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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm Rich, B....

Having money to spend on things you care about is always a great feeling. Spending someone else's money on things you care about is an even greater feeling. I have only been a member of the Signature Consultants family for a little under a month now and I am quickly learning what it feels like to have a very healthy (very, very healthy) discretionary spend budget. To sum it up, it feels AWESOME!

From my very first interview, Signature made a point to emphasize that one thing they believe in is investing in their candidates, clients, and the community. They love to entertain and heavily encourage their employees to spend money in the form of lunches, coffees, dinners, happy hours, user group meetings,, purses, Ann Taylor blouses (kidding, obviously). One thing I loved about my former role in Orlando was my involvement with user groups and the development community so this was music to my ears. I have always believed that in order to stand out, you have to get to know those involved in the community and demonstrate that you are invested. Pizza, beer, and raffle items aren't everything, but they certainly help, particularly in an economy where so many other firms are cutting corners and not interacting with those they are supposed to be helping on a daily basis. I am very good at spending money (Visa can back this up) so joining a company that gave me an open wallet to invest in the user groups that I love so much felt like a gift (seriously), and a gift that I was getting paid to enjoy, too. There are many things that suck a lot more than waking up and doing what you love everyday.

One of the first things I did when I moved to San Francisco was getting involved with the Bay Area .Net User Group. I made a lot of wonderful friendships in the Central Florida .Net User Groups and I wanted to get to know the San Francisco community just as well. And because my position with the Kforce office in San Francisco was on the health care team, I didn't get to interact with developers during the day, and that really bothered me. I knew I wasn't going to be given a budget for User Groups (.Net, at least) in San Francisco, but I still went to the meetings anyway to get involved in anyway I could. I quickly joined the volunteer ranks and helped with the meetings in anyway I could. I got to serve food, be the sign-in sheet monitor, room cleaner-upper, help brainstorm ideas to drive attendance, and assist with marketing. The third Wednesday of the month quickly became the day I looked forward to the most.

Signature was very aware of my involvement in the community in Florida and was happy to hear I was doing the same thing (or trying to) in San Francisco. When they hired me, they gave me an open budget for sponsorships, raffle items, lunches, happy hours, etc. At first, I thought they were kidding because it is a relatively expensive undertaking and I wasn't used to money being handed to me that easily (unless, of course, I was standing in front of my dad). They weren't. They were 120% serious. I was beyond elated. I immediately sent my buddy in the .Net group a message on Twitter and told him we were game to sponsor pizza until the end of time. He responded and was on board.

Fast forward to a week later.

I was having lunch with my manager, Scott, and we started to talk about the user groups and the developer community in San Francisco. I told him about sponsoring the .Net group and he asked what I was doing for a giveaway item.

Giveaway item? They were actually serious about that?

Long story short, he told me to feel free to spend $150 or so a month on a raffle item in addition to the pizza and drinks. Apparently Christmas was coming a few months late this year.

I immediately took my rich "Uncle Scott" up on his offer and started to do a Twitter poll on raffle items. Some of the responses I got were gift cards (Best Buy, Amazon, etc.), tech books, and a Zune, all of which I'm going to do. I'm also going to purchase some ReSharper 5 licenses, too, and get those into the mix (starting next month) assuming they have been released. I'm also toying with the idea of raffling off a signed picture of Ballmer. (I might "fix" that raffle, though, and keep it for myself. Ballmer would look hot framed next to my bed.)

I'm very excited about Signature's openness to the community because I really feel there are some great friendships to be made and those that know me, know I'm very relationship focused. In addition to the great friendships, there are some pretty cool and interesting speakers. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to many a brilliant technologist so some of the topics that get presented blow my mind. Earlier this month, some guy gave a presentation on Silverlight Media Framework and it was awesome. (Oh yeah, this "guy" was my boyfriend, Kevin Rohling.) Boyfriend or not, the presentation was great, interesting, easy to understand (even for me...thank you, small miracles), and he highlighted some of the goodness his company (Vertigo) was working on. (I'm still struggling with my Cat Cam, though...) Next month's presentation promises to be just as good. Check out the Bay .Net site to learn more!

To those that are interested in learning more about Signature, some of the great events we are participating in, want us to sponsor your User Group in the Bay Area, or have a raffle item suggestions, please feel free to contact me via email or Twitter. I'm equally addicted to both and would love to spend my newly acquired riches on you, too!

