Friday, January 14, 2011

Teaching old dogs new tricks

If you don't already know, I work at a company that makes software for banks.

And last september, the news came out that we were going to take in the 3rd biggest bank in Denmark by 2012. Up until now, this bank have had their own IT unit, but as demands from laws and than kind of thing has been growing, they found it less and less attractive - they were spending a lot of manpower meeting legal demands, and as a result had too little manpower left over to develop new systems to help support their business.

As they looked around, they found a willing and competent partner in my company - Bankdata. It is owned by a number of local banks, the largest being no. 4 in Denmark.

What followed was - a number of people working at their IT unit in Silkeborg, had to swap places with a number of people working at my company in Fredericia. The two towns are a 75 minute drive apart - so to make up for that, driving to work is paid for, both the expense and the time, up until the final conversion of their systems into ours in october 2012.

By november it became clear that my department was being sent to Silkeborg, and I was really fine with that, given the good conditions we got. I mean, I am quite fleksible - or at least, I thought I was.

Now I have worked in Silkeborg for little over a month, and I can say that it has been a lot harder than I had figured at the time. To be quite frank, moving my work base that far away hit me like a ton of bricks - for a number of reasons.

For one, the drive. It is a 91 km drive to Silkeborg, and the last half is on smaller roads, where passing slower vehicles is very difficult. Add to that a lot of snow, slippery roads, and temperatures down where the salt they spread on the roads don't have any effect whatsoever. Even though I am not a nervous or anxious driver, a long trip in the dark (morning starts around 8 this time of year), with your senses at high peak to be ready for all kinds of situations, is tiring.

Another thing - new surroundings. A new office building. New people. Having to figure out where the cafeteria, the printer, the meeting rooms, the coffee automat - pretty much EVERYTHING - is. Not being able to book meeting rooms, not being able to operate the video meeting equipment. Working on a technical setup that is far from good (actually feeling like a VERY temporary setup), and working out all the quirks on that.

The change in pace - because driving is part of your working day, as a rule you lose 2,5 hours of working time e-v-e-r-y day. It really makes your cadence go down seriously - and even though I know those are the terms right now, it is very frustrating for a result oriented project manager. So far, we have managed to make ends meet in my team - due to the guys being really good sports and using extra hours on the bonus deal our company has given us (put down 100 extra hours the next year and get a money bonus on top of your overtime pay).

The change in your everyday life. A lot of my working days start at 6 in the morning, when I leave Fredericia to drive to Silkeborg, I choose to do my overtime in the morning, to have it affect my family life the least. So I have to change my sleep pattern, or be very tired at the end of the week. And I don't get the nice mornings with breakfast and coffee and breakfast table chit-chat with Bruno and Kristian that I am used to.
Also, I am suddenly far away from my kids, my doctor, my hairdresser, my dentist, my chiropractor.... it takes a bit more logistics to make things work.

So, all in all, there has been a lot of change. A lot of it not positive. And I have had times where it has been difficult for me to focus on why this is a good thing. Even though I know it is for a bigger purpose, and that it will make sense in the end, it has been a hard pill to swallow.

To be perfectly honest, I've been experiencing slight stress symptoms this december. Notice: I have not had STRESS, but I've had a couple of alarm lights flashing, that I recognize all too well. For one thing, I have been sleeping poorly. A classic stress giveaway for me. I've been waking up in the wee hours of the morning, and not been able to go back to sleep. Most frequently on the nights, where I've had to go to Silkeborg the next day. My moods have been up and down - mostly down - and my usual love for my job has been faltering. I have not been feeling happy at all.

I guess it must have been showing. Because about a week ago my dpt. manager looked at me during our weekly status - actually I was just catching my breath after a long ramble explaining how things were going in my team - and said "How about you - are you okay?".
Difficult question. But I had to fess up - and say that I had been happier.
"I know," he said "You are usually a happy girl, but you haven't been smiling lately." Good leadership work - he is a busy guy, and I am a fairly good actress.

Sometimes I've had this unpleasant experience that I found my mouth opening and a lot of negative stuff came out. And that is really not the kind of person I want to be. But it seems like somebody was taking over my body, and I was sitting on my own shoulder yelling "HEY!! Stop it!! This is not me, I am happy, positive and flexible!!"

So - I've been working really hard with myself to solve this situation. I've been thinking about how I could fit this challenge into my life in a way that would make me find my smile and my love for what I do again. The good news is, I thing I am winning this one. I've found a set of routines and a mindset, that I can work with.

And this week, the amazing thing happened: I sat at work, and I heard myself laughing. Hard and hearty, and I have felt good and energetic. My joy at working is back, and best of all: I sleep like a baby all night, every night.

So - it is possible teaching an old bitch new tricks. All you need is time :-)

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