Monday, November 7, 2011


So last week I actually had the gumption to e-mail my contracting boss and ask for a few minutes of his time to discuss the upcoming goal-setting cycle of the annual review process. (Just as a quick sidenote: when I was in high school I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up but I knew I didn’t really want a desk job in an office, and although I didn’t know the corporate jargon-speak at the time I’m quite sure anything that involved ‘goal-setting cycles’ and ‘annual review processes’ or even ‘contracting managers’ would have been right out. Yet twenty years later, here I am.) My boss, as I believe I’ve mentioned in the past, is pretty hands-off and not terribly expressive on those few occasions when he deems it necessary to be hands-on. So when he did not reply to my e-mail immediately I almost took it as some kind of a test. I didn’t pester him or even follow up with him at all. I bumped into him a couple of times but didn’t mention my request for a face-to-face. Then a few days later he e-mailed me back and suggested I stop by any time that day. Which I did.

Basically the point of meeting with him was to tell him that, after much thought, I had decided to start steering my career with our company in more of a project management direction than a subject matter expert role. And my boss’s response was … muted. On the bright side he seemed to understand why I would be interested in going that route and he essentially agreed that I could do that. I wouldn’t characterize his response as supportive, really, as there was no “yes, you’d be great at that, I’ve bene waiting for you to show some interest in it!” or anything like that. It was more in the “yes, that’s fine” vein but, you know, I’m not a Millennial so I don’t need constant praise to feel like I’m doing the right thing. And having worked for a variety of different bosses over the years, I’m legitimately grateful that my current boss’s reaction was neither to knock me down a couple of pegs by questioning what made me think I could handle the management side of things, nor to get weirdly defensive and interpret my desire to expand my work horizons as a need to get away from him personally by blazing a new trail on my own. (Yes, both of those potential negative reactions have actually happened to me before.)

All in all, then, it was good to get that out in the open with my boss and he provided me with some rudimentary info on how climbing that ladder from where I am now would work in the context of both our current contract and our employer at large. I expect it’s going to be a slow process going forward to remake myself, but thousand miles and first steps and all that.

Of course the journey almost crashed immediately upon embarkation as the end of the week saw me actually getting called on to troubleshoot a showstopper of a technical error on one of our web applications (in other words, to do the job they pay me for currently). And this error would have to crop up at about 2:30 in the afternoon, and not have an immediately obvious solution. I scratched at for an hour or so (and also e-mailed the help desk for the server center, because when I haven’t touched an application in a long while and it suddenly and inexplicably breaks, I always suspect someone’s been mucking with the server) and then I had to leave for the day. I didn’t really believe that staying late would accomplish anything in terms of resolution of the errors … but it might have accomplished something in terms of showing how dedicated I am and how ready for a leadership position I might be. But I work an early shift so that I can get home to either pick up my kids from daycare or give my wife a break after her full day home alone with the munchkins, and I wasn’t willing to deviate from that.

Fortunately, I was able to go in early the next day and fix the error almost immediately, having noodle out the likely cause overnight. So hopefully I salvaged a bit of my reputation that way. Not that anyone, including my boss, had given me any guff about leaving the afternoon before anyway, which again is one of those elements of having a buttoned-up non-demonstrative manager in the first place, and one for which I am grateful.

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