Monday, November 9, 2009

New Chapter

Well, I finally made my decision, after months of dilly-dallying. This past Sunday afternoon I showed up at work to finish contract modification paperwork for a couple of my projects. After I turned my computer on, I noticed an e-mail from the person who has been recruiting me to work in Kuwait or UAE, with the Corps of Engineer. He has been in contact since June of this year. I told him I couldn’t leave my current job until after the fiscal year end because of the workload. And also because of the new projects, I probably would not be able to leave until I was able to get these projects under way. He appreciated the fact that I was not willing to “bolt” out quickly from the amount of work that was ahead of me. He was patient. I received phone calls and e-mails after the fiscal year end to see if I was ready to move on. I asked him to give me about 4-6 weeks to mull the decision over, and then I will let him know.

That time has come – it has been almost six weeks since fiscal year end. So I sent him an e-mail reply yesterday that I was now ready to accept a position to work for him. I had told him that a start date of 18 or 25 January would work best for me since I had vacation planned for several weeks in December. Processing out of Germany, including moving out of the apartment and shipping of household goods and vehicle back to Seattle would take some time. Some of the benefits of this new position include provisions for a fully furnished villa/apartment and a four-wheel drive vehicle. So I would need to ship most of my belongings back to Seattle.

Very early on, I had told some of my colleagues at work about my impending plan. I had assumed it was going to be easy. It was not easy at all. I started listing the positives and negatives about my current position. The positives (living in Germany, decent pay, the people I work with, opportunity to explore more of Europe, free housing and most of housing expenses, etc.) outnumbered the negatives. But the negatives, although fewer in number, carried more significance. Workload was probably the single most significant factor. As a project manager, your responsibility starts from concept until completion of the project, in some cases, even after project construction has been completed. If you have too many projects, then you start prioritizing which issues need to be addressed first. It can reach a point where you are only spending time putting out fires. After you put a fire out, there are many more waiting to be put out. And this is how I felt that I was addressing my projects – not by choice, but by circumstance. The project manager is usually the person that gets contacted first when issues arise. And this is just for ongoing projects. You can add to that mix, the work required to have new projects awarded. Throughout the year, new projects will be assigned. This culminates into the multitude of new projects required to be awarded by fiscal year end.

At the same time, I was also listing the positives and negatives with the new position. You can safely assume that the positives prevailed. As I stated many times before, I am not quite ready to go back to the States. Kuwait will have to be the next chapter of my life – new land, new workplace, new work, and new people. I am looking forward to this next phase of my nomadic life.

In making my decision, I tried to get reassurances from family members and work colleagues that I was doing the right thing. I got the standard answer that only I know what is best for me and that they were willing to support me on any decision I make. As late as yesterday, I was still talking to several colleagues at work about my plan to move on. Monday morning, I talked to my immediate supervisor about my impending decision. He seemed to be very supportive and understood why I was planning such a move. I was able to catch my second-level supervisor later in the day (7PM at work) to let him know of my plans. He was also supportive of my decision. My second level supervisor was the person that selected me for a position in Bosnia to lead the efforts in closing the last major US base in Bosnia. He was also the one that personally requested me to help out his group at Installation Support Branch for year end projects three summers ago when I came back from Bosnia to the Engineering Branch. He later asked me if I wanted to move permanently to this group.

My supervisors probably had some inkling that I was thinking about changing jobs. Talking to them was a big load off my chest. I wasn’t even sure how I was going to approach them. Both were understanding. They indicated that they are sorry to see me go. One of them stated that working in Europe with the Corps of Engineer is a dynamic situation – people come and go. Both also indicated that if I were to change my mind, I would be welcomed back. Maybe it’s just the standard reply that supervisors give, but to me it meant a lot.

I would consider going back to Germany or other locations in Europe to work for the Corps again or another agency after I finish my stint in Kuwait. Working and living here has many advantages if you can find a position that is not overwhelming.

The position being offered to me is a project engineer position at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. It will be at the same level as my current position, but an increase in compensation. The project engineer position is also at a lower "food chain" than my current position as a project manager. But it's a position that I welcome right now because the responsibilites are much less. They offered me other positions that carry more responsibilities, but I told them that a project engineer position is exactly what I am looking for right now. The new position involves oversight of construction projects mainly in Kuwait. I will also have opportunity to oversee construction projects in other areas, such as Bahrain, Qatar, and UAE, as needed. I would be living in Kuwait City. Distance between Kuwait City and Arifjan is about 20 miles. As I stated earlier, I would be provided a fully furnished villa or an apartment. I would also be provided a vehicle for work and personal use. I will still have the opportunity to travel in Europe on my personal time because it still is fairly close and accessible by plane. Definitely, I will take advantage exploring travel destinations nearby such as the pyramids of Egypt, the fortress of Petra in Jordan, and sites in Turkey.

So the next step? The official offer should be arriving shortly. Between the acceptance of the offer and officially leaving Germany, there are a thousand things that would have to be done. Coupled with vacation I had planned for Seattle and the Philippines for the holiday, 18 or 25 January start date for my new job will be a challenging undertaking. We shall wait and see.

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