“The system will give you the right raises as you go along…”

Standard

When Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, was asked what advice he has for women seeking a pay raise, but who are not comfortable asking, he said. “It is not really about asking for a raise but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along. And that might be one of the additional superpowers that women who don’t ask for the raise have, because that is good karma. It’ll come back. Long term efficiency solves it.” (from “Hit Refresh”, Satya Nadella’s book)

When I read this, my blood pressure when high and I felt how every cell of my body was shouting “WTF?!?!”

This is so wrong” I thought to myself. “Have faith on the system? Really? The last times I did I was screwed consistently…”

After the fact, which means after he said it, Satya Nadella apologies for what he said, but it was too late. He had dropped the bomb.

Here are some episodes from my 15+ year career in the software industry, the one Satya started his career in and grew to become Microsoft’s CEO. I worked for 3 great software brands, let’s call them Company1, Company2 and the BestOfAll3.

Episode1: The year is 2005 and I have been with Company1 for almost 3 years. I moved to a new role, where the manager really wanted to have me join his team. As soon as I joined he said “Krassi, you’re earning the lowest salary of all team members. But I know that after the first year you will do a great job and earn a decent salary increase.” I knew my boss meant it and I trusted him. Next thing I know he changed jobs and left for another country. Another guy became my manager. And although my ex-boss shared with the new guy his  intentions to raise my salary after the 1st year, the new manager didn’t give a damn. My only chance was to work hard and wait for the system to reward me.

And we know…..the system is a bitch!

Episode2: After some major disappointments, I decided to move to a new role and I knew the stakes would be high. This was my chance for my star to shine.  My actual manager was not the program leader, which means that although I had worked over 1 year with program leader, he was not the HR responsible to a decide what salary increase I were to be awarded.

I worked super hard over more than a year. When the time came for the promotion round, I was told it was Josh’s turn to get a promotion this year and not mine. It was Johs’s turn? Are you kidding me?….But I was consoled with the statement that I join the pool of “Company1 top talent”, which basically means a tap on the shoulder and 0% salary increase. Josh is a loser….has always been….still with Company1 waiting patiently for his pension….what else?

I was absolutely devastated. I called the SVP, who I personally knew. He asked “Krassi, did you have an arrangement with your manager to get a promotion after this project?

I said, “No, Mike, I didn’t. I thought I would first show results and then ask for what I deserve.” His response: “No, this is not how it works“.

Good karma, Mr. Nadella, right? The system will reward you, right? What a royal BS?!

Episode3: One of my best bosses at Company1 advised me to stop fighting the system. “There is no way in the world, you can get what you deserve, just because you had a poor start (low salary) with Company1. You cannot compensate for it. Period. If you want a higher salary, you have to leave and the sooner, the better“, he said.

Episode4: I left Company1 and moved to Company2. I got a decent salary increase or so I thought. 2 years in the job, a softhearted colleague shared the range of his salary and I figured out I earn €20K less than him for the same job. I knew I negotiated pretty poorly. Needless to say, there were no salary increases in Company2. I looked at it as a learning opportunity.

Oracle

I had to move on. After 15 years in the software industry,  I joined the BestOfAll3 companies in 2017 and for the first time EVER I know I earn what I deserve.

Final thought: I stand on the shoulders of men (I didn’t have women as managers until recently) who helped me grow, kept me grounded, recognized my talents & hard work and rewarded me accordingly.

I’m also thankful to the assholes managers, by-products of the system we work and live in, for showing me profound levels of mediocrity, so that I know what to run away from.

THANK YOU!

 

Advertisements

The grass on the other side is not always greener. It never is. (Chapter 9)

Standard

IMG_0328We often believe that it’s the others who are richer, smarter, luckier and above all happier than us. The truth is we all have our struggles, big and small, desperate and ephemeral on a daily basis. No one has figured it out 100%, although many pretend to have done so. In these series of very short portrait descriptions I will tell the stories of ordinary people I have met throughout my travels around the world. These encounters have helped me put things into perspective on my own life. These are real people with real stories, nothing is imagined. So, next time when you look at your life and think about the things you’re struggling with, remember, everyone has his/her own battles to fight and nothing is so bad after all.

