bostonimproper's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
bostonimproper
Posts: 213
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2018 11:45 am

Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Work dilemma

An opportunity has come up at work to lead a big, exciting project. It is on something I would be very qualified to address and is, in fact, the role I thought I was supposed to do initially when I interviewed for the company (and I was quite disappointed that my actual role was only tangential). It would be an opportunity to get a lot of visibility in senior leadership and if I do it well would be hugely impactful to the company as a whole. Also all my peers are more or less setting it up to be me.

However, since I started at this place four months ago, I have had heap upon heap of stuff lobbed at me. I am now leading two teams, fulfilling multiple roles for each team since one of my engineering counterpart's is on parental leave and the other is underwater with his own stuff, and we also don't have a designer so I'm trying to do that too. Basically I'm underwater, feel like I'm doing too much poorly. I've been working later than i'd like and I'm in the eat-sleep-breathe work mode that, honestly, makes me a worse person overall.

In addition, if I take my past experience as an indicator, I actually really hate being visible to senior leadership. I remember the bathroom crying and the panic attacks I used to have at my old job when I'd be berated or undermined by the CTO who didn't agree with my team's decisions. It sucked and caused me to become majorly burnt out.

Also, as I've mentioned before in this journal, my husband and I plan to conceive this year (though after we both inevitably catch covid-19, I don't want to be both pregnant and sick). This project is probably going to take about six months to a year to really come into fruition.

So my options seem to be:

1. Take on the new responsibility.
Pros: Likely get a promotion after successful completion of project (~20% raise). Do interesting and impactful work.
Cons: High potential for panic attacks. Dealing with a ton of interpersonal politics.

2. Don't take on the new responsibility.
Pros: Mental health.
Cons: Disappoint and confuse others, probably get passed over for future such opportunities.

Thoughts?

ertyu
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by ertyu »

I would vote for (1).

Reasons:

-increased optionality in terms of future career direction
-opportunity to learn how to delegate
-opportunity to improve dealing with interpersonal politics (sympathize on this one, I am both bad at politics and I don't enjoy it).
-it seems to me it is what you want to do, the concern isn't that you don't want to do it but that you may not have systems in place to handle it.

I would reframe the question: "How can I address the negatives I expect? What strategies can I implement? What is the big picture here? - e.g. being visible to senior management might be unpleasant but bearable if you make a habit of reminding yourself you're doing it for the sake of X meaningful goal (redirect attention from pain to gain).

Other suggestions:
employing a housekeeper might reduce the burden
having pre-set meals on a weekly schedule and a fixed grocery list might help
can husband help? either with chores, backrubs, or any other way that might be beneficial to your focus and mental health until the project is complete?
would a therapist help? would a coach help? a standing appointment with a friend who is work politics savvy? a personal yoga teacher??

It also might help to give yourself a timeline and keep it clear in your mind (and your husband's mind) that this is a temporary situation which aims to increase future optionality for the family as a whole. handle this as a team, and know it will end.

MEA
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by MEA »

Go after #1 while intentionally neglecting whatever job responsibility you enjoyed least.

AxelHeyst
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Location: The Mountains, USA

Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

Is it possible to negotiate yourself out of the other responsibilities, or at least make your expectations very clear? In other words, either of the following conversations:

1) "Yes I'll do it, but I need to drop project A B and C in order to do a good job. Can I delegate them to Frank and Sally and X?"
2) "I really want to do this project, but I'm underwater as it is. I perceive there is limited relief available for projects A B and C. I would love to prioritize new project, but that means I *will not* do as good a job at A B and C as I typically would want. Are you okay with this?" (this is MEA's advice but with explicit communication)

This really hinges on having a boss/someone in leadership with whom you can have a frank discussion. It's got to be *somebody's* job to make sure you aren't unreasonably overloaded. And it's your job to make sure that person knows if you are or aren't overloaded. If that person (or the culture) is toxic or there's dysfunction in that relationship, this situation gets super hard super fast.

A turning point in my career was when I drafted an email to my boss with the subject line "This is me screaming for help" (I was doing a half-dozen people's worth of work on a project that should have had ten people on it at the time). He was so busy as well he didn't realize I was going down for the third time, so his response was basically "Oh, damn, really? Guess we should hire some extra folks huh?"

Also, I recommend being really clear about your vision for your career. I'm struggling with this sort of thing too right now (I passed up an opportunity to enroll in an MBA-ish course earlier this year). Is taking on heroic levels of responsibility something that actually fits in with my goals for my life? Yes, the project would be fantastic for career growth. But how does it fit with the child plans, the FIRE plans, the mental health plans? Our culture encourages us to hustle and thrash and win and sleep when we're dead. But that's terrible if your aim is to have a good life.

