Career

Dear 2016, Thank You.

Dear 2016,

Thank you.

I really do mean it. I know people have been pretty hard on you. To be honest, you have gotten to me at times too, but I have come to realize that you haven’t been all bad. In fact, you were good in a lot of ways.

Thank you for the letter that pushed me so close to the edge that it helped me see that I needed to change, and that I couldn’t do it alone. Thank you for helping me see that my idiosyncrasies mean that I’m normal, not that I’m broken. Thank you for helping me remember to take care of myself and showing me the strength to stand up for my needs.

Thank you for helping me and Hubby grow closer, love more deeply, and be better for each other than ever before. Thank you for helping us both be patient and hopeful.

Thank you for showing me the strength of my friendships and for helping me realize how many good friends (both near and far) I am fortunate to have. Thank you for the friends who said the right thing at the right times, even though they didn’t know all the circumstances. Thank you for the friends who made me laugh when I was down. Thank you for the friends who always listened, and were always brutally honest. Thank you for the friends who chose to confide in me.

Thank you for helping me realize that I really am more extrovert than introvert, even though I’m truly somewhere in between.

Thank you for the opportunity to fly cross country to see a movie with friends, for the spur of the moment decision to do so, and for great friends making the trip entirely worthwhile.

Thank you for challenging work assignments,  opportunities for professional growth, and great coaching.

Thank you for work trips to the east coast which allowed me to visit my brother’s family and reconnect with a cousin that I never really knew. Thank you for my nephews getting to know my face, asking to have Skype calls with me, and being excited to Skype with me even when they’re too tired for anyone else.

Thank you for breaking my mom’s leg. I have hated seeing her pain, but her strength is an inspiration. Thank you for my weekly visits to help care for her, and for the time with family that my visits have helped make happen. Thank you for helping me become my grand-niece’s second favorite aunt, and for toddler hugs and giggles.

Thank you for helping me be comfortable opening up to my sister.

Thank you for kicking me in the right direction to find the next stage of my career; I have high hopes.

Thank you for more opportunities to see my dad; especially after I disappointed and hurt him by missing my uncle’s funeral. Thank you for helping me realize why loss is so exceptionally difficult for me to handle.

Thank you for a two week vacation with hubby, and being able to truly relax and focus on each other for a while.

Thank you for helping me appreciate what I have, and giving me the desire to put this all into words.

2016, you have been a tumultuous, unpredictable, and emotional experience, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

Reboot

Some days I’m glad I’m not my own boss.

Back when I was responsible for a team, I was a total pushover. Until I wasn’t. When I wasn’t, they hated me. In retrospect I know that what they hated was the inconsistency. But that’s another story.

What isn’t inconsistent is that I’m always hard on myself. I finish something a little late, and I’m sure that I’m walking on thin ice. Something goes the smallest bit haywire in one of my projects, and I’m sure I’m going to get fired. Even if it’s not within my control.

Usually this works to my advantage. It drives me to always improve. My boss appreciates that he never has to tell me what to do better. And eventually I find myself looking back and not really understanding how my professional growth happened.

Last year was incredibly abnormal for me in this respect. I was burned out, unmotivated, had lost focus on any career goal, and had turned into the type of worker that I would be happy to see fired. At least from my perspective. I have colleagues who assure me that I haven’t been a bad employee, I just haven’t lived up to my standard.

I took a lot of vacation in November and December. Perhaps that is why I feel like they were the two least productive months of my career. When I returned to work with the new year, I was apprehensive.

And then I surprised myself.

I accomplished more on January second than I expected. And again on the third.

Somehow with all the time I took off between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, I managed to shake off the horrible habits I’d picked up in 2013 and reestablish the great habits that I hold myself to.

As I have been writing this, I’ve been trying to determine why I’ve improved, and several things have come to the front of my mind.

First, I for the majority of my vacation worked my ass off. Not work work, but work nonetheless. Hubby and I hosted Christmas at our house this year. That meant cleaning house, rearranging, Christmas shopping, cooking, decorating, cooking more, and then doing even more house work. I made myself a huge list of everything that needed to be done, prioritized, set deadlines, and executed. Sound familiar? I essentially project managed my pre-Christmas to-do list (and right up through the weekend after Christmas since we continued the celebration through New Year’s Eve).

