Over the past month or so, I have not written much here. Perhaps you noticed. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, or that I’ve been isolating, or that I’ve fallen back into the patterns of my past. In fact, I have big news that I haven’t been able to share because, well, lots of people read this blog.
About a month ago I got an email from a recruiter at a competitor about a job opportunity that was interesting and I began talking with them. Over the course of the conversations there were many times when I felt like I was going to burst. There were many times when I really needed to write about it.
See, writing about my life is how I reflect. Writing is how I process things. Writing is how I share news with people around the world. And I wanted to write about all the ups and downs of the past month, in the moment.
But I couldn’t.
I couldn’t because there’s something deep in my lizard brain that loves the instant gratification of publishing my thoughts. I don’t know exactly what it is, but when I write, it doesn’t feel complete until I push the publish button. It’s not as strong as the craving for the initial drink back in the day, but it’s not completely dissimilar either. And I couldn’t publish the fact that I was talking about leaving my then current company because that would have jeopardized my job, my income, and my family.
Changing jobs is stressful. There is so much that is unknown. No matter how well you vet things, there’s always something that catches you off guard when you join the company. You can’t know the soft underbelly of a company until you’re on the inside. And I’ve struggled with that mightily over the past few weeks.
The truth is that my job had become a little too comfortable and I was stuck in a rut. I spent six and a half years at the old company; the longest I’ve ever spent at a company. It was a great ride, with the exception of a year when we tragically had a CEO who didn’t understand his ass from a hole in the ground. I remember getting the email that he’d moved on while having dinner in a pub in Chertsey, England, while on a business trip — the news was amazing and it called for more whisky, of course. But I’m digressing.
I struggled with the decision to move on for a variety of reasons. See, there was nothing wrong at the old company. The company has great products, a great culture and most importantly, great people. I have great friends at my old company. It feels strange to call it my old company. But even with all that, there were some challenges.
My industry, enterprise IT, has transformed significantly in the past six years. It continues to transform. A huge driver has been cloud adoption. This has had significant impact on how the enterprise behaves and buys; when you’re selling to the enterprise, how they buy is very important. So, I found myself in a place where my company (at least in my eyes) was beginning to lose relevancy in my market segment. The fact is that enterprises aren’t building massive data centers in 2017, they are consuming infrastructure rather than owning it.
Over the last few years, there has been an emphasis on a set of skills that frankly I didn’t have and wasn’t really that interested in pursuing. As the enterprise has shifted from build to buy, the skill set of the engineers has shifted towards this thing called devops which is an amalgamation of development and operations. I am not a programmer or a script writer. Don’t get me wrong, I can hack my way through a shell script, a perl script, and even some python. I can decipher xml output, and I can read and understand JSON. But I don’t like to code. In fact, I pretty much hate it.
As I looked at the landscape changing before my eyes, I knew that I needed to move up the stack. And I saw three paths; resign myself to learning to code (which may still be a requirement), move to a software company (which I’d done in the past and knew that it wasn’t what I wanted to do at this point), or jump back into my roots in Internet Security. Now, there may be other paths that I didn’t consider (like moving into management), but these are the paths that I saw as viable.
It is the third path, returning to my roots in Internet Security, that I’ve chosen.
I still believe in coincidences, though as my good friend Hearon told me, “coincidences can have meaning.”
I picked up my 18 month chip recently, and on the same day, I got the nod that the offer would be forthcoming. Now, that’s not the coincidence.
On September 22, 2015, I took my last drinks after I’d gone to a face to face meeting with this new company for a different position. I wanted the job badly and I knew that the role was perfect for me, except for one thing. Not a single customer was closer than 60 miles away and they were all on the other side of the DC beltway. As I drove home that afternoon, I knew that I could not accept the job.
I’d made a resolution the day before to start going to meetings, and failed on that commitment, but I hadn’t drank. I didn’t have my go to bottle of bourbon at the house and I knew it, but I had beers. As I approached the liquor store, I reminded myself that I really shouldn’t buy a bottle and somehow I managed to hold myself to that. But upon getting home, I drank every last beer in the house and found myself in that familiar pit of despair, blanketed in an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.
It was that evening, while sitting on my couch that I had my first vision of hope after a friend posted a video on her Facebook page and I resolved to get up the next morning and go to the Wake Up Group.
I know that there were many reasons why that particular opportunity wasn’t right. The geography was just the tip of the iceberg and I had many great achievements left in my role at the last company. I now know that I needed to get sober before undertaking such major life change. I can only imagine what would have happened if I’d made the change while in the midst of my active addiction. I suspect that the outcome would not have been good.
Over the past month, I kept quiet about this move, for obvious reasons. And I couldn’t manage the stress by writing. I’ll admit there were a few times when a drink might have sounded good but not so good that I was willing to take one. In fact, I knew in my heart of hearts that a drink would do me no good. So, without my two preferred crutches, I had to find other ways to manage the stress.
I didn’t realize it, but I was relying on my tools from my program throughout and the promises rang true.
- Early on in the process I talked about this change at a meeting, sharing that I had the opportunity and that it brought up a great deal of anxiety because I was afraid of the unknown.
- I spoke with my sponsor about the decision on several occasions, and as usual, his sage advice proved wise. Even if there had been no advice, just talking about the challenges helped me to get through the process.
- I spoke with two of my good friends who I met through my activity on twitter about the change. Their listening ears proved invaluable.
- I conducted myself with transparency toward the new organization throughout the process. When I had questions that I thought would be too tough for them to answer, I found the strength to ask the tough questions. When I wasn’t sure about the role, I told them so, even up to the point that I nearly withdrew from consideration. In turn, I believe the people I spoke with returned the favor of transparency.
- When the time was right, I was transparent with my former employer about the factors that went into my decision. I made every attempt to carry myself with integrity through out the process.
And because I used my tools, fear of people and of economic insecurity left me; I comprehend the word serenity and I do know peace.
Do I still have fear and trepidation about this change? Of course I do, it’s a major life change; but I know that I’ve done the best that I can in making the decision and I know that I’ll be okay.