Fanax: the Mycenaean term for "king"; pronounced "wanax". The funny initial letter, "F", is called digamma and shows up in Archaic Greek epigraphy (papyrus and tablet writings). The sound, if not the letter form, and its linguistic equivalent initially show up in the heiroglyphic writings (Linear B) of Bronze Age Greece both at Pylos, in the far west of Greece (Peloponnese), and at Knossos in north central Crete, the funny "F". Specifically, digamma shows up in the Greek of Homer's Iliad with the word "F"anax, but there it's a "rough breathing" in the form "(h)anax", where the term is linked to an important individual at Pylos. In Classical and Hellenistic Greek, the F continues in this aspirant, or "h" sound, form at the beginning of many Greek words.

The Oddities of Leaving

November 4, 2008 ·

Have you ever left a job that you didn’t feel bad about leaving?  I don’t know that I have, not really.  Looking back across half a career, it seems like there have been two general categories:  jobs that sucked but it felt like "if I could just [fill in the blank], I could help this thing turn the corner ...", and then jobs that were fine or even great, the kind you leave because the new opportunity is simply too good to pass up or because the current job is great but not a great fit.

In the rough spots, that first category, there are the good people that you’re leaving behind.  They’re still there, dealing with whatever made the place rough to begin with.  Lingering doubts of “could I have done more?” coupled with the knowledge that I could have done more, but not probably enough to make a difference.  Lingering doubts of “maybe it was just me being a jerk or being out of touch” but then watching a parade of others leave every month or two for a year after I’ve left.  Watched my boss leave once a few months after I did, inspired, she said, by my decision.

So, when you’re in a good spot, in that second category, why in the world would you leave?! What, are you nuts??  I’ve been functioning as a business analyst (BA) for the past year or so, a professional IT consultant tasked with helping to define and guide software projects.  This is a highly valuable role in today’s market, so when I float a resume on a job board, even when the resume is development-oriented, I get regular contact from HR reps and consultancies offering to discuss Great BA Opportunities.  Don’t get me wrong, I actually really do enjoy doing BA work, which is why I left my last job to focus on that area of the market.  Huge need in market, I have strengths there, great match and a good move on my part.  Problem is that it’s not all I want to be doing.  Secondary problem is that if I want to be a BA, there’s no way I would leave Cardinal to do so … I can already be a BA, change companies every year or so, get opportunities to learn new businesses and new processes, all while having the support of a well run, employee-centric consulting firm.

So, the decision to jet comes down to one of two causes, which can be related, although they don’t have to be.  One possibility is that the current great job is simply not the best fit, “You know, I really want to be doing X”, whether it’s more or at all.  Another possibility is that an opportunity comes to you which is simply excellent, either because of the career opportunities, the money, or the fit, which is where the 2 causes can be tightly related.  People are known to make lateral or even backwards moves to get a better fit with their hopes and dreams or preferences.  Sometimes these things only come clear over time, so “fit” is distinctly changeable.

Business analysis was certainly one of those areas for me.  I have been doing BA work in one capacity or another since I started doing freelance software development projects back in the mid-90s.  I like talking to users, I like figuring out what they really need to be doing, and I love designing software solutions that can meet those needs efficiently and effectively.  As I noted earlier, there is a huge need in the market for these skills, and so it was an excellent career move to narrow my focus and to head off in that direction.  But I miss the execution.  Especially in large corporations, in huge IT groups, it’s impossible to even get visibility into design and development because the execution is so many steps removed from the users and the BA.  Forget about influencing design and development.  For me, that’s simply no good.  I am a strong system designer, a strong database designer, and I see solutions in all their complexities.  That ability to analyze and to track all the variables is what makes a good BA, but no one reads documentation, period, they just don’t, which means that a good BA can only bring his expertise to bear if he can influence / participate in design and development, at least at some level.   In my opinion this is what makes agile methodologies like Scrum so strong:  get the business rep (BA, PM, whatever) on the project team, make the whole team accountable to each other, define short bursts of clear direction, and get out of their way while they figure out how to nail it.  Keep documentation to manageable levels and make sure that the business rep (BA, PM, whatever) is fully engaged.  Let the ScrumMaster help keep the work clean and the wheels moving, and let ‘er rip.

All that being said, this Friday I roll off my consulting gig, to no longer be a Cardinal Solutions consultant bringing my BA skills to Fortune 500 clients in the Cincinnati area.  As of next Monday, I will be the Manager of IT for Gardner Publications, a closely held publishing company, managing their department of programmers, database folks, and network specialists.  Whether or not I push code, or regardless of how much code I end up pushing, I will be once again deeply involved in actually architecting and delivering solutions for problems both immediate and strategic.  And so, as much as I hesitated to leave a company as supportive as Cardinal has been – and they have been amazingly supportive, I cannot express how excited I am to be making this move!

New challenges, a new industry (it’s not seasonal textbooks this time, it’s trade magazines in the manufacturing world), management responsibilities, and a return to the ‘real’ business of tech! for a company that was looking for exactly my skills and background to help them into and through new transitions.

God is good!

Tags: family · miscellany · software development

2 responses

  • 1 Ben // Nov 4, 2008 at 1:37 PM

    Jase... I hear ya brother. Even after leaving an employer that undervalued the hell out of me and what I brought to the company in personality, skill and work ethic I still look back and wonder what I could or should have done differently. Of course not very much :^) as they were right bastards to me, disrespected me in just about every way imaginable and did the same to my co-workers.

    The allure of DTCU was that I used to run my own show. I was responsible for ME and my performance was a result of MY hard work and dedication, not the result of a dozen or so others including myself and that's a feeling of satisfaction that's hard to duplicate in a team environment. One would hope then, that former employers are also asking themselves "What could/should I have done to retain the highly skilled productive employees who have left?"

    Congrats on recognizing when a job wasn't giving you what you needed and having the gonads to make a change.
  • 2 Jason // Nov 6, 2008 at 8:32 AM

    Yes, that question is a great one yet not often asked:

    "What could/should I have done to retain the highly skilled productive employees who have left?"

    And sadly at times when it is asked, the response is "Oh, well, I guess there's nothing we could do." I've known guys leave their dream job because the money simply wasn't there ... well, gee, there's your answer: they guy didn't hate the company or the job, quite the opposite, but you can't keep the best talent for entry-level $$. On the flip side, guys who stick it out in a place for low money but hate it could often be converted to Best Employees Ever if they were simply encouraged. Even for low $$, they would kill themselves, bend over backwards for the company, if they were simply treated really well.

    Oh, well, so it goes. As you note, the key is to realize when it's an un-fixable situation and to have the cojones to move along. I find myself now in a situation with several good friends leaning on me for advice as they try to start new businesses, one who is expanding his existing self employment and one who is finally fed up with working for uncaring, micromanaging, ineffective bosses.
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