Employment Evolution

At the New Year, people usually reflect on the past year. I’ll follow that well-trodden road with an emphasis on my employment situation, because this year and next year are shaping up to look so different as to be unrecognizable to one another.

This year saw me reach a tipping point with my Client Service Administrator (CSA) job at Kaizen Financial Advisors, a job I haven’t mentioned much due to compliance and confidentiality concerns. Remember that spectacular sunrise picture I’ve posted more than once?

Sunrise and Mt. Baker from San Juan Island

That morning, sitting quietly on the beach while a deer meandered by, I felt a strong sense that it was time to move on from serving as a CSA. Although I could complete the job tasks well enough, and I served my boss and our clients to the best of my ability, I never got excited about my work. I had the job not because I wanted to work in finance, but because four years ago, my boss offered a super-convenient work-from-home job that I thought would help me stay sane through all the diapers. And it has, so my thanks remain to the job for that.

Yet, this photo reminds me of that contemplative hour that, in some ways, led me eventually to my choices today. It’s when I started questioning our status quo, a tipping point.

Even though that’s when I started questioning whether I should stay at my job, I didn’t immediately give notice back then; I was too afraid of making big changes, and I felt loyal to the company and my boss. But in the intervening months, some personal things combined with a growing realization that I needed a change in my employment situation. I didn’t have any ideas what that might look like at the time, but by Thanksgiving, I knew something would have to change.

At the same time, back in September I went with Kaizen to a user group at Tamarac, a company whose software we’ve used for many years. Their software has dramatically improved in usability over the last couple years (and I’ve done more training, which helps), and using that software was a big part of my CSA job. During that user group, I arranged for us to get a tour of the company and meet our support team, some of whom we’ve worked with for years.

At that time, I found myself thinking how cool it would be to work in that environment. Their company culture seemed positive, and the people we met all seemed nice. I liked their vibe. I idly browsed their job listings, but didn’t see anything compelling — certainly nothing worth quitting my super-convenient work-from-home job in favor of a commute to the Columbia Center in downtown Seattle. But after that I occasionally would eyeball their local job listings to see if anything really compelling came up.

Meanwhile, I gave my notice at Kaizen, and had my last day yesterday, Friday, December 30. Earlier this week, I handed over all my home office supplies and my laptop, along with a big document describing how to do most of my tasks. It felt a little bit like graduating from college again — there’s no “homework” hanging over my head after four years! Hooray!

Last month, something really compelling at Tamarac did come up: a Technical Writer II position, the perfect blend of my previous writing experience and current financial experience. After some serious soul-searching and late-night conversations with Ian, we decided I should apply and see what happens.

What happened was that I got an interview last Friday, which (despite my still recovering from pneumonia) went swimmingly. I thought so, and apparently the hiring manager thought so, too, because he called last night with a job offer that had me bouncing with enthusiasm. I agreed without negotiation or hesitation. It will be at least two weeks before I can start, which is good, because that gives us some time to look into childcare options.

As those of you who know me well are aware, this is way, way, way outside my standard operating procedure. In our family, we act cautiously, with comprehensive planning ahead to cover every contingency, never making seriously big decisions quickly or without knowing as much as we can about how it would work out. But with this job, we don’t know what will happen for childcare and we don’t know about how my commute and being gone full-time would impact our daily life; but I do know this is a job I’m really, really excited about, for possibly the first time in my entire working career.

That, I will fight for. One, two free, here we go!

Pneumonia Gets Old

A couple Mondays ago, I started getting a cold. It was a weird one — all coughing and headache, not really any runny nose. The coughing got worse over the next few days, and finally on Friday I started developing typical cold symptoms: Stuffy nose, burning eyes, low fever, exhaustion.

All weekend, I rested. Ian took care of everything while I spent Saturday and Sunday in bed. Unlike with most colds, I didn’t even think of going for a bike ride. I was too tired to get out of bed, let alone do anything physical (especially in the 36-degree rain falling that day). In fact, I was too tired for anything at all. Watching Netflix on my Surface was exactly the level of activity I could sustain. That was with taking Dayquil every 6 hours, which normally makes me a bit hyper.

By Tuesday night, I had not only not gotten any better; I had started spiking a fever of over 100 in the evenings, as well as feeling even more exhausted, which I honestly didn’t think possible. Ian, Mom, and Deborah did a lot of the hard work with Benji, because I literally didn’t have it in me to do more than just say, “OK… whatever…” Tuesday night I finally gave in and called my doctor. She said she wanted to see me, so I scheduled an appointment for Wednesday afternoon.

I expected her to just tell me I had a bad cold and go home and rest, even though it had been 10 full days and I was worse than ever. But instead she listened to my lungs and said that in addition to having some good wheezing, it sounded like I had some pneumonia in one of my lungs.

Well, NO WONDER I felt so crappy. If I had any energy, I would absolutely have felt something about it.

