Saying Goodbye (and Hello!) in a Covid-19 World

Just under two years ago, the company I worked for was acquired by a private equity firm. And as so often happens in these cases, the chipping away began. But the little cuts weren’t really the problem. I work in software; the benefits are really good, even with the cuts that were made. The problem was utter decimation of our culture and mass exodus of awesome people that followed.

When I started, people who worked there really liked the company. They were passionate and engaged, stayed at the company a long time, and were invested in its future. Ironically, I didn’t really like it at first. It took me a long time to get into the swing of things and to feel like I was effective and competent. Eventually though, thanks to a supportive boss and intelligent co-workers, I got it. I began to understand the product, the people, and the processes, and I did very well for myself there, getting promoted twice in my first two-and-a-half years. I grew professionally, learning a lot about software development, general business processes, good technical writing, and how my role fit into the bigger organization. I felt like I was really part of something. By the time the private equity firm axed all our leadership and brought in new people, I was loving life there and had no plans to leave.

That’s not to say things were perfect. There were problems, but the key difference between then and now is that back then, my colleagues and I believed in the company and in what we were doing. We believed we had the power to fix the problems. And at first, many of us were happy to have new leadership and a new project management style. We had a chance to reset, to mature as a company, and to do better. We were hopeful.

Which is why the subsequent incompetence, dysfunction, and clear message that the people no longer mattered as anything more than cogs in a machine were extra bitter. I won’t go into details about what it’s been like working there for the last year. Plenty of my former colleagues have already said it all on Glassdoor reviews, which you can read here and here and here and here and here and here and here. The complaints, while sometimes not very professionally expressed, aren’t wrong. They are valid and accurate. And the complaints didn’t fall on deaf ears either. Some people with power listened. Some people with power cared. But the company had been transferred into the hands of people whose sole motivation was profit and personal gain, and even the once influential old guard couldn’t do anything to make our new executives see us as human beings.

Approximately 70 percent of the engineering staff fled under the new leadership. Sure, some people left because they simply didn’t like the changes and didn’t want to give them a chance. Other people left because it was simply time for them to try something else. A three-ish year tenure at a software company is normal. But many, many people (including my wonderful boss) left as a direct result of the way they were treated by new management and the utter chaos that reigned. These former employees hemmed and hawed over their choice to leave, sticking it out far longer than they should have because they didn’t want to give up hope. But we all reach our breaking point eventually. People openly cried when they finally did leave and many now only talk fondly of their time there, choosing to push the disaster that propelled them to leave into the background and remember only the good parts.

I’m not much different. In eight months, I only applied for eighteen jobs. If I were to leave, it had to be for something really interesting and professionally challenging. There are lots of tech writer jobs where I live, but what would be the point in going from one tech writing job to another? Despite the attrition, I still had a great network and solid work relationships with a lot of people. I was successful and felt respected by the other employees I worked with day-to-day. I enjoyed the company of my immediate team, as well as that of others I worked with, and my new boss was just as wonderful as the first. I wasn’t going to easily walk away from that. I backed out of the interview process with two companies after I had gotten quite far down the line with them because the roles and people weren’t compelling enough for me to leave everything I’d built up, even as rough as things were.

Then I saw the posting for my new job in mid-February. The description piqued my interest and I immediately applied. And the more people I talked to during the interviews, the more interested I became. Everyone I’d be collaborating with was passionate about the new team I’d be on and what the possibilities for it were. They described their visions and ideas of what this new role could be in such a way that I couldn’t help feeling excited right with them. These were people I wanted to work with; they had motivation and energy I wanted to be part of. So when I got the offer, I didn’t hesitate at all to accept.

The only sad part of getting this fantastic new job offer was that it came eight days into our mandatory work-from-home order. I didn’t get to see any of the people I cared about during my last few weeks. I didn’t get to say goodbye in person. I went into the office to collect my personal items and it was silent, dark, and eerie. I may have shed a tear or two, for what happened to the company but also for what’s happened to the whole world around us. The memories I’ve made working there seemed to be wiped out by the abandoned building, by this virus that tore us away from each other’s company, which was the one thing that kept a lot of us going in that work environment.

But I am now one week into my new job and I know I made the right decision. Even though I’m also saying hello in a Covid-19 world and can’t go into my new office to meet colleagues and my new boss, who lives all the way across the country, can’t fly in to greet me, I’m stoked to be here. My first week of on-boarding was well organized, I’ve easily been able to navigate through the bureaucracy of starting over, and the software, tools, and resources I need are easy to find and use. Many people have reached out to welcome me and let me know that my presence on the team and the skills I bring are valued and appreciated. The people I’ve talked to are wicked intelligent and truly seem to embody the company’s mission and values. Most importantly, my new team has clear direction and leadership that is as equally dedicated to the success of the people as to the work and company. Sure, I’m a bit overwhelmed, but I also feel instantly empowered, supported, and encouraged to jump in and contribute. Simply put, I’m happy.

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