I have spent the last four and a half years working on a Tier I technical support team. I applied and interviewed for this job after being laid off from a contract job as a software tester. This work has a daily exercise of communicating with colleagues (who are often seated less than a foot away from me) as we work together to resolve issues reported by our clients (who are located all over the world).
When I first took the job, I felt very nervous about the learning curve. Technical support was a noticeably different role than software tester. I leaned a lot on my more experienced peers in the beginning. Over the months that follow, I was able to retain more and more of the knowledge I was picking up and work somewhat more independently. About a year and a half later, I earned a promotion. The new position involved more leadership and coaching. It also came with its series of adjustments and learning curves. I would like to tell you I gracefully accepted each learning challenge easily but honesty forbids me to do so. I would come to learn more than once that is is sometimes just as challenging (if not more so) to be the one DOING the coaching than to be the one receiving the coaching.
Fast forward to today. Three years have past since that promotion. After a series of interviews with my boss and the the folks in human relations, I have been offered (and accepted) a promotion to a new position within the same company. This new position continues the evolution of my leadership and coaching roles. One of the rubs in this new position is that I will be leading a team for a completely different client than the work for which I have served for the last 4 and a half years. I will no longer be sitting and working alongside the same group of people whom I have had the privilege of call my peers. I get to learn a new client, a new product, a new set of processes and a new team. Like the previous positions, it will involve challenges and learning curves. But I have come to learn over my adult years that a job that shows no learning opportunities indicates one of two things: a) I am not a good fit for that job (or vice versa) or b) I am not looking in the right places to find such opportunities.
Although I am very excited and humbled about this promotion, I found myself being forced to reflect on the state of my life ten years ago at this time. Ten years ago at this time, I was unemployed. The unemployment came as the result of a layoff from a contract job as a software tester (Yes, I see the pattern too). The layoff came in November of 2002. As of January 2004, I was not only STILL unemployed but my unemployment benefits had exhausted. I was without a steady source of income and was unable to retain employment anywhere. The job market was THAT bad. The streak of unemployment would last another 4 months. It was a ROUGH ride but my family and I got through it.
So, these changes in circumstances provoke some questions. I ask myself these questions as a means to keep my ego in check. My wife and kids might argue that I ask these question simply because I like to hear myself talk. Still the questions (and my responses) are as follows (YUP! You guessed it. It’s a bulleted list:
- Did you get your second promotion in 3 years because of your enormous talents? Yes and no. While there was SOME talent involved. I wouldn’t have some of those skill sets without the influence of my colleagues an my superiors who have invested in my development. My boss wasn’t won over by me doing a Jedi mind trick. I know this because my new job does not include a company car nor a Lear jet (and my boss kept asking why I constantly wore a brown hoodie and stared intently during the interview).
- So, if it wasn’t talent alone, did you get the promotion because you simply got lucky? That is a simple and emphatic NO! First of all, I am not a proponent of luck. Lottery winners aren’t lucky. The laws of probability played in their favor. Furthermore, calling it luck implies that I did nothing to earn the position and that my boss doesn’t have the gumption to make a decision. You will never convince me that either of those premises are true.
- OK, so if it isn’t luck and it isn’t talent alone (as you pompously previously asserted), then what IS it? That answer is also simple. I have been BLESSED. I was blessed ten years ago during that stretch of unemployment. During that time, my family never was without clothing, food or a home. It was not an ideal situation and it was a hug toll emotionally. Still, I was blessed. If I can see that I was blessed during an ordeal such as that, you can rest assured that I KNOW I am blessed now.
The job that I have held over the last four years has been very rewarding. I am very grateful to have worked alongside such great people. Still, I look forward to the new memories that will be created alongside a new team. Jim Croce wrote a beautiful love song about saving time in a bottle. I love Croce’s music and songwriting but I don’t intend just to bottle away good memories. I intend to take the bottle and christen the ship of my future. OK, that was WAY too pompous for even me. Let me put it in a way like my Dad would say it. In short, I intend to take my blessing and pray for lockjaw.