Portrait 25: Meet Dan, artist, lives in Melbourne

Dan is a street artists and has a difficult time to make ends meet. He complains about the increasing rental prices in Melbourne, the “Chinese invasion”, the lack of community feeling in the society today, the Australian government that don’t seem to get their ducks in a row. He is just somehow angry, I guess…. “Consumerism is not a life-style, it is a disease.” reads a sticker on the back of his denim jacket sprinkled with paint. “Never go to Singapore, Dan, you would feel hell broke loose….” was my thought.

Portrait 26: Meet Alex, neuoroscientist, lives in Melbourne

Alex is 26 and doing his masters degree in neuroscience. He doesn’t look like a neuroscientist though- he is vivacious, bubbly and loves partying. He is well-traveled, has intelligent blue eyes, a very pleasant voice, loves the Game of Thrones and his flat latte at the Duke Roasters. “What will you do when you finish your masters? I asked. “I don’t know…urrr….are you my mom?” he laughed.  “Just curious…” I laughed back to the unexpected response.

Portrait 27: Meet Jake, actor, lives in Sydney

Jake strikes you with his playfulness: Jake will change his voice, posture, facial expression at least 10 times while conversing with you. Every conversation is an opportunity to act! He is super fun to be around. He studied theater and film and has started his own gig with 3 theater plays- 2 by Australian writers and 1 by William Faulkner. “I’m trying to set my foot in the theater scene here in Sydney. It is pretty hard, there is a lot of competition, but I hope I will succeed.” Jake wants to try his luck in the film industry as well. Good luck, mate!

The grass on the other side is not always greener. It never is. (Chapter 8)

Standard

IMG_0307We often believe that it’s the others who are richer, smarter, luckier and above all happier than us. The truth is we all have our struggles, big and small, desperate and ephemeral on a daily basis. No one has figured it out 100%, although many pretend to have done so. In these series of very short portrait descriptions I will tell the stories of ordinary people I have met throughout my travels around the world. These encounters have helped me put things into perspective on my own life. These are real people with real stories, nothing is imagined. So, next time when you look at your life and think about the things you’re struggling with, remember, everyone has his/her own battles to fight and nothing is so bad after all.

Portrait 22: Meet Shalini, Welsh, lives in Brisbane

Shalini is a dentist and moved 2 years ago with her husband, Pavan, who is also a dentist, from Wales to Australia. They are a young and cute Indian couple, who feel exploring the world before they settle down and have kids. They like it in Australia. “When we’re in Brisbane, we miss Europe and when we’re in Europe, we miss Australia.”

Portrait 23: Meet Ben, natural-scientist, lives in Melbourne

Ben is of Aboriginal origin and takes a great pride in his ancestry. He grew up in an Aboriginal community north of Melbourne and feels very much part of it. He speaks about reconciliation. “The Australian government never officially apologized to the Aboriginal people for what they did to us. They owe us an apology and until then, we will be angry.” Ben spoke how we so much appreciate diversity and forget to acknowledge that Aboriginal people of Australia had 250 different groups who had different languages, rituals and way of life.

Portrait 24: Meet Tatiana, beautician, lives in Miami

Tatiana is Columbian. She works as a beautician, has a teenage old son and loves traveling. She is a single parent, who separated from the father of her son one month after her baby was born, lives with her mom in Little Havana and saves money to travel. This is her major goal in life: visit 100 countries. She has an upcoming trip to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman, about which is super-hyped. “Lo comido, lo bailado y lo amado no se puede quitar“. This is a mantra I actually live by. I felt for a split-second Tatiana is my soul-mate.

I’ve got no regrets

Standard
lukanka

home-made Bulgarian lukanka

The year is 1985. The place is Yambol, Bulgaria.

