Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Day 40ish: 142 Days to L.A.

So I'm feeling a little anxious tonight about the move.  Specifically, finding a house, the right a house, a house we can afford, a house that will work for a us, a house that won't be a really awful commute. Instead of focusing on that, I'm going to talk about three other things.

First, Lori continues to recover. Most of her incisions are looking pretty good (as much as incisions can) and she's been feeling better, but still lacking in energy. She's, as she put it, champing at the bit to get back to work, but is being wise and not trying to tackle much right now. The house is looking better now that I'm not trying to keep the dishes caught up but she wants to get back to painting and decluttering.

Second, I had a chance to get some stuff done today.  I broke down some boxes and reorganized some stuff in the garage and crawl space.  I feel like it made a dent in those two areas. Donation boxes are better packed and ready to go and if the weather takes a turn for the better I'll be able to start leaving items out on the curb again. I've already been able to find new homes for a few items.

Third, let's talk August 2014 to present because if you really look at it, it's a little insane. Impossible. Humbling. Astonishing. Supernatural? Divine?

  • July - I realize I miss doing email marketing. I post in a group on LinkedIn wondering if anyone needs any help. Someone responds right away and I find some extra work getting to do email again.
  • August - got the outside of the house painted because the HOA said we needed to do it (or they'd hire someone to do it and send us the bill).  
  • September - Job got eliminated. It was no secret that my new boss and I weren't getting along, it was no secret that there was no longer a good fit for me within the organization, nowhere else to move within the organization and things were pretty miserable. I had been looking for work unsuccessfully.  They probably could have just laid me off, it was an at-will employer. But they give me two weeks' severance for every year of service, plus an extra month, plus there was a vested retirement account.  Day after job got eliminated, went to my grandmother's for her 95th birthday. My parents, my brother and his family and my whole family in town celebrating her birthday, including a party for her at her church. Wonderful weekend, took my mind off of everything.
  • October - looking for work without a lot of success. Change all my online resumes to indicate that I'm looking for work.  Some guy calls me, says I've actually been on his radar for some time, could he send me a few job listings because he thinks he has several that will be a good match.  A few phone calls, a trip to Seattle, a 30 minute phone call and a quick conversation with a few people and I'm here by a consulting form and immediately subcontracted to another company, ExactTarget.  I had experience with them previous, having had a large participatory role in the RFP that selected them as a vendor to replace our old email vendor... but by then I was leading the team, so I didn't have very much hands-on production experience. They give me keys to their office and I participate in long-distance training, some from home and some from an office at the consulting firm in Seattle.  (I get to work in Seattle!!!!!! In an office!!!! With the Space Needle behind me and reflected off my computer monitor as I work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • November - I show up at the ExactTarget in Bellevue. ExactTarget has just been purchased by Salesforce, and things have been shaken up.  Between the time ExactTarget charged Teleion with finding a contractor and the time I arrive, Salesforce has installed a new leader in the office who hired a full-time employee for the same role I was to fill. He honors the contract and says he'll do what he can to find work for me for the next six months.  I'm being paid by my former employer, the consulting firm and the side gig, so we replace the 26 year old heater and have a heat pump installed, and a gas line and replace the ancient hot water heater with a new one. I begin shadowing a team on a few clients, including Activision. The engagement is a struggle, everyone will admit that.  I drive 60-90 minutes each way every single day in the what was probably the tamest fall and winter in all the years we've lived here. I realize that I don't want to drive that long-term and that if I want another high paying job in this or a related field, that commute is a requirement, or we need to try to find a new place to live in the crazy Seattle real estate market.
  • December - I begin to have a minor but visible role with Activision, helping to pick up the slack with Campaign Management because in January the Campaign Manager is going on a three-week trip that had been planned months earlier.  I ask a lot of questions because I'm curious and context is important to me. I learn a lot from the current team.
  • January - They pull me aside and tell me that they're going to temporarily have me continue to be the Campaign Manager even after the real CM returns. I have a crazy week where I'm doing the CM work for her three clients and also helping to onboard a new client, working with their agency and doing hands on production work in the system.  That was 10-11 hour days with a 90 minute drive on each end. They shift all the other positions to San Francisco but don't have any extra CMs. With so many new people on the team (at Salesforce, Activision and the creative agency), it's decided that a face-to-face is a good idea and I'm invited to come along. As soon as I land in L.A., I have a voicemail from Lori. I call her back and learn my grandmother has passed away. It's somewhat expected and now means I think of grandma every time I'm there.  I meet the rest of the team at a Salesforce office in Santa Monica (on Third Street!) for an afternoon planning session. The next day we go to the Activision offices for a day of planning, discussion and learning more about the plans and objectives for the next year.  