Transition Job

Yesterday a big step forward, on many fronts – the transition to what hopefully is the last job working for the man. I officially accepted a new position with a new company…to start in a couple of weeks…this was a very stressful period, finding, interviewing and accepting a job while trying not to reveal my activities on the current…and now comes the official exit and “letter of resignation” process, which hopefully also goes smoothly. Lots to do and prepare for, before officially turning in all the Gov’t and company-issued IDs, laptops, security passwords etc.  It’s a little disconcerting, this being only the 4th time I’ve quit a job in over 22 years of professional service.

I’ll note that a few things needed to be crystal-clear in the negotiation process with leadership and HR at the new company, including:

  • The next vacation would be a paid one, even though the “accrued vacation balance” I’d have would go negative
  • My public-facing title needed to be something very well-understood, recognized and senior enough to benefit professional network-building – and not just a descriptive technical term no one outside of the company understands
  • Need to clearly understand the insurance benefits – small companies usually don’t provide enough for larger families, so supplemental life insurance and medical benefits are usually required
  • Reporting relationships within the company hierarchy are one thing, but actual evaluation responsibilities are another – I needed to make sure my evaluations would be by folks who are actually qualified and helpful to do this, vs. the line manager to whom I’d report
  • Onsite flexibility – upfront, I was very clear that I needed flexibility to come and go, and generally determine with my own professional opinion when and where I needed to be – i.e. no more “facetime” requirements, need to be present onsite during “normal business hours” if unnecessary, and requirement for office presence simply to be physically accessible – I am accessible 24 hrs a day, via modern telework tools..

Gone should be the interminable, useless meetings with 10’s of overpaid contractors and sincere government officials, all wasting another hour kvetching about status, constraints, risks and generally making no progress at all. Gone will be my presence among the shuffling herd of clackers milling about the the downtown government/contractor office and coffeeshop complex, the great “babysitting service” of this region.

While the strategic intent is not to simply now work another job for a long time, this new job is expected to provide much more ROI of my time – providing relevant learning, new relationships, client opportunities and overall much more equity in terms of professional development, experience and reputation all day long, to be applied to the quickly-growing “family business”. No longer will 10-12 hours every day be spent uselessly editing spreadsheets, reading hundreds of emails on which I’m one of 50 cc’s, creating and editing innumerable documents that simply populate the overhead of government compliance and oversight – without actually adding any value at all for the consumers, constituents, end-users or investors.

The new role is at a very small company, less than 100 persons, but one very tuned into and actively present and aware of my primary professional domain and interests moving forward, and is directly relevant and useful for the growth of my own business. A company and group of people I’d be happy to continue to work with (as a partner, subcontractor or otherwise) once the family business evolves enough.

Many items on the “quality of life” checklist are marked off, including:

  • Commute is cut from 90 minutes to 30
  • ID badges are cut from 8 to 1
  • Work laptops are cut from 3 to 1
  • Over 20 ID/passwords to sensitive systems are reduced to probably just 1 or 2
  • Clients, co-workers and professional discipline will now ADD to long-term personal equity, vs. SUBTRACT
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DC Datsusara – Escape of the Clacker

…this will probably be a great title candidate for the eventual book, out of this documented experience…..

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203 Days

Gaa…coming to the 2-minute warning, the 2nd-to-last hundred days – on what’s actually a fabulous day for blogging…the change back from daylight savings time to standard time. An extra hour to blog, attend to housekeeping of the actual house, the home business infrastructure, the headlice in one kid and allergies in another, and the preparation for a very critical, interesting new development and service provider hired by our home business CEO (my wife), the “laundress”.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a buddy who himself is seeking a way out, through a very well-developed invention he hopes to sell far and wide…problem is, his weekend is chock full of hunting exploits, with little attention to his business, while my weekend (in this countdown period, and in fact over the past 4 years) includes at least 8-12 hours of work focused on clacker-escape. Do the math, and my 200 days to go becomes 2 years to go for him – unless he gets supremely lucky with an investor, or the product simply takes off.

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The day it crystallized – the datsusara launch point

For nearly 2 hours, I had battled the long, slow creep through at least 4 major commuting choke points in the region, now listening to the beginning of a 2nd cycle of NPR news before swapping to something else fresher and more lively – perhaps Howard or the Junkies. At this point in the drive, I was starting to think through options for a “piss-cup” – i.e. how to relieve oneself in the car without access to bathrooms or a convenient exit from the traffic. A much more common problem among commuters than you’d think, men and women both.  ‘Nuff said.

The giant travel coffee mug with the lost lid was long cold, with a little spilled on my shirt – my well-worn blackberry had ceased its morning deluge of emails and spam, and I read them all here in the car, with the blackberry tethered to the computer tethered to the inverter tethered to the cigarette-lighter for an extra boost of juice.

