10 year old references? or Rivas vs. Penn

Since I am looking into other options, I was intrigued by a program at a nearby university. It's the Fels Program at Penn, and it's a government and non-profit management masters program. I like the program and figure it would be a good background, but I was intrigued by one reference requirement. They want 1 recommendation from an academic institution. I have not been in college in *ahem* a while so I asked if this was really necessary.

The response left me dumbfounded. Part of it said, "..we have applicants who have to go back decades to get an academic letter..." They continued to say it would "not be to my best advantage" to provide 3 references from non-academic sources. Seriously, a decades old letter of recommendation has value? I don't know any professors from my college years. Maybe that was an error, but it's not possible I have learned something in the last 10 years? Isn't what I have accomplished the last five years more valuable than what I did when I was 20? Does this mean the program is theoretical and not practical, because I would consider my actual life to be more important than my college years. I was not impressed.

With a wave of my hand, I have written off Penn. Once, in high school, when Penn had sent me information, my sister saw it and scoffed, "Penn! That's the basement of the ivies!" Indeed!

And yes, my sister did go through a big arrogant bitch phase when she was in college, but she is over it now. Mostly.

Define management

An interesting thing happened at work today. Actually, a few interesting things. After I resigned (with 4 months notice so I could play frisbee this summer, save some money, and figure out what I wanted to do with my life) a few weeks ago, people have actually started to listen to me. They say they like my honesty. I was honest before, you just never bothered asking me anything. Anyway, the culture at my company has turned for the worse, it's no fun to work there, and let's be honest, working sucks anyway so when you stop having fun with your coworkers it's time to consider moving on. So he asked me why. And I told him. He asked me to write "an essay" with my thoughts so he could take it back to the management team because they don't believe him the culture is getting negative.

My initial response is then management doesn't walk around the company enough and see everyone scowling at each other. Grrrr! I haven't given that much thought to the essay yet, but it's intriguing when someone asks me to just throw my thoughts out. That's how I developed my tax ideas a few months ago. That's how I developed my master plan to breed humans and penguins. That is how i realized life is really just a crock of shit and all I really need to worry about is being happy and forget being so damned neurotic about retiring.

Anyway, I thought about responding with a single statement: Define your style of management of people. As a company, we help companies organize themselves around their strategies. Internally, we are a mess, we really are. I worked at a company before and when I left, I hated it. But it wasn't disorganized, it wasn't a mess, I just didn't agree with their expectations of workers and that famous work life balance. So I thought about making each manager define that, then actually prove they are doing it. They aren't, it doesn't matter what they say.

Here is my thought. I think I will pose a series of somewhat rhetorical questions for them to respond to, such as:
  1. Why do people work?
  2. When was the last time you asked someone randomly what they thought of the company?
  3. Did you believe their answer? If not, why? Can you address that?
  4. Do you believe your workers are trying to make the company a better place to work, or is everyone doing their work and going home?
  5. Are you making the company a better place? How?

I could go on, and I will. I figure once I list the questions, I'll spend a few thousand words expounding my beliefs. People work primarily because we need money to live. That's obvious. But as much as I make fun, I don't want to be retired, I would go crazy. I would just end up doing something full time even if I didn't get paid. So at some level I want to work. What do I want to do? I have been thinking about that a lot lately as I consider my next move. I want at least 1 of 2 things: 1) A job that interests me, one that challenges me, one where i need to think and I learn new things or 2) A job that means something, meaning a non-profit that actually makes a difference. That's it, I can't think of anything else. I need enough salary to live on, but I can live really cheap if i have to, but i need one of those two things to be fulfilled to make it worthwhile.

So I am assuming most people more or less agree with those two ideas, although I'm not basing that on anything. If I were walking my management team through this exercise and we came up with this as the list, I would then pose the next obvious question: Are you providing this type of environment to your employees? If not, can you fix it? If not, have you at least addressed it with your employees? If not, you aren't managing, you are working. It's not the same, not at that level.

After freaking out a little the other day concerned about what i would do, I am ok now. I'll be fine. My company offered to send me to San Fran again. I turned down this offer last year, and most people thought I was crazy turning it down, asking how often a company would offer to move you to San Fran! And I might turn it down again! Maybe I am crazy. Yet here is the thing. Rumour is that I was interested in San Fran. I spoke to a friend out there, and she said the 2 top guys at our San Fran office asked her if I was interested in moving to San Fran. She asked me. I said yes. She told them. They still haven't spoken to me directly. She is younger, less experienced, and has a "lower" job title than I do (but she's a great employee and more positive than me- it's the youth...we carpooled for while, and it was a good matter/anti-matter conversation every day). Anyway, I said until one of the bosses in CA talks to me, I'm not even considering it a valid discussion. Conversation over. Theoretically, they are going to call me. I bet I get an email, or they wait until I am about to leave. What' wrong with people? The press wonders why the economy won't grow? These idiots are consulting other companies! We're doomed.


