Friday, July 23, 2021

Lots of Lessons Learned

I haven't blogged much for several reasons. Talking about my running has been a major thing I enjoy talking about, and when I'm having injuries there is a cloud of depression that hangs over most things I do. Even when I've climbed 10 13ers, like I have in July this year, when I strain a calf muscle by pulling a knot in a workout nine days ago, I don't want to talk about it. It's depressing.

On the work side, working at a small company almost anything I say I realize could be traced back to the person who did it, and I don't want to give away other's information. ...And work has been super difficult and depressing at times the last year plus. Rewind to just before the start of the pandemic in the USA and I was in mental health therapy in part for a work issue. That's resolved and I've graduated from therapy. 

However, just changing one thing, or even many things, doesn't necessarily change why a role is difficult. My new role is a manufacturing engineer, and I've learned I'll basically always be able to get a manufacturing engineer role... because it's not a role people really want. It's a role that burns out people. Management expects you to keep the production line running. Design expects you to implement their poorly communicated changes. Testing expects you to prepare the product for the testing with all of the necessary information they need (even though they don't tell you what information they need). And the technicians expect you to give them all the information they need to build the product. Then someone drops a random project on your desk with no quarterly goal, no documentation, essentially saying, 'drop all that other stuff and do this thing, which you won't get any recognition for, has no documentation, and will put you behind on all your other work.' 

In design, where I spent most of my career this far, you know the requirements, you know what you have to design, you know the purpose it serves, and you know it takes time. So when you go into work you have an idea of what you're working on for the day. I basically have no idea how my day is going to go on the drive in to work. It's fun to ride a bucking bronco on Friday night, but it's stressful when you're expected to ride it five days a week. 

A few weeks ago I went to a dinner party with eight total adults. (My girlfriend and I were the only two that did not get coronavirus in the pandemic, those non paranoid people...) At one point I talked to a woman who was recently promoted to being the head of manufacturing for a large division of a large company. I asked her if she was stressed out, and she replied she absolutely was. I told her if she wasn't making at least $150k she was being underpaid. (I don't make very close to that by the way.) It was fascinating to see this woman, younger than myself, obviously skilled and smart, but in a position that seemed to require a decade plus in experience above where I am now. I realized again how manufacturing is so hard. The expectations are so high. One of the people responsible for New Shepard flying Jeff Bezos into space a few days ago, for manufacturing integration, is a guy in his mid to younger 30s, who totally doesn't want to work any more, and wants to go live in a cabin in the woods. As someone told me his backstory, I laughed inside, because here is another guy who definitely knows about the FIRE movement and is not going to work until his 60s at all. And yet here he is, working on the "start" of a commercial space movement in a position with potentially huge career growth.

Where am I going with this? What is the solution? Frankly I don't know. I have some ideas, but they sound so utopian that I kind of don't think it's possible... but then again I kind of want to try and see what happens. 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The "Hero's" Downtime

Today at work I ignored my email, my Microsoft Teams, and this project management software called Wrike most of the day. I'm sure I'm going to hear about how terrible I am tomorrow at work. At one point a coworker called me and in the process of answering and still trying to turn wrenches I dropped my phone on the concrete floor and cracked the back glass. I can't do it. I can't help everyone at work 9 hours a day every week day. 

I'm burning out. 

The two people before me who held this job both quit, and one didn't have a job lined up at all. I totally get it. This job is unsustainable. I fail constantly. Someone is constantly telling me that I didn't do something. I have an intern this summer and today I spent basically the whole day with her and at one point she said, "this isn't glamorous at all." And I'm not talking like Batman not-glamorous fighting in the shadows, I'm talking garbage truck drivers, pandemic or no pandemic, that's not a glamorous job. Reading between the lines I hear from my intern, 'This company is super cool, but this position is not.'

The Olympics are coming up and I'm excited to watch them. I've often looked at the Olympic runners as inspirational and get excited for them to have their 15 minutes of fame. But as I get older I realize, it's easy for 15 minutes... but it's basically impossible for the long haul. I wish I could sleep 11 hours a day, run 3 hours a day, and then spend another 3 hours on ancillary exercises and massage and physical therapy, and then basically just eat and lounge around for the remainder. I come home from work most days pretty exhausted. If I can get out and run or bicycle it's a good day. 

Last night, Wednesday the 14th of July, I was driving home from my girlfriend's house listening to 95.7 The Party here in Denver and they had a "Free Britney" special on the radio. It was all Britney Spears for the 15 minutes that I listened. She's in this conservatorship that her dad runs, and it's kind of ridiculous. I mean, she's like 38, she can handle her life at this point! But I get it, she's had a camera on her every move for the last what, 23 years? Of course she's going to lash out at times when she just needs a quiet night  to laugh with a few friends or watch a comforting movie on the couch and yet the paparazzi follow her everywhere. 

Last year at my little startup we had a company wide meeting and the CEO called me out, in a very positive way, for asking him random questions from time to time. Apparently I'm the only one in the company that does that. I immediately thought, 'ARE YOU KIDDING ME PEOPLE! HE'S JUST A PERSON TOO!' I'm not very close to our CEO, but it definitely feels at times like he's a little socially isolated. He's doing a good job and I want to reach out in some small way and help him feel like part of the team, not just the CEO. In other words, for a person that has to deal with curveballs, sliders, and fast balls every day, lob him a softball every now and then. 

The point of all these stories is that humans want to belong, we want to contribute, but we don't want to be overwhelmed. When we get overwhelmed, things break, and those things might be us.