Saturday, May 29, 2021

Retirement Day

On my last day of work I still had not received the promised email with a link to my Exit Interview, which like everything else in Amazon is self service - that is an online questionnaire. I checked my email and the web page where the link is expected to materialize for the exiting employee. Nothing.

Actually, my official retirement day was not for another two days. 31st May. However, as that was Memorial Day and a holiday, my last day would be Friday 28th. I started the day at my normal time, 4.30 a.m. Central Time and chatted with a few of my colleagues in Bangalore - they are the reason I start so early; I like being able to interact with them in real time rather than by email. Next I cleaned up my work email and laptop hard drive. I know that when I return the laptop it will be reimaged immediately, but I still feel obliged to clean up after myself.

I again checked email for the Exit Interview; nothing.

For some weeks I had been avoiding attending meetings involving the wider team - that is development and product; I restricted my interactions to just the QA team and only some of these meetings as I sought to reduce any dependency on me and avoid unintentionally tripping up my senior engineer who was taking over the management of the QA team. On this final day I joined the Austin development team's standup in order to say a thank you and farewell, unfortunately there were only two of the 5 member team present but they bid me a fond farewell and wished me luck.

Checked email for the Exit Interview; nothing.

Next I sent my farewell email to the wider audience, the Product team in Seattle, the Development Team in Seattle - most of whom I had never met as they had been hired on during the lockdown and to all of the people I had worked with in the almost 7 years at Amazon; the friends I had made along the way and of course the Development Team in Austin who I had worked closely with, and my own QA Team.

I checked my email for the Exit Interview; still nothing - the original email suggested that Amazon would really appreciate me filling in this questionnaire as it would assist them in constantly improving their employee relations. As they already knew that mine was not a happy story, apparently they didn't want to hear it, or perhaps didn't want it on record.

At midday I dialed into my final meeting of my working life. No, not a wider team retirement meeting, not a final meeting with the group leadership to wish me well - that didn't happen; it was better than that. The QA Team I had been part of for almost 7 years, and had managed for 4 of those years had scheduled a farewell meeting. In attendance was all three from Bangalore - bear in mind this was the end of a very busy week for all of the team, and in India, very late on a Friday night; two from Seattle and two from Austin, plus the Technical Program Manager with whom I was friendly and the entire team worked closely with.

Everyone in the group turned on their video - a huge compliment as it is extremely rare for some people to ever do that. For the next 90 minutes my team took turns to give examples of how I had positively impacted their lives. One of the team had worked into the early hours of the morning to prepare a collage for me - we are friends on Facebook and she was able to gather photos of the many group lunches I had arranged over the years - both with the teams in Austin and on my many visits to Seattle. These were not just the QA team, but development and product teams also. I plan to have it printed and framed - that was my retirement gift from my wonderful team. My retirement gift from Amazon, and the leadership of the group with whom I had worked for 7 years was total silence.

Finally I called an end to the meeting as my colleagues from India were approaching their midnight and I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the gratitude and kindness shown by my team.

I checked my email again to see if I had received the Exit Interview .. nothing. So I emailed HR to make it clear that I had not refused to complete the form, I had never received it. Then I unplugged my laptop to allow the battery to drain in advance of returning it to Amazon.

Next morning, Saturday, I logged into my laptop again to check on the battery - still at 64% - so I decided to check my email one last time in case the Exit Interview had arrived the previous evening. I could not connect to VPN - my credentials no longer worked. Despite Monday being my official last day - as it is a holiday I guess they decided to shut me down on Friday. Luckily I had returned everything else to the office earlier in the month because no doubt my access there was also shut down.

Here is the collage my team gave me - in the top right hand corner is a screenshot of our final farewell meeting. My heartfelt thanks to that team of amazing engineers who went a very long way to making my retirement feel special. 

Now I just have to work at trying to relax and deal with the feeling of  being set adrift. I realized that I had become addicted to constantly checking my work email and chat client no matter the time or day. I find myself picking up my phone and realizing, that life is over and is going on fine without me. 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

It is the little things that matter

Some time ago I blogged about the impact of lack of appreciation. I was at a point in my life where I had been putting myself out for someone who took everything I did for granted. As is my usual method of dealing with life and it's problems, I wrote about it, naturally writing leads to researching and that in turn leads to a better understanding and so the therapeutic effect takes place. 

"Silent gratitude isn't very much to anyone." - Gertrude Stein

In the last week I had two instances of the complete opposite and experienced the huge positive impact that being appreciated has. The first was on Thursday. 

On the first Thursday of every month our cleaning service take over our home. We make a point of getting out of the house and giving them free rein. (Yes that is the correct spelling see here if you don't believe me). Up to this year I was at work and my husband would take his mother out to do whatever shopping she needed. Just before the Covid-19 pandemic took over his mother moved out of our home into assisted living and I was working from home full time; at that point I took a couple of hours off in the morning and we did our grocery shopping. This Thursday was no different. When we returned the cleaners had finished and were gone. On the counter in the kitchen there was a beautiful gift basket. I was dumbfounded and immediately took it apart to find who it was from. The only card in the basket was from the company who supplied it, Basket Case Austin, so I emailed them and asked them to tell me who I should thank. I got a response almost immediately saying they had emailed the sender. At the same time my husband received a text from our cleaning service, a family run business local to us in Lago Visa, Flores Cleaning Company, telling us that they had left the gift basket to thank us for being such good customers! All we did was pay them the very reasonable charge for a truly terrific job, and we never complained because there was never a reason to complain. I was so very touched by this expression of appreciation.

