Tomorrow will be my last working day at the New Brunswick Community College, a place I have spent the past seven years pouring my heart and soul into as an Instructor teaching Computer Programming/Information Technology, Business, and Office Administration students. Because of this, I am also leaving many close friends and colleagues as well as some great students I hope will become future colleagues.
I loved teaching. I was proud, excited to go to work, motivated to learn along with my students, and ever searching for new and better ways to transfer knowledge to the students so they could be successful. The long hours spent preparing and marking assignments, liaising with industry and attending school career fairs, counselling and mentoring students were all worth the reward that comes with watching them cross the stage at graduation. Along the way, I even managed to pick up a few teaching and education awards, so I guess I was pretty good at it. Teaching at the NBCC was truly my dream job.
So… Why am I leaving?
Well, it’s complicated. And yet also simple.
First and foremost (and easiest to explain) is job security. The second (harder to explain yet a much more influential decision-maker) is job satisfaction.
Here’s the back story: The NBCC is becoming a fledgling Crown Corporation, trying to spread its wings and escape the suffocating effects of being within the New Brunswick Government nest. As such, the NBCC is an organization in flux. Unfortunately, while trying to become more progressive, they remain at least partially tethered to some medieval government policies and HR practices – things that will take some time to fix.
This change is not simple. Picture a team of mechanics trying to change the tires on your car while you are driving it down the road at full speed. Currently, it’s like that part in a renovation project when everything is torn apart, it looks impossibly messy, and you really hope it all goes back together in the end. It’s a lot of work, and they have and will continue to make some mistakes. But, they have a mess of people (pardon the pun…) working on this transition in Fredericton. If pay scales are any indication, they are supposed to be smarter than the rest of us, so hopefully (for the students) they get it right and keep quality of education as the backbone of the organization.
During my seven years at the NBCC, despite receiving the same salary and benefits, I was always a “term (contract) employee” and never a “regular” employee (similar to tenure in a university environment). The numerous contracts varied in duration, often without rhyme or reason. If you have never done it, trust me when I say working on contract takes a toll on your sanity. And the older you get, the more likely it is to affect your health and well-being. When you come from an industry like mine where there is a shortage of skilled workers, you do sometimes feel like you are beating your head against a brick wall when you work for the government…
Plus, change is hard, and the transition away from government (more like “further from government”, not truly away) is part of that change. Last Spring, as part of a “workforce reduction”, the Saint John campus cut somewhere around 17 Instructional positions solely on the basis of seniority. As a (relatively) junior Instructor, mine was one of those instructional positions cut, and I found myself losing my Instructional status (and years of seniority) and transferred into a Business Analyst role – still on contract.
While being a Business Analyst is not a bad job (I have successfully managed or worked on plenty of projects in my time at the College on top of my Instructional duties and elsewhere in my career), it was not what I had left the ICT industry to come to the NBCC to do.
So, despite a chorus of “Don’t go, the College needs more people like you” (yes, I did just blatantly jump on this opportunity to blow my own horn a bit. I believe with everything I have done while at the NBCC, I have earned a bit of hubris, humour me…), things just didn’t feel the same anymore.
Job security and job satisfaction. There’s the one-two punch I mentioned earlier.
If you are lucky, you actually notice when you start becoming angry, bitter, and confused at the fact that, despite how hard you work and what you do, there is no light at the end of the tunnel you find yourself following. And if you are even luckier, you realize when it is time to do something positive and within your own control to change your situation before it becomes untenable and you do or say something nasty to the wrong people that you will always regret and negates all the good things you have managed to accomplish.
In hindsight, maybe I should thank the College for moving me away from the classroom. Without that push away from something I loved so much, I may never have considered leaving. I may have stayed longer, hanging around begging for scraps from one contract to the next indefinitely…
In any case, as a result of the previously mentioned events and despite the great relationships I have built up over the past seven years, after some much-needed reflection, I knew it was time to mix things up.
The good news is that my next move takes me back to my roots in the ICT industry, to Genesys Laboratories, a telecommunications company specializing in call centre and video conferencing software. Genesys is a place where numerous friends, former colleagues, classmates, and even students I have taught are already employed. And they all appear happy and (relatively) sane . That definitely takes away some of the initial angst associated with starting a new job. By all accounts, I am told it is a great place to work. If the level of respect, professionalism, and personal interest in my goals I experienced during the HR process at Genesys is any indication, it definitely will be!
This is also by no means the end of my teaching career. While I may work at Genesys during the days, I will continue to feed my insatiable need to teach by working in my alter ego form with Jeff Roach at Sociallogical as a Social Media Community Manager Mentor, Learning Design Consultant, and in any other capacity needed as well as continuing to teach SCUBA diving at the Dive Shack – in all my spare time…
So, while I am excited to be returning to industry and working directly on the technical side of things again, it is not without some sadness that I will no longer be at the NBCC, standing at the front of a class full of eager minds trying to keep up with their thirst for knowledge. Teaching is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. I have a feeling it will find its way back into my life in the future.