Saying Goodbye to a Great Team

I began 2013 making a huge transition in my life.  I left an employer for whom I’d worked for nearly 17 years and joined a VAR, LPS Integration, as a Citrix Engineer.  I knew it would be a big change, moving from the customer side of things to the reseller side, but I don’t think I could have anticipated just how different the VAR environment would be until I jumped in.  In fact, if you’re considering a job at a VAR, I’d suggest you stop reading this post and go read a post written by a buddy of mine named Matthew Norwood entitled “This Job Isn’t for Everyone.”  Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

* * *

Back?  Great, I’ll continue.

I’ve spent the last seven months working with some of the best, smartest engineers I’ve ever met.  To be truthful, I wondered more than once during my first month on the team if I had the chops to be a part of it.  Working with them has made me better and pushed me to learn more.  I know I’ve been exposed to more and done more varied and complicated things in seven months on the numerous client systems I’ve worked with and consulted on than I could have done in years of working on just my own systems – no matter how large their scale.

I’ve learned about more than just being an engineer at a VAR.  I’ve worked closely with a veteran Account Manager and his Pre-Sales Engineer (we call them Technical Consultants) and have enjoyed learning about the sales cycle, from beginning to end.  This side of the business was so new to me, I literally felt like I was going to school again for the first several weeks of pre-sales calls and visits.

I’ve learned, for the first time in my life, what it’s like working for a truly small business (number of employees-wise, if not revenue-wise) and that has been both exhilarating, especially given my background at a state university and the Army, and sometimes confusing.  My coworkers laughed at me quite a bit over the first few weeks as I tried to adapt to there not being a mountain of process, forms, and approvals for things like purchases and taking time off.

So working for a VAR has been an amazing experience for me, but it’s one that is coming to and end, at least for now, this week.

* * *

Why?  Well, if you read Matthew’s post I linked to above, you might think I experienced some or all of those negative aspects he refers to, and maybe they counterbalanced the positive aspects, leaving me, on the whole, unhappy with the experience.  But you’d be wrong.  I linked to Matthew’s post because I experienced some of all of those things, both negative (1) and positive (2), and I think it’s a great perspective piece on being an engineer at a VAR.  I also think they’re universally true, no matter the VAR.

But no, my decision to change directions right now is pretty simple – I found that being away from my little boy for several days at a time, even if it wasn’t an every week kind of thing, was just too hard on me.  Heck, I got to go to Citrix Synergy this year and deliver a technical breakout session and hang out with a couple of rockstar members of my team, in the city and state of my birth.  While there, I got a free night at Disneyland, for Pete’s sake.  What should have been a week of pure fun and excitement turned out to be a strange mix of fun and misery, as I just plain missed the crap out of my wife and son.  I then traveled 3/4 weeks in June, including Father’s Day weekend, and every week when I flew back home (don’t get me started on how miserable flying frequently as a non-veteran traveler can be), I saw real changes in my son – new words, new mannerisms, new things I hadn’t been there to see for the first time.

My son is just about to turn 17 months, so I’m still new at this parent thing.  I have lots of friends who travel for work and I figured if they could do it, so could I.  What I discovered is that, for right now anyway, I would rather have a job that minimizes the amount of work-related travel, especially for several days or weeks at a time, I might have to do.

So I’ve accepted a position that will allow me to do that and work on exciting new problems.  More on that later.

* * *

For now, to my fellow engineers on Team Citrix at LPS – Patrick, Brian, Daniel, Joel, Kevin, Rick, and Wael – thanks for the amazing experience working with you has been.  I will miss it.

To my coworkers based out of East Tennessee – Tim, Chris, Drew, Jose, and Jennifer – thanks for making me feel welcome and for putting up with me as I acclimated to life working at a small company.

To the entire LPS family – I wish you all the very best.

* * *

 

(1)  The negative item on Matthew’s list I struggled with the most was #7 (Sometimes you don’t know the answer).  I hate not knowing the answer and it was a real struggle for me getting to the point of not equating not knowing the answer to failure.  I was a much calmer, happier engineer once I figured that out – or rather once I started listening to everybody from my coworkers to my boss about it.

(2)  The positive item on Matthew’s list I valued the most was a combination of #1 (You get to see some cool stuff) and #2 (Experience).  I was able to work with a major financial services company, a huge operator of acute care hospitals, multiple government agencies, and several higher education institutions, just to mention a few.

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18 Responses to Saying Goodbye to a Great Team

  1. Shaun says:

    Mike,

    You have no idea how much I respect you for putting your family first and doing the right thing. I see so many people put their jobs first and they never see their kids and wonder why they end up weird or having parental issues. I respect you for going against the grain and making a change that puts that family value ahead of a job or career. I look forward to meeting one day so I can shake the hand of a real man.

    • Mike Stanley says:

      Shaun,

      I appreciate your kind words. I have very good friends who travel extensively for their jobs, and those jobs afford them ability to take very good care of their families. A couple of them in particular are some of the best dads I know. I believed I would be comfortable with fairly regular travel as well, but I discovered that, at least right now, I’m simply not. A friend at church told me he respected my willingness to walk away from a larger salary to spend more time with my family. My response to him was, “I can think of plenty of ways to make extra money, but I haven’t figured out a way to make more time.” My son is only going to be a little boy for so long, and I want to be here for as much of it as possible. Looking forward to shaking your hand one day as well. Given my new role will be much more Microsoft-focused, I might just see you at TechEd next year.

