Careers are made to be broken

I started on a completely different career than the one I am on today. Somewhere in 1990 the IT giants made a dramatic announcement that would panic the world.

The sky is falling, well no but might as well have been. What was really happening was the Millennium Bug or Y2K, the giants of IT had announced no software or internal clocks were prepared for the Year 2000. OH NO! What

Y2K Bug

did this mean for the rest of us? It meant millions of dollars were going to be spent preparing for the year 2000. Software giants would push their products, fortunes would be made and new careers would be launched. It meant a fairly egalitarian new marketplace would be created.

My new career would launch in 1994, I loved it more than my first and would invest and sacrifice, push the limits of my health at times, crawl over broken glass and fight for my right to be there more often than I can count. The problem? While we, those of us here in the US were building this market and sacrificing to do so, it was being slowly ripped out from underneath us. For those of us who happen to don skirts and stilettoes, we have seen our opportunities diminish and our careers, no matter what success we may have achieved previously, lay in shambles at our feet.

I joined the ranks of consultants in 1994 with a fortune 50 company. I was one of the first hired into their new SAP practice, a practice that would grow to thousands worldwide. I remained with them for seven years and achieving great success. I would join two more global organizations in senior roles over the course of the next ten years. By the time I decided to venture out on my own as an Independent the market had changed, Americans and especially women were seeing less opportunity and their incomes greatly diminished.

What is wrong with this industry? We don’t own it in any shape or form in the US and it is our fault. Prior to the Millennium, Bill Gates and other ‘experts’ demanded and won an expansion to the H1B program. This is the government program intended to enable industry, science and education to fill shortfalls by recruiting from overseas. The first wave of recruitment was predominately from India, it was two parts; Insourcing and Off-shoring.

Suddenly we had hundreds of thousands of technically capable but socially inept resources swelling our ranks. The cultural issues were many, the stratification of their own country by caste, religion and frankly gender were pervasive in those early days. It wasn’t infrequent an Indian man would refuse to shake my hand or the hand of a woman client. In many cases communication was insufficient, for all of us.

To further bolster the perceived on-going shortfalls of hands and feet to do work the H1B remained at the pre-Millennium numbers. As recently as 2007 Bill Gates testifiedin front of a Congressional Committee of the need to continue to import talent, as if we didn’t have sufficient skilled resources in the US. Yet, most of us in this industry had been forced to Independent contracting by then, with lower rates and no benefits. Unemployment and

Bill Gates Testifies 2007 Senate Judiciary Committee

under-employment in my industry was the norm, long before the 2008 economic crash. Our problem as Independents? We don’t have affordable access to on-going training, skills enhancements, industry conventions or any of the other opportunities those imported ‘employees’ have. Go figure.

I have been an Independent Contractor for five years.

This year I decided to join a company. There are reasons for this, one of the biggest being my desire to refinance my home. I know, sounds stupid doesn’t it however, the banks don’t like independent contractors no matter how successful we are. The company I joined is India based; I was concerned about this but after several interviews with their partners including their one American partner I was convinced they had culturally assimilated.

I was wrong.

So here I am, palm meet face. My ego is frankly shattering in a million pieces a day. First, because I think I have made a horrifying mistake in judgment. Second because I feel so useless and dispensable. Since February of this year, I have been employed by this company and almost completely ignored. Yes, when someone wants or needs something they seem to remember I am here and happy to help, but I am more of an overpaid secretary than a highly competent professional.

What to do?

I have begged to be allowed to contribute to the Intellectual Capital of the organization, it is something I do well and have done for both clients and employers in the past; to no avail, I am ignored.

I have begged to participate in the sales cycle, I am good at this and have done this in my past career. I am ignored, except when I am needed to build a slide deck, develop a pricing schedule or audit a Statement of Work.

I would of course love to be assigned to manage a project, this is what I was hired to do. I accepted a position below past roles in other organizations so I could do what I love doing, Project Management.

Nothing, Nada, Zilch

Me, I am simply feeling a bit of despair. My ego is bruised and my options at my age dwindling. Dreams maybe need to be changed, I hate this feeling of having no control.

Perhaps this is my future…..

For lack of stimulating work

What to do? What would you do?


