written by Brian C. Copeland
I’ve enjoyed a 25-plus year career in the Atlanta Technology marketplace and have experienced much change during this time. I’ve seen high-flying industry growth and the hiring frenzies that went along with it as well as some industry lows and the downsizing that tends to happen during these. Personally, I’ve experienced some wonderful promotions in my career that made me very proud at the time, but admittedly, have also experienced some layoffs and job situations that just didn’t work out. In some cases, the company for whom I was working just decided to close its doors. Fortunately, when one door closes another door opens. I held on to this optimism for many years but eventually grew frustrated and somewhat disillusioned. I knew that if I was going to find fulfillment in the workplace at this stage in my life that I was going to have to re-invent my career. At age 50 I did just that.
Part I – The Path to Frustration
The first 10 years of my career happened to coincide with a boom in the Atlanta Technology marketplace. The move to PC’s, companies racing to the Web, and Y2K were all driving the market and helped me take my career in technology to new heights. Then, a crash, an act of terrorism, and yet another crash caused me to struggle for quite some while. After 15 years of moving sideways and one last layoff, my frustration was now complete and I had to take action.
Armed with a degree in software engineering, an MBA, and some pretty good experience I had done well in the Atlanta Technology job market for 10 years. An early interest in computers eventually led to a passion in technical management. At the height of my career, I was a Principal at the world’s largest Internet consulting firm in charge of all delivery, had stock options that were worth millions (on paper, at least), and was well on my way to making Partner, which would bring even more money and stock. I even co-founded an Internet security company on the side in my spare time. Some of my co-workers had begun even referring to me as the “Golden Child”, a nickname that caused me some embarrassment.
I certainly wasn’t the only “Golden Child” to see their lucrative compensation package disappear during what became the Dotcom Bubble Burst of 2000. I remember being in very fine company down at the Department of Labor applying for unemployment benefits that year. There was at least one Vice-President from a large competitor standing in line with me as well as many other well-educated, well-off looking people there with us. I was only 33 years old at the time and was taking things in stride. I hadn’t exactly expected to retire rich in my 30’s. I had also already seen a couple of economic cycles during my career and knew this wasn’t the end of the world and there would be plenty of time for me to recover.
However, the next few years turned out to be fairly rough ones, especially after 9/11. There was plenty of work, but recruiting and hiring never regained the exuberance that it had in the late 90’s. Furthermore, those boom years had seemingly brought a glut of IT workers to the Atlanta marketplace. This was especially true in the telecom industry, which had been laying off in mass. Competition for well-paying management jobs remained very high and job satisfaction within those companies that were hiring seemingly remained very low. Nonetheless, I was fortunate to have a strong resume and kept myself employed, albeit with more and more frequent job changes.
In 2009 the economy took a turn for the worse. This time it was the Housing Bubble that burst and what was a rough job market became just plain brutal. At 42 years old I was not as bright and shiny (or Golden for that matter) as I had been in my early 30’s, which showed during job interviews. Furthermore, I had noticed what could be described as various repetitive themes (a nice way of saying SSDD) in all my recent jobs. It seemed as though I was getting paid to solve many of the same business problems over and over again. It also started becoming clear that I was losing much of the passion that I had once had for my management career.
A re-org at my company in 2015 left me unemployed at age 48. Honestly, it was probably one of the happiest days of my life. First, it ended the misery that had become my current job situation. Also, I was given a very generous severance package and the timing of it was just when school was letting out. I knew that I would probably be spending the summer off with the 3 young children that my wife and I had together somewhat late in life. Finally, the job market had been steadily picking up in recent years and I was hopeful that I would land a job that I liked much better.
Actually, I was more than hopeful. I was prayerful. I prayed that I would find a job that was fulfilling, one that used all of my talents and experience that I have accrued over many years, one that was lucrative and one that would last me until retirement whenever that will be. I prayed for all of these things and my prayers were answered!
To be continued in Part II – The Path to Fulfillment…
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