I feel like a bowl of petunias

Yes, it helps to be a H2G2 fan to get the title.

Things have been a bit quiet here for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I’m again facing the One Decision that every middle-aged professional comes across at least once in their lifetime.

Basically, it boils down to:

  • Keep doing the sort of things I do in the way I usually do them and carry the label of “one man show” forever, relinquishing my chances of making meaningful decisions inside the company.
  • Get completely and utterly out of technology altogether and do management stuff. You know, pointy-haired boss stuff.

In my case, the utterly irritating and frustrating aspect is that despite my having joined the company to be in Marketing, I kept getting involved in pretty much everything we’ve done since 1999 in both technical and product development/design aspects. Which means I’m (perhaps irrevocably) seen as being too tied to technology (or technology strategy) to be bumped “up”1.

Which, I’m told, is a compliment2, since upper management sees me as having “valuable insights” and want me available for the next big thing.

But there’s a problem – I’m not that sure I want to be in “the next big thing”. I get a “next big thing” every six months to a year, and I would really like to do something longer for a change. Preferably something that allowed me to flex other mental muscles.

After all, the reason I took a management course four years ago was that I wanted to do something different – and yet, the deluge of new, trendy tech like IMS soon put a stop to that.

But now that I had spent a year and a half involved in a bunch of fixed data initiatives on the Marketing side (despite the odd “hey, you’re the only one that gets this” technically-minded project), I was looking forward to some continuity. Maybe some more formal responsibility (instead of the recurring feeling I’m herding cats across several concurrent project teams), a bit more control over my time, and maybe, just maybe, feeling a little less like Dilbert.

And bang, there comes another “big thing”. And I’ve been sorely pissed off during most of the past couple of weeks, wondering what to do.

Not that I’m complaining (much) about what I’m doing now3. In a way, it’s rewarding. People know me, they know they can rely on me, and they know they can ask for help pretty much anytime (although it does get in the way), and I do get to do amazingly interesting stuff.

The thing is, what I’m doing now and what I wish I could do (let alone how I wanted to do it) has pretty much zero to do with “the next big thing” I have been invited to do, about which I also happen to have some deep (and thoroughly mixed) feelings4.

Besides, I’m having a hard time with loss of control here. The absolutely worse thing anyone can do to me is to limit my ability to shape the people and environment I’m working in (which requires me to have more than the usual measure of control over things), and I’m not exactly happy right now.

Still, even though I keep wondering if there is a company (short, say, of Google and some portions of Microsoft) that “gets” the transition from worker bee to management, I can’t say I’m thoroughly unhappy.

Just very, very annoyed at the way I keep getting into “the next big thing” and not allowed to sharpen other skills. Or, at least, to make different mistakes.

Oh well.

1 Up here being a relative term. I’m told that my net worth to the company has been an embarrassment to some of the people who were formally my superiors in the past, even though I bring home less than old schoolmates who had the stamina to stay on the consulting field.

2 It’s like the Peter Principle in reverse, actually. Although I prefer to use the Dilbert principle myself.

3 Actually, there is one particular thing I’m doing that was foisted upon me due to my ISP background that I personally consider a complete and utter waste of my time and abilities (in truth, a loathsome quagmire), and which I have been trying to do the best I can while trying to get rid of it as soon as I can, and which I keep telling people (in a decreasingly jocular manner) will be the reason I leave Marketing and go back to Engineering. But “I can’t tell you what it is”:site/Disclaimer.

4 My first impression was that I’m supposed to jump off the plane blind, carrying a needle, some thread, and a bunch of hideously expensive silk sheets to ensure I land on my feet (given enough effort and creativity, of course). The second (once I realized the similarities to a bunch of things I’ve been doing repeatedly over the past few years) was very much like what the bowl of petunias felt, and that’s what stuck with me.

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