  1. AirportsMadeSimple says:

    Hi Valentine! I’m sorry you’re going through this right now. What a bummer. And, after you did the background work to ensure this wouldn’t happen. Companies, as you know, just aren’t loyal to anyone anymore – no matter what country they’re in. The newest place is now going to be Mexico for outsourcing because India and China are now getting more westernized and/or moving here, therefore, in their home countries they are now demanding more $$$. But that ultimately doesn’t solve your issue right now. I say go with your gut and jump. While it may take 100 resumes, there’s something out there that will fit your skills. My dad always said: “well kid, it only takes one job out of hundreds/thousands, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t get it over someone else.” I still believe that. Does that make me naive? Go with your gut, always. And go see Magic Mike with some of your best girlfriends. hee hee yee haw!

    • Oh, the thinking is I will likely just go back to being an independent. The market is rough right now but that is in all likelihood what I will do. Then it doesn’t really matter. One client is much the same. Projects run 6 months to a year and it doesn’t much matter. You just keep your resume in circulation and keep your ear to the ground. I am starting the process now.

  2. I believe it’s a cultural thing, a spontaneous reaction, 1) woman (maybe) and 2) foreign woman. What a waste of good talent. Strange.

  3. Hummmmmmmm….. while you have every ounce of my sympathy on this one Val, I see that even though we wish our cultures to ‘merge’ there is still such alot of ingrained attitude in regards to prejudices which have been indoctrinated into both our cultures as regarding our views of each other.. throughout Time..
    Something’s which even though I know India is now a leading up and coming state of Technological development .. We haven’t overcome those views ‘We’ Hold.. For some Women will never be equal and for others Foreigners too will never match up to our expectations.. For those indoctrinated thoughts have long been driven within both our cultures as we make our continual judgements of each other..
    In 1998 I went out to Sri Lanka in my capacity as a Senior Training Officer in a Textile Company with another Female.. We Went with the London Chamber of Commerce with subsequent visits etc and apart from one particular Indian Business gentleman’s obvious advances that suggested we English ladies were not only Free Thinkers but were Free with other liberties.. We had a very respectful time. And I can now smile at how my friend and I sent him on a goose trail in the hotel.. 🙂 But I digress.. 😉 … Our company then had 3 overseas companies.. China, and two in Sri Lanka.. It was my job to source Training and help with hands on training in both techniques and establish a qualification for those sewing operatives out there equivalent of a NVQ ( National Vocational Qualification) . The Factories were better equipped than many of our own and the pay although much much cheaper by far than in the UK was a very good income for those working in our factories.. …. I met many important people including the then Female 5th Prime minister A woman….” Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga”.. But even she had an assassination attempted in 1999…. So females are accepted to a degree.. but Again I digress..
    The long and short of this is I poured much of my energies into my Company working long hours neglecting my home life … and in the yr 2000 my company in the UK ceased its business,, as it poured everything into the manufacturing overseas. Many other such companies have done the same. And I was but a number on the redundancy list.. It taught me a great lesson… which took a further few years to learn as I hung onto all my skills and knowledge.. thinking I could make a difference else where.. 2 more redundancies later due to places coming into receivership, I relented and followed my heart.. That is when I went into caring not for Things and business.. I went into caring for people.. I totally turned my life upside down.. My income halved.. and now it has quartered. But Im happier satisfying my Inner Being..
    What Im saying here Val, is that you sometimes have to take a bold Step.. and sometimes that step is into the unknown..
    Follow your Heart… not your head.. follow your Gut.. And there are No mistakes in our journey, Only lessons learned both taught and gained.. We are all of where we need to be for that moment in time.. When that moment ceases to hold us.. we need to trust the Universe to lead us to the next one..
    Hugs to you my friend.. And again apologies for such a long reply…

    • No worries on the long post, I always appreciate them. I know about the bold steps, have taken them before and will likely take them again. Right now though, oh right now I think I am just a bit risk adverse for reasons of my own some emotional and others buried deeply. I think there was a part of me that was hoping I could just work and enjoy the work. No games no issues, just do the work I truly enjoy, provide value in a way I know I am capable of doing and not feel so damned worthless.

      I just hate this! So back to the drawing board.

      Thanks Sue

  4. I’ve heard from so many recruiters with Indian and Pakistani names it’s not funny. Many times I receive voice mail messages from people whose Indian or Pakistani accents are so heavy I can barely detect what they’re saying. I had 1 phone conversation a while back with a man who had such a thick accent I had to keep asking him to repeat himself. It actually kind of pissed me off. On more than a few occasions, I’ve deleted voice mails from people who I can’t understand. I really don’t have the time for them. My father had to call customer support for his cable TV one day a few years ago and told the woman who answered that he had to hang up because he simply couldn’t understand what she was saying. She had an Indian accent.

