Why Did You Do It?


That’s the question that everyone keeps asking me these days. For those who may visit this post at a later date, I recently resigned from a global bank based in America in order to take a role at a small web development shop, Signature Tech Studio. The answer to why is relatively simple, I love the guys at Signature Tech Studio, I desire to work with them, and I ultimately believe the experience will be both more fun and more rewarding than continuing in a role that, admittedly, is already fun and rewarding.

That doesn’t tend to sit well with most folks. I think they really want to hear some juicy gossip about how I feel the big corporate entity did me wrong and I simply can’t continue to work there in good faith. Perhaps something about how the man was keeping me down? I’m not sure. The simple truth is that I have loved working at the bank and found a lot of joy there. I was allowed the opportunity to serve on numerous teams, afforded to ability to move from Chicago to Charlotte and continue employment at the same firm, and ultimately, the past year, to exercise my passion as a IT artificer and technology smith.

It is seldom that one gets the opportunity to do what they love alongside others who have the same passions and aptitude for realizing those passions, and there is no doubt that this was the case for me at the bank. I have a love for enormous, complex problem spaces, and the global nature of the organization afforded me just as many of those types of problems as I had an appetite for. There can be no doubt that I had fun and you should get no inference that I believe that would have ceased had I remained at the bank. Good times, good people, and a win-win situation all the way around.

The Lesser Reason

Of course, no job is utterly without its frustrations and rough edges. The nature of a global enterprise is such that change is slow and hard to affect, while a smaller organization can necessarily be more nimble and react quickly to changes. As a harbinger of change, the enterprise architecture approval process was my nemesis, sort of a primordial change resistant undertow constantly wearing one down. The enterprise technology team wasn’t incented to help solve my business problems; for example, it recently took six months to just get a new server racked and stacked. The promotion process is absolutely not about doing the right thing or even rewarding performance, it is all about who you know and whether you worked on a project that was important to them (and they realize it) the past year. The bank laptop is so standardized and “protected” that I felt it a better substitute for an boat anchor than a forge on which I might pursue my craft; and any conversation that swung towards changing that was met with a group of mercenaries hired to inflict pain and suffering. But seriously, the need for such process, methodology, and even social networking in a large organization is certainly needful and I would not present any argument that it is unwarranted (though I do have some ideas about making the laptops more usable!).

There are definitely some fun contrasts, and unfortunately for large organizations they tend to be contrasts that drive someone like myself to the smaller shop. In the new role, I was allowed to choose any laptop (Sony Vaio F Series, i7 w/8Gigs) I wanted along with any operating system (Windows 7 Ultimate) I desired … hello! That tends to be a pretty big win right there. I know the Bank OS builds would simply ignore any RAM over 4 Gigs … but even if they didn’t, wscript.exe would eat up all the resources anyway!

I get to innovate, really. Big enterprise will say, “Oh, we encourage innovation here. We desire innovation here. We reward innovation here. As long as the innovation is done on the reservation, within pre-defined limits, with pre-defined tools and technologies, in such a way that looks exactly like the 20+ man oversight committee has agreed to.” So, most people immediately realize that the sentence is flawed. We did innovate at the Bank, we did some awesome stuff, and we have the ROI calculators in place to demonstrate how we can attribute Tens of Millions of US Dollars back to the bottom line in 2009 as a direct impact due to the innovation, the reward was ok, but was, dare I say, significantly out of proportion with the performance and impact of the team, particularly over the past two years.

It would be great if big companies really did take the Google Innovation Time Off approach, but seriously … there are way to many risk averse bean counters at a Bank in America to be comfortable. How would they know that you are doing anything, much less something that will ultimately be worth what they are paying you to do, which is not to be fooling around with technology but solving real banking business problems. My new company encourages me to do what I love, play with technology, stay on the cutting edge, and if at all possible … define the next horizon, we be risky adrenaline junkies — Can I get a Whoot! Whoot!

You simply do not find guys like Joseph and Josh in big corporate cubicle farms. Oh, you might meet them in passing there (Drew Shields for example), but they are only moving thru on their way to positions that will allow them to leverage their skills in wild, wild, west of the unexplored. I want to work side by side with these guys, they are doing cool stuff! They are thinking uniquely cool thoughts! They are converting that stuff and those thoughts into reward while they are at it! Just imagine what we can do together, because that thought makes me giddy with excitement.

So, to recap, the new position allows me to do more of what I love, it allows me to do what I love my way, I get to work with some awesome guys, and all the while maintain the same standard of living (which was slipping away at that Bank). Had the opportunity not presented itself, I would not have been looking for a new job and would still be tweeting about how awesome the work from home program is, how fantastic the innovation team is, and how you do not want to invest time and energy in comparing your job with mine because you simply wouldn’t fare well. Most of you can stop reading here – you have some idea as to why now and it most likely satisfies you. However, it is the lesser reason.

The Greater Reason

The single, primary reason that I left Bank of America to work for Joseph at Signature Tech Studio? I am convicted that it is the decision that will ultimately most glorify my God. If you know me at all, you had to know that was it. I was aware of the a calling to work for Joseph long before he made the offer and even after he made some tentative advances that I played down. Once the offer was on the table, Tracey and I spent a solid four weeks praying about the decision and determining that we are both in agreement that this is where our God leads us, as redneck as I might be, I certainly require Tracey’s conviction that this is the correct decision for our family. Additionally, I shared this information with a few friends trusted for their wisdom and counsel, and they all encouraged the move as well.

You see, as intellectually blessed, as cool as the stuff they are working on is, as ready as they are to dive into a crazy, chaotic, techno-challenge – these men, Joseph and Josh, love my God and seek to serve Him in all they do. They do this with a passion that humbles me and makes me desire to be more like them as they are more like my Lord. To simply be interacting with them on a daily basis with things so mundane as how to best configure scheduled tasks on MS Windows is fantastic, but we also praise God together. We have prayed together more than the number of day’s I’ve worked there so far, and that doesn’t appear to be slowing down! This relationship among the men I strive with is what I most covet.

Dad used to tell me, “Son. The grass always looks greener on the other side. Remember that it rarely is when you look at it.” Dad was, as ever, correct.

The keyword is in the last sentence, rarely.

The good Lord has seen fit to let it be that the grass really is greener over here.


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September 12, 2016

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