Monday, September 08, 2008


Have you ever had a dream come true - except it wasn't your dream? In the sense that you never actually dreamt it, never thought of it?

Over the last few weeks, we've been pursuing a couple of bids for really huge infrastructure projects. Mega projects. Bigger than anything we've done here before. So big that if won, they would have a huge impact on the scale of our local presence and our value as a business.

Because they're so important to the company, we've all been asked to contribute to technical support. Not something I've done much before. Which I thought was good because I could never see myself feeling motivated to put a lot of time and effort into a contract we may never actually win. Especially when winning contracts is rarely just a question of how hard you've worked or how qualified you are. So many other factors come into play. Connections, politics, PR, prices etc...

Me, am a technician. The kind of person who can only get excited AFTER we win the project and have a job in hand. Have always seen writing proposals, business development not real work, to be honest.

But like I said, over the last few weeks, the powers that be in the company decided we're going to put every available resource into winning at least one of these two projects, even if it impacts our existing contracts in the short term. So I had to do my part.

In so doing, I found myself developing a really good relationship with one of the clients, driven mainly by the fact that I seem to have hit it off with the guy in charge. It wasn't done on purpose or with any real plan to turn into the newest PR star in the company or anything. Like I said before, I saw PR as someone else's job. What happened simply was that I hit it off with the guy. I like him. I like the way he does business. He has real passion for what he is trying to do and it rubbed off on me I guess. I felt I really, really wanted to help him make a success of it, even more than I wanted to win the contract for my company. Rather than sell him on our vision for the project, he sold me on his. I became a convert to his cause.

We became friends. And I know that some of the technical information I shared with him was not necessarily what my management would have wanted me to share because it gave credit to some of our competitors in a way that we would normally avoid doing in such a competitive situation. Our personal working relationship reached a point where I just couldn't hold back on him or tell him anything other than the truth.

At one point I did ask myself if I was crazy, why on earth I was more or less putting my job on the line for someone I met only a few weeks ago? And I did get nervous and wonder what if he wasn't as sincere and trustworthy as he appeared? But without any real conviction because the fact of the matter was, I did trust him. Simple fact. And a novel experience for someone like me who really has trouble trusting people.

Today, two of our senior corporate managers were called into a meeting with the client. And I was invited by name. So I found myself in the unusual situation of going to a meeting with these two people I would normally have very little contact with. I am simply not senior enough to rub shoulders with people at their level. I was so nervous! It was 10 times worse than a job interview.

At the meeting, we were informed that the contract was ours if we were ready to reduce our prices by a certain percentage. We were. So in the space of an hour, we had a deal. And then, my new friend, proceeded to thank me for my help infront of his senior management and mine. He said that I was a really good salesperson for my company.

It was a strange feeling. I had grown accustomed to thinking of him as a friend and all of a sudden, there he was, every inch the client. The formality of the situation felt alien somehow.

In the car, on the way back to the office, there was more praise. My managers were very pleased to win the contract and made it clear how impressed they were with the work I had done to win the client's trust, especially given that ours was apparently not the most competitive bid commercially and it was unusual - some might even say improper - for us to even be given the opportunity to reduce our rates.

Back at the office, the company decided to host an iftar for everyone next Thursday to celebrate. Everyone was really happy and I was congratulated and patted on the back like nothing I ever experienced in my entire working life.

At the end of the day, after a long manager's meeting, my immediate supervisor called me into his office and asked me if I had ever considered working in corporate business development. And he started expounding on all the advantages. Bonuses, stock options, a future in senior management etc...

I felt shell-shocked. Me? But I always saw my future in project management, never had an interest in going corporate, saw them all as glorified salesmen and never considered myself a good enough politician to be one of them.

I also felt like a fraud. I knew the reason for this success. It wasn't my brilliant salespitch. I hadn't metamorphed into the ultimate saleswoman overnight or anything. I just met someone I liked who liked me in return. If that hadn't happened, I would have simply given my technical input in writing when required and maintained minimal direct contact with prospective clients, which is my usual modus operandi. I went the extra mile here because I felt like it and I lack the discipline to do it when I don't feel like it. This was a fluke and I knew it.

More to the point, despite the nagging disappointment of the latest delay in my visa (the end of Nov. this time), my remaining time here is still measured in months and not years. I have no future here. I knew that too.

But still, how could I not be flattered? How could I not enjoy my moment of glory? I couldn't deny the fact that it was an opportunity some people work all their lives for and it was being offered to me overnight. There was that weird feeling that I was living somebody else's dream.

I do believe in my company and feel identified with it. Despite all the initial grief they put me through when I first joined, this is the place where I built my career from scratch. More than 10 years of my life. I am happy for them. And of course I'm pleased I had a part in it.

In the end, out of confusion, and because I couldn't say what I was thinking, I told the boss I needed time to think, that it was happening too quickly. The look on his face clearly said he thought I was nuts not to jump at the opportunity but he said of course he understood and to take my time.

I felt even more like a fraud, knowing that I would only take the time to wait for my visa confirmation, that the second we get it, I will give notice. I may even leave without notice if I find that I can't afford to wait a month before I'm too pregnant to fly. I cannot and will not risk the baby being born here because that would mean delaying my immigration proceedings indefinitely. There are no children in my application. I don't know - and don't want to know - what the processing time would be to include a child at this late stage.

But for the first time, in all the months when I couldn't wait to join my husband overseas, I am feeling real sadness for what I will be leaving behind. I do have a life here. It's all I've ever known.

My husband was really understanding. He has had to give up some career opportunities too, career opportunities that were really his dream and not just an accident. And now I really know how he must have felt.

It wasn't said explicitly - very few things between me and him are - but we both believe that when career and family clash, family has to come first. He did it for his parents. And hypocritical as it may sound, given the grief I gave him for leaving, I would have done it for mine. And now I will do it for him and for the baby. So no conflict there.



Blogger Rain said...

Although it's such a big loss , but it's also a dignified honorable way to end career in a won't just leave unnoticed , you left an important print.

Sorry about the visa delay :S , hopefully it's for the best and safety for u and ur baby.

but we both believe that when career and family clash, family has to come first.

This is so wise.

Best wishes for u L. , hope u r doing fine :)

9/08/2008 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger jukers said...

awesome post, Lou.

congratulations on the contract award and for your very sweet accomplishments at work. take it for what is, eh. trust, good relations, and excellent people skills are the rare combination of things that make for great companies and sweet deals.

i've been reading your blog for a few years now, and ever since my little Lulu was born in 2004, i've had a strange affinity to you and your posts....this is a very special passage in your life. i can feel it.

relish in the moment. i know that you'll gracefully exit the company when the time comes...and as you make your way out of the organization, remember all the praise you recently had showered on you. those moments are more rare than they should be in the business world. you're in rarified air at the moment, my dear. :)

leave with a good taste in your mouth. God knows that we recycle our business relationships and return to those things and those people who make us most comfortable. live for today, build for tomorrow, and have a good time as you pass through all these milestones.

peace, jukes

9/12/2008 01:52:00 PM  

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