Queen’s Gambit

WARNING: Before you read on, this is a vanity post. It serves as a means to remember and feel good about myself. Reader’s discretion is advised.

What was once lost was found… and then was lost again.

If not for the work-related stress that kept piling on my in MRH, I would have never left. I knew I was no longer healthy. I no longer noticed the passing of hours, days or weeks. I had difficulty concentrating, and worst of all remembering things. My short-term memory failed me really bad.

Then I moved to LEDD where I promised myself that I will take it easy. No more 18-hour shifts. No more hoarding on energy drinks. No more doormat-mode. I will finish my 9-hour shift and go home everyday, learn to go on vacation leaves (something I never did while I was in MRH because I was driven by the notion that everything will fall apart when I leave for one day).

On the day of my job interview, I met an old officemate at the lobby of LEDD. He was glad to see me and asked what position I was applying for. I said “Auditor.” He joking warned that I shouldn’t say that out loud so much just in case somebody overheard and might wait for me by the corner and put a bullet through my head. I asked why but he didn’t want to expound further.

Everything was going just as planned – me living life off the edge and away from the spotlight – but it was short-lived. Four months into my new role, the company started dissolving the department I was in. In the span of the next three months we were all in confusion and disarray. The other auditors started moving to different parts of the company or resigning but I was the newest and I had to fight hand and teeth to: 1) still keep my position in LEDD, 2) keep my department from being completely dissolved by proving to the whole company it shouldn’t be, 3) not leave my current boring position come hell or high water, AND 4) when it comes down to the question of who will be the last person standing between me and another auditor much more senior than I was, it HAD to be me.

I had to come out of the darkness, take the stage again, and be known by the right people. Sen was one fierce competitor and was not somebody I would like to have faced-off with in a frontal confrontation. She was known by everybody due to her seniority and semi-bitchiness. She was in the running as the next Audits Manager – if our department was not getting dissolved. In short, I was an ant to her and if they would keep a few people on and I do manage to stay on, I would most probably have to work with her and kiss her ass – BUT if they had to keep only one person on, no way in hell would I get the spot if I ask for it directly or worse, approach her and ask her to bow off and leave this one to me.

I had to wait for the right moment, the right timing, to strike. In the meantime, I started making myself known to the people at the Frontline. Trusty notebook and pen in hand, I did my own daily rounds. None of the auditors thought of doing this since it wasn’t mandatory. I got the people’s pulse, checked if they knew what was going on in our end, made myself known to the Frontline managers, then befriended a few. They were grateful for my presence and for the attention I gave their teams. I picked up a lot of info and identified one too many problems in the company’s and my department’s processes just doing my rounds. No wonder we were getting dissolved. The people HATED us!

Apart from being the high-n-mighty police, we were not able to communicate as much as we should have been doing with the Frontline, our internal customers. They we lost. They didn’t know about the policies (where to find them or what resource to use apart from word-of-mouth), neither did they understand it if they learned about it. They were getting actioned on by management for misses which our department should have been clear about. Some have even been terminated. And an auditor’s reaction to that? “Matanda na sila. Alam na nila un.” “They’re all adults. They should know that [policy].” Fixing this kind of misunderstanding and confusion simply felt like a mission I have to see through. Problem is, how can I without the power to? The teams started to feel hope that somebody was there to listen. All I was then was a fake ambassador of justice. I can just listen and feel their anger, but I can’t do anything. It was frustrating! If I didn’t get to stay in my role, all their pleas would have gone to waste.

In my home base, I was working our division boss (my boss’s boss). Nothing manipulative. I subtly pointed out my findings in the Frontline. Something never seen by anyone nor was brought to the attention of higher management. I just wanted her to know how good I was to take the initiative and see breaks in the process of a supposedly set and fully functioning department. If my department was going to the dogs, this info was going to be moot and academic, but if it can be saved, I wanted to be the best person in position to make things happen.

