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One Journey Ends, Another Begins

by Jeremy L. Gaddis on May 16, 2011 · 8 comments

in Off-topic

I quit my job.

It still feels weird saying that and I’m fairly certain that the reality of the situation hasn’t completely sunk in yet.

As some of you are already aware, I recently submitted a letter of resignation to my employer While this past Friday was my last official day, in actuality I was sent home around noon on Wednesday. Thus, I am now officially unemployed.

Note: this post turned out to be much longer and disorganized than I had anticipated (it’s 0730 now and I’ve been awake all night, so forgive me). If you’ve made it this far, though, you’ve already read the most significant part.

Why?

Yes, it was somewhat sudden and (since I’ve already been asked), yes, it was my decision. I was not threatened with being fired if I didn’t resign, it wasn’t “strongly suggested” that I resign, or anything like that that involves a good scandal. Actually, when I dropped into the office of our head of Human Resources department (who happens to be a good personal friend) to tell her that I was leaving, she didn’t initially believe me.

Everyone I’ve spoken with has asked, “Why?” and there are several reasons. There is one major reason (that I’m not going to delve into at the moment) and several smaller ones. The reasons themselves are largely irrelevant to this post so I’m not going to say much more than that at this time.

As the old saying goes, however, “all good things must come to an end.” During the last several years, my professional knowledge and skills increased tenfold and, beginning recently, I no longer felt challenged. I used to look forward to going to work. I still love my workplace and my co-workers, but the excitement was gone. A great portion of the skills and knowledge I have acquired over the last few years are not being exercised (and won’t be) in my current role. As far as advancement goes, the only “promotion” I could receive would be to my supervisor’s position were it to open up and, to be quite honest, I am not interested in his position (while he has a great technical background, his role is mostly managerial). Someday I might be, but currently I am not interested in a management role.

I had been tossing the idea around for a while, but recent events caused me to sit down and think long and hard about the situation. Taking everything into consideration, I came to the conclusion that it was time to move on.

They pay me to do this?

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I have, in the past, told friends and family that I found it odd that I could be paid for doing something that I loved. I first touched a computer, a Commodore 64, at the age of four and instantly fell in love. There was never a doubt that I would ultimately end up working in IT. To this day, the thought of getting paid to design networks, install and manage servers, secure data, etc. still seems somewhat absurd to me.

Being that this is a technology-centered blog and most of you (my audience) are in IT, I’m sure you understand. We get paid to architect solutions to technological problems, spec out the projects, design the networks, set up the servers, and just generally play with tens, hundreds, thousands, or even millions of dollars worth of electronics. That’s pretty damn awesome if you ask me!

Teaching

A few years ago I was asked, at the last minute, by an academic department head to develop and teach our first courses under a “Network Security” discipline. I finally agreed, reluctantly, as a personal favor — and soon found that I loved it. Since then I went on to lead a total of seven or eight courses (a mix of Networking, Security, and Windows Server courses) and had the pleasure of teaching several of the next generation of IT workers.

I received great personal satisfaction from teaching and seeing the “Ohhhhh!” looks appear on student’s faces as I explained a complicated technical topic from the front of the class. In nearly every course, I was subject to anonymous evaluations from my students. The most negative thing I can recall being said about me was that I walked around too much while I lectured. The most positive remarks made me truly feel that I was making a difference in their lives and careers.

Okay, now what?

Just as I did after passing the BSCI exam last summer to earn the Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) certification, I find myself asking “Now what?“. I currently live in Bloomington, Indiana, roughly 40 miles from where I grew up. For those of you not familiar with Indiana, let’s just say that it isn’t exactly a high-tech mecca. I have long since had a desire to relocate to a different area of the country. As one of my Twitter followers wrote in a private message, “Time to do the classic midwest thing and escape.”

A few months ago, a friend of mine suddenly announced that she would be moving across the country. In a message via Facebook after she had moved, she told me, “I had one friend out here … He and his roommate were looking for someone to take the extra room … and I just kinda decided, ‘aww what the hell'”, and later, “Yeah, the decision did come up really fast and I just kinda up and left before people could change my mind.” As I told her then, I was quite jealous. While it has long been a dream to move out of Indiana, I had convinced myself that a similar move simply wasn’t an option when, in reality, the only thing holding me back was me.

Leavin’ on a jet plane

Once I was honest with myself I had to admit that I really have nothing to keep me here. The great majority of my family, friends, and loved ones are here, of course. Other than my bills (which, unfortunately, exist no matter where one goes), there aren’t any major reasons that require that I absolutely remain here.

Thus, on May 4th, after a careful evaluation of all the factors, my decision was made. No one even knew that I had been considering it.

As an only child that had rather atypical teenage/early adulthood years, my mother and I are extremely close. I don’t often tell her a lot of things, but obviously she needed to be the first to know. On the afternoon of the 5th, I sent her a text message saying “…I have some news to tell you.” An hour or so later, she met up with me for a beer and I let her know that I was resigning from my position and planning a cross-country move. I’m not certain what she was expecting or wanting to hear, but — a few days before Mother’s Day — I know this wasn’t it! As I told her, though, “if something happens, I can jump on a plane and be back in a few hours” (mostly referring to my grandmother’s health).