When I look back what were the conversations about at the dinner table during this time of year, I get scared……So much time wasted…time that I could have used to learn, improve and pave my way forward! Instead I was listening and participating in conversations about how many home-made sausages my neighbors prepared for the winter, who has the best recipe for canned fruits, the so-called “compot”,  who has the biggest stock of home-made canned tomatoes, paprika and cabbage (the so-called “kiselo zele”) in their cellars, how much pig fat (the so-called “svinska mas”) my cousins derived for cooking and eating from the slaughtered pigs in their village.

toast with lard…or as we call it “svinska mas.”

I also remember the heated discussions between my mom and some cousins, who always know better, that lard aka pig fat is much better for the health compared to vegetable fat….Really?????

What a waste of time to listen to these sort of things….

I didn’t know any better….

Pervasive mediocrity of a provincial existence….

But this is part of your culture“, you will argue. “This is who you are, this is what makes you unique.”

Not really, because I didn’t choose where to be born and where to grow up. I can choose now for myself as a grown-up and I can choose wisely. ”

When I left my hometown at the age of 19, I had to start re-invent myself. I had to erase a lot of what I was exposed to, re-wire my brain and double the speed of learning to catch up with the world.

I touched a computer for the first time in 1997. What is E-mail? What is Internet? People were researching drones and doubling down on AI (Artificial Intelligence) in Silicon Valley at that time……And what was I doing? Lining up at the University computer lab in a provincial town in Germany to teach myself how to leverage the Internet, how to use Word, Excel and Power Point and how to get myself an E-mail account…..

This is when I discovered that the world is full of opportunities to learn and I was so much behind. I couldn’t strike a meaningful conversation with my fellow student colleagues. I had nothing of interest to share with no one. I didn’t know how to ask questions, what to ask questions about. All the conversations I knew and grew up with lost complete relevance in the new context….Pig fat, anyone?

So, I focused and spent the next 20 years polishing my skills, mindset and attitude. Not to speak that I had to change many old habits along the way. Quite a journey….hard and worthwhile!

The year is 2018. I’m in Germany. “I’m happy with who I turned out!!! Finally!!!!” This doesn’t mean that I will stop learning, it means that I’m in the right environment under the right circumstances to stay competitive, to learn, un-learn and re-learn.

This is who I want to be.

This is where I want to be.

The home-made sausages, the melted pig fat with red pepper on a toast are history now and no longer a subject of a conversation I want to return to.

I’ve got no regrets.

 

 

The grass on the other side is not always greener. It never is. (Chapter 7)

Standard

IMG_0219.jpgWe often believe that it’s the others who are richer, smarter, luckier and above all happier than us. The truth is we all have our struggles, big and small, desperate and ephemeral on a daily basis. No one has figured it out 100%, although many pretend to have done so. In these series of very short portrait descriptions I will tell the stories of ordinary people I have met throughout my travels around the world. These encounters have helped me put things into perspective on my own life. These are real people with real stories, nothing is imagined. So, next time when you look at your life and think about the things you’re struggling with, remember, everyone has his/her own battles to fight and nothing is so bad after all.

Portrait 19: Meet Mario, just finished college, lives in San Francisco

Mario is born and brought up to Mexican parents. He lives in San Francisco. Mario served in the Afghanistan and after he did his time in the army, he went to college to study Spanish and English. He teaches kids Spanish. “It is hard to make ends meet“, he admitted. “I heard Salesforce is hiring, but what can I work there? I can probably work only as security.”

Portrait 20: Meet Patrice, start-up owner, lives in Palo Alto

Patrice is a musician, he studied piano, and originally from Luxembourg. He speaks English with a very thick French accents. “I’m in the business of making people happy”, says Patrice. He is founder of the start up Tech4Stress and struggles to make his start up scale.

Portrait 21: Meet Patricio, start-up owner, lives in Mexico City

Patricio has a stern look. He knows what he wants. He has a successful start up business in the real estate space based out of Mexico City. Patricio wants to spend some time in Silicon Valley to recruit people to do sales for him over the phone. He goes on asking people around “Do you know anything about sales?”