(Homeless people and those looking for a "sugar mamma" need not apply.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

We're Not In Kansas Anymore

For the sake of this post, let's consider today opposite day, because unlike in The Wizard of Oz, I don't think I want to go back to Kansas.

I am now entering my fourth week with my new company, Signature Consultants, and I am absolutely loving it. I love that there is a company out there for me that really appreciates my knack for marketing, branding, and all things creative, and is giving me the opportunity to combine the things I love-social media, networking, technology, recruiting, and geeks. I liken my experience with my former employer to that with my ex-husband. It wasn't overwhelmingly crappy, but it also wasn't particularly exciting, either, and overtime, it became impossible to ignore the huge elephant in the room. I just wasn't happy and it was time to move on. (For the record, I did make one hell of a trophy wife. Barbie had nothing on me.)

The past three weeks with Signature really feel like I am coming out of a fog. I'm very relieved to see that there are other firms(*cough* Signature) that care about what they are doing on a day to day basis. Maybe it is because they are a smaller company, but it is beyond refreshing to wake up excited and to believe in my abilities again. I am often accused of being a "bleeder" in that I always want to do the right thing, even if it isn't the most popular or profitable thing. Signature operates the same way and focuses on the long term and serving their candidates and clients the right way. My dear readers, I think I found "The One". There is something completely genuine and honest about Signature. Above being a business, Signature is a family, and the incredible culture is infectious.

My first week with Signature consisted of hopping on a plane with my partner Susan and flying to Ft. Lauderdale, FL and Charlotte, NC. Because everything happened so quickly with my job change, I first met Susan at the airport about an hour before our flight left. We hit it off immediately. She had IT staffing experience, too, and we both shared many of the same experiences with our previous firms. Like me, Susan was attracted to the culture and core values that Signature had to offer. Staffing can be a "shark tank" so a company that places so much emphasis on integrity definitely stands out.

We had training in Ft. Lauderdale Monday and Tuesday and flew to Charlotte at the crack of dawn on Wednesday morning. I was still on California time so I was beyond exhausted. I think in those three days, I logged about 14 hours of sleep collectively. Immediately upon landing in Charlotte at 8:30am, we reported to the office and were greeted by a swarm (seriously, a freakin' swarm) of smiling country folk...otherwise known as our Charlotte office. (And, I use the term "country" loosely and jokingly. They had accents, BUT also had all of their teeth, sported pearls and looked like they popped right out of the Brooks Brother's catalogue, and were all absolutely gorgeous. God Bless the South.) They actually reminded me of the munchkins in The Wizard of Oz because they were all so damn friendly. Coming from the fiery pits of staffing hell, this was so completely foreign to me...but I loved it! I got a few hugs, shook a ton of hands, and was immediately welcomed into the Signature family.

After the most exciting meet and greet ever, we got right down to training. Because I was about three seconds away from having a narcoleptic episode, this was pretty painful. Fortunately, our trainer extraordinaire, Princess Meggan of Charlotte (she is no joke, people), looked into our sleep deprived eyes and decided to take it easy on us. We had a nice lunch out with some of the office, and later, an even nicer dinner. One thing Signature knows how to do is entertain. I think I ate the equivalent of a small country in the week I was traveling. Thursday consisted of more training (thanks to Greg Detwiler for letting me shadow him a bit), and lots of eating and drinking (again, Greg, thanks for the drinks. My liver is still in detox.). I also got to spend some good quality time with my buddy, Paul, that introduced me to the position with Signature. Though I was ridiculously tired, I had an absolute blast.

Friday rolled around, along with my hangover from Thursday night's "team building", and we had a meeting at the office before we were set to fly back out to San Francisco. Though I was tired and not feeling particularly hot, I was over-the-top excited to see that Friday at Signature meant Chicken Mini goodness from Chick-Fil-A. I was not as excited to find out that in order to get my Chicken Mini fix, I had to share with the class (of about 50) five embarrassing stories about me. Technically this was not that hard to do (umm, have you met me?), but I was hoping I could go to the airport known as "that cool girl from San Francisco" and not "Megan from San Francisco that 1) wanted to be a deer when she was little and would graze in the backyard, 2) was Santa's elf at the mall for several years...when she was chubby, 3) passed out drunk in the Wendy's drive-thru line 4) dressed like Hulk Hogan (handlebar mustache and all) when she was little and 5) countless public transportation incidents involving homeless people and tears". But, alas, like any addict, I did what I needed to do to get my former chubby-kid hands on the Chicken Mini crack rock.

