I suppose it is fitting to officially become unemployed on New Years Day. What could be more hopeful for the start of the new year, 2013. Anything, absolutely anything is possible. Join me in the coming posts as I navigate this transition. This is all new to me. Its been almost 30 years since I was last unemployed. It promises to be an interesting journey.
A bit of background I suppose is in order. Five years ago I started with a firm doing global logistics for a major airline. It was a specialized project, supported by the firm’s innovative and impressive IT platform. I was part of a small team here in Chicago, but well supported and integrated with a tight-knit company of 40 some souls with offices in Germany, Rome, Zürich, Philadelphia and Abu Dhabi. We were a family, of sorts, and that’s how we came to our tasks. Our offices were in the Willis Tower in Chicago’s Loop. Some of you will infer the airline from those clues.
Never have I worked with or fao a group of people as passionate about their jobs as these folks. When our client, as part of a larger overall IT platform decided to insource their logistics, the team, though disappointed, could boast we’d left our client far better off, with more comprehensive systems and processes in place than when we’d arrived 5 years ago.
That decision came in September, but most of us had already seen the writing on the proverbial wall some months before the official announcement was made. Amid this our team got a new project manager, stepping into a storm almost before she knew exactly what it was the team actually did to service the client. Her name was Stephanie, a talented young manager who signed on hoping for a career position, but who quickly discovered she was presiding over the end of a very high profile project.
Struggling to learn the mechanics and processes of the project, she also knew little or nothing about the team yet. As it became apparent the project was ending Stephanie, I’m sure, had no idea how each of the team would react. Hardly on the job more than a couple of weeks, she pulled each of us aside. I recall how one bright and warm late summer afternoon we sat in the atrium lobby. It was obvious her intention was at least two-fold; first to understand the temperature of her team, the other to offer her full support by helping foster an open dialogue as we navigated the emotions and potential upheavals possible from the unfolding situation.
I’d come up in a discussion between Stephanie and the client. There was a tentative offer to join the client’s team, though the official notice that the contract was in fact ending still had not materialized. From our discussion it was clear that the exemplary effort the team was offering the client would doubtlessly suffer. I told Stephanie that what we had built, and the quality of service we’d established was paramount, and that my preference was to remain with the team until the end. They would get the same quality of work, and that at the end of the contract, if the offer remained, I would happily step over.
The transition for the client would be a difficult one. They were leaving our state-of-the-art IT for a far more rudimentary system. There was a great deal of work to be done to position the client adequately to give them the greatest advantage. That preparatory work required experience, an integrated team, and coul not be done from their side ahead of the contract’s end. Without a strong team in place on our side, the client would be set up for substantial and costly failure at a critical time of year. That possibility, after all we’d innovated and partnered with the client to accomplish, was simply unacceptable.
I could see Stephanie was greatly relieved that day in the atrium, even as she warned that the offer might not be there at the end. I asked if she believed my remaining through to the end would make a difference. She said that it would, but that she understood that I needed to make a decision that was best for me and my family. She was a rare leader, and given the needs of the client there seemed only one true course. I’d made my decision.
This is a feverish time of year for any airline, with the holidays, increased holiday mail volumes and the onset of winter weather operations. That our client has taking the reigns in the midst of what is best described as semi-controlled chaos put them at risk of potentially large revenue loss. As their team came together we began transitioning them to meet an incredible challenge. That team came together the last week of November. We would have three weeks prepare them for the challenges at hand.
The team walked out the door last Friday satisfied we’d done all we could to give the incoming client’s team the best possible advantage. It should have been our team siting in those chairs, for a host of reasons, but at the end of the day it was about the customer. And we know we left behind a strong legacy. The outpouring from around the globe by people we had served honorably these last five years was overwhelming. Right to the end, celebrating and lamenting just a bit with colleagues at an Italian restaurant that last day, there was no doubt that I’d made the correct, indeed, the only decision.
So as of last night at the stroke of midnight I joined the ranks of the unemployed. I won’t deny that in this economy, and with this government, that is a bit of an unnerving prospect. And I am writing this, not just for myself, but for others looking for work. This is as much a commiseration as an adventure upon this new a path. i have a chance to teach here as well. If that sounds a bit arrogant, it isn’t meant to be. It is more about community, and contributing to the ocean of knowledge we can all contribute to and drink from. I’m excited at this journey, and curious of where it will lead. But then that is the essence of our lives, isn’t it?