Choices are Terrible

1343863240_3320_fearFear is a terrible thing.  The stories we tell ourselves of what will happen if we do or do not do certain things can spin out of control in our own heads.  If we have any imagination our internal stories can cause us too cower in corners refusing to take the steps we know in our hearts are right.

What do I fear?

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  • Losing everything
  • Never working again
  • Being alone for the rest of my life
  • Never being loved again
  • Dying alone
  • Not achieving any of my dreams

What am I willing to sacrifice so this doesn’t happen?  Apparently everything at least that is how it feels right now, today as I face the nearly untenable return to work in a hostile environment leaving too much unsaid at home.  What is it in my personal psyche that will accept what is indefensible under any normal circumstance rather than take risks that are not grounded in facts.

Yes, some of them are grounded in personal  historical realities.

Yes, some of them are grounded in societal standards and those translate into well founded fears.

Finally, some are simply my own fears, my own personal insecurities built over years of hearing “not good enough”.

Somewhere, somehow there comes a time when it is important to separate what are unreasonable fears from what is simply the truth about choices we make and why we make them.  Is there a part of us that chooses jobs because we think, ‘this is something that makes sense and I can do this; be successful at this.’  Or, as we get older in a market that values youth and beauty do we think, ‘shit thank you Jesus, someone is willing to pay me now if I can only stay under the radar long enough to retire I will be good.’

I wonder about this one, I truly do.  After twenty plus years in an industry that is unkind at best to women, one that I have fought hard to succeed in I find myself on the cusp of antiquity.  I still love what I do. I badly want off the road, badly want to find a ‘forever’ home that will value hard won knowledge and my years of experience.  Truly want to find somewhere to rest myself, on the laurels I have earned through years and 3 million miles in the air.  I still have it in me to work hard and contribute to success.  I still have it in me to mentor and lead.  What I don’t have in me any longer is surviving in hostile environments in silence hoping it will be better tomorrow.  I just don’t have that in me, I simply can’t find the strength or wherewithal to hope next week or this week will be better than the last one when I know the same people will be there and nothing has been done to change their bad behavior.

hazardous-waste-symbolsThe idea of getting in my car and driving four hours to an environment that is so toxic it makes me want to weep or scream every single day makes me weep now.

Funny though, when the environment I am leaving is as toxic it is choosing between two rooms one full of Sarin the other full of Rican.  Which is worse?

Dying alone seems a better choice, it is simply a matter of telling myself this isn’t the worse that can happen.  Never being loved is a silly fiction, I know I am loved it is simply a matter of definitions, love comes as a gift in so many different packages.  Being alone, how much worse could it be than it is right now when I am more alone together than I have ever been.

Losing everything, now this is a terrible one.  Terrible because I have been here before and I am too old to start over again.  Terrible because it is a very real fear, not just one I made up in my over active imagination but one I have lived.  Terrible because it truly does scare the hell out of me and causes emotional and intellectual paralysis.

Love is a sometime horrible state of being, we hope beyond all reason what we love and whom we love will be good for us and that in turn we will be good for them.  We hope, rightly or wrongly we can fix what is broken in ourselves and that our baggage will match theirs so our travels are along the same roads.  We hope we speak the same language, from our hearts and our minds; both are important as we walk along paths no others have medium_diverging_paths-270x180tread dragging our histories behind us.

Sometimes we fail.  Sometimes, despite all our best intentions we fail miserably.  Sometimes there isn’t enough love to fix what is broken inside of us.  Compassion, empathy, humor, self-confidence these have to be part of the mix we bring.  When we try to force another person into a mold, whether it is an image we have of him or her or of how marriage should work we are doomed before we place our feet firmly on the path.  When  we have no flexibility in our personal views, in our vision of the world we have doomed ourselves to a very narrow future and we doom our partner to unhappiness if they don’t agree.

What am I willing to sacrifice?  Myself? My pride?

What happens when we don’t tell, or worse when we do but the other person doesn listen or doesn’t hear?

