but the improvements in the customers’ perception of the company were very noticeable.

And therein lays the double-edged sword of my professional life. I think I am talented, and that I bring a tremendous amount to the table when I go to work for a company. I work my tail off, think out of the box, and help bring about the changes that can be the difference between success and failure for young companies. A company takes a risk on me, and I can help them reach heights they never thought possible.

But on my side, I will never find my dream company until I find a company that is willing to accept the challenges faced by making improvements, or unless I can find a way to make those improvements without pissing people off. Wish me good luck, folks, because I’m looking again for a company that will take that chance. I have a ton to offer, but it comes at a price. I hope this time to find a company I can call home.

Posted by Scottage at 6:18 PM / | |