Saturday, January 30, 2016

Notes From a Retired Professional Technician

"Professional Technician isn't a job; it's a state of mind." - Kayla, best friend
With every passing day, the reality of leaving New England is getting just a little bit more real.

Thursday marked my last day working at Gentle Giant.  For the last four a half years of my life, I've worked as a helpdesk technician for a moving company - a tenure which ended this week as I prepare to move across the country.  It was easily the best job that I've ever had.  In what had to be one of the most first-world problems ever, I've found it really tough to justify moving out-of-state for so long because I really enjoyed my job.

Gentle Giant has the formula right.  They go out of their way to make sure that the employees are reasonably happy with where they work, and those employees in turn will do their best to provide good service to the customers.  Having previously worked at companies that did no such thing, I could easily appreciate the difference:
  1.  I legitimately liked/worked well with my boss and co-workers and enjoyed their company.
  2.  I was given professional freedom to solve problems instead of being micromanaged.
  3.  I was encouraged to be myself, even if that meant rainbow dreadlocks and patchwork pants.
  4.  As a cherry on top, within the last year they hired two of my best friends, both of whom appear to be flourishing as well as I did.
The quintessential answer to "what is working at Gentle Giant like?"  (click here for video)
Hilariously, I even had my own office.  I never liked calling it that, preferring to refer to it as the "IT room" since "office" sounds way more "stereotypical professional" than the image I like to convey.  It was literally just a closet that I got by default, because I was the only one who wanted to work in there.  I loved it, though.  Since my job was to help my co-workers with technical problems I liked having a separate space, as it encouraged people to come by and ask me their questions in person.

I think that approach was what allowed me to find my niche within Gentle Giant.  My job was never so much about fixing computers and printers to me so much as it was about helping my coworkers.  I had the ability to remotely connect into other people's computers, but given the choice I always preferred to walk over to people who needed help because I understood that forming connections with people is what turned "end-users" into "people whose problems I want to solve, because I care about them".  It's not hard at all to learn the technical things necessary to get a career in technical support;  I always felt that people/communication skills were the unique thing that I brought to the table.

Facebook randomly showed me this picture, posted 3 years ago today, as I was writing this entry.

Of course, the side effect of making an effort to connect with my user base was that it made walking away from the job incredibly difficult.  I broke into tears a lot on my last week of the job - happy tears, because I'm saying goodbye to something that's been a fundamental part of my identity for the last five years.  "Don't worry, I'm a professional technician" is a long-standing running joke between Kayla and I that I used to say whenever I solved a problem, technical or otherwise.  There are a ton of people at Gentle Giant that I'm going to miss seeing at work every day - and while we're nothing more than a click on the internet away from each other, there's a part of me that's afraid that I'm walking away from a good thing that I'm never going to find anywhere else.

Thankfully, the trust relationship built with my coworkers went both ways.  Not only did I get a chance to meet a lot of people through working with them for half a decade, I shared a lot of who I am with them.  And although a lot of people reached out to me to let me know they would miss having me around, there wasn't a single person there who wasn't happy for me.  I had been open with people for years about the fact that I have a dream of leaving New England and exploring life in other parts of the country, so if anything people were receptive to the idea that I needed to, in the words of my ex-boss, "spread my wings and fly".  I'm sure that there are a lot of my ex-coworkers reading this - and for that, I'm thankful, because trying to maintain those connections after I leave is a strong motivator for me to write in this blog.

The decision to leave my job came at a good time in my life.  Although my two greatest professional strengths (communicating with others and solving problems) did me well as a technician, I have hit the point in my life where I want to explore how I can use those skills on a larger scale.  Somewhere in the last few months, I hit a point where resetting passwords and troubleshooting Microsoft Office errors just wasn't doing it for me anymore. I'm far more interested in solving "people problems" than I am technical ones, and so along with my move out west comes a chance for me to explore new options in my search for the best way to make a living.  I'm not quite sure what that means just yet - so for now, all I can do is continue to be an open book and hope that people are interested enough to follow along.

Of course - saying goodbye isn't going to get any easier.  We spent yesterday and today packing the apartment into boxes.  Tomorrow I will have one last brunch with my family before heading west, and Monday will be the last day in my apartment.  We're not planning on leaving New England until Thursday, so I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say as the week passes by.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Professional in the Moving Industry

I'm not sure where I belong just yet, but I don't think it's Boston anymore.

