It was February 2017, a fair day with the sun out shining bright like any other normal day. Nothing out of the ordinary.
I drove into work in my 2012 Honda Civic with its few bumps and bruises and parked in my normal spot (2nd floor to get a nice early workout in).
For the past few weeks, we’d been told of the news that the hyper-growth company I worked for would be going through a potential restructuring due to platform strategy failures. It was certainly tough news as many of us were gung-ho on its platform potential to change the company into a Amazon-like juggernaut. I certainly was.
For months, this platform business unit was humming along and teams were realigned to push the priorities in building out the platform. Our team in Corporate Finance were tasked with a variety of functions, most notably on “product economics”. Simply, we wanted to ensure what was being produced made financial sense, i.e. do we make a profit.
As months went on, we went from a team driving new changes to support the platform to reconciling data. Said another way, we were glorified accountants–again.
As few more weeks went on, the writing was on the wall. Our roles and responsibilities were changing, and we were hearing less from leadership.
Being self-aware, I could sense another restructuring.
And sure enough. ?
The restructuring and what follows
On February 2017, the restructuring happens.
The night before I had a great conversation with my former Finance VP and learned that I would be part of this exercise. I also learned he would be included as well.
“Amazing…” is what I thought to myself. After nearly 5 years, more than 10,000 hours invested and various promotions throughout the company, and being told of job security in a number of conversations, there I was, in a boxed room with HR and my former manager.
“I’m so sorry, but today is your last day with the company.”
It was really difficult to hear this from a company that I devoted so much to and believed in truly. Nonetheless, I respectfully understood the decision and wished the team well.
And then there I was, standing outside the building with one box with my things and staring back. “Well that was fun” as I walked back towards my car.
In less than 20 minutes, I was back home. ?♂️
You make a choice and you move forward
I spent that week taking a step back to relax my mind and to cool off. After all, I was away from the work I didn’t enjoy doing and this would be a great opportunity to focus on other things.
But what other things? ?
After one week, I whipped out my OneNote (free note-taking tool) and started jotting ideas and thoughts that included:
What do I want next?
What job do I want to do?
What company would I want to work for?
How can I leverage this time to do something more meaningful?
After spending a few hours writing my thoughts out, I realized a few things I never thought about. For example, I really wanted to try my hand at personal training. For anyone who knows me well knows that I’m extremely passionate about MMA (mixed martial arts) and sports.
So one week after being laid off, I randomly applied to be a boxing personal trainer at a local gym. After some discussions I was hired and off I went. It was exciting! I was training adults who were looking to get in shape and to let off steam. I was finally doing something I actually enjoyed. ?
Next, I decided that I needed to read more and expand myself. Admittedly, I did little to no reading prior to this–not unless you include Medium articles and blogs.
Similar to my thought note-taking, I wrote down a list of books I wanted to read, went to the library and rented a few. It was an easy decision, but one I had pushed back for so many years. ?
It was also at this time I asked myself, “What do I want to do before I die?” Yes, it’s grim. But it’s a real, honest question that most never ask themselves.
After some thinking, I decided it would be backpacking. I’d always longed for it, so I spoke with my wife and we decided we would do it. Not in 10 years, not in 5 years…this year. Yup, it was going to happen.
Received an offer from Amazon and why I turned it down
Around June 2017, I received a LinkedIn message with a potential opportunity to join Amazon. Funny enough, it was going to be a role managing their Promotional Products line, the same group I supported in my prior role.
I decided to jump at the opportunity because it was, well, Amazon. Who wouldn’t want to work for Amazon, right?
So I moved forward with the process, submitted my resume, and thankfully received an interview. The first round was a screening with the hiring manager. After passing that stage, I received an invite to come onsite to meet the team and go through a rigorous interview process. I was just glad they were going to pay for my flight and hotel costs.