Since I returned from the Signature "world tour", we have had quite a few Signature faces visit us in San Francisco. We had Meggan (Princess Meggan, that is), come out for half a week, Scott (one of our managers), "Cherry" and his wife, and this week we have Kira, and Dr. Jay...the owner. I love that Signature is such an inclusive company and that it is important to the owner that we are all friends at the end of the day.

I remember my blog post I wrote about a month into the Kforce San Francisco transition and I can't help but laugh at how different I feel writing this post. My Kforce post was filled with so much apprehension and I wasn't sure if I was going to make it. I tried to reassure myself in the post but I knew deep down I was lying to myself and things weren't going to be ok just because I blogged they would. Now, a month into my new job at Signature, I feel zero apprehension and doubt. All I feel is excitement, an intense desire to work hard and serve my candidates the best way I can, and gratitude for the opportunity I have before me. I finally feel like I am doing what I love again and that is a huge relief. I made some great friendships at Kforce and was fortunate enough to learn from some of the best in the industry. All in all my experience was positive, but after over three years, it was time to move on, and leave Kansas, so to speak. I'm very excited about my new "adventure" and can't wait to see what my staffing travels have in store for me!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Take This Job and Shove It

Well, folks, I finally did the unthinkable. I cleaned out my desk and broke up with Big Brother. After over three years, I filed for the "Big D" (again) and left The Force, due to irreconcilable differences and overall incompatibility. I'm sure this takes most of you by shock-after all, we did seem to be the perfect couple-but the flame that was once so hot just died. Our relationship was no longer exciting and the little idiosyncrasies that I used to find cute and endearing started to become downright annoying until we couldn't even stand to be in the same room. Most of you that know me, know I took my relationship with K. Force very seriously, often to the point of obnoxiousness. I never said a bad word about The Force and was always happy to jump right in and tackle any task while giddily singing the praises of The Man. Even when times were tough, I took it on the chin and worked through it. Dr. Phil would have been very proud of my perseverance and loyalty. I wasn't going to let our passionate staffing romance fail without a fight.

It seemed everything changed after I moved out West. While my job with Kforce in Orlando was everything a little passionate recruiter could ask for, my job with the Kforce office in San Francisco office was not. At first I chalked it up to change and assured myself that I'd adjust to the "new way" and everything would work out. I am many things and adaptable is definitely one of them. As my time in the San Francisco office elapsed, I'd take a moment every few weeks to check in with myself and gauge where my head was at. By this point, I had enough time in my new position to really pinpoint what my big issues were. Though part of it was merely adjusting to the change, the bigger issues were environment, management's openness to creativity (or lack thereof), and the jobs I got to recruit on (a far cry from the development positions that really excited me). Once I figured out that these were my biggest complaints, I devised a little checklist and addressed each category accordingly. I figured this handy system would help me see if I my happiness and overall job satisfaction was improving or declining. It was like Kforce's KPIs but cooler.

I named my system the "The Top Five Ways to Tell if You Hate Your Job" and my checklist is as follows:

1) Regardless of how much sleep you got, you wake up with a pit the size of a baby planet in your stomach every single effen day. CHECK.
2) You have sexy fantasies of running and taking a swan dive out of your office's 18th floor window. CHECK.
3) You have adopted Tom Petty's "Free Falling" as your personal theme song during the work week. CHECK.
4) You intentionally touch every single thing your sick coworker handled. (Sure, that means you'll get sick, but when you are miserable, time off is time off.) CHECK.
5) You know that homeless guy that crapped his pants and walks around the city in dirty, poopie pants and stinks so bad you throw up your mouth? Yeah, you start to envy him and his freedom. CHECK.

At first, I was only identifying with numbers 1 and 3. I'd have fleeting romances with number 2, but all in all, I concluded I was only about half way miserable, definitely not the fully miserable that would prompt me to look for another staffing suitor. I definitely was not to the point where I expressed any emotion other than sympathy for Mr. Poop Pants. Every time I saw him (and smelled him) I felt bad and gave him a few dollars. Our daily exchanges put things in perspective for me and I was happy (borderline, at least) to return to my cube in the staffing version of Office Space. It could be worse. I could have crapped my pants.

