In a prior blog post, I chronicled that I was thrust into a job search, due to a recent layoff. The tech communities that I participate in came rushing to my aid and sent me plenty of job opportunities to follow up upon. I’m extremely grateful that everyone (which there are way too many of you to mention) helped me out in my search, even if your suggestion didn’t net me steady employment. I wanted to put out there exactly how this search went, what pitfalls I ran into, and how perseverance eventually prevailed.
April 16, 2018 – 9:30am
You know, during my career, I’ve never been the one to have been dumped. I’ve navigated my career in a way that was rather safe, but secure. That usually lends to a steady source of income, however, usually without any drastic amount of notoriety or massive salary increase. There’s something to be said about being entirely too comfortable with your situation.
That changed when I went into my manager’s office on April 16th. I was testing new functionality for my employer’s private cloud implementation and had spent a good amount of time in the lab working on scenarios for multi-site VMware NSX and getting back into implementing VMware vCloud Director as the primary interface for customer interaction. In fact, I was just about to start testing basic communication between my two lab sites when I was reminded I needed to head into his office.
What transpired there was more of a blur than anything else. I do remember a look of dread on my manager’s face and the sullen tone with the head of HR on the phone line. Immediately, I internally seized up and realized what was about to happen. I’d say for about two to three minutes, I felt just pure panic. However, as the conversation went on about things like severance packages, documents that needed to be signed, and the apologies coming from everyone, I had a moment of clarity. Strangely enough, I felt relieved. Comedically, it wasn’t until I had to hand in my laptop that my first moment of legitimate concern happened. I had just handed in the only device I had that I could take with me to St. Louis to present at the St. Louis VMUG UserCon, which was in about 36 hours.
I called my wife and informed her of what just happened. She ended up more panicked that I was about the entire event. In fact, I was completely opposite of panicked. I had just felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Onwards and Upwards
For the first time in nearly a year, I had to come clean with myself. I was pretty unhappy with most of my situation at the service provider position. I clearly had become too comfortable with my role and I was projecting wants and desires upon something that had only recently become a part of who I am and who I’m becoming in this industry. You see, back in late 2015, I finally joined the ranks of the independents. Those people who go to technical events and offer relatively unbiased opinions on tech. I got the bug for attending events, like Tech Field Day, and being invited to influencer/analyst events. I even got back into public speaking and had become a regular, at least in the US Midwest, at many VMUG UserCons.
In fact, I looked more forward to those dates on my calendar than I did about anything internally. During that last year, any potential bastion for learning new technology was immediately snatched away due to unrealistic expectations upon the company that I worked for. Now that I think about it, a company focused purely on IaaS solutions is really going to have to turn over a big leaf to start talking PaaS and application development. Hindsight bias allows for me to realize that it was a fool’s errand to believe that implementing Microsoft Azure Stack was going to just be a monumental waste of $500,000 that would take nearly five times that amount of time and effort internally to finally realize and make a profit from.
However, I was rather downtrodden about how it seemed that any new technology stack was met with such bitter opposition. In fact, this should have given me my first major red flag. During this time, I had been having a few conversations with some pretty good places about transitioning over to them to work with Microsoft Azure. In the end, all I got was multiple levels of run around. In fact, so much run around, the idea that I had in my head of these places is likely tarnished permanently. However, even as more discussion opportunities started to pour in, I would say that I would listen, but something kept me from really pursuing those positions.
A Good Manager is Hard to Find
If you spend anytime on LinkedIn, you eventually get bombarded with a circulated opinion piece about how people don’t quit the companies they work for; they quit the managers that they directly report to. In my case, for the first time in a very long time, I had a manager in which I enjoyed having conversations with on multiple levels. In fact, this is the very same manager that allowed for me to pursue so many external opportunities, many without the need for PTO. I had found one of those rare cases where you really enjoy working for your direct manager but were having way too many internal struggles with the rest of the company.
Again, with hindsight bias perfectly tuned, I couldn’t move on because I enjoyed my manager and the team that I worked on. We had become a tight knit squad and were able to cover a long of ground and formulate plans. My comfort level was at an all-time high. I was blinded by this comfort and was unable to move along, like the rest of my brain was telling me to do so. I started to believe that eventually I would make the business impact that I had strived to do when I first joined that organization four years prior. Instead, I deluded myself right up to the point when the business decided I was no longer worth keeping.