Happy, fit co-eds bounded by the canal jogging path, as my pals in the traffic watched and secretly lusted – for them, for their lifestyle, for their fresh air, for their age. After arriving at the secure Gov’t work location, displaying all my badges and face to the proper scanners, depositing my links to the Internet and outside world in little cubbies, and finding my way to the toasted tar that used to be a fresh coffee pot, I happened upon a clacker-co-worker, also seeking a boost to the caffeine maintenance that started 3 hours previously.

We compared notes about the traffic, whether or not our hapless clients would actually work today, and that morning’s Dilbert…and then I noticed it. My office mate was exhibiting loopwear….which I define as the wearing out of posterior belt loops due to several years of abrasion commuting to work in the car”…Sure enough, his back belt loops were revealing the white of the underlying fabric – and upon quick inspection, so were mine. On the one hand, this revelation immediately started the wheels turning, and many more conversations, about inventions, new business opportunities, and the success or not of our previous invention-forays, but this revelation also crystallized the utter, pathetic nature of our clacker, image and pants-destroying lifestyle. Our lunch conversations also tended to more quickly and frequently turn to opportunities for life outside the government IT world, outside the endless commute, and outside the need for office wear belt-loop maintenance or protection.

Loopwear the liberator.

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Turning some corners this week

This past week some pokers were put into play, and possible progress started across a number of datsusara goals – the long, slow grinding of gears inexorably leading to a life a clacking about the 1950’s-era halls of a huge government organization overpaying thousands of contractors to deliver very little results….these gears are shuddering to a definite slowdown.

The transition job may be coming to fruition – one decent opportunity in the fire, and one very promising upcoming interview – i.e. another full-time opportunity to work for the man, another man – but with very significant changes, leading closer to the ultimate objective.  These are:

  • expectations are agreed for very flexible scheduling, and in-person, onsite requirements
  • the nature of the work is far more synergistic to the professional knowedge and interests I’ve been developing into my own company
  • the location is definitely closer, and outside the city circle within which over 15 hours a week are wasted in time-sucking traffic
  • the clients are predominantly NOT long-term, multi-billion dollar government IT contracts – they’re smaller, much more commercial, quicker-moving and predominantly outside the firewalls of stifling government security, methodology, oversight, acqusition cycles 
  • the company itself is led by very entrepreneurial, dynamic people very experienced in the same disciplines I am…and it appears, though it’s staffed by many young people, I may not be the oldest one at the company, nor the only one with kids (which is a problem with smaller companies, leading to non-family friendly activities, expectations and benefit packages).

A key piece of advice I’ve learned, transitioning to a new company – being sure that in the negotiations, the vacation balance is fully loaded upon start date, and upcoming holidays or planned vacations are accounted for; otherwise it takes a long time to build back up the vacation bank to a place you’re comfortable with.

Some feedback on interviews – most interviews start with a telephone screen; this is actually a very difficult interview to succeed in, where you can’t establish personal rapport or respond to physical body language etc…so you must be really prepared, with notes about your goals and reasons for change, plus bullets about the target company, questions about it, evidence of your understanding of where the company is heading and how you’ll contribute.

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214 Days to Go

Crap – only 214 days to go – time runs fast when you’re keeping track of a goal.

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Things to fix – the Road to Datsusara

Here are the things I need to fix over the next 6 months – to achieve “datsusara” – or, in Japanese, and end to the salaryman’s lifestyle. Arranged in order of priority – I’ll be regularly posting on techniques, progress and outcomes – until the big day!

  1. Family – many areas of focus and involvement to start concentrating on, including my wife. Started
  2. Debt needs to be reduced, significantly, as without a day job, loans are harder to get and repay. Started
  3. Physical location – needs to obviously improve, to recover the over 3 hours of commuting I do each day.  Started
  4. Relationship network – needs to continue to ramp up, for new business opportunities, possible partners/employees, charge-back to previous projects, etc. Started
  5. The new business – obviously, is what will carry me and my family through after the breakaway.  This includes new skills, certifications as necessary, information about running your own business, etc. Started
  6. The “transition job” needs to happen, to start the breakaway – this job should give me more time and flexibility to help the transition…this includes ditching the “tethers” that prohibit flexible Internet collaboration – i.e. computers and applications tied to the company Intranet (and only accessible there), so many security badges for building access, etc. Also, it’s an opportunity to start working and learning within a discipline that’s a little closer to my target one. Started
  7. Personal/Wardrobe – needs to be refreshed, as more of my time is anticipated to be spent interacting with new clients, contacts – plus so many years in this downtown commute has seriously taken a toll on health and weight. Started
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