Adventures in moving cross country- Volume 12: Securing a Remote Position
Originally, when we had came up with the plan to move cross country, I was of the mind that I would just be irresponsible and cash out my 401k and take a few months off of work.
There are plenty of Credit Union jobs in Lansing. I have the skills and experience to get something in the way of a branch management. I was also looking at training jobs and remote positions that I may be able to get into based on my record of creating material and facilitating trainings. Either way, I was confident that I would be able to find something that would at least get me the mortgage and perhaps if it didn't work out, once I got to Lansing, I'd take out some student loans again and become a massage therapist!
I did give my boss pretty much a one year notice and one of the recurring conversations we would have would include jokes about "Well, you could just keep working here remotely!" But when I came back from visiting Michigan, I went out on a limb and tried to see if maybe there really was a kernel of truth in that particular humor. So I asked if she thought it might really be a possibility. Her eyes lit up and I had my small ray of hope.
The next step was to talk to another one of the women I worked with to create and facilitate training - we can call her future boss. When I broached the subject with her, after much anxious trepidation on my part, she was also fully supportive and thought it could be done. She gave me some guidance regarding where the idea should be spread to next- my boss should take it up to her boss, an executive who is pretty much the CEO's right hand woman.
I really do need to stress here how I am a VERY anxious person. Fortunately, my most wonderful boss was up to the task and laid it out as an opportunity to help bridge some gaps in our current training model. I was so relieved not to have to propose that myself, but I was like a dog waiting at the door when the school bus comes by when she came back from that meeting. I was so excited when she said that her boss was absolutely on board! But now it was a matter of meeting with and submitting the proposal to pretty much everyone else I knew to figure out if we could make it work.
A few of the first folks we needed to buy in would need a written proposal, so I researched what went into an executive proposal and whipped one up. Well, first I created a self-bragging novel of why I am a great candidate to continue working and can be trusted to work remotely. I then boiled it down to a simple one page with bullet points that illustrated what the need was, how I could fill it and a call to action to make it happen now. The last piece was easy, it was already March and there was not much time to make the decision and then get all the pieces in place while I was still in town.
I couldn't just send out emails to these people, because half of my charm is my sweaty in person approach, but also I couldn't quite find the words that didn't make it seem like "Hey, I'm moving- can you just make me a position so I don't have to go find another job?" So, instead, I conveniently had meetings with some of the stakeholders in having me continue on remotely and after we had talked about the completely legitimate reasons that we were having a meeting for and then I would whip out my one page proposal. I would let them read it, while I tried not to hold my breath and die from lack of oxygen. Other stakeholders, I would enlist the help of my boss and my future boss to present the proposal on my behalf since I only had so much courage and excuses to meet with people.
I also talked to just about EVERYONE else I came into contact with during this time and even showed them the proposal. I was sure to give them the disclaimer that this was a total long shot and that nothing was for sure. I just wanted to be completely transparent in the whole process and give all of my work friends an idea of what I was pursuing.
The overwhelming and complete consensus was that this was a GREAT idea and we would pursue it!
The next part was for all of the stakeholders to get together and talk about me without me. This actually happened a couple of times. I'm super happy that I didn't have to be there as I can take a compliment but it turns awkward real quick if it's not just "cute hair today!" If there were any criticisms, I didn't hear about them, but I probably would have been a little better suited to be in a meeting about the specific things I need to work on. Plus I would have had a really hard time winging the fact that I had NO CLUE about what the position I was proposing would actually look like. They discussed what the position might be like and decided who I would report to and where my salary would come from. It was a wonderful thing to have this group convening to help find a path in this uncharted territory.
When it came to what I wanted out of the job, it was pretty easy. I needed the exact same salary that I have right now, because my mortgage approval depends on it. It turns out, that part of everything was the easiest. It was, however a driving factor when the job title was considered. All of my supporters wanted to make sure that this was not going to be a limiting move in my career.
I really want to highlight just how much love and support I have felt from the people who helped make this decision and then put the pieces together! The fact that every single one of the deciding managers, directors and executives that I worked with to achieve this was a woman is something I hold dear. There are so many misleading cultural concepts about women being backstabbing and sabotaging each other in a corporate environment. Every single step of the path I have taken with my job has been with a full cadre of women at my back, cheering me on. In the banking environment, the majority of the employees are women while, like most fields, the majority of managers and up are men.