On the other side of the trenches, Sen was making her move. I allowed her to believe there was no competition in me without ever telling her directly. And I knew she was trying to play me too. She started asking me to have lunch with her and hang out. I was honest enough to tell her that I’m not applying for any position. I said that I’ll wait for the company to decide my fate once the deadline of relocation comes. She advised against it. She took her own advice and must have decided that she wouldn’t get caught making the same decision of a rookie such as me. She started applying for other positions in other departments. I, on the other hand, was able to possibly eliminate one big rival through honesty. Sure, I might come out without any job in the end, but that doesn’t mean I lost.

Big last week of the department has arrived. The final order to move out was to come any minute. The other auditors have long been functioning in their new roles in their new departments. The flurry of activity is amazingly fast in LEDD especially during a dissolution of a department. All hands were on board and acquisitions, job interviews and resignations were processed in a matter of hours.

Five of us remained awaiting our fates. Sen’s gay bestfriend Roger, my gay bestfriend Marvin, our reports expert Edge, Sen and me. All we needed to know was if the department can still be saved. If not, we’ll go on our own separate ways. BUT, if it can be saved, how many will they keep? When it comes to seniority, Marvin and I don’t stand a chance. We came into the company at the same time. When it comes down to sheer skill, talent and brains, Sen and I are in the running. When it comes down to putting together a dynamic partnership, Sen, Roger and Edge work best together. When it comes down to loyalties, Sen and I had one gay guy each to do the bitch-slapping, and a neutral guy we’ll have to win over to get on our side.

It was finally announced. Three heads will be kept!

Sen and I quickly made our moves. She can audibly be heard from across our cubicles encouraging Edge to grab one of the positions, knowing it would be easy to peg the other two with her and Roger since the three of them make a great team. A few moments later, I approached him and agreed with Sen. “You should rightfully stay on in the department. It would be a waste to see you go.” To that, he confided in me something. He applied for another position and was going to take the exam soon so he needed my help. He wanted me to teach him reports automation in Excel. It felt like the heavens opened and a crack of light shone down on me. It was a pity to let him go join the other dept, but it makes the battle easier on my end by eliminating somebody else this way. I taught him as best as I could and reviewed him for it. The next day he approached me, with a big smile on his face. He passed.

Four heads left. One thing about me is I play to win. And when I win, I want to win big. All the seeds have been sowed and I was just hoping to reap the benefits right on time. One wrong move and I’m out of the running. One wrong move from Sen and it’s a checkmate. I started to warm up to Roger and so did he to me. Being another Scorpio he knew he shouldn’t mess with people who he might be working with in the long run. An unexpected blow happened on my side when Marvin came to me and told me there’s another position open in Theory and he’d like to apply. I told him to go for it even if I feared for my sanity being left to work with Sen and Roger who would surely push me around. I too, finally succumbed to playing it safe. I filled up an application for another department and got notice that I will be interviewed the next day. Marvin, on the other hand, joined Theory.

Three heads down – the final needed number? No. Sen got a letter of acceptance from the department she applied at! She’s going to be out of my hair soon. Or so I thought. When the higher ups and HR learned that she got accepted the job requisition number was cut down to two. They are, in fact, just creating these somewhat-Audits jobs for us who didn’t have any positions yet. The positions that will be given to us are just “additional costs” for the company. (This is my understanding.) Once more, lady luck shone down on me who applied late. I still appeared at the interview just to tell the panel that I have decided to stay in my old department but I appreciated their time. Roger was secured a position to handle the Hardware Dept while I was given the crowning challenge to handle two: Customer Relations, Sen’s old department and a new one that will just be launched in the country: Software Support and Sales (the department Roger wanted but he was easier to sway to giving it up.)

However, when Sen learned about this, she came storming at the division head. “I DESERVE THIS POSITION MORE THAN HER!!!” Then she talked to the site head, then lastly to the region manager. She lobbied and tried to get the other heads to agree that she should be the one kept on. But she only got one answer: “You have been able to secure a position already. Don’t be greedy.” Being vocal about what she really wanted was the biggest mistake she could have ever committed. I could see myself silently watching her from the shadows all this time. She declined her acceptance into the other department to strengthen her case. The division head popped a vein seeing Sen’s onslaught. She remained more convinced I’m the rightful person for the position. All this time I haven’t lifted a finger. In the end, Sen was left broken with no place to go.