The next day, I turned in my letter of resignation, told my co-workers in my department, and then sent an e-mail to a handful of other co-worker friends. Shortly thereafter, I let my loved ones and friends know (mostly via Facebook and Twitter, of course, being the geek that I am). Gossip travels fast around here, and I wanted everyone to hear it from me. My (almost) 77 year old grandmother doesn’t Facebook or Twitter (those are verbs now, right?) so I told her when I visited her on Mother’s Day.

Yeah, great timing isn’t necessarily one of my best traits. I know.

So where to?

I’ve been trying to figure out just where I want to go. I made a list of a few places and started researching them and occasionally would scratch one of them off the list. After the other cities were “voted off”, I settled on Seattle, Washington.

In another month or so, I plan to travel to Seattle (perhaps via Amtrak — I hear it’s a pretty cool trip — thoughts?) for a week or two. While there, I have no schedule or timeline in mind. I want to simply wander around, check out the area, begin learning to find my way around and, most importantly, try to find a place to live. Afterwards, I’ll return home, tie up some loose ends and take care of things here, and begin preparing for the move.

My good friend (and ex-girlfriend) Stephanie just completed the Cisco Networking Academy a little over a week ago so I also have to ensure that she takes and passes the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) examination before I leave!

Employment

When I arrive in Seattle for good, I’ll start looking for a job. Economically, the present time probably isn’t the best time to up and move cross-country without a job lined up, but (as long as I’m not reckless or stupid) I should be able to survive for a year or two even if I can’t find a job. Working at a .edu, my salary wasn’t exactly at the high end of the spectrum and it seems from my limited research that even private sector entry level positions pay relatively close to what I was making when I left.

Honestly, I would happily take a position on the low end on the pay scale if it were one of those “put in your eight hours and go home” type of jobs. I’ve carried a BlackBerry for several years (although I recently switched to an Android phone) and regularly answer e-mails and phone calls at all hours of the day and night. Not being expected to be available 24/7/365 would be a huge perk for me, but I’ll worry about that once I get there.

To my (former) co-workers

Finally, I am extremely grateful to my supervisor and others “up the ladder” for the opportunities I have been afforded. Over the last (nearly) eight years, I have met some amazing people at the .edu including an (ex) girlfriend of four-plus years that I nearly married. I worked with some truly awesome people, shared beers with them, and have watched many of their children grow up. I’ve watched my department’s responsibility grow from a single location to (at the peak) a total of six. I designed the networks connecting them together, configured the network gear, and made sure it all worked.

Along with the others in my department, I shared responsiblility for keeping things running. Since I started working there, the number of desktops we were responsible for has nearly doubled, the number of network devices more than doubled, and the number of servers increased by roughly 700 percent (yay for VM sprawl). I believe that I configured every piece of network gear that we currently have in production. Although, obviously, it is not “my” network, in a sense it is. My job was to make sure things worked and, for the most part, they did. It wasn’t the perfect setup, of course, but I had a lot pride invested in ensuring it was as available and reliable as possible.

I was somewhat insulted when my access began getting cut off Monday and, more so, when I was told Wednesday that I was being sent home. Although I understand the reasoning behind those types of decisions and knew it would happen, I couldn’t help but get a little upset thinking that someone there thought there was even a slight possibility that I would do something to cause harm to our infrastructure. I had a proximity card and master keys that let me into every classroom and office at each of our locations, so obviously I had acquired a high level of trust. I know it’s part of the reality in IT (“risk management”, our paranoid infosec guys would say), but I couldn’t help but take it a little bit personal.

In addition, I had a couple small projects that I wanted to finish up and had scheduled an “information transfer” meeting with a couple of the others in my department. I was sent home before that Wednesday afternoon meeting took place so it is quite likely that I walked out of there with knowledge that my co-workers do not have, which will only make their jobs more difficult.

I’m not even close to being an emotional person and most of you know me as very light-hearted and humorous, so this is as close at it will get…

With a few exceptions that I could probably count on one hand, I have greatly enjoyed working with everyone at my (now former) place of employment: from the suits at the highest levels to our Facilities staff who keep our buildings clean, from the PhD’s who head our academic departments to the adjunct faculty member who teaches the occasional course. I have had the honor of teaching students who were already well beyond the skill level they needed to pass my courses. I’ve also taught others whom I would hesitate to ever let near a piece of production equipment. I would be lying, however, if I said that I didn’t enjoy every single moment of it.

Some of you I only interacted with professionally; others have become close personal friends. I may never run into some of you again, while others will remain friends for life. The relationships I have developed here have changed my life. The memories and influence you all have had on me will always last and I will miss (almost) all of you. To each of you, I wish nothing but the best.

My journey here has ended and a new one is just beginning…

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