Saturday, April 30, 2022

More Ramblings

We're entering the years when our children have their own busy social calendars and I'm not sure what I think about it. It doesn't really matter what I think about it, of course. My kids are becoming their own people and our job as parents is changing from actively setting their course to being a helpful guide as they plot their own course, and eventually we'll just need to be there to support them as they strike out on their own. Weird.

Anyway, Pumpkin has several things on this weekend, none of which involve us other than as chauffeurs. Mr. Snarky wanted to pick something off our family fun list to do - we have so far only done one thing and here it is almost May. We might be able to squeeze something in tomorrow. I suspect the family fun list will get harder and harder to complete as the kids get older.

Fun is still being had, though. Last weekend, Petunia had a party to go to in a neighborhood south of downtown, so after we dropped her there we headed over to Barrio Logan for a short exploration.

And our days of active involvement aren't quite over. Petunia has a ballet showcase coming up, and as with many events of this type there is mandatory parent participation. I'm signed up to help in the dressing room during one of the dress rehearsals. I just sat down and read through all the instructions for Petunia and for me so that I'll know when we need to be where. 

We are, thankfully, almost done with the annual "schedule out the entire summer" exercise required by summer camps. Each kid has one camp they want to do this summer. Pumpkin is doing a jazz camp and Petunia wants to do a volleyball camp. Pumpkin's all signed up. Petunia wants to do her camp with a friend and so we're still in the scheduling dance. Only needing to do the scheduling dance for one camp is a huge improvement, though!

I am finding it hard to motivate myself to do anything, either fun or from my ever growing to do list. I am just deeply tired. I don't know if it is because of the work situation, because we never really got a good break to recover from the pandemic stress (and let's be honest, we're never getting one), or if it is just because I am getting older and can't keep up the pace I used to. Or maybe it is a combination of all three! I daydream about taking some sort of retreat where I just sit in a pretty location and do nothing. This is not going to happen anytime soon.

So that's what is going on here. I have a couple of links to share, once again heavy on the podcasts because while I can't motivate myself to read much I am still getting on my rowing machine three times per week, and I listen to podcasts while I row. 

Ezra Klein's interview with Emily St. John Mandel is delightful and interesting and now I want to read her new book (score one to the publicist who booked her on his show, I guess)

Chris Hayes replayed an old interview with Adam McKay and Omar El Akkad about storytelling and climate change and it is really great. It predates Don't Look Up. It predates the pandemic! But it is still so relevant and it is also very funny. Omar El Akkad's final answer about how his greatest hope for his fiction is that it will become irrelevant is worth the entire show. 

This thread, and the heat wave in India right now, is terrifying and I keep thinking of Kim Stanley Robinson's Ministry for the Future, which opens with a terrible heat wave in India.

That's all I have, so here's a rabbit:

Have a good weekend!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

A Small Update and a Few Links

Not much has changed in my work situation. My friend/new boss is trying very hard to get me credit for my work and I think is having some success. The work itself continues to be interesting, but there is too much of it and we don't have a junior person on the team (I am the most junior by title and my title includes "Senior") so I spent the equivalent of an entire work day on some time-consuming and essential work that definitely did not need someone senior doing it and kept me from getting to the strategic/planning things that do need my attention. But there was a deadline on the grunt work so I plowed through it. I did get about an hour yesterday to at least plan out the next few months' work.

Given the recent events, it was a bit funny to realize as I made dinner last night that I basically wrote a project plan for a complex project in an hour and it is a good one that meets our deadlines and is achievable. 

I could do that for the other projects that need it in maybe a little more time (I'd need an ~1 hour meeting with the other project's lead to figure out what they are trying to do and then another hour to make the plan and then maybe another 30 minute meeting to refine it).  I guess most of the other people on my new team don't know how to do this and so the assumption is that I'd have to be reassigned to the other projects in order to get me to make them a plan, but really I could just do it as a small side task if that's what was needed.

I wish I could figure out how to teach other people to do what I do when I'm planning a project. I've tried a few times but it is one of those things that is just obvious to me so it is hard to back up and explain how to do it. I think the best way may be just to write some plans together. I briefly had a direct report in my old role and was starting to train him on this but then he left for a different job.

I think the key is being able to see how the various tasks interrelate - what tasks does any given task depend on, where is there some slack to allow overlap and move things faster, where do you have to keep things running in serial or risk a project implosion, etc., etc. I don't know how to explain how to see that sort of thing. I just see it.

I also spent some time thinking about my options. I came up with four options:

1. Stay put and figure out a way to make a career path I'll like at my current company. This has the advantage of leaving me working with people I like, but a lot of potential pitfalls.

2. Conduct an immediate job search and jump to some place else. Right now, it would probably be easiest to jump to a program manager-type role, which would be fine (perhaps even great) at some companies but moves me further away from my goal of getting to be technical/creative again.

3. Stay put for awhile and work to build the skills/experiences I'd need to move to a senior role like I thought I was getting, but at a different company.

