Within the first 8 months of starting my job, I saw two confirmed cases of sexual harassment and watched colleagues quit at a rate at one person a month. This is the beginning of what I now regard as the worst job in my career.
I write about it now because they recently sent a tweet exposing the fulfilling career, balance, and ability to pursue a great life as perks to the job. It made me angry, and so I’m going to write what that looked like for me here instead.
Alright, so the tweet said:
At <Company> our technologists are free to enjoy both a fulfilling career and a life outside of work.
This company is one that requires 75% travel of all employees. While there isn’t an absolute guarantee that you will travel, its the expectation that you sign up for.
How does that work with a great life balance? Well, you fly to wherever you are told for 4 days a week. You live in an approved hotel during that time. As long as your idea of a fulfilling life involves fits in a hotel room in a foreign city away from family and friends, you’re set.
The 4 days a week works only because it assumes that you’ll be able to work and bill 10 hours each of those days. The time it takes you to fly and travel doesn’t count. This could lead to some excessively long days if you want to try to fly home on Thursday. On paper, it may look like your hourly billing goes 10, 10, 10, and 10. One 10-hour block for Monday through Thursday. The problem is that you will want to fly home Thursday. It’s pretty hard to work a 10 hour day and find a flight, so you have to work more like, 12, 12, 12, 4. Are you flying in on Monday morning? Well, it looks even worse. Balance is not in the picture.
After that day you get to go to your hotel room. I learned to travel with a few things that helped me to not go crazy. I started learning to play the violin. I packed a few supplies to play video games. I began to apply for conferences. I had to get help from other people on the road to figure out how to not go crazy feeling like I was rotting in a hotel room waiting until I could go home. I was able to turn that into productive time, and I was able to accomplish a lot. These are things I needed to do to stay healthy. These were not things I would have chosen if I were home with my family and friends every day.
I did these things because I was trapped in a hotel room in an unfamiliar city.
Got a family? Not for 75% of the week you don’t. I missed 75% of the first 2 years of my son’s life. While I take responsibility for allowing this to go on for two years, the company at large is blind to this and has nothing to offer than shrugging its shoulders.
Now that I’ve covered travel as it relates to work and life balance, let’s talk about the fulfilling career part.
How do you wind up in whatever exotic location? There are people who decide that. Their job is to look at openings for clients and send you where you can go. When everything is working well, you are sent to do a job to which you’ve indicated skill and interest. When you happen to live in an imperfect world you are sent anywhere there is a need of any kind. The company believes it hires such great people that they can figure it out.
Limited support, and no training. Sent in at absurd rates to accomplish something while the client sees you.
A little more about the support part. There are going to be account level people around that can help, but the help they can provide will be based on their previous experience and generally limited to how to be a good consultant. Managing perceptions, having structured conversations and the like. They won’t be able to help you solve whatever detailed problem you have. They may help connect you to people and manage the situation.
My second year I was staffed to do work that I had never done before. I was staffed that way because the need existed. I had to figure it out.
That isn’t the career I joined the company to have. In fact, when I told them what I wanted my career to be I was flatly told that it would not happen. Someone who’s job it was to guide my career specifically told me that there would be no room for what I wanted to do.
What was my ask? Coach and build software teams. This was considered pointless, of no value, and in no way would that be something I could pursue.
They were certainly willing to hire me even when I said this is what I wanted. During the hiring process, I was fed the same line espoused in the tweet. People here can pursue any career they want!
What they mean is that if you are naturally inclined to fit into one of their few roles, you are free to become awesome at those.
This is the first of a series of articles that will detail what my first year was like at this company. I’ll peel back the veneer and share my horrors.
If that isn’t your cup of tea, be wary of any company that claims they can give you a career or a great life. They always need something in return. They need you. Some companies, even if their intentions are good will devour you.