To be honest, I can never be sure if I was bitten by the travel bug at a very young age, or if I have a strong sense of travel-based ADHD. Either way, I accept this challenge, and the most challenging thing about how often I want (slash that, NEED) to travel comes down to being a Generation X manager that, for years, has fallen smack between the confinement of impersonal HR departments at large corporations and the now, tech-induced and millennial empowered acceptance that we all can work (within reason) whenever we want and wherever we want so long as we get the job done. (Aside: I think it is that “so long as we get the job done” part that Gen “Why” gets so much crap for).
Seeing How The Other Half Lives
There’s nothing like living abroad to make it absolutely apparent how much other cultures work and what cultures provide the best working benefits. If you want the ideal working situation – flexibility, medical, time off, equal pay – you go to Sweden. And trust me, some day I probably will. If you’re more keen on the 60-80 hour work week and gather your sense of pride from providing for your family rather than being around your family, then clearly you should live in a place like Japan where honor is work and to work is most honorable. (Bah. Australia is kicking in and I just spent a good five minutes wondering why that spelling looked wrong. Honourable. Ok. I get it. I’ll take the u into consideration.)
Not-So-Fresh StartUp Mess Ups
Right now, at this juncture of my life, I couldn’t be more grateful for the flexibility I have been granted with my career. My talents as an asset to the company were recognized immediately so when I had to come with the unexpected news that I’d be moving half way around the globe, it was of no discussion as to whether or not I could still do my job 16-18 hours ahead of time. (At least I’m always ahead right? 😉
Still, working for not just an American company, but a company deeply embedded in Utah culture, I am anything but unaware of how “different” that is from normal working relationships – among other career paths, among other women, and among other expat workers. For one, I have to earn my wings on a daily basis. I had to prove then (and have to continue to prove every day) what I am capable of. The entire relationship is passive-aggressive in its own right – a problem that I believe a lot of not-as-fresh startups go through.
Startup already have the culture of work first, get paid second. The founders of any company know exactly what it is like to give up friends, family, and weekends for a mere idea that you hope will pay off not just in two weeks on a pay day, but pay off years down the road. However, I think startups that started out of the rubble and dirt of the 2008-2009 market crash in the United States have an especially hard time outgrowing the “prove it” attitude that can drive so many successful companies back into the ground after overcoming the 1 year humb, 2 year humb, and 5 year hump. These are the companies that can overcome the years, but can’t quite get over that 250-500 employee growth mark. This kind of passive aggressive behavior from not-so-fresh startup makes it impossible for the outcome to eventually turn into anything other than an explosion. The relationship from the very start is setup to be a temporary one lacking trust. It is as if to say, “You’re going to leave anyway, so let’s do what it takes to keep you around for two years because that will be record breaking in and of itself.” Problem with that is you get a lot of great managers that do great things quickly to retain their team, but being intertwined in a deep, untrusting company culture, they move and grow too fast, promising their team things that would depend on some serious company growth in order for the company to uphold the same patterns of recognition in the near future.
Knowing It Is Time For A Change
Unlike other nomad workers, my working relationship is more entrepreneurial than as an employee. So, I don’t get real vacations. Between that and the time difference, I’m always “on call.” Essentially, my lifestyle is that of a startup culture working within a startup culture. As you can imagine, things can get quite complicated. More than anything, the complications start to rise to the top when your values do not align with the values of the companies you work with, or even worse (because it is less likely to be overcome or rendered doable) is when you get squeezed between a sense of great possibility and need-now strategies and the capabilities of the start ups you have relationships with. In other words, you outgrow their ability to afford all it is they imagine for themselves and nobody can agree on a sense of priorities in a house of cards. Everything relies on each other and you’re at the very center of making sure the whole thing doesn’t collapse on itself.
My problem is I take personal responsibility for seeing things through. When executives and colleagues alike both seem to agree on the impossible, the foreseeable, and the here and now, you’ve been working so hard to be somewhere else by now, you can’t seem to let it go. And by “you,” I mean me. At this point in my career, I feel like I’m spinning half a dozen plates with my hands, while keeping one eye on a set I somehow manage to keep spinning about me more like a hoolahoop than serving plates at this point. Everything is on the move!
Every week I have to prove my work with an insane report, and I call it insane because I’ve never known anyone that can match it. The amount of work I can put out, personally, in just a few hours supersedes what any traditional working environment allows of even their very best and brightest employees. People call me “the machine” and it was funny at first, but in the end, I just want people to recognize that I am a person and that while I seem to be capable of the impossible, I can’t be turned up to 11 all day, every day and produce the quality that we are all after. Unlike traditional employees, I no longer get raises. I didn’t get any two year employee gift. I don’t get included in January birthday celebrations. I don’t get new company shirts. I’m free of the swag, the annual parties, the perks, the free tickets, and almost anything that make you want to say, “Oh geez, I’ll give t another shot.” In fact, one of the most motivating morale boosters we have is a little program that I created and simply as the creator, I have to participate as an example to others, but I do not render the perks of cashing in my benefits for tropical vacations like the best of them.
