Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Changing Jobs

I wanted to write about my job transition, you know, for posterity's sake.

July 21st of last year I started my first job out of the MBA program with United Technologies. Truth be told, I had a hard time finding someone that would be willing to take a chance on me. What I started to run into more and more in my job search was that I was a little too removed from the business world to be able to find a graduate entry level job in HR. I had a couple of years of HR experience, sure, but I was about six years removed from that experience. Between graduating from the BYU MBA program and my last stint in HR was six years of meandering grad school experience.

I should give myself more credit. The MBA stuff wasn't meandering by any means, but my time in the psych program definitely was. I was trying to find my niche and not having much success.

So I was able to convince the folks at UTC that I was worth taking a chance on, and the entire time I was there, I felt like I was gold for them. That part I appreciated, because in the recruiting process, I was feeling mostly unappreciated.

I came on and performed well. I was identified as a high performer and I was told as much relatively early on. I was very flattered. But then things started to turn south with my department at my location. First my boss who recruited me to UTC left at Thanksgiving. Then our HR coordinator left, taking her nine years of experience with her. My labor rep counterpart left several months later, and all of a sudden, we were three HR professionals handling nearly 1300 hourly people and about 200 salaried people. We were stretched thin before my counterpart left, but after he was gone, we were drowning, and I was the lone person dedicated to labor relations at our plant. I loved the experience I was getting, but it was taking its toll on me.

Couple my feelings about work along with our feeling as a family that maybe we weren't as happy in Indiana as we would have liked to have felt. Our ward was good, but we didn't feel integrated. We had phenomenal neighbors, but in over a year being in our place we still didn't feel like we had anyone that we were especially close with. Having spent a previous summer in Michigan in addition to the time that we had already spent in Indy and we were feeling ready for something new. Being that I was only about a year removed from the MBA program, I was still in the habit of searching for jobs nearly everyday. It was a habit that I had gotten into for about 2 years while in the program and one that I kept up following my time there.

So I started applying to a few jobs here and there. I was really interested in Pepsico because I felt like that was a good fit for my experience, education, and I had heard a lot about their investment in the HR function and it felt like a good fit. I started working my BYU connections and felt confident about being able at least getting into the process with them.

Well, I applied to a few job postings by June 2015. At the end of the month we went on our summer vacation to Utah with Amy's family. On Monday, June 29th, my former boss at UTC called me up and said that she had an opportunity at her current company, Nestle. To be honest, it wasn't something that we were really excited about. It would mean that we would be staying in Indianapolis for at least another couple of years and we weren't exactly excited about that prospect for reasons I mentioned previously. Nestle was a more interesting company just from the branding perspective, but I wasn't sure that I was going to love the company. And I felt like I had a pretty good shot with Pepsi and I was excited for that prospect, but Nestle was a little more unknown to me.

I ended up talking to my former boss and she got me excited about it pretty quickly. The Indiana thing was still an obstacle, but Amy and I had both said that if we just had some people we felt close to, it might completely change our feeling about the area and going with Nestle did mean that we would be on the north-side of Indianapolis and we felt like there was a lot of potential in that kind of move. And one of the biggest pluses about Nestle was that I would be working for Jill again and I knew that at least for the next few years my working relationship with my boss would be great because it was so good before. Also, Jill is a great person to have in your corner and I knew that I would have her full confidence as a member of her team. Beyond all of that, Nestle has more western locations and the Nestle USA headquarters is actually based in Los Angeles, so long term if I were to stay with the company there is a clear path back West.

The week following our return back from Utah I came on-site to the Nestle Anderson site and had a round of interviews. I felt like everything went well, but I had no idea what the whole process would look like, if Jill would be the one to really drive the whole thing or not. I got my answer pretty quickly. Eight days after my first interview I had an offer in hand and had met with Jill's boss and gone to a nice dinner with the two of them while they did a hard sell on why Nestle is so great.

I wrestled with the decision. I felt like I had to take the opportunity for a lot of reasons. There was a pay bump, but the bigger thing for me was that Nestle felt like a more stable opportunity with lots of potential opportunities, which could possibly come with an international assignment and that was something that we were really excited to do if it ever came our way. I said yes, but gave a month's notice with UTC because I knew that I was putting them in such a bad spot.

