My first visit into the office in 7 months showed almost all wall calendars remaining on March, 2020 when we all came home to work for “a few months” which has become many more months.

For the past three years, I have helped with the TEDxSpringfield event held at my company’s headquarters in Springfield, MA. While my involvement is very minimal other than the day before and day of the event, I get to attend and interact with the speakers. These two days are my favorite of the year as far as work is concerned. The speakers are fantastic and the topics, for the most part, are very energetic and/or moving. Yesterday was no exception.

The day started off with Sylena Echevarria who works for my company. Sylena’s description of packing her clothes into a plastic bag as she and her mother escaped from her alcoholic and abusive father. They left as soon as his abuse spread from her mother to her. Her mother then proceeded to eventually take care of her father, along with her new husband, until he died. It was a true story of forgiveness.

John “Ringo” Longo then spoke about music and how he has woven music into his life. Next, Bill Miller brought many tears to the audience with his talk about homelessness and how when he started, he was told that sometimes you just have to walk over some homeless to help others. The day continued with many speakers including Nick Cummings who discussed getting “unsad” as he dealt with medical woes as he grew up. The day ended with Angela Lessier who discussed crawling into bed for a month and living off credit cards while she figured out how to create, then start her new business. Each speaker was motivating and had a wonderful story to bring to the audience.

One of the best things about attending this conference each year is getting to have one-on-one conversations with attendees and presenters. It was an exceptional day.

TEDxSpringfield 2015 Angela LussierTEDxSpringfield2015 Nick Cummings TEDxSpringfield2015 - Sylena

29. July 2013 · Comments Off on Hitting stride · Categories: family, moving, work

Almost everyone who knows me knows that I’m a runner. I’m a slow, back of the pack older runner. But, when you’ve been running long enough, you occasionally have an excellent run. That run is when your legs feel good, your breathing isn’t labored, and your pace is faster than normal without effort. Without glancing at your Garmin, you know that your time was good, the run was nearly perfect. It is that day that you have hit your stride. The run before this one was hard, the next one will be hard as well. But for now, you are able to enjoy this perfect run; you can enjoy hitting your stride.

But this isn’t about running.

To be clear, this isn’t about being cocky, feeling that you’re working harder than anyone else, or feeling that you’re better. It’s quite the opposite. It’s an internal feeling. It’s about the internal comfort that you feel when things just click — you’re positive that you are making a small difference in the overall scheme of your company. It’s when you’re fairly certain that you have advocates that would shout out, “No” if they saw your name on a list of employees to be laid off.

To me, I consider a long term job as one that I’ve been in for 5 or more years. To date, I have had just three of them, but in each one, I’ve eventually felt like I’ve hit my stride.

The first was in Arizona. I spent two years in the life insurance industry. While I totally believed in the product, I was in the wrong business. So I started working for a small company as employee #40, soon to be one of 250 as we grew like gangbusters and were acquired by a number of larger, public companies as the years went along. In all, I was with the group for 10 years, providing internal support and supporting our largest customers as a consultant. My opinion was not only respected, but often, customers would not decide on a path until I weighed in on their best solution and best path. After working there for a number of years, I was well established as the go-to person to get work done and the guy who could find a solution to almost any problem. When the company was sold for the last time, I was one of the few that was kept on as a valued “transition” employee. I was paid extra to help the transition and ultimately, was scheduled to lose my job when the transition was completed. I’d also get a big bonus at the end of the transition and could have found another, similar position during this fantastic job market. Ultimately, the new company found they desperately needed the skills that I brought to the table, and wouldn’t let me go at the end of the transition. I received both the bonus for working through the transition and was the only person given a job at the end of that transition. I had created a niche for myself. While I didn’t realize it at the time, this was the first time I had hit my stride. But a year after transition, it was time to move the family back East and start over.