On the day of the interview, I went through 5 very long and intense interviews with various leaders of the group. I did the typical behavioral questions such as “Why me, what would you do in XXX scenario, etc.”, but the part of the interview I really enjoyed was the case study. They had me whiteboard what my process would be for launching and validating a new product idea for Amazon. (Answer: test small location, validate, then expand ?).
About a week after the interview process and submitted references, I received an email with the header “Congratulations!”
Most would feel excited and just glad to have a job. It is the normal reaction after all.
But for some reason, I felt empty and a bit dead inside. I felt dread and anxiety. I kept wondering why I was feeling this way.
And then I remembered.
It was because I was about to enter the corporate world again. I was about to enter the world of politics, bickering, back-stabbing and restructurings. I also wondered, “What if I invest thousands of hours again only to receive the same fate as I did at my previous company?”
So I made a decision, albeit a hard one. I rejected their offer. And surprisingly, I didn’t feel bad. It felt good.
For once, I trusted my gut. ?
What the journey has been like since being a corporate employee
In short, amazing.
No longer do I wake up with dread, anxiety and a sense of emptiness.
No longer do I count the hours till when I can really start living (it’s the weekends).
No longer do I feel like I have to put up a mask and say yes to everything (I had a hard time saying no).
Instead, I feel so alive now. I wake up with a sense of purpose and fulfillment. I wake up wanting to work, wanting to move forward, wanting to learn.
I wake up knowing I control my destiny.
Ultimately, what I never realized until I was laid off, I wake up knowing I own my time.
Because in the end, time is what matters. We can’t make more of it. It’s the ultimate commodity that can’t be replaced.
Today, I run my own business with my wife called A4E. We are a 100% fully remote accounting practice that offers a complete done-for-you bookkeeping, tax preparation and guidance, and CFO service solutions for small businesses.
I feel an incredible sense of control and happiness knowing every day my wife and I control our future, our own time, and that we can make a real difference for our customers and founders. We could also give back to the community, something that I’m passionate about.
In addition to my business, I’m also a board member for Level Ground MMA, an amazing non-profit managed by Ali Fuller. Ali is one of the very few people I’m amazed and inspired by and was the main reason I wanted to support her mission. That mission being: supporting and helping our Boston youth who are disadvantaged by offering career advancement opportunities, mentorship and guidance, martial arts classes and so much more.
Finally, I forgot to include. We did manage to complete that backpacking trip! ?
I’ll save for another detailed post, but in a nutshell, for a couple months in late 2017 we traveled throughout Southeast Asia. It was such an incredible experience and one that I will be experiencing again very soon. We ate so much delicious food, met amazing people, were touched by heartfelt stories and even almost got run down by rabid dogs.
Yeah…that was scary. ?
So where do we go from here?
Honestly, I can’t say.
But what I can say is I’m infinitely happier than I ever was prior to that point in my life.
I had faced a number of tragedies and painful work experiences throughout the past decade.
In 2009, I painfully lost my sister. When I opened up to my Fortune 500 company talent manager about the experience, I was told to “think about the starving kids in Africa”.
Imagine that. In a world where we are told to empathize with others, I was told this. I was broken; I thought to myself no one cared.
Nonetheless, I was glad to experience that. It made me who I am today. I realized that day that I would never be like her. That if anyone came to me with a story, I would be all ears. That’s what true empathy is.
Thank you for reading up this point ?
In closing, for anyone on the fence about their corporate careers and doubting where they want to go, do this one simple exercise: journal.
Write down your thoughts, wishes, dreams, goals. Be honest, be brutally honest with yourself. Are you happy? Are you doing what you love? What do you value?
When you do, you’ll realize what’s most important to you. Then it just comes down to actions.
Thank you so much for reading. It’s really tough for me to open up, but as a new parent, I know I need to. I don’t want to become bitter and angry as I get older–no one does.
If you found this helpful or enjoyed it, it would mean so much to me if you could share it ?.
Thank you again, stay well and stay safe. Till next time.