I’ve been on the fence about this subject for months. Part of my indecision has more to do with how I may be portrayed after you’ve read this post. Like many of us, we’re expected to provide for our families and my concern all along is how this could be interpreted. The goal is to help one another improve but it involves communication, honesty and a positive culture for all.
This post is a challenge in many ways, but I have to get over this fear sooner than later. Here we go…
The title of the post could have gone in any direction. I finally decided on You Can Call Me Al because…. that’s how I want to be known, simply Al. First and foremost, I’m a husband and father. I want to be recognized for my focus on my personal life which includes my family and for my contributions to helping others (personally and professionally).
I’ve connected with many of you in the past 2-3 years and since that time we’ve created wonderful friendships that I have no doubt will last for years to come. I’ve remained committed to sticking to what got me here in my career and that includes being humble, kind, respectful and giving. In return, I will do my best to return the favor without expecting anything in return. You’ve helped improve my quality of life, but you’ve also created an entire new world (the vCommunity) that I realized existed but avoided because of the issues we are about to dive into.
Moving forward, the remainder of the post will mostly focus on my professional career including the ebbs and flows that come with it but also how it’s applied to life in general. In all, I’ve been in the IT field for roughly 15 years for various companies (private and public) and held multiple titles along the way (none of which are important to me because I have a job to do and as long as I enjoy doing it, a title really doesn’t matter). With each stop along the way, my goal was to learn and absorb as much as possible but remain humble and appreciative of others while doing so. It’s also been my goal to mentor others when possible because I would hope they would do the same for others if they were given the same opportunity. This is commonly referred to as #PayItForward or #GivingBack and there is no greater feeling than helping someone along the way which will hopefully lead to success and happiness.
Let’s now turn our attention onto the vCommunity. This group has done wonders for us all at some point in our careers. They’ve been there when we needed a shoulder to lean on. If we needed some advice, we’d reach out to a community member. If we found ourselves stuck while preparing for an exam, building a home lab or even a technical issue at work – we reach out to the community. Most recently, I traveled to Barcelona (thank you Tech Field Day for allowing me to attend Cisco Live Europe). While preparing for the trip I reached out to community members for advice on places to visit, sights to see, where to eat, etc. and in each case, a community member provided the input I needed without asking for anything in return. There is no “I” in T.E.A.M.
Who is Al? I would describe myself (and I’m open to feedback) as unassuming and a team player. If you’re willing to work with me, I’ll run through a brick wall for you in return. I’m not attention driven but I am focused on my goals. I’ll put others before me (to a fault at times) because I want what’s best for the team. On the other side, if you burn me or take advantage of my kindness for selfish reasons repeatedly then you’ve lost my trust. I’m done with you and have moved on. Once a bridge is burned, it’s pretty much a done deal. I’ll forgive but it’s never forgotten.
I have faults like anyone else, but I can only improve if provided honest feedback.
Feedback is a touchy subject. When receiving or giving feedback, do so honestly but more importantly in a respectful manner. Provide examples in a manner in which it doesn’t become personal. In order to improve, both sides of the discussion must remain open minded and the conversation cannot be one sided. If you’re willing to dish it out, be prepared to receive. Don’t talk DOWN to someone but rather talk TO them.
Why is this important to me? In a nutshell, I can be emotional and break down. In most cases for good reasons like passing a test, fulfilling an obligation, celebrating your child’s accomplishments or crying hysterically out of pure joy and happiness. My good friend Jorge Torres saw this side of me at VMworld 2017 first hand. Thank you brother, you know how much I appreciate you!
The bad reasons? Have you ever been criticized professionally to the point it made you cry and asked to be excused from work for the remainder of the day? I’m not ashamed to admit it but more disappointed that I let my emotions get the best of me that day in the office. I will never forget that moment. I felt so small, confused and a failure. I could not believe how I was described and was not given an opportunity to defend myself. Has a higher up dropped multiple F bombs in your face and you’ve had to sit there and accept it because it’s his word against yours? These are just 2 examples of the unfair treatment I’ve endured in my career. The list is longer than you think but that’s beside the point.