Dropped on Your Ass
Nothing is more humbling that being told that you no longer matter to the organization you’ve been spending your time and effort to try to turn around. So, why was it that as I was sitting in the car, calling my wife, immediately after I had just been escorted from the building, that I felt the most intense wave of relief ever? I had the immediate realization that I not longer had anything shackles on me. I felt free. I was no longer grounded by my own head and instead I was now forced to find my own path.
Granted, I was also scared, but I felt that I could no longer have any excuses for not talking with everyone about potential positions and figure out exactly what I wanted to do for the next stage in my career. I was damn near giddy about the idea of figuring this out. In fact, I immediately knew that being unceremoniously booted out the back door was going to be best thing that has happened in my career since I broke from the mold of a prior employer after a 14-year tenure there.
…Not So Fast
Almost immediately, I started reaching out to my network. Multiple links and contacts were sent my way and I tried to follow up with all of them. Almost immediately, I got hooked up with a recruiter from a pretty good analytics and monitoring vendor and got a first stage interview setup for later in the week. I felt this was a good sign. I kept the positivity up when I started to receive even more pre-sales opportunities to follow up on. I even had friends of mine start a recruiting blitz upon me while I was attending the St. Louis VMUG UserCon. However, as I started to run through the gamut of these initial conversations and starting interviews, I quickly started to realize that I had no idea what I wanted to focus on for my next career stage. I went through the motions and continued as many conversations as I could. Each time, I was met with long delays, immediate rejections, or mentions of being told that my skills weren’t good enough for the role I was seeking. I was frustrated beyond all measure.
To Settle or Not to Settle
I was unwilling to settle, but I also knew when my severance package was going to end and the financial liability that my family would be exposed to without a steady paycheck and no health insurance. I was on the verge of settling for the first thing that would take me when I had an epiphany. What I really wanted to do had been staring at me for the longest time. Hell, I was even performing these types of tasks as more of a hobby or side project. I loved interacting with everyone at technical events and I loved educating. It didn’t matter what the topic was, I wanted to ensure that during a conversation, both of us came out better. I started to focus in and realizing I wanted to try to get into what’s considered technical marketing.
Immediately, I started looking through various companies that I knew members of their technical marketing teams and started having conversations. I even filled out a couple of applications and put my name in for positions. Unfortunately, I have a delay in the schedule, as I had another technical event I had agreed to before I was laid off. While attending that event, I did have some conversations with various companies and I learned that I had in fact made the “final list” for a TME position. I was excited; however, I also knew that the calendar was working heavily against me.
Lightning in a Bottle
I tend to have a very pragmatic view of the universe. Very rarely do whirlwind events happen around me that provide positive change. In most cases, these events happen, and the change is extremely negative instead. The universe rewarded me with a very rare positive whirlwind event when I returned from my last influencer event. Upon returning, a good friend mentioned as to whether I had investigated company XYZ, as they had a TME position open. Over that weekend, I just filled out the online application for the position, without really thinking anything would come of it.
I was told that a benefactor of mine set-in motion something that following Monday. I’ll forever be grateful to this benefactor, as this caused a domino effect in which by that following Friday, I had upwards of seven interviews with this company in three days, including a marathon block of back-to-back-to-back-to-back interviews on a Friday before a US holiday. Even though there was a pause for Memorial Day, within 4 business days (minus the Monday of Memorial Day), I was staring at an offer sheet for a new position. I was also flabbergasted by the fact that this offer sheet, by far, exceeded anything I was asking for.
Sign on the Dotted Line
So, now comes the fun part. Who is this mystery company and what am I now going to be doing while they provide me paychecks? Starting on June 11th, I will be starting a position of Technical Marketing Engineer for…
Yep. Cohesity. I’m going to take a bit of a risk and challenge myself in a new way. I’m going to see if there’s more depths to this persona I had developed that was decent at giving community presentations and that was getting invited back to influencer events. I know it’s going to be hard, as it’s the first time I’m not just going to focus just specific tech, but also how it’s presented to masses. However, it’s exactly what I was looking for, even if I didn’t realize it until late in the process.
I absolutely love the Disney movie “Meet the Robinsons“. In fact, at the end of the movie, the following quote from Walt Disney is displayed.
The quote reminds me that I’m always curious and I’m always willing to try new things, even if I set a reserved tone and fall into the traps of comfort. Stay curious, my friends. You never know what new door opens when you least expect it.