Not Even Wrong – Who am I? 13

May 2014
Rio de Janeiro, Pestana Rio Atlantica

So many of the harsh realities of the adult world are unnecessary and absurd
– Tom Robbins

Please feel free to skip this part if you don’t give a hoot about who I am. I will not hold it against you. But you know, who I am is a rather good question in this context. These are my words, and I believe that in any reading experience, a connection of sorts is established between the writer and the reader. So to me it makes sense to introduce myself, if only just briefly.

Hello. I’m Thomas.

As I write these words I’m sitting comfortably in a lounge chair in the roof top bar at the Pestana Rio Atlantica, Rio de Janeiro. There’s a bucket of ice cold beer at my side, and I’m looking out over the Copacabana beach as the sun begins to set. The sound of the waves crashing in reaches all the way up here to the 13th floor, and is mixed with the sound of the bustling traffic and some rather ill performed samba version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker face”. The music is a bit of an insult to someone who’s in a mindset to write authentically. But never mind that. Music notwithstanding, I’m currently living my definition of an exceptionally good time. Traveling, thinking, reading and writing.

I’m writing in a period of my life when I’m a little bit tired. Perhaps a tad fed up, even. I’m considering my options. One being getting out of the game and get me some of that downsizing that I keep hearing about. Perhaps I could move out to the countryside and take up an obscure occupation such as, oh I don’t know? Beekeeping?

I see myself living modestly. Spending my days reading books and playing country tunes on my old worn down Fender Telecaster behind a tree somewhere. Pausing only for a sip of cold beer or a kiss from a good woman. A woman who would not only tolerate, but actually genuinely accept, a freakishly handsome beekeeper-country-punk who smells of beer and self-neglect.

This is the stuff that dreams are made of.

But where were we? Ah yes. Authenticity. I never dreamt about being someone who does what I do. I never set out to get involved in “normal work” in that sense. Actually, I tried my damnedest to avoid it.

I first had my heart set on a career in academia, where I thought I’d study religion at great depth. I envisioned myself in a small office at the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies in Lund. I’d be surrounded by wonderful books, and I’d get paid a small retainer in exchange for insights into obscure eastern religions that frankly only a handful of people would care about. But at least I’d get paid to think and to read, and perhaps I’d even get to the bottom of this thing called existence. That made sense to me. For reasons involving research funding and a pressure to learn Japanese in like 30 seconds, this didn’t really pan out.

So I decided to become a journalist. Running about gathering facts and opinions and put it all into writing that people could understand seemed like a nobel profession to me. A form of sense making, I guess. It didn’t take all too long for me to understand  that the media business has no place for things like “truth”, “thought” or “quality”. For me, there was just no way I could keep that up.

So I decided to spend two years at a creative writing course with rather youngish folk who all wanted to write about a youth they thought they’d lost already. Remarkable creatures. Very likable. I didn’t emerge from those two years with a fresh novel under my arm as intended. I did however find myself a girlfriend (yes, still together) and a whole new understanding of just how difficult it is to write good. I mean well.

After that I spent some time working as a freelance writer and gave the dream of having a career in music a shot. It went rather well, but it didn’t pay. At all. So when I was given the opportunity to go to Austria and do some work as a technical translator, I jumped at the chance.

When I arrived in Austria I soon entered some kind of management mode out of sheer self-preservation. Things were wonderful in Austria. The people were friendly and the atmosphere wonderful, but the company I worked for didn’t really have their ducks in a row when it came to the part of their business that I was meant to operate in. So I took it upon myself to sort of fix all that. You know, how hard could it be?

This was my first encounter with project management, and it turned out pretty well in the end. So I surprised myself by adding value in a novel way, and I realized that this might be something I could pursue. As my time in Austria drew to a close, I enrolled at a university program called “Production Management within media”. This made sense to me, having spent large portions of my career within media. So on I went.

A year short of finishing I found myself headhunted to join a Stockholm startup, a company hell bent to carve out their portion of the digital media distribution pie. I was deemed a good fit due to my background in the music industry, my experience from Austria and my almost finished education. Being naive also helped, I think. Equipped with old world tools and methods, and just a very shallow understanding of something new (to me) called “Agile”, I crashed head first into the strange and remarkable world of startup’s.

I spent over four years there, with progressively inaccurate titles such as Production Manager (based on my employers flawed understanding of what a Production Manager does) Project Manager (where my employer thought that the whole company was a project that I were to manage) and finally Product Manager (which was about right, but arrived at too late). The whole thing was a bit of a mess, and I spent my four years there almost obsessively searching for better ways to do this thing called work.

When I made my way into the management team and got a good look at how the company was managed, how strategies were dreamed up and how decisions were made, I soon arrived at the conclusion that all hope was permanently lost. I spent about a year in the  capacity of Product Manager, gloomily entering each Tuesday management team meeting with a feeling of dark impending doom. Just when I realized I had stayed on several years too long, my current employer called and said they’d heard good things. It was not a difficult decision to make.

And so we have arrived at present date. I’ve spent two years in my current employment, making a transition along the way, moving from Product Ownership to Agile Coaching.

What a strange journey it has been. Some people might call all this avoiding growing up. And in a sense I’d say they’re right. I have yet to fully understand the point of growing up. I didn’t fully understand my reluctance back then, but I have over the years come to understand this reluctance as an expression of my disinterest in the games, the rules and the conventions. Aspects of life which I never managed to understand, accept or embrace.

But you know, at least it never got boring. This journey has first and foremost been a learning experience for me. I have discovered new methods, tools and theories, and I’ve had the opportunity to put many of these to the test in real life. With some hits and some misses. As a result of this journey I have come to view work, and the way work works as a problem to solve. Perhaps even the problem to solve.

So there we have it. This is me, at least from a career perspective. I hope this can be a good starting point for bridging the writer – reader gap.

And perhaps this will help with your understanding of where all of these words you are about to read come from.

If you’re really interested in who I am, you might be interested in this post about me being of the INTP-personality type.

Earlier posts on “Not Even Wrong”