Sunday, September 25, 2011

Perseverance Does Pay Off

On October 3, 2010, I packed as much of my stuff as I could fit into my 2004 Saturn Ion (just the essentials, mind you) and made the trek from Fayetteville, NC to Atlanta, GA. For several years, my best friend, Robert, had been after me to do it, and I always had some piss poor excuse not to. I guess I had finally just gotten to the point that knowing that Fayetteville had nothing to offer me, career wise, except for crappy retail jobs that even the apprehension of leaving my loved ones just wasn't enough to keep me from taking the gamble of heading to a large metro area and trying to stake a claim on having a career and a life.

My first week in Atlanta I found a job, albeit not one any better than I could have found in Fayetteville. For about six months I hammered away working a part time, minimum wage gig at an office supply store for a control freak of a boss while putting my resume on almost every job site I could find. By Thanksgiving I had had one interview with a place that offered the opportunity to have a “real job” but was told my tech skills weren't strong enough yet. By January 2011 I had made a tentative decision to go back to North Carolina if I didn't have anything better than the retail job I had by the end of March. I even told my boss as much – that either by then I'd be shown that I had a future at the office store, have found something better here in the ATL, or I was going home. At that point I had decided that if I was going to be stuck in a crappy, minimum wage, retail job, I might as well go home and do that and at least then I could be with my fiancĂ©e everyday and maybe even see my Gramma, Mom, Sister and Niece on a regular basis.

But it's amazing what friendship can do for you. I have been really blessed in that coming to Atlanta has scored a great group of friends even beyond Robert, who already lived here. So my gaming buddy, Jeff, made me an offer. He needed a new roommate, and I needed to move out of Robert's house (that's a long story that I won't get into here, but it had nothing to do with anything bad between Rob and I – he's still my best friend, and lives less than two miles away from me). Anyway, Jeff offered to get an apartment with me – one which he could afford by himself if needs be, and that he was going to rent regardless of me being his roommate or not. The deal was that I could help out with what I could when I could until I found that “real job” I had been hunting. In fact, I was waiting to hear back from a job I had interviewed for that would have meant I could afford half the bills. So, I decided to stay, and even signed a twelve month lease that began March 1, 2011.

So for a month I continued working at the office store, thinking that maybe I had made a mistake in staying. Then one I day I got a phone call that would set in motion flood of career opportunity. The call came from a staffing agency (aka, temp agency, “head hunter”, whatever you want to call them). It was a chance to work, “temp-to-hire”, for $13 per hour, and it was even in the technology field. Finally, after months of rejection, or just plain no replies, I was being offered a “real job”. I started that job on April 26, went through six weeks of training and, at the risk of being a bit arrogant, had become one of the top two or three members of the customer service specialists on my team. I not only had a job that paid a decent wage but at which I knew I was respected, trusted and likely being groomed for advancement at.

Then the damnedest thing happened. I got a message on Facebook from an acquaintance that I knew through Robert, named Keith. He told me his company was hiring for their Technical Support team. I hesitant at first, for a few reasons. First of all, the place I was already working had already started the proceedings of switching me from being a temporary contract employee to permanent employee. Secondly, I knew I had a future where I was working (I had been directly told by my manager that once permanent I was in the running to be promoted to Tier 2 support). And thirdly, I had interviewed with this other company before, back in 2005, before it had been acquired by a larger company and was told my Unix/Linux skills weren't up to par for them to take the gamble on hiring me. Oh yeah, and they had just laid off Robert back in January because his job was duplicated overseas. So, I was a little apprehensive about even trying. I've been running Linux on my personal computer for a few months now, but still, my skills in Unix/Linux are still pretty rudimentary, in my opinion. Robert said I should go for it, so I said “fuck it” and sent my resume to Keith. I got a phone call from an HR Recruiter and had a preliminary “interview” over the phone a few days later. I figured that's that, and went to work that afternoon. Low and behold, I was called by the recruiter again to set up a phone interview one Friday with the team managers/leads here in Atlanta (Alpharetta, actually, but it's still the Metro-Atlanta area).

I honestly thought I had blown that phone interview. I started off pretty strong, but then they started asking about things that I was only vaguely familiar with and really couldn't answer the questions specifically, Again I thought “well, that's that” and went back to work on my next scheduled day. Imagine my surprise when I got a call that following Monday telling me that they wanted to do an on-site interview! Cool. I'll go and let them meet me face-to-face, I thought. I'll show them what I do know and hope it's enough, but I had a feeling they'd, once again, tell me that they needed someone with more Unix knowledge and experience than I had and really didn't have the time and resources to train and teach me. So, on a Friday morning, I got up at 6am, showered, shaved and put on my favorite suit and drove from Decatur to Alpharetta (it was the Friday before Labor Day in fact, so I ended up being way early because I had overestimated how bad traffic would be that morning). I met with four different people, two at at time, for a little over an hour. We talked about basic Unix commands, networking, I was even asked to view a couple of log files to test my ability to read them. Personality wise, I got along great with everyone I spoke with, but again I thought, on the technology portion of the interview I had fumbled. So I drove back to Decatur, changed clothes and proceeded to go about my normal Friday errands and such (Friday being one of my regular days off from the current job). Two hours later, my phone rang – it was the HR Recruiter. Naturally I thought, “Well, if this was good news, they wouldn't be calling me only two hours later.” I was WRONG! She was calling to offer me the job! Holy Shit! I couldn't believe it! It was all I could do to contain myself lest I wreck my car, since I was pulling out of a McDonald's drive through at the time.

So here I am, almost a year after coming down here, preparing to start a job that pays substantially more than I was making tomorrow morning. Leaving the job I was at was bitter-sweat. I really liked and respected my manager. I really got along with my team, and pretty much everyone did their job and we all worked really well together and, as I said before, I knew I was in line for moving up the ladder there. But when you get an offer for a job that's in a field you've been hoping to break into as long as I have, and it pays more per year than you're already making, you don't say “no”.

It's been a crazy twelve months, but it's obviously paid off. I've fallen in love with this city and all the awesome things there are to see and do here. I've found a great core group of friends. And now I finally have landed in the career that I've been hoping for for years. The only thing left is to move my beloved down here with me, and that will happen soon.

So if you're feeling down or like life's dumping on you, just hang in there. It may not be tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or even next year, but good things really do happen to those who don't give up.

"Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." - James 1:12 NASB

"Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." - Winston Churchill, (29 October 1941)

~ JC