Sunday, July 7, 2013

Silver Anniversary

When I started my first job out of Uni I never imagined I would still be working at the same company 25 years later. Even on the first day I had a mini-breakdown. During one of the breaks in our orientation you would have found me in the ladies on the verge of tears, doubting whether I fitted the ‘company mould’, wondering whether I belonged. I (obviously) remained and in January I was inducted into the club for employees who had attained 25 years of service.

The occasion was marked with a certificate, gifts and a dinner. I hated the fuss, especially the idea of a celebration dinner. But, bit by bit, it dawned on me what an achievement 25 years was and I realised that the dinner allowed me to thank all those who had helped me throughout my career. The problem then was: who to invite? How could I rate one person's value to me over another's? There are so many people who were instrumental in making me who I am today - people who mentored me, inspired me, supported me, pushed me (and I need pushing!), provided opportunities to exercise and hone my skills and, most importantly, believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself.

Over the last six months I have written a number of posts about work: the return to work after long service leave, the decision to leave, the last day, and the massive changes that occurred within the company since I left. There have also been various posts over the last few years on this blog and Learner Yogi musing about different incidents at work - a record of my increasing stress levels and dissatisfaction with the job.

These posts might paint a negative picture of the company but things were not always so bad. I've had a number of distinct jobs over the years—business analyst, programmer, system tester, technical writer, user experience specialist—one of the advantages of being in a large corporation. I achieved my childhood dream of being an author and an artist! (Although I might need to refine that goal a little. My 9-year-old self dreamt of something a little more creative than technical writing, drawing diagrams and flowcharts, and creating PowerPoint slides.) I first walked through the glass doors of the Company Headquarters with a wish to develop computer-based training packages so I could combine a love of teaching and computer programming. I sort of achieved that. I taught and mentored people and, as a technical writer, I developed ‘educational’ materials.

What seems to have changed over the years is the company. As a wide-eyed graduate, the company's ideas seemed conservative and the Australian executive team seemed a little rah-rah at times but they did not impact too much on day-to-day life. And the US management team? They hardly bothered us at all. Generally, Australia seemed self-contained, the people in my business unit were friendly, the environment was nurturing and employees were important and respected. It was almost like a family. The company even used to give generation gifts to new employees whose parents were current employees of the company!

25 years on and the world is a whole lot smaller. If you work on a client site, you're more likely to be working with your clients than with people in your team. Working in the office after returning from leave was strange - people didn't know me, the environment seemed less personal and more isolating and, in hindsight, it seemed employees had become a way to achieve the bottom line. We were all so worried about finding a role—any role whether it was what we wanted or not—to ensure that we had a job!

Maybe this seemingly emotionless view is a sign of the times. For a company to survive so long, there needs to be some objectivity to business decisions and an ability to adapt quickly to the economic conditions.

Or maybe I'm the one who has changed? I'm no longer a child in the company, a child that needs to be nurtured and developed. I grew up and, like a young adult, I was ready to leave home.

The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus stated: “There is nothing permanent except change.”

So, I'm finally heeding the family calling to teach, although probably not in a way that I or my family ever envisioned. And despite the emotional upheaval of leaving, I am grateful for those 25 years—for the skills learnt, the knowledge gained, and the friendships made.

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