Life’s Funny Little Challenges/Changes

This is a long one you can skip if you wish!!

When things are generally going well with life most people hope that time slows so that we can take the time to enjoy the experience – examples are when your kids are first born and you are getting to know these wonderful little people.  Some would skip by things like the terrible two’s and potty training and some would not.  Another example is when you first fall in love with the person you spend most of your life with – it is exciting and you hope it goes on forever.

Then there are the more mundane bits of a person’s life; work, hobbies, volunteerism, social activities that may be with or without your significant other.  It is fun that we, as humans, have this marvelous ability to turn productive time into reading a fiction book, playing a video game, doing a sudoku puzzle or learning something like Poulenc’s Stabat Mater. Do we want these bits of time to become endless – sometimes they seem to all on their own, especially in a troublesome tonal bit written by Francis, but no in general I don’t think we want those times to stretch out.  So what happens when a person absolutely loves their job and finds that they wake up in the morning raring to go 80 to 90% of the time?  You need to remind yourself that you are very fortunate to have such a great workspace. team(s), boss and place to do what you do!  You also should remind yourself not to take it for granted, as it could all change at the drop of a hat!

If you look at some of my other posts or my linkedin profile you will see I spent around 29 years in the Canadian Army – 22 plus of those with the regular forces.  I joined, not thinking how long I would spend in the army, because I did not want to not join and then think about what could have been if I had joined.  I didn’t have any misgivings about not becoming a school teacher, where I was alternatively headed so I guess my subconscious had a better grip on what I wanted than my conscious.  That being said I thoroughly enjoyed most of my 22 years in the forces moving 10 times and going on three operational tours (Golan Heights, Former Yugoslavia, Iraq) plus countless time spent on courses and exercises.  It absolutely helps to find someone whom you get to share all that experience with – and my lovely wife and children fit the bill wonderfully.  So, sometimes you feel that your career is going well and sometimes you get the feeling that your career is not going so well, you don’t know the right people, you weren’t at the right posting when you should have been, or you are told that you are too old to go on a certain course.  It doesn’t matter what the reasons are – you are just as capable as the person beside you and you prove it but – alas – wrong time and place.  What would have been nice would have been a little transparency, and I think I advocated for that on a number of occasions and in a number of forums where it would have been nice to have been heard.  Ladies I only got a glimmer of the meaning of “glass ceiling” and I didn’t like that either.

So, when you start wondering what comes next you should start taking charge of it.  I did, I started looking at the want ads and the job market – better to get ready when you don’t need one than panic start when you do.  I think not needing a job also helped in the interview phases.  Well after a few responses and interviews my wife and youngest son had a little conversation that went something like this:

Son – Mom can you get a job?

Wife – What? Why?

Son – I think you need to get a job so we don’t have to move away from my friends anymore.

Wife – Oh!

That simple conversation changed things!

As happens in life one of the interviews I was having was a second one with ETS (first one was for a different position that didn’t work out) and when I left I was driving home with the distinct impression that they would be offering me a position.  Oh what to do???

They did, I accepted and what followed were 5.5 very good years out of almost 8 at ETS.  Right off the bat I was put into a garage with a team of strong supervisors and became part of a very strong, collaborative and exciting team of peers.  We were given a mandate to change things and to provide support to our operators as well as those who supported them.  Myself and one other from my team of peers were not born and raised at ETS and so had some aspects of the job and culture to learn, me way more so than others.  Regardless, we made some pretty good headway in making sure our people were treated the same way no matter which garage they may have worked in.  We were justifiably proud of what we did and our boss was just as proud.  Then at about the two year mark one of my peers decided to retire – he had the job out of that first interview I had with ETS and boy was I glad I didn’t get it then!!!

After hemming and hawing and getting a little push from others I applied – I was successful and so moved to another powerful transit team, while still staying in my growing group of peers.

There followed 5 years of fulfilling change oriented work where we changed things for the better – allowed people to follow their own heads, so to speak, and worked on consistency and providing excellent service to all of those who were our customers. At the 3 year mark our Boss decided it was time for him, too, to retire and spend more time on his alternate career as a city councilor.  We had a year to get ready for his departure but it was hard when it finally came – this man could give leadership pointers to some of the best CO’s I ever had in the Army!!  At least we had 5 years with him and can still count on his wise counsel even after 2 years of retirement.

Well, to say the last two years have been challenging would be an understatement.  His replacement did not come from out of the pool of his direct reports which is OK – although most of us would have liked to have had the chance to apply for the position!!  His replacement started in the position with an 11 month secondment.  He came to the job with great, on the surface, credentials – B Eng, M Eng, MBA, MBA, CGA.  No, not a typo – two MBAs.  He was also just 35!   Pretty significant accomplishments in a short time so we all waited to see what would happen next.  Was he going to take us from where we were with Wes and keep us moving forward along those lines, would he provide us with a new direction?  Did the ETS manager have other plans and was just putting him in with us to gain experience with a strong team with the intent of moving him along into another Director’s position?  We did not know!

I won’t go into any details of the last two years here – sorry!  Suffice it to say I started looking for new positions about 6 months after our new director was in position – about the time he was made permanent without any competition.  The first job I applied for was the position he had come out of and I was very surprised when I made it to the interview phase – I didn’t think I would get the position but was happy for an interview.  It isn’t that I had not looked at different jobs that were available  since I started with ETS, I wasn’t ready to leave before that point, nor did I want to “betray” my former Boss at least that was how it would have felt regardless of whether it was true or not.  I did not have any worries about betraying my new boss, I was more worried about leaving my team still under his influence.

I really was looking for a way out of my great job with my great team!  Sounds very silly but there it is.  I still could not ask for a better group of folks to work with!!  Anyway I would concentrate my job search for positions within the city as well as in the public sector around the Edmonton area.  I had a few bites – one was for a secondment in a director’s position in another branch with the city but for administrative reasons it fell through, but it did lead to a later secondment for me.

I was offered a secondment with Fleet Services working on competencies and performance appraisals – don’t laugh until you try it.  Anyway, I was full steam on these projects when I was advised that the position of Director of Transit in the City of Saskatoon was open.  I applied while I was on that vacation to Cuernavaca and not thinking anything would come of it went back to work.

If you haven’t already guessed I was offered the position and have chosen to accept it.  Presently I am on vacation between the two jobs trying to sort out what happens next for the wife and family.  Here are some more touching and funny bits:

  • Since I have announced I am leaving I have had all sorts of comments from people like Edmonton’s loss is Saskatoon’s gain;
  • All sorts of congratulations and sorry to see you go but your gonna do greats from all sorts of people;
  • All sorts of NOOOOO don’t go! followed quickly by good luck!
  • There were two others who changed jobs on Monday – my first day of vacation – the new director I talk about above and his boss. I’m not sure if there is anyone sad to see them leave?  I’m thinking it is more but – bye!!

Now that’s the end of the story!


2 thoughts on “Life’s Funny Little Challenges/Changes

  1. I’ve enjoyed your most recent two posts, Jim! My comment bullet I would add is “Who will you sing with in Saskatoon???” I suppose that is likely not your priority at this point but I will eagerly wait to see the outcome. I will also be sad not to see you at choir concerts here. But onwards and upwards!

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