That month with UTC was tough. It was flattering that they were trying to pitch me to stay. They were offering me an opportunity to move into the generalist role with them so my interfacing with the union would be much less than it was as the labor rep. They also were able to fill the labor manager role that had been open the previous 10 months, and it was looking like they were going to be able to start filling out the rest of the labor team as well. I was beginning to waffle. I also liked that UTC had the education benefit because I really was thinking about starting my new grad program in the fall at CCSU. And probably the biggest thing was that I felt like I would be able to continue with doing some of the good that I had been able to accomplish in my time there. I liked working for Steve and I really did feel like I was being challenged and was growing in a lot of ways. During this kind of limbo period I would often go out for a run in the evening and come back and tell Amy what I was struggling with.

But I still had my hesitations about UTC. It felt like a lot of people were leaving the company, not just at my site, but even on an HR call with the BIS business they were noting how hard it was for us to hold onto talented salaried employees. The business was seasonal, albeit not to the extent that it is with the automotive industry, for example, but it definitely had its ups and downs. It was a tough place to be for a lot of people, not just me. And I really just didn't feel like there was a lot of focus on the HR function.

I had been praying continually about the decision and wanted some sense of finality. One weekend about two weeks from my designated last day with UTC, I told Steve on a Friday that I would have a final decision for him and would let him know what I would be doing when we came back from the weekend. I don't think that I was really expecting anything really definitive as far as revelatory answers go. I felt like I was pretty sure about what I was going to do and confident that it was the right move going forward. I had a good idea of what I was going to do and didn't think that I needed heavenly nudging in one direction or another.

I went to bed that Friday night like I had every other night since I had put in my notice with UTC. Amy and I said prayers together, I said my own, and we were asleep after a typical Friday night. I woke up with a jolt at about 3am. My thoughts on the matter couldn't have been clearer. I was immediately coherent and the word in my mind was clear: No. Don't waste one more minute worrying about UTC and what was going to happen with them. Even though it was hard to say goodbye to Steve and Kelly, it was absolutely the right move for me to go to Nestle. The little things that weren't done in trying to get me to stay - Maribeth not taking me aside to talk, or the lack of clarity about the potential move into the generalist role - those things spoke volumes about their typical mode of handling their people. I was an important piece, sure, but they weren't exactly pulling out all the stops to get me to stay. Nestle with Jill was a great chance at something new, working for a very well known brand, and lots of opportunities to move into all kinds of different positions with the company.

I gave my final answer to Steve, played out the next couple weeks and that was that. My first few weeks and months at Nestle were just what I expected them to be. I was having lots of good opportunities to learn a new role with the company and getting good exposure to different kinds of work. I was really enjoying what I was doing without the high stress environment that UTC had been.

The benefit with all of this is the clarity you get with hindsight after some time has passed. I missed certain things about UTC. They happened to implement a parental leave policy that would have given me 8 weeks off when Alice was born in stead of the one week I got at Nestle. I missed out on the free schooling that would have been provided by the employee scholar program at UTC. Those were a couple of big things that I would have really liked.

What I didn't see coming, however, was that in February UTC had announced that they would be closing down their Indiana manufacturing facilities and moving all operations down to Mexico. This was a devastating blow for the community and everyone local to the area, but was just one more signal that I had made the right decision. It wasn't so much that I didn't want to deal with all of the drama that would surely come with a workforce knowing that they had an impending death sentence awaiting on their employment, but more just a signal of the divergent fortunes these two companies face. UTC, while a largely stable and profitable company, faces a lot more obstacles and challenges in its future than Nestle does. Nestle is the largest food manufacturer in the world. Our position is secure and it continues to make steady progress in profits year after year. It's really a pretty remarkable company. UTC would have found me a home. It's not like the plant closing would have meant the end of my road at the company because they did value me and I think they would have found me a home elsewhere. The bigger thing was just the stability that Nestle provides that UTC couldn't, and that's what I have been feeling most grateful for most recently.

What's also been a huge blessing has been all of the things that have come since I left UTC. We moved to the north side of Indianapolis. We bought our first home and love it. We are a part of a great ward that we actually were aiming not to be a part of, but as fortune or providence had it, we were steered to exactly where we needed to be. We have made some great friends being where we are at now and we love the position we are in.

Basically, everything that we were looking for that we felt like was lacking prior to our move was found once we got here. It's not like things were bad before either, but we just felt like there was more out there for us and we didn't feel settled with where things were at. That's been such a nice part of this process is feeling like, okay, this is exactly where we should be. You just can't beat that feeling.

I'm just so grateful that we've been guided to where we are at. It's such a good feeling knowing that you are just where you are supposed to be. I'm glad we have been sensitive enough to follow that direction and I'm grateful for the urging that I got because while I think it was the direction I was moving anyway, it was reaffirming to have the additional emphasis in feeling like it was the right direction to go. Maybe I would have later waffled, but with that backing there was no way I could second-guess that it was time to move on.

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