It is as if I’ve been turned to a “contract agreement” relationship without anyone ever allowing me to renegotiate my life as a faceless contract. With that, I don’t get any medical benefits or 401k/Super accounts. I deal with the differences by telling myself, I get to be flexible and I’d pay that missing sense of consideration and large whole in my salary to be able to be flexible. So, I’ve written flexibility into my contract without any actual signature or approval. To me, it is assumed and it has to be granted in order for me to stay happy in a long-term situation where overworked and underpaid is no joke. With that flexibility comes times like this, where I get to work abroad. I just wish that working abroad wasn’t so strange and different within my immediate work culture because life certainly would be easier if these things were more of an expectation than an exception.
When You Can No Longer Be “One Of The Team”
When you need a vacation. I want a vacation. And, I don’t get vacation simply because I have no set two weeks paid time off. Nada. Nothing. Zippo.
While I go places often and people will forever write it into their memory as, “Caz is on another vacation,” let’s count the number of times I’ve gone entirely offline (aka non working vacation) in the last 2 1/2 years. June of last year, I went offline for three days for a road trip, but made the work up by still committing to 40 hours in the office that week. So, that doesn’t count. First real time was this last January, I went offline for 10 days (including weekends) and for my anniversary this year I went offline for only 3 working days. That adds up to 13 total days so far this year. While 13 days seems high for one year, it certainly isn’t for the course of 2 1/2 years, especially when you have a grand total of 2 sick days to account for during that time as well.
That brings me to the constant defense of being the only person in a company allowed to work from any location I need to get my work done and via sporadic hours in order to meet the needs of collaboration/meetings as well as appeal to when my own creativity strikes. When you’re the person a million miles away, you’re also the target of blame – something I had become quite used to and then around this last Spring time (in the U.S.), I was quite deliberately “over it.” At that point, I had received blame for what literally adds up to about 100 different things. NONE of them were true. NONE of them were accurate. But rather than my name ever being crossed off the books of blame, the constant impression that it gave those who heard the initial muttering of fault, were never redeemed from anything other than the notion that if it’s broken, Caz did it. That not only left me with an ill-fated attitude of, “I don’t get paid enough for this crap,” but it also left me with the inability to EVER make a mistake. If and when I actually make the slightest mistake (like overlooking an edit on a sent newsletter, for example), suddenly everything about every assumption everyone has is entirely true. And I’m not there. I don’t hear close to all of it. I certainly don’t get to defend myself against it, and what I do hear drives me mad in almost an instant.
Every week I make a massive report of major account changes and project completions only – the majority of which is completed entirely by me and only a portion of which is done by my team. These reports are multiple pages long, week after week, even when I am “on vacation.” I’m given full reign of a “team” for THREE different departments of the company. I manage people for THREE different managers all collaborating for efforts underneath me. And I run this team of around a dozen people on a budget worth less than one marketers salary. So of course I have to do a great deal of all the work myself.
You Make The Most Of The Benefits You Allow Yourself
At this point, I feel as though I’m in a very bad relationship. I know, without a doubt, that most working relationships aren’t like this. That the blame, lack of communication, passive aggressive, need to prove, significantly under paid, complimented as a “machine” and treated like one just the same, isn’t normal for these new startup style tech companies that know that at the core of every company success is morale. With great irony, I recently attended a seminar on behalf of my company and during a one-to-one breakout session, I took a variety of tests that all pointed to how deeply engrained I know this and how finding a happy solution won’t be possible here. All emotions aside, the science literally points to I need to get out. The thing is, I don’t really want to leave… yet.
I want to give it some time. I want to see if I can fix it all by myself. But the very definition of bad relationship comes from a constant need to be defensive, assumptions and blame, and a lack of communication, consideration, acknowledgement, etc. A bad relationship comes when the one person you trust most to be on your side is found to be the catalyst for all the bad behavior that leaves you constantly drained. I tell myself, I can manage this in a way where my demands and what I need for me are higher than the demands of the business. But let’s face it, that’s not my personality. The facts literally point to, “No Caz, you don’t need to try to manage that balance yourself,” and tell me that the balance truly exists with companies that share the same value-system I do. So, if I make it very clear weeks in advance that I’ll be unavailable and working on completing major annual projects for a 4 week period of time and everyone waits until the day after I am gone to decide they have an emergency that has to be dealt with now, I find myself enjoying the one day of sunshine I’ve ever seen in Singapore from the desk of my hotel room, working 10+ hour days to make someone else’s life easier. Just. Like. Bad. Relationships. Everything is at the expense of something much more important, and just like that abusive cycle, I find myself doing the work to make someone else’s life very easy because of some innate fear that if I don’t, my life will be made miserable. The problem here is that I don’t demand worth of my time, and I do not allow enough people to fail. I only sit back and dream of what it would be like if this relationship had a sense of what it would truly be like to lose me. If I could just go on a literal vacation and make everyone wait or try to do it themselves for the next four weeks, they’ll either discover great things about their own capability, or they’ll discover that they can easily mess it all up and that while I make it look very easy, nothing I do has any simplicity whatsoever.
