Monday, 24 March 2014

Those Were the Days

For those of you that have been with the blog since I started writing it, or have bought 'Reasons to be Cheerful, Part One', you'd be forgiven for thinking that I had built a pyre out of all of my corporate accoutrements and danced around them as they burned to a pile of cinders.  Not so.

There are days when I miss being in a corporate environment.  Days when I'd love to sit in a big office overlooking a lake, in a tailored dress and some nice heels.  Days when I miss laughing my arse off with colleagues about something that happened at an off-site or comparing notes on the best places to shop when we're in the US 'for work'.  Days when I even wouldn't mind listening to a load of guff in a meeting between a group of people who are paid more than surgeons just to sell IT.

This is not the view I ordered....
This normally happens on the days when it's pissing down with rain, or my neck and back are killing from being sat at a second-hand Ikea desk, or my view is a pile of washing up.  Days when it feels like the house is never tidy because there are two of us working from home and so stuff rotates from room to room creating ever more piles of crap where you can't find things.  Days when I feel aggrieved at being the one that has to use the office in the garden because inevitably I've left something in one of the piles of crap and I have to go back into the house to fetch it.

When I spoke to a group of students recently I was honest about the fact that if you want to earn good money and grab yourself some opportunities then you could do worse than go and work in a large business.  It enabled me to earn the kind of money that I didn't think was possible - forget moaning about paying higher rate tax, it felt like validation that it is possible to break out of what is predicted for young people from low-income families.  I never opened a payslip and worried that it wouldn't cover my bills and it never felt entirely normal - being properly skint as a teenager casts a very long shadow (and stopped me from developing an expensive handbag habit).

Working in a corporate taught me a huge amount about business, industry and people, brought me new friendships and even led to the peculiar incident when I shook hands with a Knight in an office block in Birmingham (I know, doesn't mean that much really but it tickles me silly).  I was coached by athletes and adventurers who had achieved amazing feats, serenaded by the B-52's (but missed Duran Duran - shame!), got to listen to Bill Clinton talk about philanthropy along with about 49,999 other people and went to the Niagara Falls for 'work'. So why the hell don't I stop frothing about it and go back there?

Well the simple fact is we reached the end of the affair - I had gone as far as I had wanted to go and the business had given me all it was prepared to give.  Unless Microsoft was going to provide me with a purple writing lair, a personal sommelier and an in-house band I don't think that anything would have convinced me to stay.  And for the focused, committed folks that were (are) still there, having someone gnawing their stilettos off in frustration at not having a purple writing lair, personal sommelier and in-house band is not good for team morale.  

At the time I felt like I really had broken free of corporate 'ties' but looking back over the three years it has been since then, I think it was more of a process of being completely honest with myself about what I wanted to achieve, and acknowledging what I had to sacrifice if I stayed (health, family time, sleep) or if I left (money, what that money enables you to do, being part of a team).  The three years also provide a little time to mellow down, appreciate what was good and connect the dots between the things I did then and where I find myself now.  Do I hope my children go on to do things that make them feel fulfilled and free - absolutely.  Will I mind if they find that through working for or with a big company - of course not, I just hope I can help them do it with their eyes wide open.  

No, I don't miss this in the slightest!
So to my friends that are still in the throes of their corporate adventures; climbing ladders, leading businesses, sailing seas of big data and unified communication, enterprise apps and endless endless scorecards, I hope that you are still enjoying your journeys and despite the fact that I have 'broken free' and am revelling in being able to do what I really, truly love for work, there are still times when I look back and think "those were the days"!

Soundtrack: Those Were The Days - Mary Hopkins

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