Option #2 is a bad choice if your goal is to prioritize career. But it might be the best choice if your goal is to have a great life, be healthy, show up for loved ones in your life, etc.

edit: advice I got early on, which may or may not apply to your industry/workplace: "Everyone f's up. No one is going to be mad [forever] if you f up. If you f up, admit it and ask for help, and we'll gladly help you fix it. But if you f up, and try to hide it, which makes it worse, your name will be mud forever and we'll all hate you." I think this advice applies to admitting when you're overloaded as well.

ertyu
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by ertyu »

Hm I disapprove. Accept (1) first, go to boss with, "hey, I tried to cope with all three, and I also tried (delegating, etc. measures) but. Come clean with the situation on A B and C post-factum.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Some additional context:
  • If I do worse at my job, it'll mostly hurt my engineering team, because I'll be too busy to help define and facilitate their work like I normally would since our EM is out. Our customers would probably suffer, but my boss is not incentives to care about these particular customers (weird internal politics stuff) so there's that.
  • My boss is on paternity leave and even when he was around was very bad at helping me maintain a manageable workload. His advice was mostly that it was part of the job, gotta be passionate enough, etc. He also gives all his reports a lot of what I consider to be low impact administrative busy work, which my peers seem to view as learning and growing opportunities? Lots of internal customer demos and surveys that don't really help with team direction and are mostly patting ourselves on the back instead of doing the real work. If he were around, I don't know that I'd even have this opportunity available.
  • We are hiring to try and take one of my teams, but the candidates have been bleh so far. Still plugging away at those interviews. Plus it takes a lot of time to ramp someone new up.
  • I love my husband, but he fucking sucks when it comes to chores. As in, if I want things done in a reasonable time frame, I have to organize to do it myself or have it done. He used to get his car towed for not paying parking tickets. Not because he didn't have the money, but because he forgot to.
I think it comes down to: do I want to pursue ambition or living a happy, balanced life? My default is to be Type A about these things, but I think that has led to a pattern of me being miserable at work in the past.

Scott 2
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by Scott 2 »

The prior CTO sounds like a bully. I wonder if it is the same for senior leadership on the new project.

Pulling back from the existing teams makes an opportunity for others to grow.

How would you feel watching someone else do the project, but not as well as you would have?

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Prior CTO definitely had bully tendencies. Senior leadership in this case don't seem like bullies, but they are definitely a particular brand of SV corporate that I don't know how to communicate with particularly well.

If someone else did the project... I think it depends. There are only two viable candidates other than me.

If Person A did it, I think it would go okay. They are sort of in charge of this space now. I think they are too focused on a very specific methodology that is not the most impactful long term though. I would feel kind of sheepish and out of place since they'd probably be directing my team's work (they have a long history working with my team and were sort of doing my role before I got hired), but not in any way angry. Note Person A has voiced that they'd support me taking this project over or doing it themself, but would not want Person B to do it.

If Person B did it, I would not feel particularly out of place or jealous. Their life would probably be pretty miserable because they'd both have very little familiarity with this problem, the teams and technologies involved, and also potential pushback from Person A, who can have a very strong personality. I'd probably feel relieved not to have to deal with all the politicking they'll have to go through.

Scott 2
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by Scott 2 »

Your posts read like someone who doesn't want the project, but fears missing out or disappointing.

What could they change to make you really excited about the project?


I declined a leadership / second in command type role in my company's IT department maybe 3-4 years ago. Had I taken it (and not failed!), I'd be earning about 20% more, have 1-2 teams reporting to me, and be on track to an equity stake. I'd also have worked an extra 10-20 hours a week since then, travelling away from home at least 25% of the time. Lots of stress.

Instead I have no reports, am working remote close to 100%, have much less responsibility and will probably never have that opportunity again. A more recent attempt to take on a lesser leadership role was rejected. I was told "you don't want people working for you". It's true. I ended up on the mgmt. team anyways, but with less influence. I have a secure job, earn more money than I need and I get interesting work. Little stress.

It's hard to know that I could have been "more". It's frustrating when I can't execute as well, because I'm not as important as I once was. However, I think in aggregate, my life has been better as a result. My role is much better aligned with my constitution and values.

bostonimproper
Posts: 213
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

In an academic way, I'm *extremely* excited about the project. I love the subject matter. If I had to characterize it: I want to do the work (as in, rally the teams, help frame the hard problems, make sure we're actually moving toward an approach that'll be successful, etc.) but I want none of the corporate politics, micromanagement, or even the recognition. My ideal role would be as an assist, but one that's taken seriously instead of systematically ignored.

In the long term, I'm definitely happier without the stress. But there are also little gremlins in my brain that want the power and to "level up." Not in a higher position at the company way, but to prove to myself I can do this sort of thing.