      • Shaun says:

        Yeah it is tough sometimes to have that balance of being able to provide and actually being there providing love and time… kids spell love T.I.M.E. Tough call for some people I think. To each their own however I have more respect for decisions like you’ve made. It is actually walking the talk of putting your family first. So many people talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

      • Mike Stanley says:

        Thanks, Shaun, I appreciate that. I began walking to walk today at my first day on the new job. :-)

  2. wirednot says:

    Same reasons I left a great Air Force career after 10 years, and not once have I regretted it as my own wife and kids have been life’s best gifts, and time with them goes far too fast. Great post, and good luck to you.

  3. benchtime says:

    Honorable decision! I did the same thing 2 years ago after several years of travel that eventually went to 100%. I was working on awesome, prestigiously complex and rewarding projects and accelerating my career, but spending 250+ nights a year in hotels and missing birthdays, soccer games, and school events was taking its toll on my family and I – we were all miserable and disconnected. I quit consulting and took an architect job where I work from home and only do conference travel. Best decision I ever made and its great to hear of others who chose to place a high value on the precious time we have with our kids when it matters most in their lives! Thanks for sharing, and best of luck to you!

    • Mike Stanley says:

      Glad to hear others have made similar decisions. My travel load wasn’t anywhere near as heavy as yours, and part of me wonders if I’d started down the VAR path before we had our son if I’d been able to handle the separation better. But for the first 10 months of my boy’s life I was able to be with him nearly every night and every morning when he woke up (except for a couple of conferences I attended). I got so used to it that losing even some of it hurt. Thanks for the kind words!

  4. Mike,
    I completely respect your decision. Having a little one at home who is just over 17 months does make travel hard. You do miss things and even with Skype, FaceTime, etc can help but doesn’t make up for not being there in person. Especially as you see your child grow and begin to discover new things. What is important is to find that life/work balance no matter what the position requires. At one time I was traveling 90% of the time before joining my current employer. This was before I was married and became a father. At the time I was living with my girlfriend who is now my wife. Traveling a lot with or without kids at home takes a lot out of you. You find yourself trying to spend time with significant other, getting things done before leaving again, and resting in a short a mount of time. I still travel now but not as much as I used to. This is a great honest post. I wish you the best of luck in your position. It was great to meet you at Synergy. Hopefully we cross paths again outside of Twitter.

    • Mike Stanley says:

      Jarian,
      Thanks so much – this means a ton coming from you. It was awesome meeting you at Synergy and you can count on our paths crossing again. I’m going to try to make it to Synergy and/or BriForum next year.

  5. John M. Smith says:

    I too can respect your decision to put family first, more importantly, I think companies need to start formulating a strategy to retain employees. The fact is, top shelf talent has choices, failing to keep track of your employee’s work/life balance will always result in the loss of key talent. Sadly, I think what has gotten lost is supervisors do not actually quantify the workloads and travel time of their employees. Your employees will always tell you everything is fine. That is part oft he work ethic that lead to you hiring them in the first place. The problem you run into, everything is always fine until another employer comes along and offers them something their existing employer is not.

    I can totally respect the pressure cooker that is the sales cycle but I am shocked that there has not been a human capitol strategy developed by more VARs to retain their people. I am not saying LPS is the issue, I have always had a good experience working with LPS, I am saying this is a broader issue within the Citrix SE community at large. The shortage of talent leads to overworked engineers coupled with the fact that they can basically go anywhere they want and you end up with this “turn and burn” dynamic with their resources. Isn’t there SOME happy medium?

    I have steered clear of the SE pressure cooker because of family commitments but I have to say, the internal politics of “The Enterprise” can be utterly soul crushing which is what has lead a number of SE’s to leave internal IT for sales. I tend to look at the SE side and wonder if the grass isn’t greener but as a single parent (My spouse took a job a few hours away) I am not in a position to travel until my stepdaughter is in college(Two more years!! Yeah!!).

    Best of luck to you Mike, undoubtedly you will do well in your next endeavor.

    • Mike Stanley says:

      John,
      Thanks for the comment. LPS definitely wasn’t the issue – some travel is to be expected when working for a VAR, and aside from the month of June, mine was lighter than most. I loved so much about my job at LPS, and I’ll miss so much of the exciting, ever-changing aspect of it. I guess I’m not just in a place to be comfortable in that role right now. Maybe once my boy gets older, although part of me believes being away from him and my wife will always be hard.

      I do think you’re right about there being a shortage of talented Citrix engineers, and I believe it does make the workload on those of us in the business pretty heavy.

      Thanks for the well wishes!

  6. Good luck, man! Family always comes first, and you are an awesome husband/dad to see that early in your child’s life!

    I wish you the absolute BEST! Keep us informed.

  7. Patrick Beauchene says:

    Mike, you are a great man and a great father. Courage and commitment like you are showing is rare these days and so precious to families. I’m glad we’ve had the chance to work together in different capacities and I look forward to many more. I’ll see you soon, enjoy the weekend with no laptop and love the time with your son and wife.

  8. Mike – It’s been great working with you over the past several months. Making a life-long friend is something that doesn’t happen very often, especially with people you work with. I’m going to miss having you around the office but look forward to working with you on “the other side of the fence”, so to speak. Maybe you can MC my graduation party, after I complete graduate school? Yes… :)

    • Mike Stanley says:

      Really enjoyed working with you too, Chris. And I tell you what – if you can work on your Masters for the same price as I’ll be working on mine, I’m behind you 100%!

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