Sunday, January 12, 2014

From Staff Expert to Unemployment Statistic

I am 32 years old. Both of my parents have died from cancer within the last 4 years. My brother, and only sibling, still struggles with drug addiction and only calls when he needs money. I persevered through unimaginable adversity over the course of a decade to get my B.S. degree so I could get "a real job;" have a career. That's what everyone said for as long as I can remember, "education is the way," "you got to get a college degree." 

Although I graduated when unemployment was nearing double-digit figures, I remained optimistic because I had graduated with honors so I was sure that would set me apart. I landed my first "real job" as an entry level software tester 2 years later. By the end of my first year I had become the Subject Matter Expert (SME) for testing mobile applications. Only 4 months away from celebrating my second anniversary the company announced that contract negotiations to outsource all test execution activities were complete and, just like that, my position was eliminated. 

I received a severance package based on my years of service, but it did not last long because my untaxed unemployment benefit is literally half of what my net income was when I was employed. Not only did my income drop by half, but my medical expenses have increased significantly since I lost health insurance coverage when I could not afford the ridiculous COBRA rates. For instance, an injection I must get at the doctor's office every 12 weeks went from a $25 co-pay to $124.50 -- 498% increase. On the upside, I've learned that I was paying more in premiums for the health insurance coverage than the insurance company was paying out to the pharmacies and doctors' offices.

I've had a number of interviews and many calls from recruiters, but no offers because "they decided to go in a different direction," "not the right kind of experience," or "not enough experience." Ironically, the expiration date of the Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits program was also the 6 month mark since my layoff. I am 1 of the 1.3 million Americans who started the new year with the sole resolution to find full time employment, but without an income.

On top of the usual stresses of looking for work, I now worry about how I am going to buy food or pay the electric, rent, and water bills. I am deeply saddened and shocked by the thought that I would be better off in jail or dead, but it seems to be true. In jail a person has shelter, clothing, food, and even medical care, all provided while serving out his/her sentence. As the days become weeks waiting on the government to act, the instinctual need to survive will override civility and obedience to society's laws.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Corporate Culture: Should I fit in or get out?

I had my mid-year performance review with my manager today. Overall, it went well. There was only 1 "Needs Focus" item: Improve knowledge and skills on corporate culture and work environment. "Sure thing, Boss"
  1. Understand the goal.
    • Improve knowledge -> research corporate culture
    • Improve skills -> implement knowledge gained from research
  2. Gather data and information.
    • Corporate culture is a term used to describe the collective beliefs, value systems, and processes that provide a company with its own unique flavor and attitude. (wiseGeek)
    • The different aspects of corporate culture are values, language, expectations, rituals and stories.  
      • Values are instilled into corporate culture by the decision and actions of the organization's leaders. This aspect of corporate culture influences the attitudes, motivation and decisions of employees. 
      • The understated values are just as influential as the stated values. These values include time management, cost savings, amount of space, and work performance.  
      • Expectations for employee behavior are an aspect of corporate culture that can either foster or hinder creativity and acceptance of new employees onto the team. 
      • Management should make clear to employees its expectations of how they should behave while at work to avoid confusion and create a positive working environment. 
      • It is especially important that new employees be briefed on office etiquette and general rules of the organization. (wiseGeek)
    • Above and beyond organizational and procedural factors, corporate culture is further informed by the attitude of everyone involved with the organization.
  3. Identify areas for further investigation.
    • Current culture - 
      • Stated: Acquire and retain talent, flexible work hours, autonomy, "open-door" communication policy across all levels of organization
      • Understated: Etiquette, working hours and environment, performance expectations, effects of using any "open-doors"
    • They say they want to emphasize creativity, flexibility, and innovation by being based less on control and organization than on freedom and creativity. However, the last few meetings with my manager included these statements:
      • "Do not compare yourself to those around you. You have not proven yourself."
      • "Do not [socialize] on breaks." 
      • "Do not get personal during meetings."
    • I'm pretty sure I've heard every variation of those sentiments since I started school. Some things are just part of who I am.....which is not a robot :-P  

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Life makes less sense with each passing year.  It's getting harder and harder to want to keep going through the cycle of work-to-pay-bills-to-survive in the hopes of MAYBE someday actually being free before death.

I worked so hard to get the education that has gotten me a really good job, but, as usual, circumstances (involving other people being unwilling to work as hard as I did) prevent me from enjoying my accomplishments.  I guess it's my own fault.....why should they have to work as hard when they already reap the rewards?

When did not being able to provide, at least for oneself, stop being shameful?  What happened to having pride and honor in building one's own life?  When did it stop being rude to expect others to accommodate your needs...acceptable to expect someone else to come and "make it all better"?  Do people not understand the word "impose"?