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Manager Tools Saved my Tech Career
Full Disclosure: I am posting anonymously, since other people in my office know about Manager Tools.
I was working at a well-known Fortune 500 company in an individual contributor IT role, albeit receiving manager-level compensation (mid six-figures), due to my significant IT subject-matter expertise.
For many years, I received superb and glowing annual reviews. Then my manager left the company, and he was replaced by another manager who could only be described as a ruthless bureaucrat, practicing primarily ”office politics”. The new manager saw me as a threat, and within a year lined me up to be terminated (via a PIP process).’
By pure coincidence, I discovered Manager Tools, and purchased the Interviewing Series, then the Resume Workbook, and listened to nearly EVERY SINGLE podcast by Mark.
I was able to get a new (equivalent) job at another Fortune 500 company, and recently got promoted to a VP-level role.
Being a true IT practitioner, I had never paid much attention to office politics and always did my job by “keeping my head down” and “achieving great results”, which was reflected in my annual compensation being relatively high, considering my individual-contributor role.
I had never needed to consider anything except my technical skills, and was well compensated for it.
Then, it all changed once my manager left the company and I was assigned a new manager… a true career “office politics” kind of guy, with no significant IT expertise to speak of, but VERY significant expertise with office shenanigans.
This new manager then proceeded to make my life as miserable as possible… by undermining all my work. In my part of the IT field, the quality of the work is very difficult to gauge, it’s almost entirely subjective (think “ IT system administration”).
The new manager would go out of his way to find (read: invent) extremely subtle mistakes on my work, and escalate up the chain at every opportunity. Luckily, he was physically in a different office location, so he couldn’t breathe down my neck in-person… but it was pretty darn close to that.
This manager also saw me as a serious threat, not “politically” per se, but from a technical perspective, because clearly he wasn’t knowledgeable enough in the field we were working in… and often had to rely on other people’s work to gain any technical perspective.
After about a year, the new manager succeeded in getting me put on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), although my previous six years of performance reviews were all literally phenomenal.
During this year, I started to feel extremely upset and had absolutely no outlet.
The new manager had COMPLETELY segregated me from the rest of the company, by literally standing between my communications with anyone above him… and would only allow me to communicate with my peers if he was in the loop.
Anything else would be considered “insubordination”, and potentially grounds for immediate dismissal, in his twisted mind.
The one time I went over his head about a work-related item, the retaliation was quick and swift (he disallowed working from home)… but in a way that I could never quite officially pin-point back.
He made it clear to me that going to HR would only exacerbate the issue, as he had indicated that he had “already let HR know about my significant drop in performance”.
Throughout this terrible year, I had come across Manager Tools in a technical forum, and I started to see the light.
For an entire year, literally, my only “rational” professional insight came from the Manager Tools cast. The podcasts kept me sane… and I’m normally a very well-aligned professional (several college degrees, etc).
I would listen to Manager Tools and think “this is how the business world is supposed to function”… otherwise I’d get wrapped up in the toxic non-sense I was being fed at work.
Manager Tools was my only escape (other than my family and significant other).
Over the course of a year, I had listened to EVERY Manager Tools and Career Tools cast available… every single one. I purchased the Interviewing Series and the Resume Workbook.
I then went on to interview at other companies… and you know how Mark says it’s possible to have multiple offers simultaneously… well within 120 days I had three offers SIMULTANOUSLY (and I do not live in Silicon Valley, by the way). This stuff works.
I ended up taking the best offer, and now I have just been promoted to a VP-level role, and happier than ever!
The moral of the story is that being a technical individual contributor, without the requisite business skills and soft skills, is a very vulnerable and precarious position to be in… even if you’re making mid six figures.
Thanks to a Mark, Mike, and Wendii, I was able to reinvent myself as an indispensible “business person” rather than a highly paid, but very vulnerable and easily replaceable “technical wizard”.
If you’ve read this far, here’s another interesting nugget… and some of your mind find this strange, considering we’re in the United States, but when I got assigned that new manager, it just so happened that “back in the old country”, both of us (myself and my “new manger” at the time) came from “warring factions”…
..which means our ancestors were on polar opposites of the same geopolitical conflict on a different continent (mind you, we were both “Americans” by every normal standard).
The entire time I worked for this new manager, this background was never far from the surface… but far enough that I couldn’t take it to our Employee Relations department.
Try explaining that to your HR department, in a Fortune 500 company in the United States!
In short, thank you Manager Tools for saving my tech career!