After a few weeks, things started to slide downhill pretty quickly. During this week, I was given several clerical positions to recruit on (no offense to those that do this work, but I'm way too geeky and technically inclined to find this remotely interesting). It was during this week that I fully committed to number 2 on my list. It became a daily exercise for me as I stood at the printer to imagine myself dropping my stack of freshly printed resumes and sprint, heels and all, to the window, and go skydiving...minus the parachute. (For the record, in case any of you are thinking of Baker Acting me right now, I'd never really do it, but the thought of complete freedom from paralegal and medical records recruiting was very appealing.) In any event, this vision got me through that week and the weeks to follow. Occasionally, my coworkers would catch me grinning like a drunkard. They thought I was finally coming around. I was just imagining my Ann Taylor clad self mid-air. (Cue the Tom Petty.)

Two more weeks passed and by this time, number 4 and I had become very close. Fortunately we had a few sick people in the office so I didn't even have to touch their stapler, phone, doorknob...lick their half eaten sandwich, to get sick. It happened rather organically and I was out for two glorious days. (If it were any other situation, I'd chose a word other than "glorious"...after all, I was legitimately sick which SUCKED, but I was out of the office and free from all work related misery, so I figured "glorious" was fitting.) At this point, I was religiously checking off four out of five items on my checklist. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that this isn't heading in the right direction.

But yet, I still did not envy the dude that pooped his pants. So back to work I went.

By the end of the next week, I was perfectly fine with crapping myself if that meant I didn't have to go to my job every again. That evening, I walked out of the office, found my feces covered buddy, and asked him for his resume. Little did they know it, Kforce would soon be looking for another recruiter.

It was about this time I got a phone call from my buddy, Paul, at Signature Consultants. Paul and I had been friends for about a year and I initially met him in Orlando while I was working for Kforce. I was perfectly happy with Kforce in Orlando so I never really thought I'd join the Signature crew, but Paul and I stayed in contact anyway and grew to be pretty good friends. Even so, I had always heard good things about Signature and it helped that my boyfriend was a former Signature contractor and absolutely loved them. Kevin is one of the pickiest people that I know and is not a fan of too many firms so the fact that he raved on and on about Signature definitely intrigued me.

As it turned out, Signature was in need of someone...for their San Francisco office! Paul explained to me that they were expanding and looking to open an office in San Francisco and was curious if I knew of a good recruiter that would be interested in joining their family.

"Me!!!", I said.

"Yeah, ok....right. Seriously, do you know anyone?", Paul retorted.

Screaming through the phone, I shouted, "Yes, ME!!!!"

...and the rest was history. Paul set me up with a series of conversations with several Signature folk and I ended up accepting an offer with them. In addition to clicking with everyone I spoke with, their company message really spoke to me. They seem to not only "talk the talk" but also "walk the walk". Most companies stress growing (and maintaining) strong relationships with clients, candidates, internal employees, but Signature actually practices that on a day to day basis. Everyone knows each other and goes out of their way to be helpful. Recontacting from the very beginning of the recruiting process(Kareforcing to those that read my last post) is highly stressed and employees' recontacting rates are actually tracked, which is awesome. They really seem to get the relationship piece of this industry and I can't stress how appealing to me that is. Another thing that really sets them apart is they don't lose sight of how important their contractors are. When one of their banking customers was forced to cut rates (substantially), Signature was the ONLY firm to shoulder that hit and not drop their consultants' pay. In the staffing industry, that is unheard of. Ultimately, these were some of the big reasons that I made the decision to leave Kforce and join the Signature team. I wanted to feel proud of what I did for a living and I really think Signature is going to give that to me.

With that said, it was definitely a strange feeling to put my notice in at Kforce; I had been there forever and I did learn a lot from some great people (Rich, Jason, Tracy, Glen, etc.). My manager was extremely supportive and understanding though so overall, it was a positive experience. I am still close with everyone I worked with in Orlando and I sincerely can't say a single bad thing about the Orlando office. For that matter, I really can't say a bad thing about my team in San Francisco either. I'm going to miss my team (a great group of ladies) and my work boyfriend, Jack. (I know I'll never find another coworker that loves Argyle as much as he does and that makes my heart sad.) I got a tremendous start at The Force but I'm so ready to take everything I've learned and apply it to a company that matches my recruiting style a bit more. At the end of the day, it just wasn't a good fit and that isn't the fault of anybody. After all, crap happens (just ask my homeless friend).