Upon college graduation, I accepted a full time position with a company that I had worked for extensively through college. I started my career there with an internship starting during my sophomore year of college. I had proved my ability during my internship, and was therefore offered a part time position throughout the remainder of my college career. I felt as though I was on the top of the world. At a time when most of my peers in college where financing their education through part time workstudy jobs at college, or at local retail stores or restaurants, I was using my education in a practical manner and gaining valuable experience on a daily basis. I felt as though the knowledge that I was gaining would surely help me as I graduated and entered the career world full time.
As I began to approach my graduation however and my knowledge and skill set improved, I began to question the way that this company was doing things. Many of the decisions that where made by management didn’t seem to make sense to me and I became increasingly vocal in my questioning and criticism. Despite my proven skills and now relatively long tenure with the company, most of my recommendations for improvement and process redesigns where met with disapproval. I was openly told that because of my age I did not have the experience to make such recommendations. Unfortunately, my direct supervisor was well versed in corporate culture and had a philosophy of protecting her own job at all costs. After several instances where I would speak to my supervisor about a situation, only to be told that my concern was without merit, and later questioned as to why I took the direction that I did in the situation, I became very defensive and tried to only communicate with my supervisor via email so as to have written documentation in the event of future questioning. I even took it as far as to send follow up emails after verbal conversations stating what I thought was said and asking for conformation. As my relationship with management continued to deteriorate, I made the decision to begin seeking employment elsewhere. Unfortunately, before I found the right opportunity to leave on my own terms, there was another incident where upper management questioned a decision that I had made as a direct result of the direction my immediate supervisor had provided. When I provided written proof in the form of a printed email that I was only following the direction of my supervisor, I was then told that I was not being a team player and dismissed.
I quickly found a temporary position with a much different large corporation. It was only then that I realized how a company should be run. Decisions where made with a much more active approach, and there was just a much higher level of competency and consistency. It was then that I made the decision that corporate environments where not always bad places to work. At this point in my career I was learning more and gaining more skills than I had at any point in my career. I was given the unique opportunity to contrast my experiences in what I now felt was a poorly managed company with those of a well managed company. Unfortunately, the temporary position came to an end after six months, and while I was given the opportunity to seek another position within the company, I was not happy with the commute, and other life circumstances did not allow for relocation and I was once again seeking employment.
As luck would have it, my temporary position ended on a Thursday, I scheduled an interview with a very small local company on Friday, was hired on the spot and started on Monday. For the first few months, while I excelled at the technical aspect of my job, I was met with a great deal of culture shock while trying to complete simple tasks. For example, when I needed parts and equipment to complete my assigned tasks, I didn’t need to fill out a requisition which was then turned into a purchase order by the accounting department before the order was actually placed. Due to the small size of the company, routine tasks where much more streamlined and efficient. Another example of culture shock I experienced was when I wanted to request time off. Rather than filling out a vacation request form as I had become accustomed, I simply told the owner of the company the days that I needed off and wrote them on the company calender. Due to the small size of the company, I was now working closely with the owner on a daily basis, and as he became more confident in my ability and skills I quickly assumed more and more responsibility. I now feel that I had truly found my niche in the employment world, and in spite of my experiences working with the second large corporation that I still think was very well managed, I have no desire to reenter a corporate environment and face dealing with the daily bureaucracy that is required to run a sizable corporation.
Through my daily work as a network engineer working as a consultant, I am given the opportunity to visit and perform service for a variety of companies. Some are large multi-national corporations, while others are small one or two person operations. I have found that I can now quickly evaluate the corporate philosophy of many of my clients and gain an understanding of how they operate. While I am thankful for my current employment situation and have no desire to work in a large corporate environment on a daily basis, I now feel that my employment at both large companies was very beneficial to my future career paths. Through my experience working at a company that I now feel was very poorly managed, I am now acutely aware of potential pitfalls that can come as a result of decisions that are not will thought out and I can use this knowledge to better serve my clients and help to provide direction and examples of some of the potential dangers of decisions that they may make. I can also draw upon my experiences with the second company and provide examples of how a well run enterprise with well designed operations procedures can operate and best utilize technology to their advantage.
After having worked in both a large corporate environment and for a small business, I have found my home in the small business arena. This decision is not for everyone however and many find success in the corporate world. I understand that unless something radical where to happen, I will never find myself making millions of dollars as a powerful executive, and I am more than willing to accept this for the many benefits that working for a small business provides. I personally enjoy the personal relationship that I can enjoy with the owner of the company for which I work and the fact that I am viewed as a person rather than an employee number. But while I am quite happy for my current situation, I am thankful for the experience and knowledge I gained working in a corporate environment for the insights that I now have that can only be gained through experience and first hand knowledge.