I have to answer these questions soon.  Choices are terrible things, aren’t they?

I leave you with this from one of my favorite Broadway shows, I think it says what we should all ultimately strive for.

Overrated, Certainly Not

crybabySome weeks it doesn’t pay to get out of bed, well okay it does pay but not enough. Have I ever mentioned what I do for a living?

No?

Well, if I don’t get out of bed I do not get paid, no one pays me to sit at home, not one single red cent. It would be nice if I got paid to recline, eat grapes, sip wine and otherwise indulge my decadent debauched  dissolute self-indulgent delicate sensibilities, but it doesn’t happen. For many years, six in fact I have been an independent consultant or as some of my more delicate subtle clients refer to me conslutant.

For nearly twenty years, I honed my skills at sucking up and telling clients, what they didn’t want to hear in dulcet tones and with smiles, convincing them, that yes, they really did want to do what they didn’t want to do and they wanted to pay astronomical sums of money for the privilege of doing it. Over the years, my clients bitched and moaned about the cost of my presence, whined about how much they paid just to have me darken their door. Now and then, a client would shake an invoice in my face demanding I actually read aloud the figure at the bottom and explain why I was worth all those zeros.

Finally after all those years I decided I no longer wanted to work for others, there is a story behind that decision and it isn’t pretty. Nevertheless, there is a downside for my independence. I do not get paid if I don’t roll out of bed and show up at the client side to work each day. Having a bad day, worse how about a bad week? Suck it up, really tough tits girlfriend get your azz in gear stop at Starbucks for a quad shot and shake it off before you get to the client, no one cares they are paying you for your skills and competency, not your personal drama.

Sick today, hope it is only today and not all week? If you are too sick to get out of bed this is a day you won’t earn a dime. Better hope you have money in the bank, your bank that is. Your salary is paid by you, if you don’t have enough to cover it for the next payroll, you will be short paid. Hope the bills aren’t too bad and you don’t have quarterly taxes to pay this month!

Another big downside to my world?  There is nothing like uncertainty. Oh sure, everyone has uncertainty in life and certainly in their jobs. Whether you are an employee or a contractor you face the reality of job loss, this is  the world we live in today. If you are an employee with even a little bit of tenure you will likely receive some notice or a small package in lieu of notice. You will also be eligible for unemployment, something to tide you over. Contractors on the other hand get nothing, maybe not even the courtesy of a warning shot over the bow. We sign-up for specific periods of performance (contracts) however, these can end without any notice. If we know contract is ending we begin looking for our next contract, if a contract is ended without warning we are out in the cold, no severance no unemployment.

Most of us work on Net 30 day invoicing terms, all too often when our contracts end without notice that last payment is very difficult to collect.money-lock1-300x269

I am an IT Program / Project Manager. I am independent, I have my own consulting firm and I am incorporated. I have been fortunate, I have had very little time between contracts in the nearly six years I have been independent. This doesn’t mean there haven’t been a few scary times though. I have been on a couple of contracts that ended abruptly, a couple that were long-term and great fun. I have nearly always been fortunate in those I have worked with, never had problems collecting my money.

The upside to how I live in my work life? I am independent, if I really don’t like a client I am free to end a contract. I do not have to play politics, I have only one goal I want the project I am working on to be successful and the client to be successful, this is the only dog I have in the fight. If my dog wins I will gain a client for life and a good reference.

Generally speaking, I control the hours I work and the time I spend in my work. I no longer work 60, 70 and even 80 hour weeks. This happens now and then, when it does it is justified and necessary for a very short period of time. I take at least four weeks a year of vacation, I never did this when I was someone else’s employee.

The downside to my work life? Some days, when I am having a tough day, when I don’t feel emotionally, mentally or physically up to the day I can’t call in sick. I have a greater obligation to my client than I might to an employer. I also only have myself and I don’t get paid if I don’t roll my happy ass out of bed and get to work.

Most days though, even when my life feels like it is spinning entirely out of control it is pretty dammed good to be me.

