Engineering is my calling, my vocation. I solve problems inside and outside the industry, for free in my spare time; for people I hate to love and love to hate. Ironically, this drive to leave things better than when I found them doesn’t translate well to my career. The “wall of No” I hit daily whenever change or a new way to do business is proposed hasn’t shown any sign of cracking in 15 years. I’m tired of not knowing which skill sets and types of leadership opportunities would bring me closer to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I’m becoming skeptical of motivational speeches, career advice, and of any program designed for improving the life of high performers. For the first time in my life there’s no defined vision and mission statement for the future.
Excelling or being mediocre pays the same.
The primary reason I’m still
unhappily consistently showing up to the office is loyalty money. My paycheck and 401k match have been the only source of joy in an environment ripe with unfulfilled promises, infrequent promotion opportunities and lack of challenging meaningful work. Most of what I accomplish in a day an AI could perform better and faster – if the company ever decided to employ 21rst century technology. There’s no hope for upwards mobility, and the only recognition goes to arsonists who create bad situations and get kudos for firefighting.
I’m bitter, resentful and confused by the threat of having to ride this desk until retirement age, of having to be grateful I have this job and okay medical plan. (I work to live, not live to work Boomer. Plus, we don’t have IVF coverage so childless we shall remain.) With 20+ years of service to go, my ultimate goal is cashing my pension and qualifying for retiree medical before age 55. Aggressive, yes, but with an average USA life span of 78 years (Google it), waiting any longer would be egregious. Dying in a cubicle is not a part of any version of my master plan.
Friends and coworkers encourage me to start my own company or seek employment in another corporation but I am too jaded and spent to be moved by any business idea development or acceptance of new executive masters. Inherently, I’m cynically inclined to believe the good times are behind me, that the best years for my bridge generational cohort, the Xennials, were wasted righting the wrongs of X Theory Management and Boomer competition mentality. We were gifted the burden and satisfaction of being change agents.
I’m over the greed of capitalism, over the “working hard leads to rewards” mentality. I haven’t gotten anything other than more work and professional envy for my efforts. Economic stability came too late for me thanks to the crisis of 2008, and the aftermath of 9/11. I took whatever job was available to start a family. My husband and I carved a path through the hardships but the roadblocks really pigeonholed both of us into project management roles instead of leading us down a technical path. Kiss programming and developing AI goodbye career-wise. No Gundam robot magic for us! I’m a lowly worker bee stuck doing Power Point design, and Excel modeling. It’s definitely sucky!
The best laid plans are thwarted by fools not vested in the outcome, only on their gains, and not the Win-Win.
Managers ask me to find champions for my cause because they are too afraid to challenge the status quo on my behalf. “Look for someone like you, that believes in the new MBA leadership techniques and philosophies.” Newsflash, there isn’t a kick ass Latina C series in this company; I’m the chosen one, if I can figure it out in time. For many, I’m too “old” for the early career advancement stuff and not seasoned enough for the fellowships and expert programs. I wish all those advancement opportunities were around when I was a new hire. I was skipped over by plucky Gen Zs.
The irony is that I led and supported multiple efforts aimed at recruiting women and/or promoting minorities’ career growth while my own career went nowhere. I recruited at SWE, SHPE, HENAAC and Women of Color, making connections that have survived role changes, workforce reduction exercises and retirements, to no avail. I’m not an inch closer to taking over the world. Buahahahaha. Seriously though, taking a paycut out of loyalty to the company to return after the layoff made things worse short term. I earn less now than what I made before the pink slip and I can’t find a single human that can amend this injustice because I am well compensated according to their own biases and market reference charts. The proof is in the pudding; there are new hires that earn more than me.
A six figure salary doesn’t go as far in the very expensive PNW where homes cost 500k and climbing.
Raised on participation ribbons and praise/positive feedback, I stumbled to differentiate myself in a working culture where leadership is unwilling to give out either unless you performed exactly to their expectations, which they failed to communicate clearly and completely. They want you to improve perceived poor qualities rather than reinforce the strong ones. It is a losing battle. The term entitled is thrown my way a lot as if I hadn’t earned my stripes by now. Smh. “You were a part of that team? I though someone else had led that.” 🙄😪 I’ve called out so many people for forgetting it was me who accomplished X that I’ve started a massive campaign to educate my peers: “Trust me, I’m always right” or my favorite “Yes, that was me. I made this happen”.
Exhausted by the incessant battle to prove my worth, I’ve become dejected, angry, touchy, and unsympathetic. My smile and optimism hide it well at the office but the mask slips off a little when I can’t figure out what’s in it for me. Meanwhile, life continues to push me upstream where I hope lies in wait a better anything. The uncertainty of the Earth’s future coupled with the lack of belief that the grass will be greener if I water it well unnerves me. I can’t sit still but I can’t move forward, paralyzed by the fear that there is more to than this provincial life but not necessarily a Beast and Belle happy ending. I need peace. I need energy. I need to find an intrinsic reward system that kick starts my innovation engine. It’s either that or a parcel of land in which to build an off the grid haven to exit the rat race and quit while I’m still ahead.
I want to defect to a lower entropy state where I can just be.
F#%k the rest!