Farewell to 2015

2015 was the second most tumultuous year in my life. I lost my job at the beginning of the year, made a mistake in taking the first offer that came along to replace it, and struggled to retain a positive outlook and find my way forward. But I used the turmoil to find my way to the career I really wanted.

On January 19, a corporate restructuring eliminated my entire division. I tried to be optimistic. The severance package was generous, my skills were up-to-date, and I’d long wanted to find a new job, anyway. Maybe this would be a good thing.

Still, I worried, and my worry grew when, a month after the layoff, I hadn’t had a single interview in spite of sending out dozens of applications, working with multiple recruiters, and giving myself headaches searching career web sites. Then a developer who’d been canned along with me contacted me. He’d found a job. Send me your résumé, he said. They want to become agile. They need you. I had some trepidation after the interview process, but the offer they made came close to replacing my former salary. I let fear of being out of work override my concerns about whether they really wanted to be agile. I took the job.

My concerns proved well-founded. “Agile” was nothing more to them than a magic incantation that meant everything and nothing. I tried to introduce Agile principles, and was rebuffed at every turn. A month after I started, the CTO presented the new SDLC process he’d designed without any input from the people who would be expected to follow it. I pointed out that there was no provision for retrospectives. His response? “Sam, I never look back.”

He wasn’t joking. I started looking for a new job again that day.

Once again, I sent out résumés, worked with recruiters, and searched job boards. Once again, it did me no good. I needed to find a way to stand out. I’d been an acceptable Scrum Master at my previous job, but “good enough” wasn’t good enough. I needed to be great. I wanted to be great.

I signed up for a Certified Scrum Product Owner course. I didn’t want to become a Product Owner; I thought it would make me a better Scrum Master. It would help me better support the Product Owner at my next job, wherever that might be.

Meanwhile, I looked for other Scrum practitioners to learn from. I read. I engaged on Twitter. And I discovered Tampa Bay Agile. Through “Lean Coffee” meetings and monthly Scrum Masters Guild meetings, I connected with other Agile thinkers. My understanding of Scrum expanded exponentially and I drew inspiration and energy from the people I met.

In September, salvation arrived. A Scrum Master position opened at a company in Clearwater. I got the job. I took a week off between jobs to write in my journal about what I’d been through and how it had affected me. I wrote about how I would leave the negative energy and thought patterns behind. When I had processed all of those negative emotions, I wrote about what I hoped to accomplish, and planned for how I would continue to grow my career in my new job.

It’s been not quite three months, and I’ve adapted very well. That’s not to say I still don’t have a lot to learn, and plenty of growth ahead of me, but I’m eager for it. I’m energized by the challenge, and happier at work than I’ve been in years.

What I went through changed me. I could have let it beat me down, but I chose to find a way to move forward. And with what I’ve learned from 2015, I know that there’s no reason I can’t achieve even greater success in 2016.