Thursday, March 13, 2014

Not enough experience

This is a picture of Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
In the past week, I've had two different sets of disappointing news at work. The first is that I will not be going to India to teach business skills to women in rural villages (how awesome is that opportunity!), and the second is that I'm not being considered for a position in our Finance department because they are looking for someone with more experience.

I understand. I really do. They want someone with 5 years finance experience. I have about a decade of accounting experience. That sounds like the same thing to someone not in the field, but it's really not. It's really actually a fundamentally different way of looking at data.

There are a few things about this decision that trouble me. The first is that when I looked over the job description and talked with the managers, everything sounded like stuff I can do. Because I'm smart. And I have a degree in Finance. And because the accounting work at my last company was both more complex and more analytic-based than what I'm currently doing.

This is a picture of a disappointed boy. I think it looks like Sad Christopher Robin. 
The second troubling thing is that I really want out of accounting. Accounting is dull. (I'm sure people in finance might argue that finance is dull, but that's not the point.) The point is, I never meant to become an accountant. I meant to use accounting as a way of getting a job after college, and as a way of getting into a good company so I could eventually do something useful. Well, I've had no problems getting jobs. I'm at a good company. It's apparently the next step that I'm struggling with.

To be fair, I've been at my current company less than two years. It's just that I've been an accountant FOREVER. When I went to grad school, I had no idea that almost 5 years after graduating, I would still have the exact same title on my resume than I did before grad school. Somehow that seems to miss the point of all of those classes (and all of that  money we spent).

As I understand it, the people who don't want to hire me for their finance roles do want to use me for some project work, which is both good and bad. The good side is that they'll get to see how amazing I am and that will hopefully make them more inclined to hire me when another role opens. The bad side is that I'll essentially be doing finance work for free. Sure my hours and my salary will stay the same, but there is a definite pay jump between my level in accounting and the equivalent level in finance.

On the bright side, until they decide what to do with me, I have time to blog at work.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Marathoning, in retrospect

I recently ran a marathon. And it was terrible. It was the worst run I’ve ever had, and it was the slowest marathon I’ve ever run, second only to the marathon that I stubbornly ran despite my torn calf muscle.

A marathon is 26.2 miles, and a lot can happen in those miles. Runners twist ankles, fall, bleed, and acquire new and mysterious injuries. Professional runners die running that distance. Marathoning has become increasingly mainstream in the last few decades, but it is not for the faint of heart.

My running partners and I set a goal of running a sub-4 hour marathon. A sub-4 hour marathon is a 9:09 pace. It’s a good clip, but not impossibly fast. This was to be my fifth marathon, and I felt confident it would be my best. I knew my weaknesses, I knew how to train, I knew what it felt like to push myself, and I knew how long those last 1.2 miles were after already having run 25 of them.

I created a training plan, and bolstered by my enthusiasm and the promise of blueberry pancakes, my friends and I proceeded to knock off mile after mile. We ran up and down hills. We ran in the fog. We ran in the sun. We ran past beach volleyball players with hateable bodies. You know—those tan women with sun-bleached hair who make wearing a paper bag look like couture. Yes, even distance runners hate those people. To be fair, the lone male among us loved running past the volleyball girls.

At mile 14 of the race, my last running partner dropped behind me. I thought as long as she could see me, she’d keep up, but after the race was over she told me she developed severe thigh cramping—something that’s never happened before. At mile 14 I was about two minutes ahead of where I needed to be based on the meticulously plotted racing strategy developed by my sister, who is a 2:55 marathoner. (That’s the insane pace of 6:40 per mile. I sort of hate her, too.)

Two minutes was a nice lead, but not enough that I could sit back and relax. I wasn't worried that I had gone out too hard—my sister and I anticipated this and figured any lead I had was padding for when something unexpected happened up ahead. I just didn't expect it to happen in the next three miles.

By mile 17, I was behind schedule. By mile 20 I was running 12-minute miles. And by the time I saw the finish line, I was just glad to stop running.

My husband and I have a code: he watches me race, and when he sees me, he says “You’re doing great! See you at the finish line!” and I answer “Yes!” This exchange informs him that I’m fine and planning on finishing this run, no matter what. As he says, “You better show up.” Not finishing this race didn’t even cross my mind.

When I look back on this race, all I can say is that it got very hot and very humid very fast. My training was great and I didn’t suffer any unexpected injuries. You can only do so much planning for the weather. The week before the race, my friends and I knew it was going to be hot. We drank extra water every day to stay hydrated. But you can’t train for a marathon the week before the race. By that point, if you haven’t done the necessary work, it is already too late.

It is disappointing to set a goal and not achieve it, but this marathon wasn't a failure. I finished the damned thing, and I did so with the support of my husband, my sister, and some good friends. It was okay that I didn't meet my goal, because my family and friends were still proud of me, and I was, too.