The problem is that our value systems do not align. The problem is that I’m operating from a viewpoint that my work is recognized and my time is perceived as valuable. I’m operating from the view point that I am trusted and my work is trusted. You would think the longer you work for a company, the more true that is, but on the contrary – the longer I work, the more everything turns over to my immediate responsibility and time is not of the essence, it is owned at a very insignificant price. For me to actually, mathematically say “Ok, this is what I do for a living, and this is what the average woman (see, even giving a discount already) is paid for this type of work. I spend X hours doing this higher-rate work and X hours doing this other work. That comes out to a salary of $$$…” then the truth is, I should be working 10-20 hours per week. I spend plenty of time working well beyond 40. So I think to myself, “I’ve worked ahead, I get 2 weeks off because I never take 2 weeks off…” But I suppose that’s all just wishful thinking.
I am loyal through and through. In everything, I’m loyal beyond what should be the end. I refuse to be done until I am literally DONE with what I personally set out to do – throughout the course of a day or throughout the course of a career.
Cue: Horn Tooting
When I started my current role, the company had a website from the 2007-2009 era, with little-to-no content on nearly every landing page. The sister-product to the company was a single landing page with no additional information or site value. There was no active blog, only around 125 blog posts written over 5 years prior to my coming on board.
Just the same, there was no social media strategy and only a long forgotten Facebook page. Now we have over 25 social media accounts.
Now, we’re about to break 700 unique blog posts. We have three new websites. I wrote EVERY word of content and managed the design of our core website and sister-site. Our core website went from approximately 15 pages to around 40+50 alternative landing pages. Our sister-site went from one page, to a dozen pages.
Running a branding campaign for our core business and our sister-business, I’ve decided to also develop individual branding around each of our core products which lends itself to the majority of those “extra” social accounts as I’ms use you’re trying to figure how any company can add up to managing over 25.
Previously, the company sent two variations of emails to an email list over and over and over again, an the unsubscribe function was not always up to standards. A lot of people complained and the design of the emails had no branding significance or correlation to our website. Today, we send a minimum of 10 unique emails per month (newsletters, promotions, and job notifications) and have serious marketing automations in place for MQL to SQL nurturing. I have lead nurturing campaigns in the works including a 70+ cold drip campaign hat will go live if (and only if) I can be left to my own devices for this four-week “vacation” to finalize this one thing that seems to be the constant top priority and the least amount of time recognition. These campaigns go beyond email and intertwine with social media, a Rabbit’s Hole of reengagement opportunities, social ppc, and remarketing ppc.
Before me, we had no social PPC campaigns or effective remarketing strategy to match our lead nurturing. Spending dollars on clicks was acceptable, when in truth very effective click campaigns can be run at less than 5 cents a pop. Our lead generation strategy came from a core of affiliate marketing. Today, we drive massive traffic and the majority of our new leads consistently through social media and social ppc.
Before me, we had no core employee morale initiative or sense of community across multiple offices. Today, we not only have an online community for all employees to participate and share, that community drives a big part of our local SEO for Google Maps in particular AND that community is centered around an employee advocacy program that I designed, created, and ran manually years before it became “a thing” and product solutions were provided to help gauge and engage employees in becoming brand advocates. For many, my employee advocacy program provides more perks and recognition than quarterly bonuses which is both a pat on my back and a problem.
During my short reign (we’re talking only two years here), not only have I released these two websites and two new version of the blog, I have created Boost University – a database of free information there to engage and entice marketers from all over the world to download and train from our free information. This effort has brought us to over 50 unique landing pages, and over 20 pieces of unique, long-form content like white papers or ebooks that are available in FOUR languages. But that is just the marketing side of things I have done.
Additionally, I’ve also built our Pardot and SalesForce CRM systems up from the ground. I’v made them work. I’ve upgraded them, installed them, and done so much more than deemed possible. I’ve been an administrator over both. I’ve taken over a dozen things that previous SaleForce professionals charged tens of thousands of dollars to say, “This is impossible,” and I have done them quickly and efficiently for a mere fraction of the price or effort needed from other acting managers. I’ve literally made things possible and created the first seamless relationship between sales teams and the marketing department since the company was first created.
