I am currently going through the process of looking for a new opportunity for my career. I’m going through the rigamarole of doing interviews and talking numbers with recruiters, etc. I’m even considering a position at Microsoft whome I left last year after spending 5 years there. All of these activities have me thinking back to my previous job roles and times that I was transitioning from one job to another. In particular, I find myself thinking a lot of the time I left a production DBA role at Microsoft to takeover as Program Manager for the Microsoft Certified Master program in Microsoft Learning. The Director of my former operations team sent out an email announcing my departure to the team. This email contained a statement in it that has really been stuck in my mind ever since. It truly is the saddest thing I ever heard a manager say.
Working for Microsoft And the MCM Program
When I was first offered a full-time employee (FTE) position at Microsoft, I asked if they would send me through the Certified Master program. They agreed as a stipulation of me taking the job. I went to work at Microsoft and about 11 months later, I attended the 8th rotation of the SQL Server MCM program. This was back when the program was still a 3 week, on-site program in Redmond, WA. I passed all of my exams on the first attempt and returned to work as a Certified Master. This was an exciting time for me. There were some rearrangements made in my job role on the team to take full advantage of my status as a Certified Master including positioning me as a resource to the engineering teams with which we worked for tasks like architectural design, code reviews, query tuning, etc. I felt really happy to be in an organization that supported me in my career goals and wanted to take advantage of my particular set of skills.
I spent more than 2 years in that group before I decided to take on the role of Program Manager for the Certified Master program. It was an exciting change for me, but also a little scary to be making such a drastic change in job role. Our Director of Operations asked me to write up a brief description of my new role so he could send out an announcement to the team.
The email was a nice, positive email all around, but it contained one statement that hit me really hard. I no longer have the email so I will paraphrase as best I can.
“I knew when we sent Robert through the MCM program that it was only a matter of time until he left us. I knew this day was coming.”
You may be wondering what is so bad about that statement. That sad truth is this statement really demonstrates one of the fundamental reasons I chose to leave the team. Indifference. They had come to the conclusion that I was going to move on as soon as I found a better opportunity, and they made no effort to keep me there. My immediate supervisor did not suffer from this delusion that there was nothing they could do to keep me there. He tried to get an architect role added to the team so I would have some upward mobility on the team. When the top levels of management have already concluded that you as good as gone, there’s no support to try to keep you there.
This statement made me sad because it most definitely was not true. They very easily could have kept me there. They simply did not try. They were the architects of my departure, not the MCM certification.
Don’t Fear Training or Change
I hear people express the fear that if they send their staff to training, they will leave. Staff don’t leave because you send them to training. They leave because you don’t. They leave because, in the words of J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, “indifference and neglect often do more damage than outright dislike.” To the managers out there, I advise to not make this same mistake.