She prescribed a high-dose 5-day course of antibiotics, plus an inhaler to help with the coughing. Fortunately, coughing hasn’t kept me awake at night (at least, nothing Nyquil couldn’t suppress). I took the first dose, a doubled-up one, on Wednesday evening.

And felt yet more exhausted Thursday morning. Alas, evidently chest infections don’t respond to antibiotics as quickly as UTIs or mastitis. Fortunately for me, Benji went to school and then my in-laws took him overnight! Unfortunately, we had planned that so that Ian and I had intended to go see Rogue One with a theater full of friends, and I still felt too sick and tired to go. Ian took our friend Travis instead. Lucky guy. I took my next dose of antibiotics and watched some more Netflix.

I am so grateful to live in an era where antibiotics still work; and grateful that my immune system can fight this disease off. Getting sick really helps me remember to be thankful for my overall good health, something it’s easy to take for granted when you have it.

About My Job

Meanwhile I have also put in 21 hours of work for the week, slightly higher than average, even while sick. I’ve had a lot to do, and it helps to be able to do it at home in my pajamas. I started writing down directions for the tasks I do, but it’s gotten to be such a long list, I don’t think I’ll finish before the end of the year.

That may be changing, however. I’m doing a new job interview next week, and I’m already excited/anxious about it. If this job happens, we’re looking at enormous changes to our life from how it has been the last four years. Really, after December 31 everything will change one way or another, since I’m leaving my current job for something new then anyway.

Overall, I’m excited for this new phase in my life, if also concerned about how it might all work out. But I’m going to take a leap of faith and trust that, whatever happens, God is in charge.

Meanwhile, I will probably spend most of the day in bed with Netflix and my Kindle again, letting my body get better. I’m ready to move on!

Odds and Ends

The temperatures have dipped the last few days, and Benji and I haven’t been able to ride our bike to school all week. If I was commuting alone, I’d probably give it a shot (except Tuesday, when there was definitely ice and black ice), but with Benji, trying to ride to school in 20-degree weather, it’s just too difficult to keep him warm. I know lots of hardy parents in Scandinavian countries and colder parts of our country take their kids out in the 20s, but… we’re Washingtonians. We trust that waiting a few days will bring us more temperate temperatures and comfier riding.

Meanwhile, Benji had another Special Day at school, and he got to bring home the (presumably extremely germy — excuse me while I go wash my hands for a moment) class stuffed animal, Mr. Moose. Benji taught him about Advent Calendars and “shared” some of his morning chocolate.

Benji and Mr Moose and Advent Calendar

Every morning when he wakes up — remember, this happens some time between 5:30 and 6:00 — Benji leaps out of bed and yells, “YUM!” and then, dashing downstairs, yells, “YUM, YUM, YUMMY YUM YUM!” Blessed quiet follows, then, as he concentrates on opening the little Advent Calendar door and extracting and unwrapping the chocolate.

I’ve certainly enjoyed pie for breakfast, and I’ll never say no to a good chocolate croissant; but eating straight chocolate first thing? Even my sweet tooth quails at the prospect. And nobody could ever accuse me of turning down chocolate.

I love desserts, and generally consume too much sugar, a weakness combated entirely by the fact that I ride my bike a fair bit. Although, as previously noted, not so much when it’s very cold out. I actually did ride my trainer yesterday, but it was a really halfhearted attempt, and my toes never warmed up even though I never left the garage.

I may have to switch to running (these workouts don’t sound too bad), or at least get my mind back back in the game for some trainer intervals. It’s a bummer time of year for cycling, even for someone as willing to ride in the rain as I can be. Call me crazy, but I’m not willing to ride in potentially icy or slushy conditions, nor am I willing to incur permanent nerve damage by riding in 36-degree rain for hours at a time.

In Unrelated News

I applied for a new job at a software company called Tamarac, located in downtown Seattle. I’ve worked closely with and really like one of the support people there, and she said she’ll put in a good word for me. I’ve got my fingers crossed — although if I did get an offer, that’d have its own challenges (namely: What the heck do we do with our child while I’m working?!). I’m going to just give it a shot and see what happens, and trust that God has a plan one way or another.

And, um, if you’re a stay-at-home mom who’d like to earn a few extra bucks by watching my darling son while I’m working… let me know. 🙂

Resigning From My Job

“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find your everyday human concerns are met.
Matthew 6:33-34 (Message)

“Breaking up is hard to do,” or so I’ve heard. I haven’t talked much about my job on this blog, because things said on the internet stay on the internet forever. I don’t intend to change that policy now, so this won’t be a long ranting post about all the reasons I’m leaving (it may be long, but not a rant, anyway). Suffice it to say that I’ve spent some substantial time considering my career path and existing opportunities, and after four years with my current job, it’s time to move on.

As many of you know, I never intended to get into the finance industry. I got a BS in Technical Writing, and my first job was writing lab reports at a preclinical testing facility. Some people object to the animal testing aspect, but I found the job to be quite up my alley. I probably would have continued doing that job quite happily for many more years, but alas, the company got into financial difficulties and laid pretty much all the technical writing staff off as expendable (“we can have the scientists do it in all their free time!” Uh, sure). That worked out fine for me because we were ready to move back from Massachusetts anyway.