Endings and beginnings, the follow up

So after yesterdays post which I wrote to try to calm myself down, written after a rant to my boss and his boss and another guy in an attempt to calm myself down, after sitting for about 1 hour trying to calm myself, after drinking a gin and tonic in an attempt to calm myself down, after brooding and thinking and pondering in an attempt to calm myself down, after all that I was 85% certain I was resigning today.

Then a few things fell into place and something occured to me: there are two active projects in the company, one of which is my project and I am the only one who can complete it. The other is something I was slated to do through September. So I went into work today and made a proposal: I will work on and complete both by the end of September, then we can part ways on happy terms. The company wins because I complete the projects, one of which is a new product which will hopefully bring them new success. My client wins because I help them complete a transition from outsourcing to internal processing. And I win because I get 3-4 months of summer to hang out in Philly, play frisbee, and save money. So far, after day 1, my company seems to be going for it. I convinced my VP, my boss a little less so but somewhat, and I think it will just sail through because nobody else will care. I'm excited, it's time for me to start planning the next adventure in my life.

All options are open, many ideas will be considered.


Beginnings and endings

Everything we experience is built upon what we have done before, everything that happens is built upon something that already passed. Even new things, even things as crazy as christ depicted in feces in a modern art gallery, are built upon things that happened before. None of us are truly original, and none of us are entirely fake. The desire to be original means you are a copy of another person who tried the same thing, and even if you do something new, it doesn't matter.

I realized today I hate my job. I hate it. I haven't felt this much hatred in a long time, I haven't felt this beat up or tired or demoralized since, well, the last time I left my job. The last time I left my job I agonized for months, maybe even a year. I was younger, a little less confident, not sure how or where or even if I really fit into the world. I wondered if anything else would come along, or how i would survive in the interim. I don't worry about that anymore. I have designed my life in a such a way that I have savings built up which allows me the financial flexibility to leave, i have built my own personality so I am strong enough to do it. Work, rather the work that I am supposedly trained to do, should be empowering. I should be learning new things and meeting people and helping companies run themselves better. It may not be the most noble enterprise, but it should be interesting. It has given me, in a fairly short amount of time, the ability to save money again and build up some savings. I realized tonight, after coming home and responding to some email, after I left work to work at home on a document I'll never bother to write that nobody at my company really cares if I ever do, after reading an email that somebody changed a password without telling me so I need to email 22 people for the second time in 3 months that the password changed and nobody told me, that i hate my job. I believe managers should empower people to make decisions, to learn, and to guide them in that. I don't get that. I have no hope for promotion, excitement, or interest in my job for at least 6 months. I am supposed to run this project that nobody else in the company understands and help build our online training courses. I am doing the latter because when I had free time, I went looking for work within the company to help someone. I am now in a career spiral because I was trying to be a good employee on one hand and, probably more accurately, was bored and trying to fill my day. Now, I am writing training courses. Somewhere towards the end of Catch-22, there is a line where Yossarian is saying they won't send him to the Pacific to continue fighting because he is certifiably crazy. He says, "They can't send me, I'm crazy." The other guys looks at him, and you can almost feel not only the pity that he doesn't get it but the absolute hopelessness of the line, and he says, "Who else would go?"

It might be time for me to go. It might be time for me to give notice on the apartment, sell some books, sell this computer, sell my car, store some pictures like buble wrapped memories and disappear for a while.

I told a story as I was in a canoe in Mosquitia in Honduras about spending a week on a beach in Mexico. I didn't really speak spanish, and it was a small town on the Pacific coast and nobody spoke english. I had a good book and a notebook and I spent all day alone with those 2 friends. I was happy. The joke was that that was paradise for an introvert. Maybe it was, and maybe i am. Maybe I need that again, I felt alive again when I was travelling a few weeks back in central america on a trip I still haven't figured out how to write about. maybe it's just time to pick up and try something new. I told people I was working from home in the morning tomorrow. I'll take a walk, drink a coffee and watch the river flow. I'll pretend I don't understand anyone and they don't understand me. I've been to busy lately and I lost touch with myself again. I promised myself before I would never let that happen and I would never do a job I absolutely hated. I fear I might be 0-2 right now.