Corporations seek to build a culture within their walls. Typically the culture is catalyzed by mission statements, catchy phrases, and generalized value messages repeated by various levels of management. This was no different at my employer. It was considered a family-focused company, with a long history of respecting it’s employees. In fact, the company had never laid off a single employee in its 100-year history!
This last selling point, which I must admit was a pretty good one, fell by the wayside in the first years of my time at the company. A significant number of IT employees were let go one fall day, and the culture never recovered the family-focused vibe. In truth, the vibe felt pretty manufactured the whole time and never tasted like the real thing. While family-friendly benefits existed, there were no creative or exceptional family benefits this company provided over any other typical corporation.
Feeling safe and secure in one’s job is a nice thing on the surface. I learned a safe feeling in one’s job is not real; it can easily lead to ambivalence, lack of career motivation, and weakening of one’s skills. Was this feeling of safety causing me to let my skills diminish? If I were laid off, how marketable would I be for prospective employers? My answers to these questions were not positive.
I came to realize that I would much rather feel safe in my abilities and experiences than in any particular job. Prior to leaving my corporate job, I spent many hours getting a basic understanding of new technologies that provided a path of growth and opportunity. I never felt like there was a moment when I was skilled enough to jump ship, but there was certainly a moment when it was time to jump anyway.
The three-month training program, something I labelled a “benefit” even upon my exit interview, was one of the more damaging events of my career. The training was specifically designed to tear down each trainee to a base level and then build them up at the same rate. The training did not focus on any individual’s particular skill set. The training did not recognize when an individual was best deployed into a different problem area.
My greatest loss in this training process was forgetting what excited me about computing in the first place: using my creativity and problem-solving abilities to create elegant solutions to interesting problems. All passion for development had been extracted from me like a lime freshly squeezed to provide juice in a CEO’s beach-side margarita. It took six years to rediscover that passion. I was a shell of my potential self.
Before leaving the company, I tried to point my newly discovered passion inward toward the company. Encouraged to run with several of my ideas, I met impasses at each and every turn. The internals of this organization were pretty much designed to foster the status quo and over time I knew I needed to leave.
For all of these events, I blame myself more than the corporation. My early lack of self-awareness made it very difficult for the company to handle my new-found focus. If I had been more insistent up front, perhaps my career path would have been different within those walls. Or perhaps I never would have been hired.