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title, schmitle May 5, 2007

Posted by andrea in thinky thinky.
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Back in tha’ day, I was very in awe of this dude that I worked with..totally smart, and well-read, and cynical. And liked to yap, over beer, which is when I became even more cowed…until I had had enough beer, and then I’d yap on, too. Like when you’re drunk, and know a few words of a foreign language, and try to converse in it, like you’re a native speaker? Like that.

Anyway, it’s taken me a few years, but I think I caught up to his ideas…ones that he had years ago. Gah.

To wit:
job titles are stupid.

Why? Because so many people want a better title – and what does it mean? Account Manager/Supervisor/Director. What’s the difference – besides salary, which is the hugest secret EVER, in companies.

When you go to a new company, though, you want the better title. True, true. It brings a better salary, definitely. My sister-in-law is grappling with this issue right now.

A title is a way of asserting dominance, through acquisition. Like taking over a company, sort of. My title is “such and such” so automatically we all assume the level appropriate to that title.

I was asked by a really great, smart woman who I sat down for coffee with, and we just blurted out the truth to each other: (her) “I can’t offer you a title, but I’d like you onboard” (me): “I don’t give a shit about a title…I got the best one possible…owner/president/CEO (um, of me)…I just want to do some great work, and you guys are all about that.”

Which is why I really loved the KWPFDT, whatever company consulting firm. All our biz cards just stated our name and contact info. Which is the most important thing…how to reach us. I understand the ceremony of business cards, and taking them with two hands, as a sign of respect. That’s nice, that immediate assumption of respect – you have trust, and it’s up to you to keep that up.

However, titles don’t mean shit to me. Not anymore at least. Mine now is “that girl who does requirements, and information architecture, and is really concerned with the ‘right way to engage people’, and she’s kind of a hard-ass, and doesn’t suffer fools”.

I used to be about titles…back in the same day. Becoming a SENIOR information architect meant so much to me. I had started off at this company as a PM, and oh boy I was shitty at it. Seriously. I spent way too much time thinking about the site, and its organization, and how people would approach it. And couldn’t make heads or tails of a Gantt sheet. So I mentioned to my then DIRECTOR (why was he director? he was older, and came from the military) that this was what I wanted to do, nay, meant for. I finally got a business card that said “information architect” (after having to fight the entire company on what the name should be). But that “title” doesn’t confer role, function, or purpose.

time went on, and the company grew (dot.com boom circa 1999) and more people were brought in, to do what I did. I didn’t get to meet them…’cause I didn’t have the title to see whether they’d be good in the little practice I was hoping to build. They hired three: one of them became a friend who I respect dearly. But because of the nature of the growth, they hired some other people. And, as it eventually does, with one of them, his salary came to light. More than any of us were making. so they made me a “senior” information architect (throw a title as a bone)…and split the company into “pods”. I told my dad about it, and his first question was “is there a military guy there?” Um, yes. His response: “they’re turning you into platoons, to be outsourced.” Then came the IBM guys, the ones who thrive on titles, and the ones who have very little actual knowledge.

dot-com crash: we did nothing for a long while…played Bejeweled, and had long lunches. And the atmosphere was poisonous, and divisive. And created a lot of us-vs-them, between the “pods”.

It made me cry, a lot. Because I was caught up in it…the title search. And I didn’t have the maturity, or distance, to take to heart what my friend was all about. So I went to Morocco, for three weeks. Got my human-ness back, came back, and quit.

And encontered another “title search”…solely based (well, kind of) on performance. And I got the title, but it didn’t fit…because it wasn’t me. And I left again, to go to “client side” which turned out to be worse. They timed my bathroom breaks. Enough said.

So, this is where I am. And I get asked a lot, when I contract, whether I would “drink the Kool-Aid” and go full-time. It’s tempting, but I know me, finally, and I’m best as a “gun for hire”, like Clint Eastwood, I guess. I do the work, I strive for the best possible, wherever I am, but I just can’t buy in, like a really good full-time employee would. When I think about full-time, I get the jitters…like a commitment-phobe towards marriage (That I’m not. I met my now-husband, and got engaged, in two days…and yes, it’s awesome, after 4 years). A buddy of mine said “you’re a rolling stone, baby”, so that’s what I am. It’s not all of me, but where I want to go.

I like it. I boot around, and I never welsh on a deal, or (knowingly) fuck someone over. My name, and ability to get hired again, is the only performance review I have, which is good.

Who knew a little suburban bad-ass teenage girl, hating the world, and authority, could find a place? Wow.

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