Second, even though I was working my ass off I made time to relax. This is a big deal for me. When something big has to be done I typically go all in until I get so burned out that I’m no longer productive. Hubby and I set aside a couple of days before Christmas on which we did a bit from my gigantic task list and then spent time together relaxing and having fun. Saints Row V, Minecraft, and Team Fortress 2 all got their fair share of attention, as did my Netflix queue and my crochet project (which was good, since it was a Christmas present).

Third, I delegated. There is no end to the kudos that Hubby gets for being so incredibly helpful with everything that I wanted to get done for Christmas. When Hubby asked what he could do to help, I looked at the list and gave him a task. I left my list of work that needed to be done on the coffee table, and when he wanted to help without being a distraction, he picked up the list and took the initiative.

Finally, I said no. I said no to myself (in the form of not starting a craft project for my elder niece’s Christmas present, and not making candies), and I said no to friends who wanted to get together right after Christmas (when I really needed some down time).

Leading up to my vacation I was struggling to make progress, like a computer that is bogged down by a hung process or a memory leak. My vacation was the reboot I needed to reestablish the old habits that I expect from myself at work (and at home), but hadn’t been living up to in quite a while.

Here’s to 2014 and carrying the momentum forward!

I love change, until I hate it.

I have a strange love of change in my work place. I get bored quickly doing the same type of work repeatedly. The more things change, the more my job remains interesting. This is generally good for me because my job typically has a lot of variety, it all leads to some sort of change, small (like new reports to help improve process) or large (such as new system implementations).

When going into a project, I have always been the first to admit that change can be difficult, but that I am weird and LOVE change. I think my enthusiasm usually sets others at ease, although sometimes it can also mislead others about the complexity of the undertaking.

A year ago, the company I work for was bought by another company. I spent most of the year working on the systems integration project with a team from both companies, including about a third of 2012 traveling to the new headquarters on the east coast. In November, the companies officially merged and the system changes went into effect. It meant an ERP (SAP) change for half of the organization and a CRM (SalesForce.com) change the other half of the organization, among a bunch of other changes.

Throughout the process I did the same type of work that I’ve done for the past five plus years: a mix of Business Systems Analyst (geek-to-business-translation) work and Project Management.  Unfortunately, my BSA work was all focused on the legacy systems, not the systems that we were consolidating to.

Once the go-live data issues settled down and my focus changed to the new system rather than the old, I became horribly overwhelmed.

At the risk of sounding like a corporate dweeb… I have prided myself for years on being a change agent of some sort and as part of that, hand holding others through change, and always having the answers.

Last week, I realized that I was struggling with the change. It was taking me days to get through something that would have taken just a few hours in our old system, purely because I didn’t know the database structure and didn’t know the system well enough to find the data sources without help. I didn’t want to ask for help, because I never need help. (“Never” was definitely an oversimplification.)

It was a huge blow to my ego to realize that I was struggling with the change. And then in the back of my head I heard the advice that I give everyone else: “How are they going to know that you need help if you don’t say something? You won’t learn if you don’t ask.”

I eventually got my head out of my ass and asked for help. Things are still taking me longer than they used to, but that’s part of learning a new system (another piece of advice that I often give others and ignore when it applies to myself).

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m good at change when I realize that change is happening to me, but when it sneaks up on me or I am not in control in some way I can be really bad at it.

Or perhaps I’ll just blame the SAD, I’m sure that had some influence. (By the way, in case you were curious, the light therapy thing I got is working fantastically.)

Happy long weekend!

Holy cow… where has the time gone?

I’ve definitely been unmotivated to post recently, but I didn’t realize that it had already been five months! I’m kinda embarrassed with the visitors I may be getting from Syp’s blog, given that I haven’t posted in so long…

So, what have I been up to?

