Living the Dream
By the middle of year 2, I’ve got a pretty good feel for the texture of days.
I get to work, jump on conference calls with customers complaining about losing money because of product bugs, and try to fix them.
Some days I have meetings with my manager to discuss areas for improvement. Some days I don’t.
Similar to Peter in Office Space, it seems as though everyone is my manager. Sales reps call and ask you to look at a particular ticket so they can close a deal. Managers call you and ask for you to work on a different ticket because the customer has called in angry. Account managers call and ask you to do a full reckoning of all tickets opened by Company X. Your co-workers ask you to help on tickets they’re stuck on. You must continually reshuffle priorities and try to ride the incoming waves without falling off your surfboard.
On top of the casework, Mr. Data asks me to work on ‘stretch’ goals in our 1:1s. Even though my production has steadily increased over my two years, it’s not enough. It’s never enough. The company wants more. I’m learning new technologies in my spare time at night so that I can increase the number of technical areas I support.
I have to admit that at the time, I was extremely motivated to do whatever it took to be successful. It was common for me to put in 55 hours a week, so we’re talking perhaps 15 hours of unpaid overtime. I did this partially because I wanted to — because the work was fairly interesting at times — and partially because I felt compelled to — sink or swim and all of that.
I was determined to be a swimmer.
On the market side of things, there are signs of trouble with the NASDAQ index in 2001. From March of 2000 to January of 2001, the index shed 50% of its value.
Startups all over the city were flopping. The company I worked for appeared to be stable for the most part, but at the same time, we weren’t growing at our projected pace, so our stock price plummeted. Stock prices are all about projected earnings, so if you’re not growing in line with expectations, the value of your shares go down, even if you’re running a profitable business. Ours dropped 80% in a single year.
This made some of the new company millionaires worth only a few hundred thousand. Many people grew depressed about it and morale suffered.
At the same time, our support division started a project I like to think of as Mission: Outsource Support. We tapped into India for cheap labor. This touched off a few rounds of small layoffs in our division. About 10% of U.S. tech engineers were let go that year. This made the remaining people very very nervous and an increasing number of employees ratcheted up the amount of voluntary overtime they put in. It was obvious that the people who were let go were not working as hard or as long, and the remaining workers took note.
Internal competition became fierce; we all knew Mr. Data and his peers were continually weeding.
And they knew they had the upper hand. Suddenly, jobs in the city had dried up. Funding disappeared for new startups. It was increasingly difficult to simply switch from company to company — folks started to feel stuck due to economic conditions and job scarcity.
I ended the year feeling great about my professional growth, but somewhat less than happy about the continually increasing demands of the job.
It wouldn’t be long before I started searching for a different path.
Year End Financial Summary
Net Worth at Start: -40K.
Net Worth at End: -25K
During the year, I got my first raise, a merit-based increase from 60K to 66K.
Also significant: I started learning finance 101, almost by accident, because websites like Yahoo! would occasionally have articles posted on their landing pages which SCREAMED at you to learn a bit about consumer debt and how to manage your money better. I learned I needed an emergency account, and I set to work building one.
So I dumped 15K into an Orange Savings account from ING.
I spent less on material stuff this year, but continued to blow money on restaurants like a madman. Still, I was at least moving in the right direction here.
Zero progress on my 5% 40K student loans. I continued to just pay the minimum.
I also had not yet started contributing to my employer-sponsored 401(k).
Additionally, my cost of living went up. I moved out of my $500/mo apartment and into an $1100/mo studio. I desperately craved the privacy and thought I “deserved” it due to my hard work at the office. If I could go back in time, I would have held on to the cheaper apartment. I was barely ever home, anyways.
Many of my financial epiphanies occurred in the following year, though, and the picture starts to look quite a bit different.
The Job Experience: Tech Support, Year #1 << >> The Job Experience: Tech Support, Year #3
I really like your write ups so far. The page formatting is also spot on.
I definitely know how it is under management that interacts with you on an almost purely negative basis, but having weekly 1:1’s? Ouch. I get through my current job by trying to be the quiet, competent employee – which means I’m somewhat appreciated, but more importantly left the fuck alone!
Thanks a lot for the feedback on page formatting. I wondered about it. The posts are pretty lengthy for a blog.
Right, weekly 1:1s are just… ugh. I’m more similar to you — very focused, high determination and attention to detail/quality, and therefore I think that my work speaks for itself and I should be exempt from micromanagement. But no. The weekly touchpoints must continue! There’s always room for improvement! The bar is always rising!
MY first salary job included weekly 1:1s… IN ADDITION to weekly team meetings. They are torture
Liked the LOTR references, if only work were so glorious and meaningful. Once that trilogy ended, all was right with the world (although it does drag on a little too long after the scene at Mt. Doom…) In reality, the analogy would be that, before computers, goblins were more like Balrogs, less common but more difficult to defeat (Great Depression, WWII). Globalization, computerization, communication helped keep the goblins from getting too big to handle, but that means they are constantly being fought to keep everything working. Ultimately, the goblins will always be there, our job is to take on the battle from the previous generation and hope we don’t have to deal with any more Balrogs… Enjoying the series!
I love the extended analogy, btw, very cool. Are you saying that since I’ve completed my trilogy of Job Experience Posts, so I should be done? 😉 Unfortunately many years of work follow. I keep thinking the that each year I’ll have less to say, but when I start unpacking the history, there’s a ton of stuff there. Believe it or not these posts represent an effort to keep the overall length somewhat manageable. I know, I know — I need to try harder.
Wouldn’t that be awesome, if we put in 3 years and were done! Then could cuddle up in our hobbit-hole and reflect on the nuances of those years for the next 30 years… That would be an acceptable situation, probably for everyone, as opposed to 30 yrs of work and a few interesting musings from the minority. Hollywood and Penguin do not dominate the market on telling life’s story, we do. Keep on keeping on bro!
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I’m surprised how similar the daily grind is, even in such different professions! Your description of tech support reminds me of my couple years doing phone triage as a nurse. Just one minute between calls to document recommendations/forward to doctor/make appointment/take whatever necessary action. Messages and phone calls bouncing back and forth to doctors, patients, pharmacies, nursing homes, hospitals. We also had a “bucket” of outgoing calls to make–completion required by the end of the day, whether or not incoming calls slowed. In any case, there were always problems to solve, people to contact. I’m really fortunate in my new job! So much less stress, better pay. I’m 25 years old, unsure when I’ll attain FI. I’d like to think by 40, but with an estimated 2 kids in the future and the financial volatility of my husband farming FT, only time will tell! Devoured MMM, now your blog. Really helping me understand the logistics of FI. Slightly jealous of you guys with the high tech/engineering incomes! Hope you’re thoroughly enjoying your almost 2 years (so far) of FIRE!
Wow, the similarities continue! I had an on call rotation too–usually every 6th weekend Carrying around the phone felt like prison…I never did get used to it either.