Al Rasheed
Guest article
In this article:

Some say it’s the nature of our industry (technology) while others (including myself) say it has more to do with corporate culture than anything else. If I’m being honest with my assessment it’s a combination of both but in my experience, it’s been the latter more times than not.  

The technology industry is a booming business that continues to grow and expand while creating new opportunities in multiple sectors (private and public) across the globe, including an increase in work from home positions. If you consider the money saved while working from home including the potential for an improved quality of life (no commuting which includes money saved on gas, wear and tear on your vehicle, public transportation, and most importantly peace of mind), it’s a no brainer for most to take advantage of the remote opportunities. Tech salaries can be very generous depending on the experience and additional benefits can include above average perks like unlimited PTO, health care, retirement, travel, potential for growth, and food and snacks provided on-site free of cost. 

So far so good, right? Let’s now turn our attention to my career and why I decided to pursue IT as a profession.

I left the retail world over 15+ years ago and mainly because of the long hours, lack of opportunity for growth, not professionally satisfied and ultimately because of the stress factor. At the time, my kids were roughly 3 and 6 years old. I worked six days\week including Saturday and Sunday (weekends were a requirement for management) at all hours of the day and sometimes I didn’t see my kids before they went to sleep each night. My wife and I decided remaining in the retail business was going nowhere anytime soon because of these factors but I couldn’t afford financially stepping away from this role because my wife was pursuing her bachelor’s degree at the time and I was the sole provider. This is when I decided to take a calculated risk, but I realized it would be a challenge initially but my leap of faith into technology began in the late 90’s/early 2000’s.

Some of you are probably asking, what does this all mean? Are you going to explain why Numbers Never Lie?

Employee satisfaction and retention are becoming an alarming statistic for the wrong reasons that continue to trend in the wrong direction. Salaries, benefits and perks in the IT industry are some of the best you’ll find in the workforce but why do organizations find it difficult to retain employees beyond 3-4 years at most? Money comes and goes as do employees if the employer doesn’t take the necessary steps to ensure proper employee retention. Employers invest so many resources into their employees but the biggest mistake they make is not investing in the person and their quality of life which includes a proper work/life balance. The days of remaining loyal or sacrificing your personal life because a job paid well or provided good benefits are a thing of the past because most companies already do this. Employees lack loyalty if they don’t see the same in return. While growing up, I vividly recall my parents always reminding me that loyalty counts and takes you places, and while I don’t disagree with this sentiment – does this really exist anymore?

As many of us have experienced, employee retention while maintaining your day to day responsibilities have become a challenge. As the most senior member of your team, you’re expected to remain calm under pressure while fulfilling the requests of your team members, customers and end users. Imagine having to train a new employee once a year for seven years straight. If I may, it gets old real fast especially when you’re considered “good at what you do” but not “good enough” for an elevated role. A positive compliment means the world to me but if I’m consistently overlooked for new opportunities within the organization, maybe it's time I consider my options. I speak for myself; I am loyal, and some would say to a fault. Yes, I see where they’re coming from and sometimes and I completely agree with their sentiment but to each their own. Job satisfaction means more than a salary to me. Before you start questioning my sanity, yes, I understand we need money to survive but there are additional factors to consider in your current or future role. 

The time required to on-board a new member of your team once a year is not cost effective and counterproductive. Additionally, it’s not a good look to the current members of the team and fellow employees of the organization. Rumors start to spread throughout the office, and you end up having to avoid an uncomfortable and unfair position of trying to avoid the situation all together. All the above creates stress, reduced productivity, lack of growth, competition which leads to increased overhead, costs and a poor culture. To quote my good friend Niran Even-Chen, “If you learn something new, teach it to others. If you create something of value, share it with your peers. Knowledge kept to oneself for imaginary advantage over others equates to stagnant water. It prevents new and fresh water from flowing in, plus it stinks.”

I get it, but what’s next? What steps can I take to improve my position as an IT professional while providing a proper work/life balance?

I jokingly say I’m on the wrong side of 45. My son is a senior at the local university and my daughter will be a senior in high school next fall. Before too long, both will be on their own; my wife and I will soon be empty nesters. As we continue through our careers (both in IT), we value the little things in life that are often overlooked in today’s technology driven world and they include our health (body and mind). 

First and foremost, find something that makes you and your family happy. Focus on details outside of salary to ensure your professional satisfaction. These may include time spent commuting, the day to day responsibilities in the role you’re applying for (will they remain the same or will they change and will there provide growth over time?), the company’s size (start-up vs. a mature organization), work from home days, and training (which may include external professional training and\or yearly conferences), medical benefits, retirement package, etc.

The title of this post is Numbers Never Lie but there hasn’t been a focus on numbers. Did I miss something?

Not necessarily but the most important factor in this discussion is YOU! We can spend time on so many areas where you can improve but the common denominator in all of this is YOU! Your health is critical, and this includes your physical and mental condition. It’s time to turn your life around, you’re capable of doing it but need the motivation to get over any fears you may have and you’re unsure of where to start. Losing weight and getting healthy is just as much mental as it is physical. It all starts with YOU in mind (mind over matter). Do not allow fear to consume you, it’s time to face them. Take the power to improve, it’s your life! 

Begin with regular exercise. If you’re in the office, step away for a walk. This includes walking outside or using the gym in the building. Start slow (baby steps) and use the Rome wasn’t built in one day mentality.  If you’re home, don’t use the excuse I don’t have time because that’s what leads to unhealthy habits. When I was at the peak of my best health a few years ago, I was selfish and didn’t have a problem with this. My focus was one hour a day to myself and this includes running, walking, exercising and anything to get off my rear-end. Create a daily baseline that makes sense to you. 

If you’re healthy physically, it leads to an improved mental lifestyle personally and professionally. You’re mentally sharper, your focus and patience improves. You’re no longer agitated by the minor details and your desire to remain this way increases. Remind yourself at every opportunity, YOU can do this! If you’re expected to live up to certain expectations while at work, why not apply the same mentality and focus on yourself? Consider this and I hope it’s not taken the wrong way but the building you work in will most likely always be there, but you may not. Work is always going to be there; we can go at any moment. 

I’ve previously disclosed my professional struggles in my You Can Call Me Al blog post. I overcame so many fears when this post went live at this time last year and I’m thankful for the courage to do so but I’m very grateful for those around me that provided the support to overcome these concerns. This includes my family, friends and the tech community. I challenge you to do the same and I welcome any opportunity to help you. Don’t hide from it, take it on and document your progress so that it could potentially others in a similar situation. Additionally, find the time to read Paul Cunningham’s Surviving IT book (Paul, thanks for making this available for free). You’ll soon discover each of us has a lot in common and how many of us have overcome them. 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. If I can answer any questions, please let me know. The goal is to focus on improving your life, in and around the office. God bless and thanks for your support, friendship and kindness. What many of you don’t realize, you’ve been wonderful in my efforts to find happiness professionally, wherever it may end up being. Keep up the great work and inspiration!  

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