I’m getting divorced.
After 4 years of ups and downs, laughter and arguments, whiteboard sessions and bridge calls, near application-death experiences and the birth of a new product, I’m splitting up with my work wife and leaving my project family of 40-or-so team members.
While I love my current work family, I confess my eyes and heart have been straying for a while. And then another manager seduced me with promises of being able to pursue some ideas I’ve been dreaming of for a while.
While I’d been eyeing promotion opportunities, the chance to use the FedEx paintbrush to paint on a blank canvas was too juicy to pass up.
But while I may be separating from my work wife, it doesn’t mean I don’t still love her. (Just not as much as my life wife, who I’m definitely staying with.)
Like so many work-spouse relationships, it was an arranged marriage. We were brought together by a sick foster-child application that needed some serious TLC, and Deana, the new IT manager, knew just who to give it to, Judy!
And Judy being the good mom she is, took it under her wing and nursed it from near death to a mostly healthy state. It was a friendship forged by fire and crisis as we worked together to get the app out of the ICU.
Not content with just having an adopted child, I talked her and the extended FedEx-management family into birthing a new business intelligence application. I talked about how our new child would be even smarter and prettier than our current child with a global outlook on life that would make it’s parents proud.
Judy, being the more down to earth IT partner, listened dubiously as I spewed my visions of a fantastical future.
“What’s wrong with our current child. He just needs some more love and he can be better than ever. Besides where are we going to get the money for a new child. So stop gallivanting around and focus on what we need to do today and stop spending all your time dreaming about the future. You need to learn how to be more practical and focus.”
It wouldn’t be the last time I’d hear that I’d need to stop dreaming.
Amazingly, my dreaming paid off and we were blessed with funding for a new child.
But the funding came with strings attached, “Your child needs to be born in 9 months or else. And while you’re at it, it needs to support both Freight and Parcel.”
“No problemo,” I assured as I dreamed about my soon to be born prodigy. Meanwhile, Judy stared daggers at me.
“Honey, how can you make promises like that when we have no idea how much work it will take?”
Neither of us had any idea just how much work it would take but Judy had a much better idea than I ever did that it would take much longer than nine months.
So under penalty of death or at least bad employee reviews, we started working with our small extended family of developers, UXers and testers.
Not surprising, our love and tolerance took a beating, as did I, while we tried to turn my dream into reality.
“Kevin focus! I need you to make a decision now!”
“But I need some more time.”
“Time’s up. I need an answer now”
Gulp…”Okay if we have to, then how about X”
The romance was over. Instead of passionate design sessions envisioning endless possibilities, it was one hard conversation after another, about finances, resources, timelines, roles and responsibilities, hard choices about enhancements vs migration, while our ever growing family looked to us for answers.
Anger replaced amor as we battled about everything. Only occasionally, relaxing over dinner and wine to ponder our future and upcoming features together.
Over time we grew to respect each other’s positions and learned to appreciate our different strengths while brushing off the things that bothered us.
In Judy, I saw a brilliant woman who reminded me of my life wife, incisive, always thinking and moving a million miles an hour with little tolerance for delay and dithering. She, I think, grew to overlook my many failings and grew to appreciate my few strengths, most of which involve cracking jokes and making people laugh.
I have to confess, it was never strictly a monogamous relationship, since it was a largely female-dominated project populated with strong brilliant women. Tiffany, “I’ll do it my way” who tried to force simplicity and clarity onto the complexity and opacity of the project. Camille, who initially scared the hell out of me, with her outspoken demands for order and voice of the customer. Leanne, more soft-spoken but equally persistent advocate for design and usability. Andrea with her hearty laugh and brilliant smile helping with the detailed requirements. Sarita, with her photographic memory, luminescent smile and unfailing patience. Radha, Judy’s right arm who would humor me while I tried to act like I actually knew something about software development. Monica with her attempts to bring order to the chaos by forcing deadlines and process on me.
And of course there was Tammie, who deserves a whole paragraph to herself. Our seemingly five-armed Shiva and mother figure who did her best to keep the wheels on the bus and the bus on the road as we careened through the jungle on unmapped tracks while we all shouted directions at each other. Tammie’s ability to engage in five IMs, manage a conference call, draft an email, and talk to me somewhat calmly at her desk while I munched on her Cheetos as she also filled out some mandatory CYA form always amazed me.
But Judy was the partner I was closest to and for that I will forever be grateful for her insights, brilliance, flexibility and occasional patience. And even if we’re now officially separated, whatever you do, don’t ever let me hear you say how women can’t code or can’t be great engineers, as I’ll still beat the snot out of you.
Now I’ve left her and the rest of the FedEx Reporting Online family to gallivant around as a product bachelor, with no application kids to worry about.
So even though we’re getting divorced, I hope she’ll forgive me and we can still be friends.
Who knows, maybe we’ll even get back together again? Regardless, I’ll always remember our relationship with great fondness and I hope we can still be friends, and she’ll still take my calls.
Writing this has made me realize how much I miss her already. Hmmm… Maybe I’ll call her?!
What! She’s already blocked my number! ;=(
PS If you’re interested in adopting my FRO child, the product-manager position is open to qualified FedExers looking for a high-profile leadership position. Ping me and I’ll be happy to share more insights into the position. You can read more about it on LinkedIn