4. Stay put for awhile and work to build the skills/experiences I'd need to make a lateral move into a different industry (I have been wondering if I wouldn't mind being the person behind the scenes getting things done if I could tell myself the larger goals of the work were worth it - I think a job working to electrify everything might do that).

So far, I'm leaning towards staying put and seeing which of options 1, 3, or 4 appeals in a year or so. However, I suspect another major insult would make me angry enough to just quit and embark on option #2!

For me to stay put, though, we need to recalibrate some things at home. Work is going to be intense for another few months as I learn the new things that I need to learn and also keep the various projects I'm assigned to on track with the skeleton team we have. We're hopefully hiring a couple of new people soon, but hiring is hard right now so I can't count on that happening. Also, I am not the hiring manager for the jobs that are open so I have very little influence on how fast that hiring goes.

The problem is that Mr. Snarky also recently got a promotion and so we're both pretty busy at work and that makes keeping things running at home a little more challenging. Last time Mr. Snarky got a promotion, my job wasn't that intense and so I picked up some extra things on the home front for a few months. Neither of us can do this for the other person right now. The kids are being pretty awesome and becoming more independent as needed, but they can't do a lot of the things that need doing and so I need to carve out some time to make a new plan for the running of the household, too.

Enough about all of that. I promised a few links.  They are podcast heavy, because I haven't had time to read much but I listen to podcasts while I'm on my awesome new rowing machine.

David Roberts had two podcasts on great ideas for decreasing our fossil fuel usage quickly:

- Rob Harmon on how to scale up energy efficiency. I found this one fascinating and encouraging. Harmon talks about the incentive mismatch that makes it hard to get commercial buildings to become more energy efficient and a pretty cool idea for how to structure things to get past that mismatch.

- Zeynab Magavi and Audrey Schulman on how to replace natural gas heating with ground-source heat pumps. This is another clever idea that works with the incentives companies and people have instead of fighting against them.

Ezra Klein has been doing a great series of interviews about the war in Ukraine. I found his interview with Timothy Snyder particularly good, but the entire series is worth your time. He also had an interview with Margaret Atwood that was really interesting and looked at our current point in history from a different angle.

A job posting for a Grizzly Bear Conflict Manager made the internet laugh for a few days, and John Scalzi used it as a prompt for a fun short story.

This cracked me up:

Here's a rabbit:

And now I'd better get going on the weekend chores. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Updates as Events Warrant

Well, it has been awhile.

Petunia's bout of covid passed without infecting any of the rest of us. She had symptoms between a bad cold and a flu that lasted for a few days. She doesn't seem to have any lingering effects. 

I had another weird heartbeat incident but this time we called 911 as I had been told to do. Paramedics came to my house and caught the arrhythmia on a monitor. I also caught it on my little Kardia monitor. This was not hard to do because it lasted for over 30 minutes. It only reset to normal when the paramedics gave me adenosine in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I spent the day in the ER. I heard the lady two doors down from me vomit from taking too much ivermectin and then get intubated while the staff called around looking for an ICU bed for her. I was very grateful for my KF94 mask and the door on my room. I hope that lady made it through. I saw her as I was wheeled into my room on my stretcher. She was an elderly lady who looked very scared.

In the room between us, there was a man with an armed guard who at one point became violent and they cleared the floor of all staff except more armed guards who ran toward him. Once the crisis passed, a psychologist came in. The man was clearly delusional. 

ERs need better sound-proofing.

I saw a cardiologist and discussed my options for dealing with my tachycardia, which she classed as "annoying, but not life-threatening." For now, I have learned some techniques I can use to try to force my heartbeat to reset if another event happens and I carry metropolol with me in case those don't work. If the incidents become more frequent and/or annoying, I can get an ablation done to zap the heart cells that are setting up the non-productive rhythm.

I also discovered I have elevated blood pressure and we decided I'd see if I could bring it under control by changing diet and adding more exercise (something I planned to do anyway). 

All of that happened in January.

We wrapped up my daughter's Lego Robotics season successfully. I was so proud of the kids on her team, many of whom had been with the team since we started it. They have grown so much in their abilities and confidence. I retired as a Lego coach and we moved the Lego table out of the garage. We still can't park in the garage because I bought a rowing machine and put it in there, along with Petunia's barre. I love my rowing machine. If I'd bought it earlier in the pandemic I might not have 10 extra pounds to try to lose now.

That was the big event of February. 

Through all of this, I was also working really long hours.

I started my new position at work in January. Well, sort of. For the first three months of the year, I was theoretically 2/3 in the new role and 1/3 in the old one. That worked out about how you'd expect - roughly full time in the new role and half time in old one, desperately trying to hand over responsibilities in my old role so that it could taper off. I think I got it down to about 1/3 of my time part way through March.