A few days later we have an absolutely wonderful memorial service for my grandmother. I knew she was awesome, but I did not know the depth of care she had for others.  She worked until she was 94 at an insurance agency (a day or two a week) because she had fun hanging out with the people there and she volunteered in her church answering phones and greeting people in the office (a day or two a week) and I got to hear some neat stories from people who came up to just tell me personally how Marjorie had been there for them at a time when they reached out to the church in a moment of darkness. And you should have seen all the photos over the decades that she had. Mom and dad made this amazing display covering multiple tables. I heard one person gasp in astonishment, a picture of them and family members from many years earlier, a photo they hadn't realized had even been taken.  Grandma rocked. 
  • March, April - they extend my contract a week or two at a time, never really telling me when it's going to end and not telling Activision either. I begin to work on documenting everything and training a replacement CM. She's a no-nonsense by the book type of person and I know she's going to be a bad fit. Fortunately, she also has moral objections to the violence of the Call of Duty video game and gets herself partially transferred off.  So I begin the training a second time with another CM.  I break the news to Activision (that my time is limited) because no one else is and I don't think that's fair to them considering the relationship we've established.
  • May - Activision calls and says they don't want to lose me. To be more specific about what they said would make me sound like I'm full of myself and full of something else. But they were very encouraging. I begin interviewing with Expedia for a possible role with Teleion at Salesforce at Expedia to help them with their ExactTarget implementation. I meet with a number of Expedia individuals. I'm back in the Seattle office at that point, so I'm ducking into the cell phone room for calls with Activision, calls with Salesforce continuing to train my replacements, and running back to Bellevue for interviews with Expedia.  One time I found myself crossing I90 while carefully eating a Mod Pizza because I literally had no time between meetings. Finally Salesforce says they want me for the Expedia role and that Expedia likes me and then springs it on me that it's still not permanent - they still want me to be a contractor, they're still not willing to make the investment. I announce that I'm taking the role with Activision. They call back and try to get me to take the Expedia role, try offering me a full-time role, etc., but at this point, Activision's done nothing but make me feel valued and wanted while Salesforce has gone out of their way to try to avoid any sort of ownership.  So Teleion says that they have no more work for me so would I please turn in the laptop and key to their office?   Two weeks of unpaid vacation end out May.
  • June-November - hit the ground running with Activision, from a plastic chair under a canopy in our backyard for a summer that was absolutely gorgeous on a new MacBook Pro (the laptop I had purchased in September wasn't powerful enough for Photoshop).  Also take ownership of an Xbox One because, well, working for a video game company, I ought to own a modern console, right?  I'm still not directly working for Activision, it's a six-month gig where I'm hired by a company in Arizona, but I'm having a blast, the work is fun, we're working through some of the previous issues and we're seeing a lot of success, unraveling a lot of mysteries, fixing issues and getting things into a really great shape.  Some great new additions at the creative agency get me some terrific new partners who don't have any memory of the former world. A trip or two to L.A. in there.
  • October - the BETA for the new game goes well, including the stuff we did for email
  • November - negotiations, job offer, realization of relocation, negotiations, waiting, counters, acceptance, signing, down to L.A. for orientation.  And the new game launched.
  • December - a much smoother December 2015 compared to December 2014.  I recommend Alicia Lawver for a job with the firm whose newsletter I started working on back at the start of this odyssey.  I haven't seen Alicia in many years (despite her living just a few miles away) but now working with her over email each month. That's fun.
  • January - a busier January 2016 compared to January 2015.  Lori's surgery.
  • February - here we are.  What a blast!  If you've been reading my blog at all, you know what's next - Lori continues to recover, we operate in this weird energy-saving space, people bring us meals, not a lot happens outside of the basics... House lists in April, house-hunting trip in April, hopefully an offer here, an offer there. Packing, decluttering, purging, waiting. And then, it's back to the golden state.  And Expedia announces they're replacing ExactTarget.
What a truly amazing nineteen months. I could not have pulled this off myself.  Without even realizing it, I found myself time and time again in opportunities where I could work hard and where I knew enough to be useful, helpful and in demand.  I had a chance to shine, but I wasn't the one controlling the spotlight.  I'm kind of awed and humbled by that.  Truly feel like it's one of those things where I can say "I was really lucky to be in the right place at the right time, and fortunately, I knew (or learned really quickly) what to do to be successful."

It was weird to work on my taxes this past weekend, W2s from the employer who laid me off (because the severance took me into 2015), the consulting firm in Seattle, the firm in Arizona, Activision and the 1099 from the company whose email I've been working on.  Packed a lot in to the year. Maybe once we get to California I'll have a chance to put my feet up and relax. Sure, I have my feet up right now, but I also have less than 5 hours until it's time to get up.
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