I’m leaving my boss’ office after just handing in my resignation. It was one of the most agonizing yet necessary decisions of my career and I’ve been thinking about it for weeks. I really don’t know where I’m going after this or what I’m going to do but I know it doesn’t involve working in this field any more. I gave him a six week notice with the knowledge that it’s going to take at least that long to find and train someone to replace me. To my surprise, he told me that today would be my last day and they’ll pay me the six weeks as severance.
Although I didn’t see this coming, I understand the rationale. As a senior manager in the company I had a number of people reporting directly to me, working on a dozen or so projects in various stages of completion worth tens of millions of dollars. They can’t risk someone at my level being a negative influence on those projects – either on the employees or the clients – so it’s better for them to end the relationship as soon as possible.
It’s been a fun ride and I’ve worked with some amazing people. It started thirteen years ago, fresh out of college, working in a very rainy city in the corner of the country. I got a job designing coffee shops for an up and coming – soon to be international – coffee shop chain. I started incorporating three-dimensional visualization into my projects back when 3D was in its infancy. My animations of the new generation of coffee shops attracted some attention in Hollywood and I was offered a job working for an entertainment company on a sound stage in one of the back lot studios.
Working for a Hollywood studio was a fantastic experience; passing the biggest celebrities while walking to lunch on the back lot, doing animations and design presentation for the biggest producers and directors (ET phone home), and working with talented designers from the House of the Mouse was an amazing experience. Over the years I moved up in responsibility and bounced from studio to studio for advancement. I went from designer to art director to creative director and finally to project director. But almost ten years in the Hollywood entertainment world had taken its toll.
The backstabbing politics of the job were unbearable. The projects were up to a year long, with so many changes in direction and people weighing in on what the final outcome should be that keeping a project on budget and maintaining design integrity was extremely difficult and nerve-wracking. I had worked myself out of having fun and into dreading having to go to work. Creating a project is a blast when you’re on the ground level and your job is creation. But I’d been promoted out of that – now my days were full of budget reviews, personnel issues, and client meetings. I definitely made the right decision to leave yet I have no idea what I want to do now.
I’m at the gym on a stair climber, spacing out due to exhaustion. I’ve got nothing else to do during the day so going to the gym seems like the best use of time. I’ve never been to the gym at this time as I’ve always worked a nine to five (more like seven to six) work day plus half of the weekend. I’ve been on the stair climber for maybe a half hour and I’m starting to get a little light headed when I notice a group of people working out together.
They’re across the room so it’s hard to see the logo on their shirts but they all match. They are men and women of various ethnicities and ages and they’re doing very intelligent lifting. Not like the muscle head in the corner grunting at the stack of weights on every lift. These people are working their core and have perfect posture. They intuitively move to spot each other without having to be asked. They are working as a team and covering each other’s backs at all times. Finally, one of them turns so I can see the logo on his shirt: City Fire Department.
It’s like someone slapped me in the back of the head. Quite possibly that’s what I’ve been missing in my professional experience – an actual team. Not a bunch of individuals with their own agenda but a group of people covering each other’s backs while working towards the same goal – a short term project with a definable measure of success that supports the greater good – the ability to help people in need.