Monday, May 10, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

I was hoping this would be further along by today but like anything good it’s not happening overnight.

It looks as if my career fortunes have changed. I had an interview last week with a partner from a small oil and gas software development firm. For the second time in my life I was taken from a boardroom to a Starbucks for a cup of coffee during an interview. It was a good sign as the last time that happened I landed a great job. I don’t drink coffee but I love to walk and talk. My brain always functions best with kinetic energy. I’m like a shark that way; so this was a great forum for me.

Periodically over an hour of listening intently I struck like a sniper at aspects of this opportunity that I had a lot of knowledge about. I stumbled a few times over nervousness and my discomfort over tooting my own horn but I was very confident in the subject manner.

There was a point in the meeting, near the end, where, James, my interviewer, let me off the hook. He said, so laid back that I almost missed it, “I want to hire you and the only thing I’m trying to figure out now is where to start you.” I have been waiting a year to hear those words.

On September 15th, 2008 my dad died at 59 years and 10 and half months old. On the same day the US market crashed. Exactly a month later and only two weeks back at work from my dad’s funeral and my bother Neal’s wedding (a week apart) I lost a half a million dollar contract that I had been chasing for a year. The client ceased moving forward because of the uncertainty market.

The month after losing the contract the company I am running is merged with a sister company against my protests. To add insult to injury my staff is redistributed to other projects and I am given a manager to work under. I maintain title and role but I have been looped out.

In December, at the point where my only goal is to get out of 2008 without anything else bad happening, I ignore all the warning signs and, at the very least, do nothing to prevent a HR nightmare from happening under my nose. At this point I failed as a leader, a protector and a friend. That was the straw.

I spent the last days of December 2008 hiding out at the family cabin. As I split wood in minus 40 degree temps I came to a decision – I needed to resign. I didn`t know much but I knew my career needed a new trajectory.

In February I inform my direct manager that I am resigning effective April 1st, 2009. I am then reassigned to spend my remaining time there training two new managers with everything I know.

I leave my job one week into April 2009.

At this point it is firm in my mind that I am going to restore the TR6. I spend the summer liquidating my dad`s unloved project cars and taking truck load after truck load to the dump. My mandate is to get my dad`s shop to a level that I can realistically take on a restoration project, make the acreage manageable for my mom to operate on her own and to effectively lick my wounds and consider my next move.

In late summer I bite down on a complete parts car in Kansas City. Hungry for an adventure and convinced I need a good engine for dad`s car I go and get it. In the process I run into expensive vehicle repairs on my dad`s truck and to add insult to injury I am dinged at the Canadian border with a major fine.

The costs directly related to this trip expedites my need to return to work. My plan was to apply for positions full time in the fall but this is no longer a viable option. I bully my way into a friend`s landscaping business as a stop gap measure while I apply for jobs.

At one point, late in the year, I`m shovelling walks at 5 AM in the morning. The only things keeping my brain active is the TR6, the blog and ``How Stuff Works?” podcasts. With the poor job prospects and inconsistent hours in my landscaping career my ego is at an all-time low by the end of November.

As a final warning sign that I’m in a dead end career my friend and employer decides to unceremoniously end my employment as the last thing he does before leaving on a six week holiday. I’m informed through a third-party. And this is a week after he has me agree to stay on until March. This thoughtless action ends a five year friendship, causes me to have to re-assign a groomsman role and – less importantly – no job.

Staring down a December without any income and no prospects I sell all the firewood we harvested when I worked for my “friend”. I then abscond with the money – I am still on the lamb – don’t tell the federalies.

I start seriously searching for employment. My search had waned in the last couple months of my landscaping career. December turns out to be the worst month to try to seek employment.

In a particular low moment I take a gig cutting firewood on new year’s eve day 2009. It was one of the coldest days of December. I arrived at an acreage south of Calgary to find a kid in baggy pants splitting lumber. I meet a tall gangly guy who puts me to work chainsawing dried logs. It’s back breaking work and a few times I come very close to personal injury as I tire under the load.

It’s a surreal experience as the guy I’m working for lives in a bombed out mansion. The place is eerie – he’s eerie. He spends most of the day trying to get his saw started.

Eventually another kid shows up in a skidoo suit and a Bluetooth earpiece. At this point my leader promotes me to be working foreman over these two rejects. Around 6pm we retire and are offered beers around the fire. I put two away in as many seconds. A bottle of whiskey is passed around.

It was clear to me at this point I was on a bad path - the whiskey and chainsaw path.

It’s half an hour home to Krista and my beard is still frozen solid when I arrive. After reporting what happened Krista makes me promise not to go back.

This brings us up to my four month long full time job search.

“I want to hire you and the only thing I’m trying to figure out now is where to start you.” When I heard these words I almost fell on the floor. James is ex-Apple and ex-Adobe so he has my full attention. It doesn't hurt that his offices are in the heart of downtown - where everything happens in Calgary. After this year and a half the fact that someone with this opportunity would say this to me is quite unbelievable – welcome but unbelievable. I was limp.

James and I agreed on a role that I would be a great fit in after quick SQL bootcamp. We have a handshake in place and agree to meet on the path forward later this week. This is a great opportunity and I’m glad I was ready for it when it came along… very ready.

This has been a long and hard year and I couldn’t have done it without Krista, our families and our friends. Everyone believed even when I didn’t.

Stay tuned…

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