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Through the looking glass – part 2


A year after stepping through the looking glass into the world of full-time employment in a large company, I ask myself, “What was I thinking?”

looking glass

I know exactly what I was thinking — the need to establish credibility, get a strong brand on my resume, support for my work, and opportunities to work on interesting problems. As I  re-read Part 1 of Through the looking glass I remember the apprehension I felt about going to work for a very large company. I remember being worried about how I would have to conform, change my identity and pretend to be what I was not. I remember thinking I would have to let go of my independent contractor identity as I accepted the rules of this new game. That was my main worry. None of that really came to pass in the way that I imagined.

  • First, I did not expect my work to be so very virtual. Now, hear me out — I have done virtual. I love virtual. I’m a telecommuter. I believe that virtual is here to stay, and is the future of work. But whoa! Starting all your relationships virtually because you’re on a national team– now that’s hard. Not having any work reason to connect with people in my local office, that’s also hard. I realize now that I’ve always started face-to-face.
  • But then it gets more interesting — I also am never on a consistent project team. That’s right — no intact teams. Not only are you relationships virtual, but you’re always remaking them as you move from project to project. That’s even harder. It means that on every project you are re-negotiating your role, understanding how others define their roles, and getting a good handle on their skills and capabilities. Most of the time, project teams don’t bother to do that “teaming” stuff because there’s too much work to do. They don’t bother to really understand each other as humans with 3-4 other projects going at the same time. Yet we come into these project teams loaded with expectations. At some point, always, you run into a snag, a bump, a wall of frustration.
  • The work is lonely. I did not expect to feel so completely alone in my work. Yes, I’m on a project team, but as a learning designer/instructional designer — I’m suppose to be an expert, so all that “content-development stuff” or “working with SMEs stuff” is left to me. Very little collaboration. A lot of loneliness in the work. And even though I love working virtually, being a telecommuter, diving deep into the content, living in my introvert world — I deeply miss collaborating. To me, that’s the whole purpose of a team. Without that team collaboration, I might as well be on an assembly line. And you know what — it hurts. I miss it dearly.

That last paragraph was really hard to write.

Heres’ the good stuff –

  • I do get to work on interesting projects and let my ideas run as wild — if I can convince others to run with me.
  • I do have amazing people that I work with and for on a daily basis — I just don’t always get to collaborate with them.
  • I am learning so much — about my capabilities, my value-add, what I do and don’t like doing, what I need to learn more about, about eLearning, and most importantly — about the dynamics of working in a large organization and the effort it takes to get alignment and stay on message.
  • My identity has not been that changed — except that they require me to use my full legal name for my email – which sucks. And I have learned to filter my words and think about my intent in a given situation; and that’s all for the better, IMHO.
  • I’ve also learned to appreciate the value of my past experiences — I’ve had incredible teams in the past, incredible mentors, incredible leaders. I deeply appreciate that I experienced those others in my life.
  • I get to travel some, but not too much — so far.
  • I meet incredible facilitators and coaches as a part of my work, and yes, get to work with them sometimes.
  • I get the benefits that come from working in a large organization (yes, health, dental and a 401K are a nice to have). I never thought I’d say this — but I like that I have a number to call in case of a natural or other kind of disaster. It’s that paternalism of a large organization because it’s to their benefit that we are all healthy and taken care of. I’m a dual-citizen American/Canadian , so don’t get me started on who I think should really be providing that safety net.

As long as I’m still learning, and the good balances or even outweighs the bad, then it’s worth staying. But if that starts to shift, or if the work that I do is not longer aligned with my goals, then back through the looking glass I’ll go.


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