The next job was for a Fortune 200 retailer in the corporate headquarters in Virginia. I spent a bit over 10 years there as well, first as a manager, then as an individual contributor leading the information security admin team. After leaving management, I worked at another position as the information security team was started. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I found myself as the senior most person on the team with influence seemingly across our entire corporation. Through persistent networking both within and outside of the company, I became the one sought out by senior management, HR. loss prevention, and legal teams to facilitate investigations, knowledge sharing, and provide insight as to what course of actions should be taken regarding all things information security related. While the company struggled in many ways, I had hit my stride. I had the respect of my peers, the senior thought leaders, human resources, and our legal team. But with the knowledge that the company was heading for bankruptcy, we decided it was time to move on and relocate to New England.

I am currently in my third long-term position. I’ve been with my current employer for a bit over five years, hoping for many more. This is by far the most fiscally stable company I’ve ever worked for and unlike previous employers, will be in business long after I leave or retire. While I performed the job that I was hired for over the first 3 1/2 years of my tenure, my position morphed into a new position for me. At the time of transition, I was the senior member of the team yet again. To say I was apprehensive of this change is a gross understatement. Many people on my new team have decades of experience in similar positions; I was the newbie once again. My employer is large, although private, but is in a highly regulated financial services industry. We need to follow many standards for data security and processes that I needed to follow.

During my first 3 years, I had the pleasure to interface with individuals across the organization. Finding people networking as one of my top skills, I loved interacting with them. Some of my co-workers laugh when the see just how many people speak to me by name as we walk the halls of our glorious building. Less than two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to have dinner with our Chief Technical Officer in a casual atmosphere. While I have known him for five years, it was the first real social interaction we’ve shared. During dinner, he asked me to act as one of a short list of representatives for the department among our sales leaders from across the company. The annual conference is this week and happens to be in Boston. So I am representing the collaboration space (chat, social networking, video chat, and so on) to this elite group of salesmen and saleswomen. It is quite an honor to be asked to do this, and to be just one of a few asked is even more special. The fact that a senior, c-level exec asked me personally means even more. To me, it means that, perhaps again, things have started to click and I’ve started to hit my stride. This is both when the work cranks up and when my ability to hide disappears.

So I said that this wasn’t about running. That may be because I’ve been fighting with my left hamstring for more than a month. I was training for the Hartford Half Marathon and pulled the hammy late into a 5 mile training run. A couple of PT sessions later, it’s better but I’m still not allowed by the therapist to run. When cleared, it’s going to take slow work to get the leg back and the October 12th deadline will be here long before I’m ready. I’ll struggle and never be where I wanted to be when the half comes around. I’ll never get back into my comfort zone and make it an easy 13.1 mile run. I’ll never hit my stride, at least this year.

In most aspects, I enjoy the work it takes to hit stride. For now, I’ll enjoy living in the moment for as long as time allows. For now, it’s time to focus and do the hard work needed to stay in the zone.

This week, my wife and I celebrated our 26th anniversary. As of the end of last year, we’ve been together for over half of my life. Tonight, we celebrate with dinner at one of the more fancy restaurants around Hartford. Max’s has several themed restaurants around Hartford and Springfield; we are heading to the seafood themed one in Glastonbury. It should be a lovely, relaxing dinner with fantastically prepared fresh seafood. I’m hungry just thinking about it.

Work has been ramping up lately due to both an acquisition and the fruition of an almost two year old project. Timing is critical for folding in the acquisition, but I am involved in just a small portion of the activities. It’s enough to keep me very busy with trying to figure out just how involved I need to be. The two year old project is one that is very visible to many in the organization. It involves changing the way that people work from home, both regularly and occasionally such as during a snow storm. To say that this is being handled with kid gloves is an understatement.

To keep my sanity, I have been running 3 – 4 days per week, no less than 3 miles, no more than 5 so far. The weather has kept me on the safe treadmill at my local YMCA, but it’s starting to look like outdoor runs can start to happen on the weekends. It’s still extremely dark when we head to the gym, so think it’s likely safer to stay there for a while longer during the week. It’s supposed to be in the 40s today, so may try to get in a quick run outside later.

I ran five miles on the treadmill yesterday morning, although my normally trusty Garmin 305 hiccuped and didn’t record it. I actually ran the first 3+ miles straight through, rather than using the Galloway run/walk/run method. I was pleased and not overly stiff afterwards, although the last two miles where I incorporated the walking were actually faster than the first three. I don’t get it, but think I just need to trust the numbers and incorporate walking for almost every run.

