life lessons, Tech

The Big Break that almost Broke Me

Know what you want from work, tip – it can’t just be money.

My fifth job, post college was the “Big Break” role, it came about purely by chance from a great female recruiter I knew (there are quite a few out there you know).  I had a suitable skill set for the role, she had taken the time to get to know me and do a “skills/meets analysis” and also knew what type of role I would change my plans for.  She twigged that it wasn’t just about the money (even though that was a factor if I’m honest) and she also took into account my personality, drive and ambition and my life plan.  You see even then I had one!  Yes she would get a decent finders fee for the introduction but she also knew that I would follow through if it was the right role.

Make sure you choose a good recruiter and your interests are aligned “quid pro quo”.

I had just resigned from my previous role due to a lack of opportunity and scope.  I had decided to take a year out and travel.  I trusted my recruiter (Yes I just said that), she persuaded me to join the interview process as it would be “good practice” for me.  As a result of her call and my inquisitive nature I would spend 17 years learning and growing on a daily basis in the Square mile .

Take a role that has potential, that inspires you even if it frightens you.

At 23 the interview process seemed so rigorous with six interviews that I was between two minds initially as to whether I even wanted the City job.   The starting salary with benefits exceeded my expectations but the big selling point for me was the scale of the business reputation and that it was a new challenge completely outside my comfort zone.  It was obvious to me that there would be so many opportunities for movement, self-improvement and advancement.  I was driven with a thirst for something new and I wanted to expand my horizons.  I walked through the turnstiles on my first day full of hope, excitement  and a little bit of concern that I might not fit in.

Hit the ground running and be willing to put the effort in.

It was pretty clear from day one that I was seen as an outsider and although I didn’t realise it the the department I had joined was generally seen as a threat to the status quo by many.   I reported to a lovely lady who involved me in various projects initially in a sink or swim immersion therapy to the organisation.

Don’t jump to conclusions, mostly it’s not you, go with your gut it’s often right.

One of the projects had the remit to improve the processes and stability of the systems cross division.  I was asked to take the lead and was unaware that there had previously been some issues.  One of my peer managers went so far as to surreptitiously tell his staff whom I sat alongside to be unhelpful to me in my role. I was completely in the dark about this and couldn’t understand their attitude, they obviously ignored both me and my requests and never included me in meetings. Thinking at first that it related perhaps to my Irish accent (the troubles in Ireland had spilled over to the uk and did cast a shadow) or my approach or the way I dressed.  I didn’t believe that they were a nasty bunch, I sensed there was more at play.

Persist even in challenging circumstances, trust your instincts.

I had never come across office politics or workplace bullying before. I spoke to the Manager in question “asking him if there was an issue?”.  He had been involved in my interview process and always appeared approachable and helpful.  He told me nicely that it was my imagination to just get on with it and everything would be fine. I am nothing if not persistent so I got on with my work, politely and professionally with a smile on my face whilst feeling miserable inside.

I found ways to get things done around the team, often getting more hands-on than I needed and spending long days in the office.  A few months later I was made aware that I was seen as a spy in their ranks, that they’d be out of a job???. This was the first time I understood how hostile and bilious workplace perception and aversion to change or improvement can be where the approach was not tabled as collaborative from the top down and that “Change Resistance” can thus manifest at all levels.

Be yourself, have integrity, be friendly, actions speak louder than words.

My natural inquisitive approach of asking questions to understand how things work and to involve individuals in identifying improvements and recommending changes had perhaps contributed to my “Imposter Status” .  It was obvious that here had not been sufficient communication from the top to explain my role.

Around this time I helped a few of the team members out on some particularly difficult tasks,  mucking in and taking action alongside them where I observed they needed some assistance. They saw me differently as a result, talking and confiding in me and including me in discussions and coffee runs ” a small thing but a thaw nevertheless”. The penny had dropped the team saw based on my attitude and actions that I was not undercover plotting some mass insurgence for demise of their jobs.  I was just doing my job in a professional and collaborative manner to move the technology and processes into the 21st century.  The outcome and aim being that their jobs would become better skilled and ultimately more enjoyable and rewarding.

Don’t avoid confrontation, take the bully on with facts not fists.

I did towards the end of the project approach the manager who had instigated my boycotting from the team. I kept my emotions in check, was factual, direct and looked him in the eyes.  I remember saying to him like it was yesterday that :

I was shocked that someone in authority could attempt to use their team to bring about the demise of a project and a colleague.

By his actions he had shown himself up, he was not the leader I had thought him to be which was such a disappointment.

I found his segregation and subtle bullying approach combined with his face to face niceness akin to Macbeth perhaps a direct “just talk” approach might work to his advantage in the future.

Yes change is hard but that the inclusive approach I had followed gave everyone including him the opportunity to participate and shape the change.

Sometimes the worst experiences provide the most valuable lessons.

He had the decency to blush at least, I never did get an apology and he denied his part, he did leave the organisation shortly afterwards.  Although those few months were horrendous, the fact that they happened at the start of my career meant that I was better equipped to handle politics and quickly spot toxic behaviour.   Too often emotions and rumours take centre stage and conversation and working together in a collaborative way are sidelined for egos and posturing.  I know today as soon as I see it I call it, a bully is a bully plain and simple, unfrock the sheep and reveal the wolf…..


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