Gandhi said “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
It doesn’t just apply to the world, but to our current situations. Change yourself, change the situation. I spent the better part of the past five years at a company that had a toxic culture. Deadlines were arbitrary, and the only motivator was fear. Many of the people in the company however, were good people, hard working, and the archaic rules put in place, we all just dealt with. We’d suffer them, and work around them when possible. Hoping not to get caught, as that would hurt our “bonus”. And complaining when the rules hindered us.
It was like going to a restaurant and putting $10 on the table up front, and telling the waiter/waitress that for every mistake, the tip got smaller. Now, I’ve never worked as a waiter, but I know if someone did that to me, it would be the best $10 I ever never got. You can’t elicit good work through fear. It works for a short time, then people quit caring. We’re all going to make a mistake at some point, but that one mistake costs us…the other 99 times we were perfect got us nothing.
Back to the quote, I tried to change my situation by setting an example. Everything I did was better than the last. I strived for perfection, and set the bar higher each day. While I was busy spending my time, bettering myself by reading and learning all I could, I found it counter-productive to bettering my feelings about where I worked. Trying to use new tools and techniques was near impossible. It took eight months and a talk with the CIO to finally get that whiteboard. I saw the need, we were bad at tracking progress and outstanding work, it would get lost in the shuffle despite the software that was supposed to keep all that in order for us. The software didn’t work because it was to “high-tech”, and not visible enough. It was too rigid. We needed to go low-tech, something visible to everyone on the team, and off the team. Something that was easy to modify when necessary, and easy to keep us on track. It barely got used. The timing was poor. The project was nearly done, the team was smaller, and I was the only one vested in making it work. Had it been eight months sooner in coming, who knows…
That was just one area we fell short, there were so many others. The lack of trust, the constant feeling you were being watched, and the wasted time. It was ironic really, how many meetings I was in where we were told to eliminate waste in our processes. Where we were told to communicate more effectively. However, whenever a mistake was made, anywhere, our reaction wasn’t to teach, and prevent it from happening, it was to add more approvals and sign-offs to the process. Our communication had it’s own rules. We were to use special “abbrev-onyms”. I just made that up, basically we had a dictionary of approved, and very custom, acronyms and abbreviations that we were supposed to use. And when used, they had to be in all caps (abbreviation or acronym). The irony was, nothing was standard to the industry, and it made it more confusing. We had our own special date format…well, two of them since the official one wouldn’t work in file-names. And it was more confusing than a format, depending on how close to today the date was, the format changed. And punctuation, don’t need it apparently. We were to separate thoughts with a dash in our emails, not a comma… odd.
Ultimately, I decided it was time for a change. Despite trying to bring in “new” techniques like Kanban, and TDD, I couldn’t get buy in. Some of the developers wanted it, but ultimately, they didn’t have the time to learn it, and we didn’t spend money on training. So I’m moving on to the other side of the hill, where the grass is greener. Or even if there’s grass that isn’t poisoned it will be a step in the right direction.
My last day came as a shock to a few. Met with curses from those who realized the void my departure would leave. Funny, how they didn’t know I was leaving prior…it had been two weeks. But that was the atmosphere, don’t trust. Don’t communicate. The exact opposite of what was preached. Many meetings with the CIO about why I was going…he promised change. Wanted to keep me. I don’t blame him for trying…I just wish I could have gotten through that it wasn’t money (in fact on paper I’m leaving for less) It was all the little things that added up in a day. When I had a dozen frustrations, and only one or two small victories, the days balance sheet was in the negative. They were all in the negative. Even after I turned down the counter offer, nothing changed. I’d hoped the talks would have had some small effect to better my coworkers situations. I’d hoped that my leaving, despite the hassle it would cause them picking up the workload could have a positive effect on the atmosphere (and I don’t mean just because I’m not there!). I tried to lay my cards on the table. Explain all the reasons. But it’s hard to explain when all you have are a few trivial examples. It’s hard to get your point across when it’s not a single process, or person (there was one that should be fired, however…it would have helped) but when it’s everything, it’s the dozens of small annoyances and roadblocks throughout the day. When everyday feels like you’re in kindergarten.
I’m glad it’s over. Change is good. It’s exciting. And in IT, it’s essential. The new employer looks very promising. All my friends working there, people I trust, extol it’s virtues. Some came from where I’m coming, and can relate. The commitment to education is a big plus. And knowing that many of the employees I’ll be working with are the same people who present at conferences I’ve attended doesn’t hurt. It’s a place where people seem to walk the talk. I start in 11 days…I’m anxious. I needed the break in between to decompress. To get out of the negative head-space I’ve been in these past four and a half years. It was noticed in my interview…and I had to do a lot of convincing that I really wasn’t a negative person, that I wouldn’t bring the team down. I’m excited. I’m normally counting down the days until I have to go to work. I had lost my drive to work after hours, on my own projects. I no longer had fun doing what I loved.
Change is good.