In April I spent a weekend in Seattle with friends at SakuraCon. It was a great time! Lots of anime, people in cosplay (but not me, I’m not that brave), really fascinating panel discussions, and good food, drinks, and laughs with friends. My favorite panels were a couple of panels put on by Roland Kelts about Japanese culture (I’ve been enjoying his book Japanamerica in bits and pieces since then), and a lecture by The Librarian about the symbolism in Spirited Away (Hidden Away by Gods: Rediscovering Miyazaki’s Spirited Away).

Work has gotten more interesting too. In my last post, I vented my frustration with not getting to project manage an implementation project I’d been looking forward to. Well, in late March or early April, that changed. The project manager was no longer available, so I’m leading the project again! Fun work, but overwhelming because my other workload hasn’t decreased much.

In June, Hubby and I were sent to England for some work on the implementation project. Hubby was there for some training on proprietary development tools for the ERP we use in the England office, and I was there for some discovery and training with our UK team. We were there for two weeks, and had a great time. Maybe one of these days I’ll share Hubby’s photos from our day in Bath.

Hmm… Nothing else major has been going on. I’ve been reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series (A Game of Thrones is book one), and am trying to complete book four before the next one is released in a couple of weeks.

Oh, and I’ve been playing Rift. Hubby bought Rift just after it came out, and about a month later he gave me a trial. After the first time I’d closed a rift, I was hooked. I made it to max level faster than I have in any other MMO, and am still enjoying it.

For the rest of this weekend: Today I’ll be doing some reading, visiting my EQ2 guildies, and maybe doing some PvP or dungeons in Rift. Tomorrow we’ll be visiting friends, BBQing, and blowing stuff up, as everyone should on the 4th of July!

If you haven’t seen it already, I wrote a silly little post for Syp, and it went up on biobreak.wordpress.com. I must warn you, it’s cheesy, and I’m not very creative.

In their shoes

I’ve really been enjoying work recently.

Last week I got to move from a desk in the customer service area to one in the accounting area. I decided to move because the noise in the customer service area made it very difficult for me to focus. My new desk is in an area with much less foot traffic so I also have fewer unplanned interruptions.

As a bonus, I’m sitting next to a window again, this time on the second floor so I get a nice view of the wetland across the street. Since I moved, I’ve accomplished about twice as much as usual and I’m just generally happier.

Timing couldn’t have been better either. I’m always super busy at work, but in the next few months we have more large projects planned than we did for all of 2010.

I am excited. The type of work we have planned for the next few months is what I love: system implementations and large custom development projects (by large I mean likely to take at least several weeks, I know that isn’t “large” to some). Both of these mean I get to do more analysis, requirements gathering, documentation, and project management than I have for the past couple years, and as a result mean I will be more entertained at work.

One of the implementation projects is to take a piece of software we’ve been using in some of our locations and implement it in our office in England. This software is one that I am very close to; We had another company develop it for us, but I led the team internally for requirements gathering, testing, and implementation.

Even though I know it would be a challenge for me to keep up with my user support role, continue pushing smaller projects through, and project manage this implementation, I was really looking forward to it.

But then today I learned that I may not get to play the role in this implementation that I’d hoped for. My managers are considering having a project manager that we’re working with on another project handle a large portion of the project management for this implementation as well.

They have all the right reasons, and if I were in their shoes I would do the same. Hell, six months from now I might really appreciate that someone else got the assignment.

But not now. Right now I’m just disappointed.

What comes next: anticipation and anxiety

When I went back to school, I had a grand plan: after graduating I would be qualified (by both project management experience and degree) to take the Project Management Professional test. I would study for a couple of months, take the test, and get my certification. After being certified, I’d try to get a project management job at Turbine.

I was in love with Turbine at the time, and still am, but I’ve realized that Turbine isn’t the only place I’d like to work, so I broadened my horizons. I want to work in a role where I can contribute the creation and support of video games (console, PC, mobile, you name it).

Last year I promised myself that I wouldn’t wait for the certification. It is still a goal (for this year even), but it doesn’t have to come before finding a job in the gaming industry.

