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Is the writing on the wall?

By spareher ·
I work for a fast growing multi-location organization. When I started with the company 5 years ago I was the IT dept. There was no wide area network, no dedicated Internet access, the main customer management software was a DOS based app written in PERL and standard batch files,the LAN consisted of and NT 4 server and 30 workstations. Our CFO is crafty manager and hired me because I have an interest in lot of IT related disciplines. At my previous position as a help desk tech I had revitalized the help desk process and created web based ASP apps that replaced spreadsheets and written forms. The CFO was aware of this through a common acquaintance as well as my relative inexperience. I had just finished my AS the prior year (so six years ago for the math inclined)and the previous position was my first professional IT gig.

Since then the company has grown from 11 locations to 28 and will likely be in the 40 to 50 range by the end of next year. During that time we've gone from AOL as Internet and e-mail to Dedicated T1s, implemented a wide area FRAME network connecting all locations and providing VOIP service and have a SQL based .NET app that supports our customers. We now have 28 servers and out of state, off-site disaster recovery. Of course there's been a lot of other technology we've implemented over time as well as 2 corporate office moves.

So here's the scenario and question: I managed all of this up until this past year. At that point I suggested that I didn't really have the leadership expertise that was needed for sustained growth. I don't have a huge ego about that kind of thing. We really needed to find someone who had the experience growing a big IT organization and could be more strategic and proactive rather than shooting from the hip and being reactive. We hired a very good experienced Sr. VP of IT. His goal was to build up the department and we went from 3 IT to a group of 11 in pretty short order and created app dev and infrastructure groups which required the hiring of directors for each group.

I am now under the infrastructure director as a special projects guy and network engineer. I am still compensated at the same level as i was when i was IT director and have passed on a lot of the knowledge i've gained over the years here to the rest of the group. I really don't do a lot of direct support anymore and as new protocols and technologies are introduced i'm not integrally involved in their implementation.
Now I do miscellaneous work or small projects and work on planning the opening of new locations and working with IT vendors to do so. Though, I've been told we want to see the other engineer take over provisioning telecom at new locations in the future.

Now the question:
As I'm given less and less to do and more responsiblities are farmed out to others, should I think that they're trying to slowly push my expensive posterior out the door? Or should I be considering moving along before it's too late?

By the way I'm just turning 39 and have been told in the past that I'm one of the most trusted and liked individuals in my area.

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You may have caused problems for yourself

by stress junkie In reply to Is the writing on the wal ...

It is very difficult to make any kind of meaningful assessment of your situation based only on your post. A lot could be learned from the body language of the people around you, what exactly is said to you and what is not said to you, and other clues that we cannot know about from your post. Ignorance never stopped me from stating an opinion so here I go. Just keep in mind that the following comment is based primarily on ignorance of your complete situation. There's a good chance that I'm 100% wrong.

You may have created a bad situation when you told your CIO that you don't have the leadership to head the IT "department" as the business grows. Some people take that sort of confession as a sign of weakness or they think that they need leaders in all areas of the business. It is possible that your management thinks that you don't fit in to the vision that they have about the future of the business. If I read your post correctly your "confession" of having no leadership skills or interest in a leadership position was entirely premature. Many business managers don't want you to provide an honest self assessment. They DO want someone who has a "can do" attitude. They want people who will take on any challenge without hesitation. Your very existence in the organisation could be seen as the bad apple that will corrupt all of the good apples by association.

You said that they are giving work to the "other" engineer. Is that other engineer a new hire doing the same work that you have done? Are you idle and looking for something to do all day? If your employer hired someone to do the same work that you do after you said that you are not a leader then it may be that they want you to quit your job.

KEEP IN MIND THAT I COULD BE WRONG!!!

This is what I would do in your position. Talk to your direct report manager. See if there are any signs of the sort of thing that I have mentioned. If you are very lucky then your manager will be frank and honest. It is more likely that they probably won't come right out and say what I have said but they could provide clues. You can bring up subjects such as your future position in the business. They might talk about whether you are really a good fit in the long run. All of these things can add up to a kind of overall attitude that your manager has about you.

I would say that in general a very small business that wants to become a big business will place more demands on their employees. This is because they want their employee base to grow with the business and they can back fill lower positions with new employees. They also often just want their employees to share the same personality traits that the business founders possess. These are the kinds of qualities that inspired the business founder(s) to take the chance of starting a new business. This uncommon quality of self assurance and belief that you can do anything is required to start a new business. People who possess these qualities want to associate with other like minded people.

One clue that we have about the mentality of your business' management is that they have a lot of managers for a small business. A business with a total of 28 employees would generally have the top level person doing ALL of the executive functions. Your employer has layer after layer of top level management. This is a very significant clue about the thinking of the business' management. They clearly like having managers. They think that managers are great. I think it is reasonable to generalise that statement into saying that your business' management likes and wants leaders. So, again, when you said that you don't feel that you are a leader or want to be a leader then your manager might have lost a lot of respect for you. It's not right but different people have different value criterea. They may, as I have already said, feel that you are not one of them and that you don't fit in to their little club.