Funny… that was six years ago this month.

Finance was never my passion. I’d not planned on rejoining the workforce for many years, expecting to remain exclusively a stay-at-home mom (won’t get into what a misnomer that phrase is!). When my boss offered me a super-flexible 10-hour-a-week job shortly after Benji’s birth, I thought, “Why not give it a try?” I had spent many hours biking with my boss before she hired me, and we certainly think alike in many ways. She knew I was a complete finance neophyte, and she was willing to take me on with the expectation of training me on the job.

All things considered, it’s gone amazingly well for the last four years. At first I worked maybe 10 hours a week, sometimes less, learning the business and my firm’s processes. Over time I’ve slowly taken on additional responsibility, until now I work closer to 80 to 100 hours a month, having absorbed tasks from a coworker who retired as well as taking on more of my own duties. I think I’ve gotten decently good at my job duties.

However, as my level of responsibility has grown, it’s become increasingly clear that my boss needs someone 40 hours a week to provide the support she needs. We’ve had frequent conversations about my boss’s concerns, but despite implementing several procedural changes to address the issue, frustration has remained. I remain constrained by the fact that I serve as Mommy first and Client Service Administrator second, and when wearing my Mommy hat, I stringently avoid working unless it’s an emergency.

I remember a few years ago, Ian and I had our couch cushions replaced. The upholstery place took our entire couch away, leaving us with a blank space in our living room. Time passed. By “time,” I mean a month. Then two. We’ll just suffice it to say that months went by, and I kept calling and asking about our couch. Finally, when they delivered the completed couch, they said, “We’re sorry it took so long. We had some clients with upholstery emergencies.”

WHAT THE HECK is a upholstery emergency?

I mention this because I know that sometimes emergencies are in the eye of the beholder. In the long run, however, I’ve come to realize that despite four years and two licenses in the finance industry, my passion remains with technical writing. I actually liked my first job, and I enjoyed best aspects of my finance job where I got to create documents or write or edit copy. That’s probably a good indicator that I need to look in that direction again.

To that end, I’m also applying for a technical writing job at a company called Tamarac. They write financial software, and I’ve worked with a fair bit at my finance job. This is a full-time job in downtown Seattle, so it’s a huge leap of faith to even apply. Ian and I don’t know what we’d do with Benji if I started a full-time job with that long of a commute. But I’m feeling really strongly that I’m meant to pursue this opportunity — much more strongly than I’ve felt about employment in years. So we’re going to take the leap and trust that God will provide if it’s meant to happen.

Time to go out on a limb. If nothing else, life will look very different in six months. If I could climb Mt. Haleakala, I can do this.

Top of Mt Haleakala, Feb 2016

Do What Now?

Day’s Verse:
Do you know the saying, “Drink from your own rain barrel,
draw water from your own spring-fed well”?
It’s true. Otherwise, you may one day come home
and find your barrel empty and your well polluted.

Proverbs 5:15-16

So. Great. I only wish I’d been there to see it.

In totally unrelated news, Friday and Monday I did phone and in-person interviews for a job with a company called data2insight. The gal who owns and runs it is looking for an executive assistant for 10 to 20 hours a week, with working from home a very real option (the office is on Capitol Hill, a fairly long and arduous commute from our house, so I’d have to work from home to make it work). That sounded like a pretty ideal situation to me: not too much commitment or responsibility, doable throughout pregnancy and potentially after the boy makes his appearance, and the work sounds like it could be mentally stimulating enough to help me stay sane. It also wouldn’t hurt for me to bring in a little extra cash for the family, too. If I get the job, great; if I don’t, that’s fine, too. I’ll just keep looking for something else. So here’s crossing my fingers for the best outcome, whatever that may be.

Meanwhile, the sun came out yesterday and temperatures climbed to the mid-60s. Everybody smiled and felt happy. The water level in our rain garden dropped microscopically. I went for a bike ride with Mom and ended up in shorts, my first ride since last summer without leg warmers or long pants. When I got home, I opened the house up and turned the heat off for a few hours… and yes, alas our heat remains on most of the time still. And our friends John and Anu came over for dinner and board games. So it was a good day.

Job Interview Butterflies

Day’s Verse:
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

John 21:5-6

Ian has a job interview today at 10:00 with a company called StrataGen Systems. He had a good phone interview last week and today he gets to go to his first in-person interview since he started his job search. It’s a smaller company (but then, compared to Raytheon, Google, and Microsoft, everybody is smaller) that I’d never heard of, but a guy at church who works there passed Ian’s resume along and here we are.

I heard, I think on NPR but I’m not sure, that secondary connections like that tend to yield the best results for helping job searchers land a position. Let’s hope that’s true in this case. However it turns out, I’m in the extremely odd position of feeling nervous without even having to do anything nerve-wracking.