A topsy turvy year

“It’s been a ‘topsy turvy’ year” .. this was a line from a friends year-end letter I read a few months ago and it’s been stuck in my head since, indeed, this past year has been crazy for us.

A year ago today I found my job at The Jackson Laboratory would be ending in a few months. This came as quite a shock since I had no idea this was coming. There were 4 of us working as System Administrators in the Mouse Genome Informatics department and all of us were given 4 months notice about our positions ending at the end of the current grant cycle. While I realize 4 months notice is more than generous notice in todays environment, this was still devastating. I had been working at the lab for over 13 years and, frankly, never expected to just be let go. Our (my office mates and I) worst case scenario in our heads was that we might get merged into the central IT department. This is indeed what happened, just sans us (well to be fair they created one new position and one of my office mates go that position, but he had to apply and compete for it, there was no institutional respect for the years we’d put in). So, yes, I was shocked, and yes, I’m still a bit bitter in being let go from a place I had put so much into. Sigh.

But that’s just the beginning of the ‘topsy turvy’-ness. First off, while I guess I should have known better, I hadn’t even updated my résumé in over 11 years. In that time period the standards and expectations for résumés had changed so I had to redo this pretty much from scratch. This took way longer than it should have, probably cause I’m inheritently a pretty humble person. I work hard and do a good job and I expect others to recognize and respect that. Résumé and cover letter writing (and interviewing) is a decidely NON-HUMBLE experience and it just drove me nuts to have to boast about my skills and experience.

Also, since thanks to Downeast Maine’s economy and lack of IT related businesses, there were literally NO jobs in the area that I could even apply for. So not only did I lose my workplace of over 13 years, but we realized we were going to have to relocate and sell our house. What a great time to sell a house and to job hunt! WHEE! FUN!

At first I started looking elsewhere in Maine and found a lead at Maine Today Media which publishes the Portland Press Herald and several other papers in the state, as well as running a number of websites. They had recently had a large number of staff turnovers in their IT department and were looking to fill these positions. I liked the person I interviewed with there and it may have worked out but I felt like the team there was going to be too small, the possible pressure of ‘OMG fix this or we cant go to press!’ wasn’t recognized in the salary they offered.

Another friend found a job lead at the company he’d been working at just north of Boston. There was a possibility here to work from home most of the time and that sounded great. However, this job seemed pretty ‘intense’ and the they made me a job offer on Friday and wanted me there Monday morning, and to top it off I didn’t feel they offered me a fair salary. My summary of this job was “yeah I could work from home, but I’d get an ulcer from home too”

I also interviewed at the Harvard Business School and part of the Harvard Medical School but the idea of commuting into Boston from Southern NH (Where Emily has family) was not appealing.

I did get a phone interview and in person interview at the Dartmouth School of Engineering. This was really interesting and I liked the people I met there, but I guess I was choice #2 and whomever was choice number 1 selfishly took the job! So close…

So at this point it was now mid-may and all my current job leads were ones I wasn’t excited about. I had sent my résumé too dozens of places, most of which never even acknowledged receipt.

Then I got a phone interview from Williams College for a web developer position. Williams is in Williamstown, MA and is in western Mass.. like REALLY western Mass, it’s literally in the top left corner of Massachusetts, bordering NY & VT. That was further than we had hoped to have to move but… there wasn’t much else to consider at this point. So I did a phone interview for that position which went ok though they had some tough curveball questions about wordpress that I hadn’t encountered before. I think I spent a 1/2 hour after the call googling and reading up on the questions I didn’t know the answer too. However they also mentioned they had a unix sysadmin position open there and asked if I’d like to be considered for that. I am certain I hadn’t seen this posted anywhere and they said they thought there were some problems in getting it advertised, so this was just pure luck that I found out about it. I did a phone interview for that position on Friday and was invited out for an in person interview the following Monday, and had an offer from them the next Wednesday.

So in early July we moved all our junk belongings, 2 dogs and 4 cats to a college owned rental house in Williamstown and started our new life in the land of far, far away from what we considered home. We left 13 years of friends, the UU church we’d been attending the entire time we were there, Owen’s gymnastics coach & team, and Matt’s volunteer DJ & Board member position at Community Radio WERU 89.9 FM. This was fairly traumatic. While it was great to have a job, especially one that sounded exciting at a nice workplace with good benefits, we didn’t want to leave. I blogged about this last May here.

We also dropped off over 60 bags/boxes of stuff to goodwill and filled a large 18′ dumpster with over 2 tons of stuff we didn’t need/want to move.

Since then it’s been a whirlwhind of new job, new people, new area, new gymnastics team/coach for Owen, a hurricane, a snow storm in October, a cat dying, a car dying and most recently house hunting.

We made an offer on a house today that costs way more than we really should be buying but basically if we want to live here that’s the going rate for the size of house we’d fit in. It’s a great house and we have our fingers crossed it will work out though we’ll be grimacing every month when we’re paying bills, though at least we’ll be doing that in a house we love. :)

So here’s hoping our year of chaos and change is over and we can coast for a while with just a “normal” level of randomness and life. If not.. well I’ll blog about that next year.

-Matt


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