DON'T FORGET, I COULD BE 100% WRONG!!!

That's my opinion about the POSSIBLE situation at your employer. I have seen this sort of business culture in very small businesses so I'm not just talking through my seat cushion. BUT, this may not apply to YOUR situation.

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Somehow I missed a detail

by spareher In reply to You may have caused probl ...

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I meant that we have 28 locations, 1500 employees, 600 workstations and 28 servers.
As for the leadership thing, I worked hard at that until our reorganization. I hired all the IT employees, created the IT policies, managed the IT related projects, negotiated the vendor relationships and supervised our in house development projects. I hired programmers and worked with an outside APP DEV company to build a comprehensive customer contract system to allow us to do paperless agreements for our chain. I recognized about a year ago that I was feeling like i had nothing left creatively and fallen into react mindset. Kick when poked. Even now i'm still mentally exhausted, but capable of acting as level 2 support and location planning. It's old hat. I have to admit that i'm not as good now as when i started. I still get "atta boy"s on everything i work on as well as compliments on the quality of my work.

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Oh yeah

by stress junkie In reply to Somehow I missed a detail

28 locations. I don't know how I interpreted that as 28 employees.

The additional information that you provided in this reply suggests that I was wrong. That's good. I hate working in an environment with the "give 110%" culture.

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110 %?!

by spareher In reply to Oh yeah

Where can you find a place like that? Please let me know.

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oops- duplicate

by spareher In reply to You may have caused probl ...
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On the other hand

by DC Guy In reply to You may have caused probl ...

It's not inconceivable that somebody appreciates you for being honest. It certainly makes you a "team player." You don't have a lot to do at the moment because the organization is in transition and the focal point of that transition is your former position. That's not so strange.

It's not unusual in big companies for any one individual to become what Tom DeMarco calls "protective capacity" for a while. If an unexpected crisis comes up they've got one of their best and most trustworthy employees available to handle it. That's smart management. Lean = unprepared.

You'll be overworked again before you know it. Use this time to rebuild your strength, get reaquainted with your dog and/or your children, do that shopping you've been putting off, catch up on the trade press, contemplate your plans for the future, maybe go on vacation... perhaps even take some management classes!

A smart company will be expecting you to do those very things so you'll be ready to roll up your sleeves when your next assignment lands on your head.

This glass may be half full!

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Glass full of what?

by spareher In reply to On the other hand

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I certainly do have time. Never spent this much time on TR postings before...
Right now I seem to be experiencing moments of great tension interspersed with hours of waiting.

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Talk to your Boss

by Wayne M. In reply to Is the writing on the wal ...

Why not have a career development discussion with your boss?

No one here can possibly give any insight to the poster's company's intentions. I, however, would not assume that there is a concerted effort to push the poster out the door; that would require much more planning an foresight than I would give most companies credit for. I would guess that the poster is still a valued member of the team, but needs to understand what new roles and responsibilities are available and which he should take on.

spareher, take some time to think about what you would like to be doing and then talk to your boss about what he needs to have done. If you are interested in management, think about a PMP (see http://www.pmi.org/info/default.asp ). Maybe you want to get involved with CMMI. Maybe you would like to look at VOIP or Web Portals or other technical areas.

A typical size for a team is about 7 people. With 11 people, it may be time to split into two groups. I'm guessing the break down would be one Sr. VP and two leads of four people each. If you don't want to manage or your VP does not want to split the team yet, perhaps you can become a special projects person reporting to the VP. You can do up front investigations to identify and select potential technologies.

The above are just possibilities. The key is to sit down with the VP and understand where you fit into the current corporate culture and decide what makes the best sense for both sides in going forward. You may be surprised, the VP may have a bunch of hot items and is waiting for someone to volunteer to take them on.

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Boss talking

by spareher In reply to Talk to your Boss

We've already split into a Infrastructure group and Application development group. 7 and 4 people respectively. We have a director in place for each side. I now report to the Infrastructure Director, though i am also quite involved with App Dev questions and supporting enterprise applications. As I write this I'm waiting for a call back from tech support for an accounting/payroll app. It's really outside hardware support but I seem to have ended up working to fix this. I don't mind, but the waiting...

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by jkameleon In reply to Is the writing on the wal ...

> At that point I suggested that I didn't really have the leadership expertise that was needed for sustained growth

You should have requested a management course at this point.


>As I'm given less and less to do and more responsiblities are farmed out to others, should I think that they're trying to slowly push my expensive posterior out the door?

Yes, probably.


> Or should I be considering moving along before it's too late?

Yes. There always are opportunities, even for the old goats like us.


> By the way I'm just turning 39 and have been told in the past that I'm one of the most trusted and liked individuals in my area.

Being trusted and liked doesn't help you a bit. IT is not a career job. There is only as high as you can get as an IT person, and no higher. If you want higher, you got to switch to management.

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