Lately at work I’ve been feeling a kind of poorly hidden reluctance towards me. Not from my own team, but from some people from other teams. It’s best described by the kind of comments they’re making about my travels: “Wow, it’s so cool, you get to travel and do nothing”. And that, my friends, is the clou here: the presumption that I’m lucky because I get to do nothing while traveling on my firm’s dime.
And yes, the truth is: I am lucky. Incredibly lucky, but not because of what they think. I’m generally a lucky person: I was born and raised in a nice country (it has its problems, but which country doesn’t?), in a loving family (we have our issues as well, but nothing really disqualifying). I was lucky to be brought up in a rather intellectual environment, where books abounded and discussions were about more than just what we had for dinner lat night. I was lucky to get into a good high school and a great University. I was lucky to have found a major I liked and got a chance to write and defend my thesis on a subject that fascinates me. I am extremely lucky to have found a good job that pays decently and gives some opportunities for development. I am blessed with amazing friends. There are issues – there are always issues. But overall, I feel really lucky that my life is going as it is. I have financial security not many people my age have, I have a family and a group of friends that support me and on whom I can count. Even though I’ve had no successes on that field, I can still pursue my dream and my passion, which is literature. I’m happy in my life.
And while I can’t claim any merits on the subject of my family or friends (I have God to thank for that), the other part is a combination of luck (or divine intervention, whatever you prefer) and my own work. Perhaps it’s not fair, I haven’t worked as hard as others at school or at Uni, and yet I had decent to very good grades. But is it okay to blame me for the fact that I’m a fast learner? I don’t think so. So what am I supposed to do, pretend? Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of people smarter than me in my circle of friends. In fact, I strive to surround myself with people smarter than me. There’s no point to life otherwise, for me.I’m like a zombie: I love brains. (It’s also the thing I find the sexiest in people.)
And when it comes to my job… yes, I was lucky to find it. They were hiring a lot of people at that moment to accommodate the new process that had been transferred to Kraków from Budapest. But I was chosen not because I have a pretty face (I don’t have a pretty face). I was hired because I speak both English and French well, and partly also because I had some previous experience at work. Not that it had anything to do with what we do at IBM BTO: I was an au pair twice, I worked as a proofreader at a translation bureau, I had an internship at the Polish Embassy in Brussels, and for a while I was vice-president of a charity foundation, doing volunteering work for lgbt issues. But it’s much more than a lot of my classmates at Uni did professionally, which would be nothing. And I understand that they wanted to cherish the awesome years at Uni. But then they shouldn’t complain now that I’ve got a job and they don’t. (None of my immediate classmates complained about it to me, but it’s been a theme of many a letter to newspapers lately. But that’s a topic for another day.)
So I’ve started working at IBM with a lot of other people, most of them around my age. We’ve just had a first anniversary at the firm at the beginning of March. And, again, it’s true that I was lucky with how the things proceeded. It just happened that our client was expanding our scope in their locations in Morocco and Tunisia, which are French-speaking. Had it been any other country, none of the opportunities I’ve had would present themselves to me. Besides, initially it was my colleague (who works much longer at IBM) who was picked, but she didn’t really want it and resigned over some health issues. So I was only a second choice for this.
So yeah, the opportunity itself was a lucky strike.
But there was nothing lucky in why it was me who got picked on the end. There were like twelve people in my team at the time, some of them with longer seniority, some of them much more qualified because they work the AP part, and I’m in Procurement. Here it is: I got picked because I worked hard. And because I’m good at this. I learn fast, I have some analytical skills, I am more “technical” than most of my colleagues. About a month and a half into working at IBM, when most of my colleagues who joined at the same time were still figuring the systems out, I was already training a new joiner (newer than us, that is). I can’t help it – I get things easily. Soon I was getting more and more work and responsibilities, and with that, yes, came rewards and opportunities. I got a very good grade in our annual review and a promise of further possibilities for development and all. I was also chosen to be a part of a program called Top Talent which gives me, among other things, additional funding for training and personal development. And, of course, I got this opportunity to travel to client’s locations in Morocco and Tunisia, as well as IBM in Braga, Portugal. And now I went to Dubai, on the wave of this same project, even though originally I was to deal with only French-speaking client. (That was another lucky strike: the person who was originally going to go to Dubai was from India and their visa expired. And from 22nd March Poland, as other EU countries, doesn’t need a pre-arranged visa anymore, just a visa-on-entry.)
The point is, I worked for this. I am good at what I do. And anybody that says that I get to travel while doing nothing doesn’t know what they’re saying. I had three days of training on this project – three. Then I got some written materials and access to a test environment and I was left alone to fetch for myself. I had to learn everything myself. And I *did* a good job with that because now I’m sort of an expert in that tool we’re implementing. I worked hard, for hours, doing both my usual work for Procurement and teaching myself new stuff, at the same time. I took calls and meetings that were way above my pay-grade. I prepared all formal stuff myself as well – arranging approvals (and our travels need to be approved by guys in the US + security approval from people over in Africa or Middle East), flights, hotels, and then expense claims. It sounds light, but it’s actually a complicated process, especially if you travel like I did – I was out of the country for a month, but I spent it going from place to place, from Poland to Morocco to Tunisia to Portugal to Tunisia to Morocco to Poland. I was told by the girl who processed my expense claim that it was the biggest one and most complicated one she ever seen.
So yeah, I’m a little bit annoyed at people who claim I’m lucky because I get to do nothing and travel. I don’t regret any of it, and I’d do everything over again in a heartbeat, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t worked for this. I have, and hard. None of my colleagues had to ever stay for overtime. I cannot even count how much overtime I did – especially on the travels themselves, where I wasn’t recording my hours, so I can’t claim this overtime. I work hard, I’m a fast learner, so I get more opportunities – and more responsibilities as well. It’s that simple. And some of my colleagues are just annoying.