The grass on the other side is not always greener. It never is. (Chapter 6)

Standard
The grass on the other side is not always greener. It never is. (Chapter 6)

We often believe that it’s the others who are richer, smarter, luckier and above all happier than us. The truth is we all have our struggles, big and small, desperate and ephemeral on a daily basis. No one has figured it out 100%, although many pretend to have done so. In these series of very short portrait descriptions I will tell the stories of ordinary people I have met throughout my travels around the world. These encounters have helped me put things into perspective on my own life. These are real people with real stories, nothing is imagined. So, next time when you look at your life and think about the things you’re struggling with, remember, everyone has his/her own battles to fight and nothing is so bad after all.

Portrait 16: Meet Maximillian, amateur billiard player, from Azerbaijan, lives in San Francisco

Maximillian is an amateur pool player and struggles to make ends meet for his family. He has a wife and a 15-month old baby. He has to practice a lot playing billiard to win in competitions. Next month he is going to a competition in Las Vegas, where the winner gets $10.000 award. “This is good money”, added Maximillian while stroking his unwashed hair. “If I win, this will be a huge help for my family as my wife doesn’t work. Otherwise, I will have to drive Uber to make ends meet….Plan “B”, if the billiard stuff doesn’t fly, is to learn coding via online classes and join a company as a programmer…The problem is I’m not really passionate about programming….”

March 2017

 

Portrait 17: Meet Paolo, company owner, lives in Singapore

Paolo owns a small company based out of Singapore that helps clean buildings and apartments. His company does minor maintenance jobs for companies and private households. “It is a challenge to keep the prices low and attract new customers: the Singaporean Government places all kinds of restrictions on hiring low-paid workers from outside Singapore.”,  says Paolo. He has plans to expand his business in Manila, the Philippines, where he is travelling next. He can hire people for less money there, thus keeping the costs low.

November 2016

Portrait 18: Meet Christian, hair-dresser, lives in Germany

Christian is struggling to reconcile his family over a long-kept secret about his uncle, who did a gender-changing operation 30 years ago. “The family is very polarized, some are advocates of accepting Michael, now Michaela, but others are not. At the funeral of my grandmother last week, I think Michaela showed up, but stayed in the car and didn’t go out. No-one dared to go and talk to her and since we haven’t seen him, now her, for many years we were not really sure if this is was really my uncle…errr….aunt” said Christian, carefully gesticulating with the scissors, while cutting my hair.

January 2017

The Tale of Two Employers- what I learned working for SAP and Oracle

Standard
The Tale of Two Employers- what I learned working for SAP and Oracle

I have been long debating if should go down this road to write this blog…

I started writing 3 years ago. And then paused. I thought time will allow me to gather more experiences and transform them in insights before I hit publish. Yesterday I started re-reading my version from 3 years ago and every word of it is still valid.

…so, here is goes….

saporacle

***

First thing first: my endless GRATITUDE goes to those who I crossed my path with working at both SAP and Oracle.

In this post, I’m NOT comparing SAP vs Oracle as employers, what I’m doing is comparing my very personal working experiences at both companies. I have a lot of respect and admiration for these two companies and what I learned throughout the past 15 years. At SAP I worked in the headquarters and at Oracle I worked in a market unit, based in Germany, far away from the headquarters. The location creates, by definition, two very different types of working experiences. Throw in the mix two very different working cultures, coupled with different goal setting processes, different employee on-boarding experiences, different management style and you end up in a situation where you know you will be comparing apples to oranges, even if you try to compare the two companies in the same industry.

Both companies are heavy on processes….which can be good- there is a process and policy for everything. But can be also bad- things take time and before you embark on a project to drive a great idea forward, someone will come around the corner to tell you 100 things you cannot do, because of some established process.

Oracle is a self-service company, you have to figure plenty of stuff on your own, which is very different from what I experienced at SAP, working at the headquarters, where a lot of services are offered to you, so you just have to reach out.

SAP fosters consensus and collaboration, which I have to say is something that I rarely experienced at Oracle. As SAP fosters consensus “we meet to discuss when we meet”, I had often a  feeling being at a faculty of philosophy at French university where people like to ponder over things and take all the time they need. Note: this might have changed in the last 4 years!