I have been seriously considering joining a training team to take on a longer distance race. Today, I’m heading into a town near here to determine if I can make a 6:30 AM Saturday run every weekend for 16+ weeks. If so, I’ll join the group and do my best to keep up. I heard back from the coordinator that there are runners at all levels, including those that incorporate walking and those that are at a much slower pace than I am. I really miss the comradery of running with a group – especially my gals from Richmond. But we became close during those long runs and were each other’s support when feeling down or discouraged when training for our first half marathon. My favorite runs were the 10K Wednesday runs. They were at night when it was quiet, and a perfect way to close out the middle of the week. It was there that I first talked to Erin about the plans to sell our home in Richmond, and the first time I revealed plans to relocate to New England. It was there that the reality of relocation started to hit.

I have a couple of training plans that I’m reviewing now, knowing that the longer runs would never be accomplished without some sort of external support. You can only run so many miles without refilling water or grabbing something to munch on. Doing loops around my neighborhood is not my idea of a good time (and there are way too many hills)! Hopefully, this group will be one where I can find my way and there will be other newbies like me that are slow and supportive of each other in our request to cross something off our personal bucket lists.


27. February 2013 · Write a comment · Categories: work · Tags:

Recently, my wife has been working a huge number of hours. She has a fairly thankless job, working mostly for physicians who completely under value the value that she brings. She works a tremendous number of hours in late January, all of February, and during the first part of March, through the annual meeting. Today, for example, she left the house around 7:30 am. She didn’t take a lunch break at all, and was still at her desk until after 9:30 pm. It is utterly ridiculous.

Last year, it was bad – just not as bad as this year. The doctors have gotten worse, with the continued expectations that more work can be done with zero additional staff being added up front. The outlook doesn’t look much better.

So it’s time for her to start looking for another position.

Today I headed to the gym at the office to get in a weigh in for the five pounds in six weeks contest at work. I started at more than I really weighed, but at a known amount. Today was four weeks in and I decided I needed a good weigh in. So far, I am down eight pounds, only needing five total. A few tricks used include weighing in after a tough run at the gym. I ran four and a half miles on the treadmill this morning. I was soaked in the way home, then didn’t eat before weighing in. I was very pleased, considering we have another two weeks until the final weigh in for our team.

As team captain, I sent a quick email to my team today, urging them to weigh in at the most opportune time for them next week. I will likely weigh in on Wednesday morning, after all a fantastic workout and little water. It should be an easy weigh in after that. Then, it’ll be time for a fantastic breakfast!

Work has been very interesting lately. And when I say interesting, I really mean a great deal of time is spent cranking through the increasingly overwhelming volume of work. I currently have 30 projects assigned, and am dealing with many things outside of projects as well. To top it off, August is my month to cover for the the team for many different topics – collecting and reporting the weekly metrics, attending the weekly Monday morning meeting to discuss those metrics, and both preparing for and attending the project “triage” meetings. I’m simply not sure how I can get this done.

To add icing to the cake, life at home has been somewhat challenging as well. Because of the number of hours I’m working, I come home stressed every single day. Knowing I have more than I can possibly accomplish at work means that I’m really thinking about work almost 24×7. Sue has been managing everything around the house – all cleaning, cooking, and kid duty. She has been doing a fantastic job as what has basically turned into being a single Mom. Sure, I’m there occasionally and do mow the law on weekends, but she’s really the captain of the household ship. I don’t give her nearly enough credit for all that she does.

To help keep my sanity, I continue to run and train for the two fall half marathons. Perhaps this is the one area that I am doing okay. The running actually does clear my head (even though it hurts the body), and has allowed me to continue my 5 – 6 hours of sleep most days. The problem is that I need to be up at 4:15 many mornings to get in my run and get to my desk by 7:15 – 7:30. So, when I stop at night, I drop. If I sit in front of the TV for a few minutes, I am asleep in minutes. I have to get my work clothes out for the next day, so I have things to do. While I know that the running / training takes a good amount of time, I understand that this is the only real way to keep my brain from just exploding.

Is it September yet?