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

My brother has it. I'm so scared.

mooretrees
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by mooretrees »

Oh no! I feel for you, I'm waiting for that call myself. I hope for the best!

bostonimproper
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

@mooretrees Thank you! Luckily his cough & fever have mostly gone away (he had about 10 days of symptoms). Still waiting on official test results, so we'll see if it was really COVID-19 or if I was really overreacting.

bostonimproper
Posts: 213
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Family:
  • Grandmother (78) is still going to work in SoCal. For this age bracket, estimates are 30.5-58.7% hospitalization, 10.5-31.0% ICU admissions, and 4.3-10.5% death rate. I feel helpless that her choice may lead to her death, but there is nothing that I can do.
  • Brother is mostly recovered, still with a lingering cough. Still waiting on test results a week later.
  • Father's family's business, run in a tourist town, is barely afloat. He's trying to find useful things for workers to do (capital improvements) while waiting for demand, but will need to layoff people soon.
  • Mother who works in real estate and property management has been in quarantine, notes multiple previously-reliable tenants for properties she manages have reached out to say they'll be defaulting on rent due to COVID-19 layoffs.
Work:
  • I took on the big aforementioned project. I am now completely submerged.

bostonimproper
Posts: 213
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Dafuq is going on with the stock market?

Where my head's at: The stock market is not the economy. Rather, there are two economies: those of the rich and few and those of the normal and many. The stock market reflects the beliefs of an ever-narrowing monied class. Fed-supported debt means big companies can stay afloat while individuals do poorly. Too big to fail is the new normal. Real growth will continue to slow while inequality remains.

What does that mean for stocks? Maybe they stay at sky-high valuations forever, at least so long as the federal government is willing to support it. Eventually this comes back and leads to high inflation, but we're not quite there yet.

I haven't put anything back into the market since a month ago. I'm not sure I want to index anymore.

Work is impoverishing my life

I feel I've been sucked into the capitalist ethos: You are what you produce. Your capacity as a worker is your value as a person.

I hit a breaking point yesterday. My anxiety to be productive and useful in a capitalist sense is causing me to shrink the rest of my life. I am too caught up in what other people at work think about me and it's affecting me all hours of the day. I forgot your employer is not your friend and doesn't actually care about your wellbeing. Management never practices what it preaches.

My plan is to be stricter about when I'm "on" and when I'm "off". No more 70 hour weeks. If things go up in flames, so be it. I've asked for assistance multiple times and been turned down, so at this point I need to do what I can with what I have.

bostonimproper
Posts: 213
Joined: Sun Jul 01, 2018 11:45 am

Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

Asset prices versus inflation

Interview with Steven Eisman (of The Big Short fame) rumbling in my head. Prices on publicly traded assets can inflate separate and apart from everyday goods incorporated in inflation statistics. Monetary policy can drastically affect asset prices concentrated on the high end without necessarily fueling inflation on low end goods. QE and deflation. What does this mean? Increasingly segregated economy and goods.

Work work work

I have utterly failed in work-life balance. It's starting to take a toll on my physical health, in addition to my mental health. Not sure what my ramp off this path looks like. Mental fixation is high.

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Egg
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by Egg »

bostonimproper wrote:
Sat May 02, 2020 12:15 pm
I have utterly failed in work-life balance. It's starting to take a toll on my physical health, in addition to my mental health. Not sure what my ramp off this path looks like. Mental fixation is high.
I feel you on this (and the various similar things you've said in the past). I wish I knew the answer. The only thing that works for me is music, which can sometimes get me 'out of my own head'. I don't know about you, but FIRE for me is partly about being able finally to say one big "no" to professsional work, because I'm bad at saying the many small "no's" that a more moderate, 'Type B' personality would be doing in the same professional context. The ultimate "off ramp" if you like.

Of course, learning how deal with these issues would be an alternative route, but I've not figured out how to do this, or even if it's possible (i.e. not immutably hard-wired into personality).

Scott 2
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by Scott 2 »

I hope work gets better.

AnalyticalEngine
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by AnalyticalEngine »

bostonimproper wrote:
Fri Apr 10, 2020 8:16 am
I haven't put anything back into the market since a month ago. I'm not sure I want to index anymore.
I feel you on this. I've been holding cash longer than I probably should have. Indexing is starting to scare me. It's unnerving to see the stock market skyrocket while unemployment is at the highest it's been in years. Maybe I'll be wrong and valuations will stay high forever, but for now at least, I'm going to keep holding cash until I can trust myself enough to invest it in something.

bostonimproper
Posts: 213
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Re: bostonimproper's journal

Post by bostonimproper »

@Egg Yeah, to me it feels like an addiction. I can imagine being either all in or cold turkey, but nothing in between.

@Scott 2 Thank you, I appreciate the well wishes. :)

@AnalyticalEngine I'm looking at this as an opportunity to perhaps change my long-term investment strategy. I still have some amount in stock/bond funds (whatever I said in my AA earlier), but I'm toying with the idea of buying cheap real-estate in places that'll be neutral or positively affected by climate change in the 20-50 year time frame. This seems like an opportunity to take out some debt, which if done in a responsible way will probably be eaten away by inflation too. That's just where my head is at now.

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