Thursday, June 9, 2011

Third World Networkers guide to a re-organization

If you know where I work then you know the entire company underwent massive reorganization. It just happened that at around the same time I was busy 'gaming' Cisco into giving me a CCIE. So sleepless nights. Being re-organized was not helping. I needed the CCIE as a credible 'credibility indicator'. Just in case shit hit the fan while facing me. Unlikely but not far fetched.

I imagined being in a box, one of many, with our new CEO moving them around not even knowing I'm inside. Would he hear me if I let out a scream, I wondered? Haha don't be silly Gitau, you've never even bumped into him on the corridor; Your sister that doesn't work here met him before you. Scream away! sigh...

What if he got tired before the game ended. I like his vision and plans.Our customers could use that kind of thinking. I didn't believe in the team entrusted with the change at the time. It can't be change if you don't change the people right? They had a lot to prove to me. My jury is still sitting.

Would whoever he'd trust with the final 'execution' move around the boxes in a manner that lets me work better. I am very trusting, but I doubted it. So first things first:

I updated my resume, and passed the CCIE. In this day and age, it is irresponsible to not take measures that ensure you are on top of things. I had two job offers within a week. I was on solid ground. I had a new bounce. Life was good.

I promised to give myself lots of time to work through things I decided on two whole months of 'no moves' just to take some time to think and plan. I plan a lot. Passing ended a two year journey so two months was nothing.

I also started touching base with old friends in the industry. I have good friends, they believe in me. I got a slot to speak at AFNOG (Africa Network Operators Group), and an offer to speak at ISOC (Internet Society), they would have paid for my trip - I did AFNOG, never did ISOC, i should have done both and saved some money. Stupid me!. I learnt something, moving on.

I also got asked by one other friend through another friend if I would teach at their school. I agreed to do one class,very short notice, lots of pressure, just my kind of fun and just to get some classroom experience. First class - IP/ethernet backhaul, it went very well. They even paid me. Awesome.

So now i knew I could at least teach over and above my current skills. I spoke to about 200 technical people about a technology I'm passionate about in Dar on the 7th June.

I intend to do alot of these presentation/teaching gigs. It is a very engaging process and I have learnt during this process very different things from those in my technical background. I imagine each speaking engagement will teach me something new, each set of trainees will bring new experience and I will take all the criticism and advice in my stride, I can see myself improving with each new opportunity.

I recognized there were some lessons here that other third world networkers' could use.

First of all each reorg brings forth a disequilibrium, complexities and confusion. For a while it was hard to get things done. I actually took two weeks off because I couldn't stand wasting my time waiting, and i could use it for other things, thats all it seemed we were doing; waiting for the process to end. Imagine if someone came to your house and rearranged your socks, every day for two weeks. Your morning routine would definitely change.

If you are in charge of change, please do it swiftly, communicate clearly.

Secondly realize there will be new characters to deal with. Probably a new boss in your work life. Brush up on interpersonal skills in case you had forgotten.

Thirdly reorganizations create great opportunities to grow. If you design networks or software, then you are already accustomed to change. Take it in your stride. Keep walking.

Its also a great time to make changes you always wanted. For instance a lot of projects tended to be driven by time. 'do this fast, we need it now', it promoted a lot of shoddy work in the past. Careful design, tests and all the other best practices be damned. change that now. I was very impressed with the opportunity to steer processes and ensure best practices get followed.

If you can't and it still pisses you of, quit, or start making plans to quit gracefully before your job kills you.

4'thly please please note it's not your fathers company. On the same note you don't work as a charity, expect to be paid for your work.

5'thly Optimize your life for change. Find your peak efficiency point, operate at it, deliver. I assume you are getting paid to work.

Save some cash. Try and clear all your bad debts, marry wisely. If your wife or husband or girlfriend or boyfriend is the sort that walks the moment you hit bad times. Walk on, seriously, sneak away tonight, come to my place:-).

other notes:
Then you  have to figure out how to be successful in this new structure. The executive goal in our case was laid out very clearly, very publicly. All I needed was to know where I fit in so I could get on with it.

The take home lesson here is; even if you don't 'feel' the structure right now, unless you become part of the process, you might end up becoming just that guy on the sidelines. In our case I actually got a chance to change a number of things I felt had not been working out for me. I still can't stand others. But such is life.

There will be cracks, steer your issues away from them. Escalate fast, there's a high chance everyone is going through the same thing. Don't even bother talking or reasoning with negative guys. Change is hard enough as it is. Be politely blunt - to a fault. Trust me every one is afraid during a reorg including your boss, his boss, everyone, just do your thing.

The critical things that lead to success don't change. Teamwork and collaboration are still necessary. Pursue them. Keep the teams small, hope it stays that way for a bit longer together this time. Team culture is important. don't be a 'caffeine grasping egomaniac I can do it all hero'. that sort of praise doesn't scale. I've had very successful projects working, learning and mentoring teams. It helps.

lastly: follow through on objectives. Clarify your exact role as an individual and for the team. If you hold a leadership position, work with the team on this. I can't emphasize how important this is. To me. It really is time to quit if you can't tell what your role and objectives are. It might just be your manager acting up too. Dump him/her. There's a lot of life going on out there.

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