Career Trajectory at Fifty-Five

Let’s talk about some of old adages we use to accept as truth, but not so much any longer.

  Age before beauty
  Practice makes perfect
  Experience is the mother of wisdom

What has changed you ask? Better, what exactly am I referring to when I say these are no longer truths within our culture?

These I think are more apropos for today:

  Hype and arrogance trumps experience
  Blame the other guy or circumstances beyond your control for your failure
  Two in the bush for half as much makes perfect cents

Why do I think this, it is a fair question. Honestly, this is about career progression and how those of us who have not been fortunate in our bonus checks, must navigate the ever-increasing rough waters we find ourselves in as we age up and out of our career relevancy.

My career and educational path was not a straight line, by the time that sheepskin was in my hand, the shine was slightly tarnished and I had a few years of work behind me. What that first degree gave me was the burnish I needed to move up the ladder, be taken more seriously and yes, be paid a little more for the work I was already doing.

As a woman in the world of business, you may move up, usually more slowly than men; this will depend on your willingness to throw others under the bus in your climb to the top, including your friends and family. My rise

The difference truly men are willing to go to great lengths

through the managerial ranks was impeded only by lack of corporate / political sophistication; encumbered by my failure to identify my enemies and my belief that ethics and quality outweighed arrogance and a penis. It didn’t, not even once.

In my thirties I was handed a gift, a career opportunity that would change my trajectory and open doors that might not have opened otherwise. I walked through those doors; I also walked through University doors once again and pursued a Masters to polish my credentials, one more time. This gift didn’t come without sacrifice, including playing in an entirely new sandbox with much different, bigger and more aggressive dogs. There were pros and cons to this career gift such as:

PROS

  • Challenging work
  • Fascinating, always new experiences
  • Travel, national and international
  • Education, lots of it
  • Decent income and decent opportunity for women, myself included, initially

CONS

  • Long hours, 70 hour weeks were the norm
  • Long weeks away from home, it wasn’t unknown to be away two to three weeks at a time
  • Dog-eat-dog mentality within the industry
  • Ten years ago the industry was outsourced badly

Career Relevance and Age

I don’t think of myself as old, irrelevant or outdated. Truth be told, I think of myself as damned near in my prime. I am experienced, knowledgeable and unencumbered by many of the outside influences others might still have. I no longer want to move up the career ladder, been there done that and found I didn’t all that much enjoy some of the jobs I landed in. Now I know the jobs I enjoy and am happy when I am doing them. I love challenging work and love to produce quality results, whether for an employer or a client.

I have worked as both an employee of consulting firms and as an Independent Consultant. There are clearly pros and cons of both. The problem with independence is the market is no longer geared toward individuals and their

How it feels, stop and all

capabilities or past references. In fact it is rare to find an opportunity that isn’t through one or many off-shore farms that advertise on the boards, set the rates (low) and nine times out of ten will rarely talk to you if you are (1) a woman; (2) American.

Does the above statement sound bitter? It is not bitter; it is simply the truth of what has happened in our market today.

What is happening?

I did not think at fifty-five my future would be no-future or at least as frightening as it is. I didn’t think that all my work my 70 hour weeks, my time away from hearth and home, my investment in certifications and additional

degrees would result in nothing. Just a career that came to a screeching halt in my prime. What I thought was I would do my consulting time, I would learn my craft and prove myself (I did this in some of the most difficult

environments there are) and then I would go to work for the last fifteen or twenty years of my career in some capacity as a full-time employee. I would earn a decent living, with benefits no less. I would mentor younger members of an enthusiastic team. I would write books about my experiences. I would be a visiting lecturer at local universities about quality, ethics in business and values, how to do things right.

What I didn’t realize is at fifty-five I am old and perhaps the best I can hope for is Wal-Mart Greeter.

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
courtesy Microsoft.com

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
Courtesy TravelingThought.com

What to do? What would you do?

http://www.myvisajobs.com/Reports/2012-Green-Card-Sponsor.aspx

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