You still here?

By Garry Gibson on 25th April 2018

I’ve recently celebrated my ten year anniversary with my current employer, which begs the question “Why am I still here?”

Well, it’s not like I’m a serial job-changer, continually searching for job nirvana. I’m in my 40’s and this is only my fifth ‘real’ job. Whilst each of those jobs were in a different environment including internal IT department, software house, consultancy, independent contractor and back to software house, I don’t go looking for my “next big challenge”. In fact I’m lucky enough to have been asked to work at each job rather than seeking them out.

I should probably explain a bit about what I do here. It’s a combination of software development, business analysis, sales, consultancy and pretty much anything else they’ll let me dabble with. After working in the London office with 4hr a day commutes, I’ve spent the last 4 years or so working from home on the north Kent coast with occasional trips to London to see the boss, trips to the Isle of Man to visit head office and adventures all over the place to see clients.

So why am I still here at PDMS?

The short, slightly flippant answer? I’ve been myself and they’ve not fired me.

Longer answer? I guess it’s a combination of firstly meeting the universal basic employee requirements of:

  • Decent pay.
  • Interesting work.
  • Manager not being an idiot.

Combined with a lot of far more subtle aspects such as:

Trust

I trust that the management and my colleagues are all trying to do the right thing, and they (seem to) trust that I’m doing likewise. Which is more of a leap of faith on their part that you’d think. I work at home, so how do they *know* I’m on-side and pulling my weight? Apart from the fantastic code I check into source control, obviously.

Belonging

This is a weird one. I know it’s a business, and I’m just a salaried employee with no shares or other vested interest, but I know everyone here and feel like I belong. I get annoyed when I think things aren’t being done properly, not because it offends ‘me’, but because I think it’s not how ‘we’ should be operating. Told you it was weird.

Lack of needless hierarchy

In my flippant answer I said it was because they haven’t fired me yet. A part of that being more likely than you might think is that I always like to talk to the most senior person possible about any issues, as they are usually the ones with the authority to do something about them.

Turns out that this is hard to do without coming across as a bit of a trouble-maker.

Here, I am able to speak honestly to senior management without being fired (so far). If this sounds silly then it sounds like you’re lucky enough to have not experienced places were speaking to anyone other than your direct line manager is not a career enhancing move.

Skilled colleagues

I’m nosey. I like to know how everything else is operating. Everything from server hosting to sales pitches to development strategy to marketing to mergers to testing to recruitment and almost everything else. I draw the line at ISO Auditing, I just can’t get on with that. (Sorry Simon!)

A benefit of me sticking my nose in everywhere and trying to understand it is that I get to see how good the people doing those things are. Our infrastructure team are second to none. I’ve worked with a fair few over the years (and started off as an AS/400 support and admin guy) and ours are the best. You know that nasty ransomware that took out chunks of the NHS? It attacked us a while back, and it never stood a chance.  And I once spent a day traveling around with one of our sales Directors and sat in whilst he gave a presentation to a potential client. What’s so great about that? Well he had only been emailed the presentation during the drive over, and I knew he’d never seen it before opening it in front of the client. Luckily he wasn’t a ‘read it from a slide’ salesman, but a ‘I know what I’m on about’ salesman and he simply used the presentation as a guide to shape the conversation. As a (slightly introverted) techy I found it particularly impressive to watch.

Compassion

I have to earn my salary, and am very keen to ensure I do. But doing that can be done with flexibility and compassion on both sides. If something nasty has hit the fan, then I’m available to sort it, even at 17:05. On a Sunday. Likewise, when I spent 9hrs in A&E the other night with my mother (who is fine), my boss was cool about me not being around the next morning.
This is a far cry from my days at a consultancy where I overheard a partner talking to a senior manager whose wife was about to give birth and was trying to not get sent away to a far flung client – “It’s not your first child, is it?”, “No..”, “Then you don’t need to be there for it”.

Evolution

Both personally and as an organisation. On a personal level, I’ve progressed from being a developer to a lead developer to a consultant (again) to helping out with sales and now product development. Along the way I’ve learnt a lot about technology, how to use it, how to sell it and how to finance it. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid being pigeon-holed and been allowed to grow.

As an organisation we’ve expanded, closed offices, opened offices and gone through a fair amount of internal growing (pains ’n all). All with the underlying balancing act of keeping up with changes in technology whilst maintaining an rock-climbers approach to progressing of only moving one limb at time to prevent falling off and going splat. As a nosey person with an interest in most things, this has been fascinating to both watch and to be a part of.

Before this starts to read like a sales brochure, let me balance things a bit by saying no, it’s not perfect. Of course it isn’t. There have been arguments that ended in literal tears, colleagues that annoy, policies that make no (apparent) sense and days that required a large glass of wine or three to tame. But that will always be the case where a bunch of human beings get together and try to pull in roughly the same direction.

For the last ten years and for the foreseeable future, I’m happy to be one of this particular bunch of human beings.