I had three deadlines I was working towards, two in my new role and one in my old role, all "due" at the end of March. All were extremely challenging to meet - I would joke that I had two really difficult goals and one impossible one. And yet I met the two in my new role, and the one in my old role is happening next week (that one was a production go-live for a customer, and the delays were due to customer staff availability). 

So you would think that March 31 would have been a very happy day for me, right? Finally finishing my dual roles, a reasonable expectation of glowing praise for having met my two deadlines in the new role. Well... in a meeting on that day, I heard my department head praise one of my colleagues for the success in meeting the goal I'd considered almost impossible and then the group was reorganized and I now report to that colleague, who is also someone I've been friends with for roughly 20 years and who my kids think of like an uncle. Neither of us had any advance warning this was going to happen.

Basically, on the day my "promotion" was becoming official, I discovered it wasn't really a promotion, just a lateral move. When I took the new role, I was told I would have ownership of a set of related projects. In the new organization, my new boss will have ownership of the projects and I will be the person executing on them.  All that remains of the "promotion" is a better title and a higher salary - not nothing, but not what I expected.

And then the next day, he told me that the department leadership was going to reassign the "almost impossible" project that we'd made succeed to one of the other people on his team and I would go work on a new thing. I was too shocked to really express how this made me feel, but I am sure he could tell I wasn't happy. I worked long days and weekends to make the deadline, and instead of congratulating me on that, the project was going to be taken from me and the next phase, which is when the project would get to its first public release, would be given to someone else. 

And then that weekend, we had dinner at my new boss's house to celebrate my daughter's birthday (can you believe Pumpkin is 15?!?!?!) and I think I deserve some sort of medal for compartmentalizing how I was feeling and letting that evening be about Pumpkin, who has grown into such an amazing person.

We were supposed to have a meeting on Monday to find out what this new project would be, but it got canceled. I stewed and slept incredibly poorly. On Tuesday, I reached out to the person who had offered me the new role. That person had left the department to head a different department so couldn't do anything directly to help, but I wanted to hear his opinion on whether I had misinterpreted the original offer and whether the situation was salvageable. He at least validated that I had not misunderstood the original plan and that I was getting a raw deal. We talked over my options, which were not many. I decided that I could accept the reorganization but not the reassignment of the project and that if that stood, I would quit. He must have delivered that message to someone because the next day, my project was back to being mine.

So, I'm in a place where I can stay in my job but am not as excited by the new role. We succeeded in meeting our ridiculous deadline by working as a team and because I am actually really good and taking a big goal and figuring out the plan to meet it. (I get to brag on my own anonymous blog - but I think that is generally recognized at my company, because that's why they wanted me to move to the new project. It needs someone to figure out how to structure it. But the problem with that is that if I become the person who starts projects and figures out how to structure them and then gets yanked off to do the next one, I never get any credit for the success of the projects. As I told my friend/new boss, I can see why the company would want me to take that role but they would need to convince me it isn't going to suck for me, because from where I sit, it looks like it would suck for me. I would constantly be doing the work of bringing order to chaos and then handing the ordered project over to someone new to finish it and get all the credit.)

Anyway, we will keep working as a team because that's the only way to make this project work. I suspect credit for the team's achievements will go to my boss. I am happy for my friend, whose role has grown bigger. He deserves his success and I hope it continues. I am sad to be back in the role I seem to always end up in: the person behind the scenes making sure the goals are met so that someone else can get the credit. 

My friend has plans to try to keep that from happening, and I believe he is sincere and will try to make sure I get credit. But I think in the end, it won't be up to him. Our new senior management is quite hierarchical in their thinking and so they will credit the person they decided was the leader. 

I'm trying to figure out what lessons to take from this mess. One is a reinforcement to a lesson I learned very early in my career: Always have your financial house in order so you can quit if you want to. While my career has been stalling, my husband's is going great. He recently got a promotion and big pay raise. Between that and our savings, I knew that if I needed to act on my threat to quit, I could do so. I didn't have to wait to get something else lined up. I think that is the only reason I was able to get the project back. If I'd had to wait to get another job offer before I made the threat, it would have been too late.

I also think there is a lesson for me in the fact that I have a recurring pattern in my career of being the person behind the scenes figuring out how to turn someone else's ideas and goals into reality. Being able to do this is actually a pretty great skill, but I would like to get to use it to turn my own ideas and goals into reality. There is clearly something I am doing (or not doing) that keeps that from happening.  I am seen as a good manager but not as a leader. 

Either I need to figure out how to change my behavior to remove the ceiling or I need to find a career path in which I can be happy with the ceiling I apparently have. I am paid really well and am respected by my peers. I genuinely like all the people I work with directly and we have fun on our project teams.

While I am disappointed with how my "promotion" turned out, I recognize that I am still in a very good position. I don't know yet if it is one I can stay in long term. A lot depends on how the next 3-9 months go. For now, I am going to try to make peace with what has happened, talk to a few people I think can give me advice on how to report to a friend without ruining the friendship, and think about what I want to do.