On Wednesday, February 1st, I celebrated my first full year working at Blackbaud in Charleston, South Carolina. That’s honestly a big milestone for me. While I have plenty of professional experience all over the country and world, all of it has been rapid, short term, and high level. My work at Blackbaud has been the very first time in my life that I truly feel myself developing a career. All previous experiences have been trying to figure out what I want my career to be, and now I’m very happy to be moving forward to the next stage with a great company.
It’d be very hard to complain about my first year at Blackbaud. I’ve been very lucky to have been supported by a boss that both appreciated and utilized my unique background, but also encouraged me to venture away from my comfort zone to develop new skills. He was very conscious to not throw me in the deep end and hope that I learn to swim. I’ve been paired with other team members since I started with whom I have complementary skill sets, and we’ve worked through a variety or projects together touching many different parts of the business.
However, the business outside of our team has been experiencing growing pains. There has been significant reorganizations, layoffs, and leadership changes across the whole business to better align ourselves with the next generation software products that will be released and sold in the coming years. As is natural with a 35 year old company, there are plenty of legacy products and people that become less and less efficient to maintain as we build and sell and support the next generation. Until recently though, all of these changes had been outside of our team in the periphery of the business; people and work that we did not see every day. Then two weeks ago, we heard that a member of our Product Management team had been let go.
When the news came out, of course there were many knee jerks, many writers and critics prophesizing with pens, many forceful opinions being blurted. Everyone had questions. No one had answers to “why”. The only explanation that could make any sense was the scariest, most impersonal one – someone looked at an org chart and a balance sheet and just chose departments where “redundancies” needed to be eliminated and “efficiencies” could be created.
Moral is currently low. The layoffs have created a palpable uneasiness. There’s still uncertainty whether there are wheels still in spin, and as demonstrated, there’s no telling who it’s naming. I suppose I’d be wise to learn from this and understand that no one is ever safe. I should always keep an ace in the hole, a contingency plan, and never get comfortable. This experience is proof that in the corporate world where the number one priority for executives and shareholders is a continually improving return on investment, no one is ever safe.
An immediate result of the layoff on our team is that now a scrum team needs a Product Manager. I’ve been being groomed to take over a team for the past year. What a coincidence. Another outcome of this reorganization is that they’ve shifted the scope of all the Directors in Product Management across the company’s whole portfolio. My boss for the previous year that I had started to consider a mentor of sorts is no longer my boss. Now I report to a Director in Austin, Texas who has eleven other people on her team.
I’ve now gained significantly more responsibility, all due to the absence left from the Sr. Product Manager on our team who I always considered a genuine and supportive colleague and human being. Regardless of how backwards and bittersweet that feels, the line has been drawn, the curse was cast. The slow one now will soon be fast.
This is exactly what I’ve been working for, if not the way I was hoping to achieve it. This will be a great opportunity to prove not only to my new team and new boss, but also to myself, that I am up to the challenge. In a state of constant chaos, I’ll try to bring a bit of sanity and clarity to my new team, even if it requires more hours and stress. The waters around me have most certainly grown. But I’m ready to start swimming.