My Reserve Nerve

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you heard the phrase before, ‘you are on my last nerve’? Most people have, it is a common expression, at least in the circles I run in. These days I am beyond my last nerve all wore out, it is blinking and causing the top of my head to tingle in anticipation of the next stomping. Yes, I am beyond my last good nerve, I have nary a single good nerve left. This is why there are folks about, hanging in the peripheral of my world who have now stepped into the region of MY RESERVE NERVE.

I only have one Reserve Nerve and I think it important I maintain this one in tiptop condition, doing so will prevent me from doing anything stupid or ugly. There are so many reasons I might do stupid, mean, unnecessarily ugly things right now; things that could have either short or long-term effect on my ability to earn a living in fact. I must watch my temper and my mouth; however, it is hard so very, very, very hard.

Before I go any further with my rage against the machine, let me first tell you a little about my real life self and the real life world I live in.

The Short and Not so Sweet

I work in a very specialized part of the IT world called ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). For twenty-two years, I have been working with the SAP product, though I have worked with all the others.

For sixteen years I have worked as a Program and Project Manager, this is even more specialized than simply working within IT.

Since 2008, I have been independent with my own LLC and have rarely been without work for more than 30 days unless it was by choice.

The above being said not to stroke my ego, truly. I simply wanted to establish a baseline for why my Reserve Nerve is on active standby.

My Last Nerve Gone

In 1999, the market blew up with the fear all the computers would stop (remember the millennial clock). All the greatest minds ran to Congress and said we need to expand the H1B program, there aren’t enough qualified Americans to fill the IT demands in the market. This wasn’t true then, it isn’t true now.

So Now to My Last Good NerveNerve Ending 1

I made a decision at the beginning of the year I wanted to change my life; well actually, I simply wanted a life. Part of this change was a career transition. I wanted off the road, out of airplanes and airports and chasing contracts; I want a ‘real’ job with normal hours, a real paycheck and benefits. Yes, working independently has its perks, but not enough anymore. I will tell you it hasn’t been easy, obviously since nearly four months in, I haven’t gotten close and I am beginning to panic. One of the reasons of course is employers are leery of people like me, people who have spent so many years in consulting, people who have been independent for as many years as I have; they think we won’t make the transition. The other reason? Well that goes to a little problem called getting through the RECRUITER.

Anyone know the rules of the H1B? In brief, for a company to qualify to bring a temporary worker into the US on an H1B they must have done the following:

  • Attempted to hire within the US first and be able to prove there are no qualified candidates.
  • A temporary H1B is issued for highly qualified (must have a university degree) in a scarce skill, these include; Engineering, IT, Science and Math

That is the short list. Given the above, tell me why nine (9) out of ten (10) recruiters do not speak English as a first language and have no manners at all? Here are a couple of my favorites over the past week, just to give you a taste.


 

Me: Hello this is Valentine

Caller: Speak to Logar

Me: This is Valentine, may I help you?

Caller: Logar, I looking for a MM Lead saw your profile on Dice.

Me: Well then, you might have noted I am a Program Manager not a functional lead. I don’t think I can help you.

Caller: You don’t want this then? Click.


 

Me: Hello, this is Valentine

Caller: Yes, yes speak to Logar is he in?

Me: This is Valentine Logar, he is a she.

Caller: Oh, sorry. Looking for a Project Manager knowing FICO and Development.

Me: Are you looking for a Project Manager that has managed these aspects of a project or one that also does this work.

Caller: No, my client wants the project manager to do the work and manage the project part time. Good rate, all-inclusive $55 an hour.

Me: I am sorry I can’t help you.

Caller: What is your rate?

Me: It is more than that; however, I can’t help you I am not looking for a project at this time.


 

Caller: Looking for Valentine Logar

Me: This is she

Caller: Looking for Program Manager, long-term project in Detroit.

Me: Send me the specification let me look at them.

Caller: First must establish your credentials, is that okay.

Me: What do you need to know?

Caller: What is your rate?

Me: $85 per hour plus expenses or all-inclusive $120 per hour

Caller: Might be too high I will see. I can get cheaper from India. Are you US Citizen?

Me: No Texas

Caller: Oh, do you have the right to work anywhere in US?


 

My Reserve Nerve is All I Have Left

Nerve Ending 2If you don’t know, an all-inclusive rate means they expect you to pay your own travel costs. This is fine if you live in the same city the project is, otherwise just no. Yes, they really will just hang up if you say NO. Yes, they really will tell you straight up they can get someone cheaper from India.

I am stupefied by the entire process right now. I do have a few good recruiters, truly I do. The number of calls and e-mails I get daily from random out-of-the-blue, don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground though, well my Reserve Nerve is on active duty. My level of frustration is on high alert, especially as I find myself at the point where I know I will have to consider contracts as a interim solution while I look to make the desired transition.

I am nothing if not flexible! I don’t know why, but it truly does seem to be getting worse out here.

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.

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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