Roger was smart not to get involved in the power play. I realized his loyalties lay in the person who won and had more power, not on friendship. This worked to my advantage. This guy who I knew would be pushing me around because I allowed him to treat me like what I was before – his junior – started seeing me in a different light. He may have been working for the company two years before me but now he started listening to me. After the dust settled, I had no choice but to let my old, but upgraded, me emerge. I stepped up.

Over the weeks that passed during the transition, I put into effect things that which have not been done before. I created a 30-60-90 day plan for the transition of the Audits Department into something more encompassing that people still needed to put a name to. I did not have a boss to watch over me. Senior management tried to find surrogate bosses but no one accepted the job. No one really knew how to manage an Audits Team. No one knew and understood Audits. (And if you’re wondering about the previous head of Audits, she jumped ship earlier than many of us.)

Finally, the Division Mgr took me under her wing to at least give me direction. I didn’t feel like my previous title, Auditor, was fitting of me anymore. I changed my title (without the blessing of Human Resources) to Quality Liaison. I introduced myself that way and hoped that it would catch on. It did.* I managed myself and came in at different times of different days to be able to cover and talk with everybody. I was doing the job of one whole team + a department head + the additional tasks I put on myself to make the company better. In the hierarchal tree I directly report to the Division Mgr, which puts me alongside the Theory Area Mgr, Schedules Area Mgr, and Analytics Area Mgr – all seasoned workplace veterans from India. Catching up with their speed of reasoning, mental calculation, and speech was a challenge I had to face every single weekly departmental review.

I started with my first project: The Quality Image Revamp. Before the people start listening to me, I needed to develop my department’s… my credibility. I have been able to start mending the bridges between the Frontline and my department. People started knowing who I was, quickly. I became a staple in meetings of teams. People started seeing my name copied on several cross-departmental correspondences. An old officemate from MRH now working at LEDD approached me and asked “Have you been promoted?? Coz I see your name copied in all emails!” I needed to have a good bird’s eye view of everything that is going on in the company. I needed to understand quickly how everything worked and how each person’s job functions fitted in with the next – how each department’s functions needed each other to be able to churn out the needed results. With the more I knew, the more I learned of problems which I needed to hurdle.

I knew all the hard work I put was reaping good results. People started turning to me for answers. The teams knew me and approached me when they need to understand policies. They listened to me when I reviewed them on what I thought they already knew from the start as claimed by the previous auditors. The managers met with me when I asked them to… unlike when I would send an invite before to 30 managers and only two would come, 45 minutes late. The raging hate for the old Audits team has turned to only glowing embers and the technicians already found it easy to joke around me, not clam shut when I pass. The Frontline Director, a man I greatly fear, respect, and love for his brain, saw to my career growth too! Apart from Darlene, the Division Manager,  giving me my much needed direction, Gill met with me once a week to check up on his teams’ progress and to mentor me on the finer details of leadership.

I am proud to say that I turned from a despised entity into someone loved and needed. It felt like I singlehandedly turned a parched wasteland into a blooming and thriving grassland.

The biggest affirmation I got was when Gill – the Frontline – extended their invite to me to join their management ranks since they saw my contribution as invaluable. I was the very external first person they invited – and this new department is known to pick only the best. And it wasn’t just an invitation to a make a parallel move. It was an invite for a promotion.

They were transparent with the fact that they recognized my talents and wished to them to good use. I didn’t think that I was ready to become a People Manager so they came back with another offer: Senior Revenue Analyst. After two months of courting and me prolonging — and with four Area Managers cornering me and jokingly threatened and asked “A-apply ka ba o hindi?!” “Are you going to apply for the position or not?!” — I finally gave in and agreed to get interviewed. They met with me in a room but they were people who I now have friendly banter with. They tried to keep a straight face interviewing me since it was all for formality and afterwards we all went out for a smoke, laughing.

I started in my new position three days before I turned one year in LEDD. The first year was one hell of a ride composed of a lifetime of achievement, but it had to take its toll.

The next chapter opened the start of the Queen’s Fall.

*Now, even other LEDD sites use the title Quality Liaison. You would see it in the Internal Job Postings and on the signatures of other sites’ Auditors.


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