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." - William Arthur Ward

The following day I had taken the day off work and we were out on the lake fishing when I received a text message from a guy who had worked for me for a number of years and had left my team just a few months previously. He wanted to know when he could call me as he had some news he wanted to share. I said "now is good" and he called. He told me that he had been offered a job with one of the top Tech companies in the world and he followed up by saying he would not have been able to get through the interview if it were not for the coaching and mentoring he had received from me while I was his manager. I was thrilled for him of course, and quite overcome that he credited me with so much, but most of all, that he took the time to call me and thank me. 

How often do we think, "thank goodness for so-and-so" and never think to say it to them? This man credited me with his great achievement and took the time to tell me so. Not only did I get a surge of Dopamine, but I felt vindicated. I was going through a difficult time at work, as a result of which I was getting ready to retire, and this one phone call went a very long way towards making me feel a whole lot more valued. 

The deepest principle of human nature is a craving to be appreciated." - William James (Psychologist)

Monday, May 3, 2021

As promised

In a previous blog, I promised to let you know what I thought of the book I bought "How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free"; I had high hopes that it would be the definitive guide to a wonderful retirement. I was disappointed as I started to read it. 

The first major issue I had was that it touted the benefits of retiring early; this advice was way too late for me! 

Available here

"Put another way, if you put it off too long, upon your retirement you may find out that the best time to pursue our dreams and enjoy life to the fullest was twenty years ago"

And this one gave me pause:

"Even fishing all day on a favorite lake can get boring after a week or two.

considering that is part of my plan, not to fish every day, but every weekday that the weather is good.

But, ever the optimist, I kept reading. As I read on I found a few slightly more useful references and some examples of people who retired with minimal savings and still enjoyed their retirement. I have to admit the frequent references to the woman at home being unhappy to have her husband under foot all day, did irritate me. Given that I am eight years older than my husband and he retired a number of years ago, albeit early in order to care for his ailing mother who lived with us (see previous blog), he is the one who is now going to have to put up with me suddenly being there all day - and he will have to put up with me disturbing his restful day as I keep finding things for us to do.

Another recommendation he made gave me serious pause for thought:

"Don't forget to include your spouse in your retirement plan"

What? Surely no one secretly makes plan to retire and deliberately excludes their spouse?? When I read that pearl of wisdom to my husband he said "I hope you didn't pay for that book"? I am having a hard time trying to understand why anyone would not discuss retirement with their spouse.

So now I am wondering if this is a very old book and written back in the day when women didn't work outside the home and marriages were not partnerships. A quick search showed it was first published in 2004, definitely not 'back in the day' so I checked to find out what age the author is, apparently Ernie Zelinski was born in 1949; that makes him three years younger than me and old enough to know better! But, if he felt it necessary to give that warning, perhaps he knows of people who have done exactly this. My feeling is, if you would even dream of planning for retirement without discussing it with your spouse, your relationship is already doomed and so too is any chance of a satisfactory and enjoyable retirement.

I continued to read in the hopes that I would get some information of value from this book but I was losing hope. Finally, after completing only 25% of the book I did give up on it. It was when the author started pontificating about 'getting in touch with the inner you' and 'finding a greater purpose' that I abandoned all hope. It is not that I don't believe these are good things to do, it is that I object to his assumption that most people who are still working have not already done this. I know I have, and if you have read my book I think you will agree.

This blog is well worth a read
However, this book (or the 25% I read) did convince me of one thing; I am overthinking this entire process. This is just another adventure and I have taken far greater risks than this before in my life

I am retiring, I have little or no choice at this stage at least where my current employer is concerned, but I do trust that the universe knows best and I will go with the flow. If it doesn't work out I will make changes until I find the answer. That much I have most definitely done before, more than once; I have already proved to myself  'nothing ventured, nothing gained'. And also, nothing is impossible!

Currently my plan for the immediate future is: a midweek trip to Vegas in September, to celebrate our birthdays and my retirement (we are both fully vaccinated); a Masterclass membership - this is a one year access to any course, specifically I am interested in the writing course but will investigate all the courses they have to offer. Reading all the books I have stacked up, and not just while I am on the treadmill; continue my 4 miles a day on the treadmill in the early morning, but also drag my sedentary husband out to walk outside (he has already agreed) as often as possible; fishing trips on the boat during the week when the weather is good, or off the dock where it is not ideal for the boat; writing, I have abandoned this blog for too long and it is great writing practice - plus I have a book waiting to be written. Create new embroidery patterns and bring them to life; Cook and bake and perhaps another cookery book?? And once this pandemic is finally under control in Europe and the US, get to visit my family again.

As I get settled into the next chapter in my life, I will report back to you on how it is proceeding.