The Contributors of My Success Vol 1: My Work

I wanted to put together a list of the things that I felt have really contributed to my success as I have really battled trying to get healthy.  I feel like there is no way that I could have come this far without the support of my family and friends and today I am going to stress the importance of a good, healthy work environment on getting and staying healthy.  Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor and am not a work force expert; I am merely reporting my observations and reflections!

In order to really understand the importance that having a positive work environment had on my life you need to understand where I came from and just what a toxic environment can do to your health.  As many of you know, I was the Director of IT at the City of Chicago – Office of Emergency Management and Communications for several years after rising through the ranks from just being a tech guy all the way to the corner office.  If you aren’t aware, the OEMC was (while I was there) the premier 9-1-1 center in the world.  We utilized technology across the business to streamline any process that could affect someone’s 9-1-1 call.  Think about that for a second.  In Chicago, when someone called 9-1-1; they called *MY* system.  The system that I and my staff were responsible for maintaining was the lifeline for millions of people who called when they were having a personal emergency.  Talk about pressure!  Frankly, that was one of the things that I loved about the job.  Many people spend their whole lives looking for a career where they can “make a difference” in the world.  I literally had that every single day for 10 years.  Where my every decision, procurement, hiring/firing could have an impact on a complicated system that was only used by people having the worst days of their lives; during an emergency.  You want to talk about feeling like a superhero when things go well; I had that.  I was the manager of the Yankees.. having a job that only a few other people could claim.

Let’s talk about the price that I had to pay for that satisfaction and responsibility.  It’s funny now, looking back on it; but there were many times when Michelle and I lived in the condo downtown; and I wouldn’t get home until 8pm; and that was just a normal day.  That meant I would be spending 13-15 hours at the office, dealing with the usual mundane problems, dealing with the bureaucrats, dealing with over-stressed micro-managing executives, and eventually dealing with the political pressures that trickled down to my level.  I used to spend 6 hours every Saturday just trying to weed through the 500+ emails that I didn’t have time to deal with during the week.  That meant that I didn’t have any time to exercise at all; and my health became a much lower priority in the grand scheme of things.  I ate like crap; managing to stuff into my piehole whatever snack/treat/garbage I could bother to find in my fridge at work.  My weight ballooned and my self esteem fell to epic lows; all in the name of having a career that “made a difference”.  Yeah, it made a difference all right…. A difference in my life and accelerating my own death.  Never mind that stress that my work habits put on my wife having to take care of small children without me around to help.. all in the name of “making a difference”.  Frankly, I’m shocked she didn’t leave me.  I was an embarrassment to myself and my family.  Yeah, I had a great career… but I almost lost everything that really mattered.

Fast forward to the end of January 2011. I spent the 2010 holidays stressing about work and the constant stress of being the only guy who was there with any knowledge of how things worked and with any historical frame of reference, I found that I was being pulled into lawsuits against the City as an expert and was really the only person who could have answered some of the questions that were being posed and I got fed up.  I left the City and struck out to see what else was out there.  I had a nice long vacation; did some IT consulting work that was fun; but finally settled in at Lextech in September of 2011.

Let me say, it was a shock coming to work here.  I had a closet full of shirts and ties that I wore every day for 10 years.  My first day here, I wore a dress shirt and dress pants with no tie… I felt naked.  I’m surrounded by teams of application developers wearing shorts and appropriate t-shirts (well, except on inappropriate T-Shirt Thursdays).  The people here are relaxed and friendly and every single one of the people at Lextech are amazing at what they do.

When I started at Lextech, I was shown just how a supportive team and good work environment can mean to your outlook.  I felt empowered to make decisions and to not have to constantly be looking over my shoulder for the next dagger in my back.  I was given responsibility to run the operations day to day and was tasked with managing customer experience and interaction for all of the projects that I manage.  Now, keeping in perspective the environment that I had come from, where the pressure was intense and mostly external and impossible to manage; coming here was like a vacation.  The pressure that I feel is pressure that I put on myself to keep the teams going to to alleviate the stress on them.  I can handle my own pressure; because I know what I can do and I know how to do it.   One of the developers told me a while back that my job is to keep the pressure off the developers and to shield them from having to deal with customers and that is exactly what I do every day.  Keep the guys who do the work from having to worry about the politics and (sometimes) unreasonable expectations.  It was nice to be recognized for doing well what I try to do.

With regards specifically to my health and weight loss, Lextech has allowed me the freedom to do the unthinkable:  actually take an hour to eat a healthy lunch.  *GASP* The shock and the horror.  They realize and I am slowly realizing that the next email that I  need to send can often wait an hour for me to get some fuel in my system or to get up from my desk to take a break.  When I decided to accept the offer to come work at Lextech, I was very upfront about why I left the City and why I wanted to work with a small, but rapidly growing company.  I wanted to be able to spend more time with my family, and I would put their needs above work.  The team here has been very accepting of the fact that I try to leave the office around 4 every day; so that I can get to daycare to pick up the boys.  It is one of my favorite things to do and it lights up my day no matter what has happened when they jump for joy in excitement to see dad.  They allow me the freedom to fit in exercise into an already tight family schedule.

And finally, Lextech has given me the perspective that I was sorely missing.  Family and loved ones are really more important than work; and realizing that has changed my life more than anything else.   There is no way I would have been as successful as I have been in this journey without my Lextech family.

Ps:  I didn’t write this at work; I just delayed publishing for during business hours 🙂  I’m far too busy to write things at work!