I'm just going to start things off by coming right out and saying it:

After 13 years of living in Boston and an entire lifetime living in New England, I'll be moving across the country with Cody sometime within the next few weeks.

We've been weighing the pros and cons of making this decision for a pretty long time now, and as of two days ago, we finally decided concretely that we want to go for it.  This probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me to any degree in real life - I have been talking about how I want to spread my wings and leave New England for years now.

I've only told a few people in my life so far, and I ran into a similar problem that I did when I transitioned.  It's a pretty major life decision, and in order to move forward on it I want to tell all of the important people in my life, but it's really hard to do this without repeating a lot of the same answers to a lot of the same question.  You can only really answer things like "are you going to the surgery?" so many times before it gets old fast.  

My solution to that was to write it all in a blog.  That way, instead of constantly having to tell the same stories over and over, all I would need to do is share a link to anyone who had questions. The blog became my number one tool in building up a support system during my transition.  There's something to be said about writing out one's entire thought process while going through a process that people don't have a lot of experience with.

What perfect timing, right?  I have a blog that I'm struggling to motivate myself to share with others, and an important life update that I want to convey to pretty much everyone I know.


I wrote this one week before I left Connecticut for good.

Without further ado:

FAQ:

Where are you guys moving?

We're aiming for the Pacific Northwest - his best friend currently lives in Portland and mine currently lives in Seattle, so right now we're aiming for somewhere in the general vicinity but aren't married to anything just yet.  

When are you guys moving?

I gave notice at my job and my last day will be Thursday, January 28th.  The final walk-through for our apartment is on the Monday, February 1st.  After that, we're officially living life on the road for a little while.

Yeah, right.  Don't you say that every year?

sigh

I do.  I have always abstractly talked about how I one day want to move to another part of the country to experience something different.  I've even come this close to moving to Denver with Kayla before, going so far as to not renew my lease and give notice to my job before the circumstances changed and we found out we couldn't go.

My attitudes regarding moving and blogging are the same.  They're both things that I want to do and enjoy talking about doing, but when it comes to follow-through, I'm scared of failure.  Or, more accurately, I'm scared of being viewed as a failure.  That's fine - as long as I don't let it stop me.

What are you planning to do for money?

The main idea is to build up Cody's online store, Misfit Cords.  Cody has been working from home on the store for a little bit less than a year, and I have faith that with the two of us working on it together, we'll be able to bring in enough money to make a happy living.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MisfitCords

Why don't you just stay in Boston and do it from there?

The rent here is ridiculously expensive, driving here is a nightmare, and the weather throughout the winter is something I no longer want to deal with.  But more to the point, I think I'm just sick of living in Boston.  I thrive on new experiences, and I feel like I've seen everything that Boston/New England has to offer at this point.  Right now, the unpredictability that comes with living somewhere new is the thing that I want the most.

What if something goes wrong?

The risk of leaving my friends/family/job, in February, to drive across the country without a destination in mind isn't lost on me.  I'm fully aware of the things that can go wrong - what if we run out of money?  What if the car breaks down or one or both of us get sick on the road?  What if I discover that my happiness in life comes from the things I have in Boston, and I'm throwing it away for nothing?

That said, there's always reasons not to take risks.  If they didn't exist, they wouldn't be risks!  But I truly feel that taking risks is the only way to ultimately experience success.

I've been putting this off for years already, and I finally feel ready for this.  If something unexpected happens - and it's almost guaranteed that something will - then I'll figure it out and learn a lesson along the way.  I went through the same wave of self-doubt before I transitioned, and the lesson I took from it was to embrace the risk of failure as a chance to grow stronger.

Will you miss Boston?

Of course!  The main thing that's stopped me from leaving is that, by most metrics, my life up here is pretty good.  The decision to leave here didn't come lightly.  It's time, though.

So where do things stand right now?

Right now, I have three major priorities:

  1. Sorting our stuff into "sell", "keep", "store", and "trash" piles
  2. Trying to see all of the important people in my life in the area at least one more time before leaving
  3. Making sure my affairs are in order - letting people know I'm leaving, seeing my doctor, getting my car tuned up, preparing things for the next person to take my job...stuff like that.
What's the best way to keep in touch with you after you move?

You can follow this blog by following Shelly Moonbeam on Facebook, which I'll be updating whenever a new post is written here.  If you want to reach me directly, please feel free to message me there or send me an email at shellymoonbeam@gmail.com.