I assure you I am working on the first installment of my "memoir" posts, but I'm finding it slow going. Mostly because I want them to be good, meaningful, a means to an end, interesting...maybe I'm kidding myself but I look at this blog as a form of publishing, and I don't want to disappoint my readers or post anything that I would be embarrassed to read later. I sometimes lose track of the fact that this blog is about me and ultimately, for me.
Having said that, I find myself struggling with the question of career and ambition, or lack thereof. I'm a very goal-oriented person, or I used to be, which is why I spent the majority of my life involved in competitive sports and activities where my efforts resulted in a tangible result. A ribbon or medal. A letter grade. A score. A title.
Like most people, I've spent the last 20 years carrying around a large chalkboard listing Things to Accomplish, and I've been able to put nice fat checkmarks beside a lot of them. Some of them got erased or modified, and some of them I tried at and failed, but they remain on the board just in case.
I used to care a lot about my work. After high school I went to business school for a year and a half so I could learn how to use the business machines of the day. Anyone reading this remember Telexes? I knew I wasn't college-bound, there was no money for that, even though I breezed through school and probably could have gotten a scholarship, it just wasn't even on my radar. I got my first job when a friend decided to leave her office with her boss and they needed a quick replacement. I started out as the receptionist and ended up 5 years later as the office manager and an expert on Canadian securities filings. This was an office of half a dozen public mining companies listed on the Vancouver Stock Exchange with U.S. oil and gas subsidiaries.
When I moved to California I got a job with a real estate investment trust (REIT), picking up where I left off in securities, adding in investor relations. I started off as the bottom person in a team of 5, and once again, 5 years later when the company folded I was the lone person in the group with a huge range of responsibilites. My next job was at a small high-tech company, the first of many in Silicon Valley. This is where the job of administering employee stock plans came to the forefront and I felt like I needed additional training. Fortunately for me, a national certification program had just been established, similar to a CPA, and the headquarters for the program was right here in the Bay Area. My employer paid for the extensive program, which took a year and a half and involved passing three levels of tests. I was one of the first 100 people in the country to receive the designation of Certified Equity Professional.
There are a couple of local companies that still won't hire anyone without a degree, no matter what your resume looks like (*cough* G++gle), but this has kept me in well-paying jobs for the last 10 years, and it was important to me to keep in good standing by completing the required educational requirements. This wasn't that hard, as my employers would pay for me to go to seminars and meetings.
Unfortunately, my employers kept changing. Let's recap my employment history in California, shall we?
Company #1 - dissolved when the commercial real estate market crumbled in the mid-90's (laid off)
Company #2 - eventually went private, changed their name and is barely hanging on (left before the shit hit the fan
Company #3 - moved their headquarters to Texas (left for opportunity with internationally known internet company)
Company #4 - got acquired by a large multinational conglomerate (laid off)
Company #5 - died a slow, ugly death after misguided merger, no longer exists (went in as a consultant, made the mistake of becoming an employee, stayed far too long)
Company #6 - former Silicon Valley high flyer, arrived too late to make any money (laid off)
Company #7 - got acquired by large software company (laid off)
Company #8 - was the acquiror of #7, was brought back as a consultant after being out of work for 5 months, have been there for 3 years
At this point my friends and colleagues are beginning to refer to me as Typhoid Mary, which is terribly ironic considering that's my mother's name (and we all know how I feel about my mother). #4 broke my heart, I really loved that company, we felt like we were on the cutting edge. When we got acquired by a company we all felt was an internet joke it was very hard to deal with. At that point I started to become a little more guarded, and I've not allowed myself to become emotionally invested in a company since then (this was in 1999!), but I still loved my job. I was good at it. Or at least, big parts of it. Stock options and all the trappings that come along with them is a complicated business involving legal, tax, accounting, education, administration, outside vendor relationships, etc. etc.
Ten years ago this job was mostly dealing with legal and administration; now, due in large part to the sweeping changes brought upon by Enron and other corporate scandals, the job is largely tax and accounting-based. I've wondered a lot over the years how I ended up where I am today (an independent consultant in this field) as I am really not a "numbers person". I HATE math actually, and I struggle with that part of the job. Now that it's become such a huge part of the responsibilities I'm expected to be an expert at, I'm losing both my ambition and my enjoyment for the work.
That took a long time to say that for the first time, I've let my designation lapse into inactive status. I have to pay for all of my own educational activities now, which makes it difficult to keep up, but honestly, I just don't care that much anymore. Noone has ever asked me to prove that my designation status was current, and I know many very good people in the field who don't have it at all.
As a consultant I've been able to pick and chose the jobs I want or don't want, and I've chosen the jobs that are interesting and fun to me, which has meant I am sorely behind in the critical accounting and taxation areas.
When we first started trying to have a baby it was my goal to work part-time and/or be able to work from home. I've accomplished that, but now more than 5 years later, I have no baby to take care of, and having to pay the extra 15% federal tax on my self-employment earnings means we can't save anything. I am afraid that at this point I really don't have the skill set required to be able to do a good job for any company that would hire me to administer their stock programs. Could I get some further education in those areas I am behind in? Sure. But that would take money and the desire to do so.
I feel like I am faking it at this point. I am negotiating right now to work as a consultant for an old friend, he worked for Company #1 with me way back in the late 80's and is now co-owner of a financial consulting firm. If I end up working for him I would be an employee of the firm and they would send me out to various clients, which means I would not be self-employed any more. Maybe going to work for someone I like and respect will force me to get my ass in gear and make sure I am back on the cutting edge. Did I mention I hate change?