The positive take from these situations, I learned a valuable lesson about people and how to deal with situations like this moving forward. Learn and move on. Use this as a motivating factor to find that happy place elsewhere and if you decide to do so, do it for the right reasons which includes your happiness and your family. Money comes and goes but you can’t put a price on happiness. As my father has always reminded me, “You can’t talk sense into someone that has NO sense to begin with”
My career has been through its ups and downs lately. There are times no matter what we do as IT professionals, it’s never enough. I’ve worked 12-hour days and on the weekends. I’ve assisted employees on my personal time (in some cases taking me away from a family engagement) and have never asked for anything in return other than a simple thank you. At times, I’m surrounded by selfishness and my career growth has suffered because of it. I often ask myself these questions:
- Will it ever change for the better?
- Sadly, the answer in my honest opinion at this point in my career is NO and for multiple reasons which I’d rather not share publicly but I’ll be happy to discuss offline.
- Why do I continue to deal with this behavior?
- Because of my family. I have an obligation to provide and I’ll do whatever it takes to make them happy. I would prefer not to do so but I’ll sacrifice my happiness for their good. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing them happy and sometimes it’s at my expense but it’s no fault of theirs. I’ve learned to deal with it and accepted these conditions.
- Is IT the career I truly want to continue pursuing?
- This is a daily battle. I enjoy IT but not the politics that come with it. I’d prefer to act as a mentor for young people or work for an organization that assists the less fortunate, but IT provides a good source of income but as they say, more money more problems. Sometimes have you have to take the good with the bad.
- Is my mental and physical health being affected?
- I’m obese and I’m ashamed to admit to it because I’ve allowed the struggles that I’ve detailed in my professional career to create this problem. Roughly 5 years ago, I was in shape, active and weighed 60-70 pounds less. These days, the first thing I do when I get home is eat, take a nap and then repeat the same process later in the evening. Mentally, I’m not as sharp as I used to be and some of this can be attributed to my physical health, but a lot can be pointed towards the mental challenges I’m affected by professionally. The office politics are mentally draining and more times than not, hard to keep up with and in the end, my mind simply shuts down because I don’t have the aptitude or energy to deal with it. In some cases, I feel like a failure because I’ve given up hope. I’ve been afraid to bring this up because I’m afraid of failure.
- How has my family been affected by this?
- I’ve observed and been told that my patience level has become very thin to the point I would prefer to remain at home than go out with my family or friends than have them suffer through a mental breakdown for whatever reason. It’s just easier to be at home than risk ruining a function or get together for others.
Now some of you are probably asking yourself, this is not the Al I know…is it? Anytime I’ve been around Al, it’s the complete opposite.
It’s not but it’s unfortunately what I’m surrounded by in my professional career. The times that we’ve been together are moments when I’m not surrounded by this toxic atmosphere. You’ve seen me at local VMUGs, IT conferences, User Cons, Tech Field Days and other various IT events. In each case, I’m away from the challenges I’ve documented. I’m doing something I enjoy, I’m surrounded by people that I genuinely have an appreciation for, and they feel the same way about me. We have a mutual love, respect and admiration for each other. We motivate, challenge and encourage one another so WE can improve as ONE.
The end goal is to be happy. Find something that motivates you each and every day. Take control and give back with hopes of fulfilling someone else’s dream. Earn respect and admiration for being honest and respectful. Show appreciation and the gratitude received in return will be more rewarding than you can ever imagine.
The purpose of this post was to be upfront and honest. I wanted to share my experiences so that it helps not only myself but others as well. Develop a system that provides the motivation needed to succeed. Self-doubt and failure can break you down to the point where you can never recover from it. Avoid stressful situations, take time off, go for a walk, spend time with your family but most importantly be content with who YOU are and NOT how you think you’re portrayed by others. We’re human and we can’t always be perfect or live up to expectations at all times.
I learned a valuable lesson years ago when I worked at the Pentagon the morning of 9/11. Count your blessings each moment. Don’t take anything for granted because life is short. What many of you don’t know, I was supposed to be on that side of the building that day.
#KindnessMatters my friends.
Will this post affect our relationship negatively? If not, what good did you take away from it?
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. If I can answer any questions, please let me know. The goal is to focus on TEAM and we’re going to make this world and community a happier place as ONE.
God bless and thanks for your support, friendship and kindness. What many of you don’t realize, you’ve been an absolute blessing in my career and life. Keep up the great work and inspiration!
“For fate has a way of charting its own course, but before one surrenders to the hands of destiny, one might consider the power of the human spirit and the force that lies in one’s own free will” Lost/The Final Chapter 2010.