Oracle is about speed of decision-making. A lot of top-down management decisions are presented to you and you have to execute along the lines: “Just execute, leave the thinking to someone else“.

Oracle fosters competition and awards outstanding performance, SAP had a tendency to tolerate mediocrity.

At SAP you were awarded based on how hard you worked, independent of output; at Oracle, only results matter, which is good on one side, but could be discouraging on the other. This teaches you to persevere.

Good reputation is essential in both companies; building your brand (what you’re known for) is enormously important at Oracle. I also think this is a pretty good life-skill as well.

Changing jobs, too early and too fast, is not looked upon positively in either companies.

Career changes are pretty difficult at SAP. The same applies to Oracle. You have to have a sponsor, otherwise it is quite challenging to make a move in a different group, if you’re at somewhere the bottom of the food chain. I define “sponsor” as someone who has a “say” in the organization, is well-known, appreciates your potential, firmly believes in you and will root for you.

I often get the question” Which company do you like better?” Truth is, there is no simple objective answer to this question. So, here is MY truth: The experiences both at SAP and Oracle have shaped me being into the professional and the person I’m today, for which I’m very thankful. I stand on the shoulders of many people who gave me a chance and helped me move forward. Due to the more personal interaction and contacts I had with people at SAP, and the sheer number of years I worked there (10 years at SAP vs. 4 years at Oracle), rapport and trust at SAP has accumulated over the years…but again, it  has nothing to do with the Oracle vs. SAP story, rather with the nature of the job itself.

Many will argue SAP and Oracle are legacy systems. I disagree. They are living and breathing organisms with many hearts. These hearts pump blood and give life to some parts of the organization while starving others.

My personal key take-away after 14 years at SAP and Oracle:

  1. Great products are not enough to make an organization successful: processes and people matter more than you can imagine. So, pay attention to people followed by processes.
  2. Your direct manager plays a super important role in your career development. I had once a manager who wanted to send me to take German classes. (I’m fluent in German and live in Germany for more than 16 years now; so, the idea was plain stupid.) Another one wanted me to take on and lead a team in Eastern Europe. Little did he know that I actually come from Eastern Europe with no aspiration whatsoever to return in that region. Many of my direct managers never bothered to get to know me; they just rattled some “measures” that could “supposedly” help me in my next career move. Really? How is this possible without even talking to me asking me what my career aspirations are? On the other hand, I had some BRILLIANT managers, who are always present in my daily gratitude thoughts.
  3. Don’t join a company, if you don’t like the job you’re being offered. “I will join now and move within a year to another position.” can be a very daunting experience. Chances are, hiring managers for the new position would like to see what you have achieved in your current role and if you have nothing to show, you might not be considered. The runway for a year is way too short for companies like SAP and Oracle to let your skills and capabilities bear fruits.
  4. You’re as good as your reputation.
  5. Your current team matters more than the brand of the company you work for. Both SAP and Oracle are great brands, but if you’re unhappy within your immediate team and don’t feel energized, you couldn’t care less about the “awesome” brand you work for.
  6. It is OK to try out, otherwise how will you know if you like a certain type of job or not. But remember that in companies like SAP and Oracle, you’re hired to do a certain job and not play around and try things out. If you’re a person who likes to probe his/her way forward, it is OK, but be prepared to face some challenges and fall flat on your face when you try to move on within the same company after you figure out “this job is not the right one for me“.
  7. It is all about your potential: some managers get it, others don’t. It is your responsibility to find out what works for you and what doesn’t and figure out where you could thrive and where not. Don’t stay in a poisonous work environment too long.
  8. Build relationships in a meaningful and authentic way. Always. People see through the “networking” b**shit curtain. At SAP I had much more opportunities to build long-lasting relationships as I was based in the headquarters. This gave me a lot of possibilities to meet people for “lunch”/”coffee”, get to know them and let them know me. It was also easier to foster these relationships through catching up and sharing stories. At Oracle it proved a bit difficult as I was based in a market unit with little exposure and little diversity.