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Fortunate

I graduated from law school in 2004. I had no interest in practicing law, so I moved to Japan and taught English there instead. Though I was supposedly the teacher, I learned a lot and had a blast.

I moved back to my hometown for family reasons and took a job temping in a small HR office. Job opportunities did not abound, so I was simply glad I could pay my bills. I felt the same when I took on a temporary administrative role at a larger company before long. I sucked at it, but did my best to find silver linings, of which there were many.

As my temporary admin gig neared its conclusion, a woman I’d met exactly once offered to take me onto her team as an admin. I sent her a copy of my resume; once she saw I’d gone to law school, she became determined to get me negotiating software contracts on her team. I rejected at first, saying I’d have taken the Bar if I wanted to do anything law-related.

She persisted, thank God. I soon began negotiating contracts, and felt (happily) challenged for the first time in years. I loved learning about hardware and software, which I had to do to be effective at negotiating. I enjoyed negotiating and was grateful to have an encouraging, supportive manager nudging me outside my comfort zone.

I worked on software contracts for a decade. Then, two years ago tomorrow, I began working as a software licensing contractor. My commute to a full-time job with great benefits was just too long. I accepted job uncertainty as a small cost compared to the benefit of not spending four hours in my car daily.

My first few months as a contractor were deeply uncomfortable. There was a lot of ambiguity, which frustrated me until I took it upon myself to lessen the ambiguity. If anyone didn’t like how I was doing that, I figured, they’d be sure to tell me. 

Taking risks, I found myself growing. I found joy in that growing, though I’d started out discombobulated.

As that contract wound down, an opening came up for a software asset management position. I seized the opportunity. Sure, I’d never done it before and didn’t know a thing about helping ensure neither too many nor too few licenses were procured, but I knew I’d grow. I knew that any frustration I felt at being a noob the first few months would be counterbalanced by the ultimate joy of learning.

I “knew,” but I didn’t really know. ‘Cause, see, I had no idea how much I’d learn, nor how much I’d be encouraged to learn. I couldn’t have fathomed how much support I’d have, nor how mistakes would be treated as just a part of the journey of learning. I had no idea what it’d be like to feel genuine psychological safety for the first time in my life, among a team that makes me laugh while pushing me to do better every day.

I took a risk two years ago tomorrow, and another one fifteen months ago. Because of those risks, my whole life feels so much richer than it did two years ago. For how rough my life began, it’s pretty rad now.

This is all a necessary background for another story to come. For now, though, I want to say that I am more fortunate than I sometimes remember.

I’m thankful to be challenged to remember this.

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Contracts: making me a crappier blogger since 2006!

Stop using passive voice!

Have you ever thought this while reading my blog? I sure have!

“The experience was one to be savored,” I might write, when the truth was savored the heck out of it. So why don’t I simply write, “I savored the experience”?

Easy: work. For roughly forty hours each week, I review, revise and write contracts full of worst case scenarios. These scenarios can make non-legal people extremely uncomfortable.

“But I don’t want to offer up my first-born child if this deal goes south!” such non-legal people might say if we lived in a fantasy world. In this one, “something comes up” and meetings are rescheduled they reschedule contract review meetings until rescheduling becomes riskier than just attending the damn meeting. Read more…

Perfect for each other

Today I published my blog link on my LinkedIn profile. I’ve withheld it there, fearing–under the guise of reasonable practicality–some potential manager or hiring manager might exclude me from consideration for The Perfect Job because of it.

Today I decided a job probably isn’t my perfect job if its people see this personal blog as a liability. Indeed, this blog is a testament to my ability to articulate myself clearly, to discuss sensitive topics with nuance, to make difficult choices and accept their consequences, to disagree respectfully and apologize when I fall short. The perfect-for-me job’s hiring manager would see this blog and cheer, “Yes! This is a lady after our hearts! WE MUST TALK TO HER!”

(My Perfect Job People will definitely use caps lock here. Possibly also emojis.)

I also decided to envision conversations with prospective employers.

I chuckled through my envisioning.

I’m on the right-for-me track.

Okay, Deborah. I’m a little concerned by this whole “blog” thing, frankly. 
Read more…

Embracing the mess

I work with contracts.

It’s important to be precise when writing contracts.

My professional pursuit of precision has shaped how I write blogs. I’ve tried to generally make mine neat, fairly linear and perfectly clear. This was easier when I had only one kid and a short-ish commute.

Now, with two kids, a long commute and a heckuva lot of change in a short time, I’ve gotta be frank: I’m getting tired of constantly pursuing precision.

Can’t I just leave that at the job? Can’t I step away from my desk and say, “Adios until tomorrow, Precision! I’ve got life and kids and love and laughter on my radar now!” Read more…

Babies: the most aggressive project managers

I walked away from negotiating technology contracts two weeks ago today.

I traded in those technology contracts for more time with my young sons. By the time we arrived home daily previously, I had only a few waking minutes to spend with my seven-month-old. The time I had with my five-year-old was longer but task driven–homework, dinner prep, and chores, oh my!

It’s a gift to have a little extra time with my kids for now. As I slowly search for my next paying position, I savor these precious additional minutes with my children.

Most of them, anyway.

OK, some? Read more…

NO

“This is not a good time for this call,” I told the vendor whose call I’d just accidentally answered.

“But I want you to know how much I’m doing to help you and what I’m doing to resolve these issues and–”

“This is not a good time for this call,” I restated. “I spent an ungodly amount of time trying to resolve account issues that shouldn’t even have been issues yesterday. It took me away from the big stuff I needed to do, stuff I now need to focus on. I cannot spend one more second with you on this right now.”

“You’re not being fair!” she exclaimed. She again launched into an explanation of everything she was doing to help me, clearly having had no acquaintance with the idea of “lizard brain,” the mode people get into when higher brain functioning has shut off and they’re operating at a primal reactive level. I was in lizard brain mode, and no good was going to come from immediate further conversation.

“You’re not hearing me. Read more…

The nurturer, the warrior and the blogger

I was in the middle of writing tersely phrased demands for work when my four-year-old son interrupted me. “Mama, look at this!” He showed me a new toy.

“That is awesome, sweetheart!” I told him with a forehead kiss before he scampered off to continue playing.

When I turned back to resume writing my work email, I was struck by the dissonance between these two equally truthful, divergent aspects of myself: my gruff, brusque contract manager self and my nurturing, gentle one as a mom. Sometimes the two overlap, such as when someone behaves threateningly in my son’s vicinity, but usually the two exist in different times and spaces. The opportunity to see their contrast through this work/mom convergence left me feeling ponderous. Also grateful.

In flesh, people sometimes find me abrupt or prickly. This doesn’t bother me, because these are parts of who I am. This is all the more so given my last eight years of professional experience. Working in contract management means I have to listen well, communicate well and be amicable as often as possible, but also be extremely comfortable transitioning swiftly to no-holds-barred, unequivocal boundary-setting in cases of dubious behavior: That is unacceptable, and you must remedy it immediately for this discussion to continue.

scary face

Eight years in contracts have shown me there’s a reason there’s a no-waiver clause in most contracts. This paragraph usually reads something like: Read more…

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