Okay, so starting a blog with a corny Michael Jackson lyric possibly isn’t the most auspicious of starts but it was either that or ‘Winds of Change’ by the Scorpions and believe me you don’t want that running around your head all day. Anyway, I digress…
Over the last year to eighteen months I’ve been increasingly unhappy or frustrated with the work that I do and the life that I live and I figured there must be something better I can do. I recently posted on Facebook that I was leaving my job and had loads of nice comments along the lines of good luck and what are you doing etc. Which made me think, what am I doing? A good friend the other day suggested I start a blog and write down what it is I’m doing and the reasons why I want to do it, plus I’m not that good at talking about stuff and I do enjoy writing so I thought I’d give it a go. I know where I am right now and I have a pretty good idea of where I want to get to, I think – I just have no real idea how I actually get there.
So here’s the backstory. I have just taken voluntary redundancy after ten years from a large multi-national software company. For the sake of argument, let’s call them SAP. Now I’m not going to start criticising them massively here because a) in many ways they’re a good company to work for, b) they’ve given me a nice payoff, and c) I signed some pretty heavy duty legal papers saying I won’t say anything bad about them – but over the years I have come to the conclusion that I need something a bit more.
On the face of it, I had it pretty good. I had a Global Marketing role within our Education team which meant I could sit in my pyjamas and work from home all day. If I ran short on food, I could go to the office which was only a few miles away and have lunch in the free restaurant there. I couldn’t do that in my pyjamas though, apparently that was frowned upon. In the final couple of years I had a very comfortable salary and was pretty well thought of it by my manager and peers – well, most of them. Increasingly though I was getting frustrated by a number of things but the biggest one was the never ending emails and meetings telling us we were doing well, but we needed to do better. Every quarter end would inevitably bring 2-3 emails from people on high in the organisation with exactly the same message.
Our results last quarter were great, probably the best ever, however we can’t rest on our laurels, now is the time to double our efforts and sell even more next quarter – while also keeping a tight control on costs.
I’m sure it’s the same in nearly every company in the world and truly I wouldn’t have minded if we weren’t doing well. But we made an absolute fortune… every quarter. And at a huge profit margin.
The job itself became more frustrating as I spent large portions of my day on frustrating conference calls or attempting to cut down my email Inbox to less than 200 unread emails and trying to deal with internal politics and colleagues who sometimes seemed to want to make life as difficult as possible. I guess these are all middle class problems and I’m very glad I don’t work down a mine or live in a country where I would be glad to have any job but I just wasn’t happy. Early this year SAP announced a restructuring programme and announced a voluntary redundancy programme and with everything I said above, I just thought, why not?
Alongside the frustrating work life though, I had done a few things that I was proud to be involved with and actually fulfilled me. I will probably write a bit more about them in future blogs but it was doing these things that started me thinking about what it was I really wanted to do with my life. So here are just a few things I’ve done in the last four or five years I enjoyed and am kind of proud of.
Young Person’s Mentor
For nearly two years through a council scheme, I was a mentor to a young lad called James. He’d had a tough life for various reasons and school was tricky for him – I was just someone he could see on a regular basis, hang out with, do the occasional fun thing and hopefully have some kind of steady male role model influence on his life. I’ve no idea if I was a good role model or not but we certainly had fun kicking a ball around the park, eating pizza and enjoying the odd movie. Although I think we both fell asleep through The Hobbit.
I was really upset when the scheme stopped literally overnight when the person running it went on maternity leave and no one else carried it on. I had no contact details for James because of the nature of the scheme and so sadly have no idea how he’s doing – I hope he’s doing well.
Gamesmaker at London Olympics
You may have heard about the London Olympics… it was a big thing a few years ago? We won loads of medals, people in London talked to each other and when Sebastian Coe thanked the volunteers at the Closing Ceremony we got the biggest cheer of the Games. Still get goose bumps thinking about it. I was a lucky enough to be a Gamesmaker in the Olympic Park and for about two weeks I was simultaneously shattered and elated. Despite having a slightly grumpy reputation I genuinely enjoy helping people and being able to play a tiny, tiny part in the Games was a very proud moment for me and I still reckon I could direct anyone to the nearest toilets in the park, no matter where we were.
Yes, it’s all one word and all lower case. For those of you not aware of parkrun, it’s a wonderful thing and I encourage you to try it. Simply speaking it’s a 5km run in a local park on a Saturday morning, and it’s free. I started going as a runner (I run a bit) and it was great but it wasn’t until I started volunteering that I realised how truly great it was. I run 5km in about 18-19 minutes and used to finish and then head off straight home. On the day I plucked up the courage and volunteered for the first time though, I was there until the end and it was genuinely inspiring to see people coming through the finish in 30 minutes, 35 minutes who were clearly not ‘runners’ but were proud to have finished and smashed PBs. The icing on the cake was waiting for the final finisher to come in at about 45 minutes who was doing her 100th parkrun and I was amazed at the amount of people who were there with balloons, champagne and cake to celebrate this achievement. I wanted to get more involved and I have. I volunteer fairly regularly, I pace each month to help people get PBs and luckily they let me write the run report every month or so, helping to fulfil the frustrated writer side of me. parkrun is great, you should try it… http://www.parkrun.com/
Green Room School in Windsor
Through SAP’s Corporate Social Responsibility Programme this year, I’ve been lucky enough to get involved with the Green Room School over in Windsor. The Green Room is an Independent School providing an alternative for young people who can no longer access mainstream education. As part of a small team I worked with them to win a grant from SAP to turn a storage shed into a science lab so pupils at the school can study science as well as Maths and English. I’m pleased to say our charity was voted number one by our peers at SAP and work is starting soon.
You can find out more about the Green Room here – http://www.thegreenroomschool.com/
So that’s it really.
What I have not enjoyed really is working for a big company where the only motivation is to ensure that we make lots of money and keep some shareholders happy. What I have enjoyed is working with kids and some kind of sporting, voluntary come education kind of thing. So that’s what I want to do going forward. I don’t need a huge amount of money as long as I can pay the mortgage, have some food to eat and fund the odd new pair of trainers, but I do want to get to the end of the day and be able to say that I’ve done something ‘good’ that day. Hopefully I can use this blog as a means of documenting this ‘journey’ without sounding like an X Factor finalist and who knows, maybe someone running a small sports charity involved in getting kids from disadvantaged areas into sport might read it and offer me a chance.