One of many reasons I have been so loyal to my company is the trend I have seen of women being promoted to positions of power and using that power to collaborate and bring up others. This culture of women and men working together as a collective towards the greater good with a sense of fairness based on merit is has helped to shape my own skills as a community member and leader. I am beyond grateful to the company, but also to my own tenacity in sticking it out in my department, even though there were some really rough times that made me question whether this is where I wanted to be.
So I tried to be classy and say "thank you" to all of the wonderful women involved:
Once the decision was made, it was a whirlwind of activity to get all of the pieces in place. It ended up being a split between three departments to cover my salary, as the budget for the year had already been in place. Making sure that their expectations of what my position would do for them would be known and honored was necessary, of course. Then the other departments that would be able to use my skills at creating training, certification and general content were consulted. My future boss (as of Monday it will be official that I'm reporting to her) and I made a list of all the stakeholders and met with them individually with a consistent list of questions that uncovered their needs and how this position could fill them. We also made sure to include a question about having a magic wand and what they would do with it so that we could get a better idea of what our institution as a whole might have for gaps to be filled.
The great thing is, I don't think there's any chance that I will be able to work myself out of a job. There is more than enough projects, tasks & ideas to keep me busy for the untold future. Fortunately, in each of our meetings my stakeholders were compassionate in their yearnings for me to not take on more than I can chew. In each of their ways they communicated that they wanted to make sure that I was protected from being overwhelmed. That, coupled with our intentional pressing for each team to prioritize exactly what they needed most gave us a clearer idea of how my position was going to shape up.
Much of this journey has been like walking into a pitch black room that is completely unfamiliar and the only way to figure out what is in there is by touching everything. (full disclosure, I have used this analogy about a million times when explaining it to coworkers what was going on) But in touching everything and waving my hands around in the air a whole bunch without touching anything, I have gotten a much clearer picture of how I am going to fit into the structure of our company as a whole. This isn't to say that SOOO much is still left unknown. But the framework for what will be taking up my time has been established at least for the time being.
When we had discovered what the needs were, we were able to hone what the job description would be and then after hours of discussion what my job title would be: Learning Engagement Specialist. In other fields, like Academia this might be comparable to Training Designer.
It was important to me to set an end date for my current position of Assistant Manager in the contact center, so we set a very specific date for my last day in that department. I was also sure to negotiate the expectations that the last month I was there that my primary concerns would be to really get my ducks in a row regarding the new position but would be there in an ancillary role in the contact center as I finished up the final touches on training my successor. The company bought me a computer, our awesome Technology Solutions team got me all the know how and tools to use it and through many more one on one meetings, sometimes rushed in the hallways, I got a more refined idea of exactly which projects will be my first to conquer.
Soooooo....... for all my awesome-sauce planning, I really did a thing with this end date. It turns out the very last day of May happened to coincide with the day that James & Bucky were flying out to Wisconsin. It will be about 2.5 weeks until I see James again as he's flying back out to drive the Penske out. It will be about 3 solid weeks until I see my little snuggle bunny, Bucky again.... No.. I'm not tearing up... It's just allergy season.
So right after I dropped my incredible husband and super "busy" 4 year old off at the airport, I headed in for my very last official day in my department.
I had been in the contact center for over 10.5 years. I had my interview on my 26th birthday. I was actually trying to get a job at Symantec- which happened to be using the same temp company that the credit union was- but thank goodness I ended up at the Credit Union as Symantec just recently pulled out 95% of its presence here in Eugene. At the interview, I totally tried to be hilarious, like I always am, and told them that I should get the job because it was my birthday. It worked! There was a big system conversion that I had been hired to bulk up the call center to handle, but I ended up being hired on as a full time employee.
There have been so many wonderful and difficult times in the department. Imma focus on the positive. We've had so many awesome themed parties with any excuse possible (my favorite might have been the recent Unicorn Day party) and we've all pulled together in times where things are just cray. I started as a struggling single mother coming out of a tough breakup, found roller derby and threw myself at that for years with the support of the Credit Union.
I got married, had a new babby, and now have planned a new cross country adventure- all with my team in the contact center and the rest of the Credit Union behind me! I can't possibly share all of the special and impactful moments that I have had with the hundreds of people there that have helped shape me as a person. I am definitely going to miss EVERYTHING. They let me know that they also will miss me- WITH THE BEST GOING AWAY PARTAY EVAR!!!!!!!!