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.

Native Tongue

One day not so long ago and not so long after I bought both my two new computers I had a problem, not a small problem either. Indeed no, it wasn’t a tiny problem that I could simply reboot and solve, were that it I would have done so. This was an ugly and profound problem, a problem none of us wants to see and especially with a brand spanking new and very expensive computer.

What the hell!

I had built this lovely from the ground up. Extra everything, it was turbo charged, built for speed.

What the hell!

I had also paid a pretty penny to have all my software loaded, the latest and greatest from Bill Gates, not just the basics but also all those business applications I need for my work. Things most people don’t need and perhaps hadn’t even heard of, pre-loaded and send me the CD’s just in case.

What the hell!

There I was though on a Friday morning, in a panic. I wasn’t sweating bullets yet; all my work was backed up. I hadn’t lost my work. Nevertheless, there I am on hold, waiting for Customer Service to come on the line to tell me what I need to do to recover my brand spanking new computer.

Did I mention I had dual hard drives? Oh, well I had dual hard drives yet still there I was, with;

What the hell!

Finally, Prem came on the line. He was very helpful he told me I had two hard drives and could I please boot my system so he could remotely log on.

Really? I explained I was unable to do so but would be happy to try if he would explain to me how I could do this.

Prem got very frustrated at my stupidity. Clearly the failed hard drive was my fault.

I asked to speak to his supervisor. Prem hung up on me instead.

What the hell?

I called back, when I finally got another customer service person on the line I explained the problem and asked to speak to a supervisor. This person was reluctant to pass me to a supervisor, but after a five-minute conversation did so.

Fasid, was very polite and explained to me he could not find Prem’s notes thus could not find any record of my previous conversation. I would have to start from the beginning, would I mind very much if he took control of my computer to discover the problem?

“No of course not, except my main Hard Drive has failed and I cannot boot up. The hard drive needs to be replaced. The computer is under warranty and I want you to send out the part with a technician to fix it. That is what I pay for.”

Fasid explained to me that he wasn’t authorized to do that, but he would send the request to another group who would call me back when they were in the office in two hours.

So I waited. What the Hell!

David Chen called me back late that afternoon; he was from the ‘Customer Care’ department. He wanted to know why I had lodged a complaint. Really?

  1. I have a business account with your company
  2. I bought two computers from you less than 6 weeks ago for a total of $4,900 including hardware, software and warranty
  3. One of those computers has failed, it is my primary computer for work
  4. I spent the better part of 4 hours on the phone this morning with people who would not resolve the problem, who hung up on me, who were not authorized to fix the problem or who did not speak the language well enough to understand the problem
  5. I have waited more than 6 hours for someone to call me back, meanwhile my computer still does not work

David was very conciliatory. Well I guess he had to be he was in customer care. He confirmed my hard drive had failed and he ordered the part and the service. Initially he tried to tell me this would take at least a week, but I reminded him I had paid the extra warranty. I also reminded him I lived less than 15 miles from one of their plants, I could walk there faster than he was proposing to have the part. He also proposed I could replace the hard drive myself, again I read the warranty to him. Not only would he send the technician to replace the part, they were responsible for making certain my hard drive was operational.

Then we talked about my unhappiness with the customer service experience. I obviously was unhappy with that morning. I was especially unhappy with Prem, who had hung up on me. Prem had another problem though, he could not speak English very well and he spoke very softly. I was continually asking him to repeat himself so I could understand what he was saying. I get it, organizations have outsourced and off-shored their tech support. There is no turning back from this and all the complaints in the world are not going to change this trend, it is here to stay. But can we at least set the standard, please. Can we at least say if you are servicing English speakers you must have conversational English, servicing French speakers you must have conversational French, and so on. Is this too much to ask?

Apparently, this particular computer company has found another source of revenue based on the complaints and feedback on this issue. David suggested I sign up for the added benefit of Native Tongue Customer Service at the low cost of $35 per year.

What the Hell !

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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