For Sales, I manage these accounts on a daily basis. I don’t just mean that I administrate these accounts, I actually act as the customer service team that should rest between marketing and sales. I am the one-man team that reaches out personally to all “impossible” leads and requalifies them for sales or finds a lead entirely disqualified for what our company can ever dog or them.
I develop and program things for SalesForce and the website that others don’t perceive, can’t envision, or do not have time for.
I’ve programmed and developed a social media aggregator that displays company culture and ability to contact us, follow u, and engage with us. You can find this on two different pages of our website.
With Stark, I’ve created a working UTM hidden field tracker that supersedes that never-working built in functions of the Pardot UTM tracking system.
My greatest support is and always will be my partner in crime, Stark. Has anyone else really, truly helped me? No. Is anyone else there when it’s 3:00AM and I’ve been working since 5:15AM and I’m crying, angry, and beyond exhausted? No. Far too many times he has literally pryed my fingers from the keyboard, shut down my laptop, and walked me to bed only for me to have to return to another set meeting and urgent tasks just 3 hour later.
I can tell you all of this is deemed impossible not just by others who have attempted the work, but by doctors who manage my narcolepsy. I shouldn’t be capable of the train of thought or viewing such a large scale picture. I shouldn’t be capable of doing so much in such a short amount of time. I shouldn’t be capable of working til 3AM, taking all my necessary medicine to be capable of sleeping, and then back at my desk by 6AM. And you know what, I’m not. That’s why I cracked in May. That’s why everything was just one misjudged accusation too far beyond my ability to smile and nod. That’s why I lost so much interest in working with or around my old team, that I didn’t even make argument for a lack of raise in June. I stepped back so I could step up. Those two things shouldn’t be synonymous. But, I literally had to create my own team in order to get things done. As such, I became introverted from key players in the company because I literally do not have the time to do anything other than finish what I’ve started here.
Since May, I have created major goals and magical solutions with my own team, despite the short-cut budgets. I continue to make it happen every day both on my own and with the team that I choose. We do great things. We do the impossible. We do so much, I can’t even speak to all the credits to my people before being played off the stage. But I tell you at this point in my working “relationship,” outside of my loyalties to finishing projects and my friendship with my boss, I very much look forward to getting back to business and being a part of something I’m allowed to believe in.
To Hot Desk Or Rent An Office? That is the question.
Throughout Europe (at the very least), parts of the U.S., and definitely a new, booming culture within Sydney are hot spot work stations. Places where you “hot desk” or rent a temporary area for a given amount of time. No contracts, just floaters. Some larger networks allow you memberships to all locations throughout the world. Not only do you get to have everything you need to get your work done (quiet rooms, WiFi, coffee… never forget the coffee… printing, and collaboration with other creatives), you get to meet new people just like you all over the world when you do it.
This, however, is not part of my contract. It would be entirely for my own sanity that I would purchase one of these plans, and I have come close to it 2 or 3 times since we moved to a trendier part of Sydney. I’ll likely pull the trigger when we finally commit to a three month sabbatical in some foreign land somewhere, but the idea of having to is not as grand as deciding to.
Cue: Decision making point.
I love what I do. I know I am good at it. I’ve done a great deal to help the business and dedicated candle burning hours of unpaid time to bridging the gap between the expectations of a startup marketing team and the realities of what a team of underpaid millenials can actually produce. They say, “If you want it done, give it to a busy person,” and there’s no truer statement I have come to know through any of my career paths than this one saying. But at some point, whether as a leader you can’t let people water down your capabilities to lead by forcing you to manage. By that I mean, I refuse to be a micromanager. No success can come from building out from a point of control or the idea that you can teach someone to be great that isn’t already inately great at everything they put their mind to. As such, change is on the horizon.
Naturally and without force, the contract I have had for years now has ebbed, flowed, and now exited left from being capable of being called or referred to as an employee. What I do… everything I do is “beyond scope.” Everything I do is my own business and self managed, as such, it is time to move back into the realm of having my own business and taking control of how things are dictated. In this “do it now, prove it first” style of working, I can step away and shift my world into a far more proactive outlook by initiating a new contract, line-by-line expectations and literally acting the part I’ve been given.
As we have already learned once so far this year, letting things flow in the natural direction the business takes us is sometimes our highest priority and greatest necessity. This is one more case of resistance that I think just a few of us need to let go of, myself mostly, and that is “acting the part” that I am part of a team other than my own. My work is well-defined. It is reportable. It is expected so much so that it can be transacted. I no longer have to live under the stress of expectation, assumption, and surprise when I can literally lay it all out up front.
Change is coming. Whether I’m up for it or not, I have to accept that it will undo me if I don’t step in and take part in the doing. This is my chance.