Envious of the corporate world?

Yesterday I had lunch with my friend and former colleague Miquel.
We worked together in the same company for more than twenty years.
That’s a very looong time.
We’ve involuted from a good head of hair to a lot of grey hair.
(There are those who are worse as far as hair is concerned).

In any case it was a great joy when he called me for lunch.
“Wednesday or Thursday?”
“Wednesday! The sooner the better.”
It’s preferable not to make long term plans as no one knows what might happen.

We hadn’t met again since before the pandemic.
We caught up on family and work and many other mutual friends.
We longed for those trips that, for the time being, are on pause.
He told me that he takes 10,000 photos on each of his trips!
No wonder she can post those gems on his instagram.

And, of course, we met at work so we talked about how we are doing professionally.

He is still in the corporate world. Managing an IT team in a big company.
I was in that environment for more than 20 years, but I’ve been an independent consultant for more than 8 years now.

And I can’t deny that I’m a little envious.

I can’t call it healthy envy because I don’t think there is such a thing as envy.
Envy is envy, full stop.
It’s not at all dirty envy either. I am delighted that things are going very well for him.

It’s that kind of envy that makes you want everything good that the other person has.
At the same time it makes you ignore all the not so good things associated with it.

I have lived in that corporate world and I know it quite well.
But at the time I decided to go my own way and explore the dark side of entrepreneurship.
And I am more than satisfied with the decision I made.

Until I have a meal like this.

Developing professionally in a company is great when it allows you to dedicate yourself and specialise and progress in what you like and what fulfils you.
In my case, this was the norm for many years.
Every day I had a new technical issue to solve. I would think, study and try until I found a solution. I enjoyed my work and at the same time the company made a profit.
It was awesome!

And, of course, it’s great to know that on the last working day of the month you will have that exact income to the second decimal place in your bank account.
That’s something that’s hard to count on when you’re self-employed, and especially when you’re interested (as I am) in doing one-off projects where I can come in, solve a need, explain how they should work and leave.
You can end up living in a Dragon Khan of uncertainty.

Unless you love being a salesperson (and I certainly don’t) it’s great to always have new challenges on the desk.
Maybe not so much when the papers on your desk no longer let you see down the aisle.
The company can be a voracious idea-generating machine.
But in any case, it is totally different from being an entrepreneur and having to look for new challenges on your own.

And that, I can assure you, has forced me to totally reinvent myself over the years.
To have to develop social skills, to have to expand my network of contacts, to have to learn how to market and sell myself in order to be able to help others.
Things that have taken me out of my comfort zone.
And proud of that I am.

Another important advantage of the corporate world is to work every day with a team. To see you every day with a group of colleagues who can end up being good friends.
That really makes me envious since I’ve been working as an independent consultant.
That’s why I’m always more than willing to have a coffee or a beer or a vegan lasagne with people. To see each other “in person”.

But not all things are always so favourable.

Ah, that agenda full of endless meetings where a lot of people have to show up to participate for 5 minutes each.
And what about those business trips, sometimes just to make an appearance, where you have to get up in the early hours of the morning and return home late at night for a one-off meeting lasting a couple of hours?
And that timetable that you have to keep to. Because you have to set an example and others have to be able to find you if they need you.
And what happens when the tasks you are asked to do are not what you really want to do. When they neither contribute to you nor interest you. But you have to do them because the others are busy and you are a reliable person who will know how to get them done.

And things get complicated when the company starts to take a strange direction or to try out products/organisations/collaborations that don’t make any sense to you. But it is not your decision to question them.

I couldn’t consider going back to work in a large corporate environment.

I do work with companies and I know my way around these environments. My background is a great advantage when it comes to approaching large companies that other consultants do not know how to manage.
And it is even very useful for me to have been there to help organise much smaller companies where there is often a lack of clear management responsibilities.

But I greatly value being able to decide what I want to work on, what kind of services I want to offer, what hours I will work and with whom I will work.

Offering services as a freelancer allows me to explore all kinds of sectors and technologies that I would otherwise not have known about.

And it also allows me to combine everything I’ve learned and, when the dog takes me out for a walk in the morning, to come home with three new ideas that I want to explore.

And that’s how I organise my day.

Yes, on reflection: it was a great decision.

In any case, I’m going to illustrate this reflection with an image (without permission) from my friend (C) Miquel Ollers. I hope he doesn’t get angry.