Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Celbrate! It's Biscuit's One Year Anniversary of Having a Life

One good thing about Facebook Timeline is that it’s incredibly easy to locate and identify the date of major milestones in your life, stuff that I would normally search through my gmail for exclamation-point ridden emails to my friends and family announcing major life events, in order to pinpoint the date. Though I certainly don’t use Facebook as honestly or as often as I used to, generally something big like a job change or a new puppy will make it on that damn timeline. And due to the ease of browsing through that timeline, I realized that exactly one year ago today, I commenced my last two weeks at Big Consulting Inc., and was a mere three nights removed from the end of my traveling life.

Now, I know I have written a lot about Consulting. Forgive me; it’s all I’ve known since college. And, fortunately or unfortunately, it’s what I’m still doing today. This morning I was sitting in my status meeting, actually engaged in the conversation, not bitterly hating my life, not so tired I could barely concentrate, and I realized what a difference a year outside of that indentured servitude had made on my life. So, lucky you, I’m going to tell you all about how my life has improved since joining a smaller, local firm. Consider it a(nother) cautionary tale for all those young whippersnappers currently dreaming of a job in the Big 4, wanting to be all sexy like Don Cheadle and our beloved Kristen Bell in House of Lies (I really need to write more on that later). This could also be recruiting material for my new company. Maybe I’ll share it with the recruiters some day. If they give me money for it.

First things first. One year later, I feel like I’m finally recovered from a mental illness I didn’t even realize I had.  I realized this today when, despite not being the person talking in my meeting, nor having my laptop and beloved internet, and not being particularly interested in the information being presented, that I was not obsessively doodling, drawing, or fighting off sleep. I was listening, giving input, and actually being present (sorry for the yoga speak) for the full hour. It was weird.
A symptom of mental illness.
Towards the end of my big Consulting run, I literally could not sit in a meeting without keeping myself occupied in some way. Whether that was taking obsessive notes, filling full pages with my patented cross-hatch OCD pattern (see picture), or slyly playing Sudoku on my phone, there was no “down” time. This habit stuck with me for a while in my new job, and my manager chalked it up to my generational identity (us y-millenials, right?). But I don’t need to do it anymore. Sure, like any normal human I daydream a little, but I’m totally fine with downtime now. It’s probably because I’m not in a full anxiety attack 24 hours a day, as I was before. I’m not counting down the days away from home, or dreading that the other shoe is about to drop (the prevailing management technique in the Big 4 – broadcasting consistent feelings of dread).

Consulting: it's just like Oz
Here’s something else crazy about life “outside.” Work: not that hard. I think about the hours and dollars spent on very simple deliverables. The stress and late hours spent on things that I now produce in a single day is mind boggling. I remember a stretch of 3 weeks in which I was locked in a conference room in Wichita, KS, with 4 other resources, until average leaving-time of 12 AM creating ONE PowerPoint deck. I could make that same deck in one week, leaving at 5 PM, by MYSELF. Why all the stress at the big companies? Well, I think the simple explanation is bill rates. I, a relatively inexperienced consultant, was charged out at about 300/hour. Now, extrapolate that figure out to partners, senior managers, managers. That’s where the millions of dollars in consulting fees add up. Plus travel expenses. It’s ridonculous. NO ONE is worth that much money.

And, on some level, clients know this. So there is a constant struggle on the consulting side to prove your worth and convince your clients of your expertise with complicated models, jargon up the ass, and general bull-shit. And the problem is, we as consultants know nothing (like Jon Snow, holla), or at least less then our clients, about their business at the get-go. There may be one expert on the team, but she’s not doing all the work. I promise you, I knew nothing about building private jets before that client flew me to Wichita for 7 weeks of hell. Partners live in fear that the client will figure out that they’re paying 200 bucks an hour for a 23 year old from ASU to play on Facebook. They manage this fear by locking you in a conference room for long, unbilled hours to create a strategy for fooling the client.

At my new job, we have lower bill rates. We get paid on a variable hourly model. This means that if I work more than 40 hours/week, I make more money. It’s a novel concept, and it gives our partners incentive not to oversell or overpromise. We also have lower bill rates, and we don’t travel. So, instead of hiding from our clients in a conference room, we work with them and have open conversations with them. We’re honest about what we need, and we don’t try our illusions and tricks to convince them we’re worth the money. It’s pretty awesome to just tell my client what they need in an honest conversation, and to document my work in simple formats. See? Work – not that hard. Go home at 5 and see your family.

Speaking of my new company, here’s another revelation from this past year: I actually like my bosses. I respect them as people, and trust that they have my best interest at heart. Maybe this seems like a given for a job? I’m not sure, because I’m coming from a place of absolute contempt for both my direct and indirect bosses. I’m not saying that any of them were bad people in real life. But I am saying that the culture of that place was pure dog-eat-dog, and I learned the hard way that you could not trust what people told you to your face. The people that I worked for before solidly did NOT care about my career, my personal life, or my well-being. They cared what was best for them. Period. End of story.

So, it’s been shocking to enter a world where talking to my boss and my boss’ boss doesn’t mean I’m in trouble. A world in which, when I say I really don’t want to be staffed in the South Bay, I really won’t be staffed in the South Bay without my permission. And, a world in which people want ME to succeed and be happy. It’s wild. And I like it.

On top of all these awesome changes, the biggest, best, and most notable change is that I’m happy for the first time in a long time. I think my family and friends can see the difference, or, I hope they can. I’m happy now because I have a real life. I have friends! I have a blog! I do arts and crafts! I cook my own meals! And I have reclaimed Monday-Thursday, from 5-10 PM all for myself. Do you know how much you can get done in that many hours? In your own home? All of this means that I can spend my weekends with aforementioned friends. Or traveling for fun. What a concept!

So, here’s my big takeaway: quit your jobs that are making you miserable! Or, get the process started. Because it took me over 8 months to be able to make that post on my Facebook timeline, but it was SO worth it.

1 comment:

  1. Wish I had read that about 25 years ago....right on Chels!