    I think the customer and technical support factions have relegated their work force to India for the same reason farmers relegated their business to illegal immigrants: they can pay them a much cheaper base salary and not have to worry about benefits or workers’ rights. Then again, our country seems more intent on teaching creationism and abstinence only sex education than science and math. The U.S. continuously ranks at the bottom of the list of industrialized nations when it comes to math and science. If we had more educated people, the “Tea Party” wouldn’t have come to power and NASCAR would be an obscure backwoods sport.

    I don’t know what to say, VL, about your particular situation. But, I can empathize fully.

    • The issues are many and we make no effort to change the dynamics. Yes, the cost of off-shoring is enticing and now the model is firmly set, I suspect it won’t change. The off-shore model for tech and customer service support is India, Malaysia and the Philippines predominately where the cost of infrastructure and resources are far less expensive and where frankly education is out pacing our own.

      The language gap is a hard one, I like many others struggle with it and American companies are getting less demanding that those serving their US customers must speak English intelligibly. It is a trade-off they are willing to make for the cost.

      As for what is happening to me and others in this industry. I don’t know either. We want to work and we want to find ways to bridge the gap in culture. It is a challenge that is difficult because we are not in offices working with people everyday. I don’t know what will happen.

  5. Those problems of case class gender still exist here and if my husband( who was a shippie in a hong kong based company) is finding it so frustrating working here i can only imagine what you are going through..he says its like talking to a wall here in these companies..they have very strong caste/cultural biases even in work places…

    • I am thinking all the time the struggle is to the organizations to incorporate the Americans the hire, especially the women into their hierarchy. They hire us then just beat us down. I talked with the partners of this company for over a month, even telling them what my concerns were. I tell you, this is bruising me terribly. Why hire someone if you are not going to take advantage of their skills and capabilities, I just do not understand it.

      • Some times its feels people hire only to fill some sort of quota
        and anyways no matter how talented one it is a pulling each other down to get up…
        its so damn frustrating ValI sometimes worry about S’s health

        • I worry about all of us, both those who come here and those who are born here. We seem to be taking steps back and losing all we fought so hard to gain. The resentment runs so high these days we are unable reach across what divides us, there is only anger remaining.

          I am as guilty as anyone else these days, my livelihood at risk I am furious. Unemployment at unprecedented highs I am livid. When you add an utter failure to make even small steps to bridge cultural differences of West and East, well I simply despair.

  6. Val,
    I cannot really give you advice, but I can empathize. My husband recently “left” another Asian company that treated him much the same way that you have been treated. Badly. Stupidly. My husband, like you, is brilliant at his job, and has been sought after for many years. Now he is rebuilding. Hopefully you can too.

    My advice to job seekers? Be aware of cultural differences before you say yes.

    Good luck, my friend.

    • Elyse, that is the stupid thing isn’t it. I like your husband was sought, this company tried three times to hire me, three times. Now they waste me. Palm meet face.

      I have worked Indian companies before, as a contractor though. Always in the past I have been very leery of going to work for them as an employee. This is why. Guess this just validates my thinking.

      Ah well –

      • It’s important to note (for both of us, I’m sure) that the issues are not racial, but cultural, which translates into the corporate culture of a company when it comes to the U.S. What is normal in the home country in terms of treatment, attitudes, acceptance, etc. is not necessarily what U.S. employees are willing to accept.

  7. My suggestion does not fit into your financial picture as well as you would like, which is precisely what Lorre suggests and then retire. Since you have already shot down that idea, I suggest continued revelation that there are sufficient workers (under and unemployed) in the US. Perhaps, if you were banded together you could make an impact. My thinking is there is no competition to staying unemployed.

    (Mumbles something socially unacceptable in both countries.)

  8. After my recent, although brief interaction with one Indian man…..I can see what you are saying. I wouldn’t even know what to tell you. I want to say: Tell them to go f*ck themselves, but:
    I’m fired up and the bills aren’t mine to pay.
    I just wish you the best of luck with whatever you decide. No one should have to put up with being treated so poorly.

  9. Is this the glass ceiling effect or merely your company’s attitude? Sounds frustrating, for sure, though I have no words of wisdom. I have not faced something similar. I’ll be interested to see other commenters’ thoughts.

    • It is both, the glass ceiling has been effectively in place for many years. However, this company is clearly demonstrating a cultural bias from what I can tell.

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