So here I am, anticipating the thrill of finding a job and company that is a perfect fit for me and anxious about all of the things that a new job might mean for me.

The thought of a new job scares the hell out of me in some ways. I’ve worked for the same company for the past eleven years (That’s more than one-third of my life, yikes!), so it is comfortable; it feels like home. It would also mean a big move for my husband and I. We live in Bellingham (between Seattle and Vancouver, BC). I hope to find something in the Seattle area so that we can move between Bellingham and Seattle so Hubby doesn’t have to leave his job, but it is still a major change for us.

A new job would be exciting tons of reasons that I’ve shared before, but most importantly because if I choose well it will be a place where I can learn, grow, and be challenged. I know I’m odd, but I really like my work, when it is challenging (unfortunately, recently it hasn’t been). I could go on and on, but those are topics for other days.

I wake up every night thinking about it. Would Hubby really be comfortable moving out of state if I were to find something at Turbine or SOE? Will I be confident in interviews (the thought of interviewing terrifies me)? How do I meet people who work at the places that I want to work? What can I do to make my resume’ stand out? Should I call about the application I submitted before Christmas, or wait a while longer? So many questions and random thoughts float through my sleepy head.

It is exciting, and will be a fun adventure (even if there are a few sleepless nights).

Still looking for that reset button.

Today is already getting better.

Earlier today I tweeted about my day being off to a bad start. It was. I woke up feeling hung over and aching all over (even though last night I only drank water). I had one co-worker upset about a change request I’d sent them after testing an update to one of our internal systems. I’m sure I annoyed the heck out of another with a few emails for little changes on a different project (fortunately, the second co-worker didn’t complain).

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I’m not so good with words.

I’ve never been much of a writer. It’s something I do to amuse myself, not something I do because I’m any good at it. But every once in a while something happens (particularly at work) that makes me laugh and think “I should blog about this”. I had one of those moments today so instead of finishing my post about visiting SOE, I thought I’d share my silly story.

I’ve had a horrible headache today, so when I was teaching someone (Senior Helpdesk Guy) how to set up a salesperson in our fulfillment system, I just couldn’t come up with the right words. Senior Helpdesk Guy was typing in the alpha numeric code that we use to identify sales people, but typed it in mixed upper and lower case.

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Too long

It has been too long since I last wrote here. I got distracted and neglected writing here.

What have I been up to? The school quarter ended a week ago. I took Monday of that week off to write my final paper. I also watched all of the E3 press conferences that streamed on Monday. Disappointing, but it was my first time watching it “live” so it was pretty interesting.

I spent the rest of that week sick. I worked from home and slept. And I played Oblivion.  I tend to only play MMOs, even though I really enjoy other games too. This generally happens because of my lack of time and because my hubby plays games soon after they are released, and I don’t like playing a game when I already know what is going to happen and how my decisions will impact the story.

But then years pass and a friend (the same friend every time) introduces me to a game that I absolutely have to play. And she’s always right. I finally played Portal a few weeks ago. I loved it. I finished it in one 4 hour sitting. Steam says that I’ve now played Oblivion for 61 hours. It is an amazing game.

Now I’m one week into my early summer break. Next quarter starts on July 12 and ends the week after PAX. I’m probably going to regret saying this but I’ll say it anyway: it should be an easy school quarter. I will be taking Fundamentals of Finance & Accounting. I already know a fair amount about finance and accounting from my work, so I’m hoping to be able to complete most of the work in the first couple weeks so that I can essentially have the whole quarter off.

Anyway, That’s what I’ve been up to. I’ll be writing more soon.

~Amanda

The [school] life of an online student / professional

I’ve mentioned before that I have a full-time job but am also in school finishing my bachelor’s degree through Capella University. For my friends who are thinking about returning to school, and for anyone else out there who may be considering online education, I will semi-regularly write a bit about what it is like taking classes online.

Deciding to Return to School

I regretted dropping out of college until I ended up in a job I loved and realized that I never would have found it if I’d stayed in school. Once I had some sort of idea what path I wanted to be on, I decided it was time to go back to school.

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