It’s been three years and more now since I got the job. The weight of expectations from the company is heavy indeed. Upper management have been proven to be ruthless with the other departments so far, particularly with my counterparts back at Headquarters in Boston, the company’s home soil. Well, they did headhunt me for this job, so I shouldn’t really worry about getting fired now for not meeting those Key Performance Indexes right away. I mean, sure, profits and margins are all that matters but you’ve got to make sure your team is built and geared towards sustainable work that brings in the profit. You’ve got to lay the foundations first. A team just can’t miraculously start making money when the previous managers before me didn’t implement good proven solid work processes. So, no, they won’t fire me just like how they did with my counterparts in Boston. Not yet, at least. Those guys over there have had loads of time, I suppose.
Now, I’ve yet to manage in a large multinational enterprise like this one before, and the last consultancy firm that I managed was small but they were in the same league as this company right now, so…I’m not exactly out of my depth here at all. My academic qualifications have come from abroad, I’ve even interned at companies as big as this one, and I did work with a huge multinational before, right after I had graduated from university. I was a senior analyst, not management at that time. Well, you can’t exactly promote a fresh graduate into a manager overnight, can you? But my time with that huge multinational as a senior analyst was no waste at all. I had a great manager then. Learned a lot from him. In fact, as chance has it, he’s managing one of our biggest competitors now. Hated his style but I learned a lot nevertheless.
When I was interviewed for this current job, I wasn’t so sure if I was good fit. After all, I was doing great as the manager for that smaller consultancy firm. But chances like these don’t come often, so I grabbed all my thesis and documents that I had produced from my years abroad as an intern, updated them from my job as senior analyst and presented them to the men who interviewed me. It gave them a sense of what sort of plans and work processes that I could implement for their huge company, which was dying in the market at that time. They needed fresh ideas and I had tonnes of them. That’s how I got this job.
It started off well, the processes were put in place immediately. I got my team new tools and got them up to speed with new technology. I got a couple of guys from my old consultancy firm to join us. It pissed my older boss off, but that’s business. The team immediately started picking up the new skills using the new technology and started performing okay. My team leader had been with the company a long time. It was his first and only job at that time, so he’s built a helluva reputation. I’ve heard about his programming skills long before I had even joined the company. He was a tech guru, won a few awards in the industry and is almost as old as I am. I was intimidated because obviously the team had looked at him to be their leader at all times. They had looked at him as if he was this hero that could perform miracles and save the projects that they were involved in at the death. To be fair, he did perform these miracles many a times before I joined as manager. Like I said, everyone in the industry knew him. So, it was very intimidating and I knew I had to make sure he was on my side. Truth be told, his skills were getting slow. Age does that. But he was still a hero and I can’t get him to turn the team against me so early in the job.
We did well in the first fiscal year. My bosses were understanding of the fact that I needed time for my processes to bed in, the new technology used were also going through some teething problems. But I had a few damn good programmers and architects. One of these architects was very young but the boy knew how to design a database like a wizard. One programmer was so good that he riled up people around him when he was in the zone. He liked biting stuff while programming but the team loved him because he gave his all, all the time.
It was the second year that things spiraled out of control. My work processes and ideas, the technology, everything clicked like some magical story. But really, it was because my ace programmers were coming up with some really cutting edge solutions that the customers loved. We made a lot of money that year. We were competing with the big boys again. We got tenders to come up with solutions for big customers in Europe. All was well, until the one ace programmer we had left for another competitor. I was perturbed but I fully believed that HR would come up with some replacements, and with my work processes and the technology that I had put in place, it wouldn’t really affect how we perform as a team. I was cock sure that we would still make money and get more tenders. Well, I was wrong. Our projects failed to meet expectations. I was constantly fighting fires since the early days of that fiscal year. HR didn’t get me the replacements, but they got me some top young analysts and programmers to join the team. Getting these guys to assimilate into our work processes and using our technology proved to be a challenge for me. As I was trying my best to get them to notch up their skills, one of my other ace programmers got injured and had to get an operation. And out of nowhere, HR gets me this programmer that I knew was a trouble maker with his previous employers. A prima donna of sorts. He was a clown in the office, a party animal and I didn’t like it one bit. He wasn’t a bad influence but he was detrimental to the team ethic that I tried so hard to build earlier when we were making profits.
My Team Leader by this point was insisting that he lead all the projects and designed all the new solutions per requirements from the customer. It was taking out the creativity from the rest of the team. He wanted to micro manage every design and every project. But I couldn’t say no to him. I lose him, I would lose the team, which means I would lose my job. I hate being political in the office but I just couldn’t stop him from doing things his way. Which affected our work processes and just squeezed the creative juices away from the team. Finally, I had to pull him off one of our biggest tenders in Europe, and he lost it. He threw his resignation papers a couple of weeks after that. I was devastated but I had to put a brave front on. He agreed to stay on until the end of the year.
Slowly but surely, my belief in my skills at managing teams waned. I just couldn’t get the team to come up with ideas, the work processes seemed broken. I felt that I didn’t have time to counsel each one to perform better for the sake of the team and for what the company expected from us. It was chaos with all the drama going around in the office, with that joker of a programmer, with my team leader’s petulance, and with another programmer away on sick leave so long.
My annual assessment didn’t seem that bad to me, but I was told that I’ve had sufficient time by then to implement my ideas and work processes, and no excuses were forthcoming enough for them. Rumors from my mates in the industry were saying that my bosses had already found my replacement in the form a German hotshot. I was prepared for the worst, I did give my best after all. The assessment results weren’t positive but I convinced them that another year with more plans to avoid the firefighting that we had the year before would be a ‘game changer’. I was told to get rid of my advisors, the good mates of mine, and replace them with more experienced ones. They would be there to challenge my ideas, to give a sense of balance, to share insights from within the industry. I didn’t really have choice in this matter and accepted the directions as any good employee would. My job was on the line, after all.
And so, here we are, a month into the new fiscal year. I’ve hired new analysts, programmers, all young and eager to impress. I even hired a competitor’s senior designer, he was desperate for a change in his career. Things seem to be chugging along well. Projects are moving smoothly, no delays thus far. Fingers crossed, it’ll stay this way until Christmas and maybe I can convince upper management for more funds.
Now, if only my football club’s manager would just do his job and not screw things up as badly as he did last season, maybe I can enjoy this fiscal year!