Culture of Change and Change of Culture
This is my site Written by Alora on August 18, 2008 – 7:30 pm

Like many other of the career IT professionals I work with these days, I took a decent sized paycut for my current job. (As far as political statements go, that was one my former boss found especially telling.) And when you ask any of us why we would do that — particularly given that, at the time, extremely well-paying IT jobs were in no way difficult to come by (even now they still aren’t THAT bad), the resounding answer you will hear is: “The culture!”

The culture was the selling point. The culture made the paycut worth while, because the culture made coming to work every day an enjoyable experience. It was the culture.

But what happens when that culture changes — especially if it changes so much that it becomes part of the “old days” mythology that new people never entirely believe, because they’ve never seen it for themselves?

The answer to that is simple: the people who came for that reason, no longer have a reason to stay. So they go.

Every industry has it’s perks:

  • Financial Services will work you like a dog, but they pay you like a king.
  • Defense contractors put you through security paces, but you get to work on all kinds of cool, high-end, top secret gadgets.
  • Software start-ups will also work you like a dog, but you get to be a big fish in a small pond and have a level of influence you would never dream possible at a large company.
  • In the travel industry, you may have less exciting work in many ways (less cutting edge), but if you’re a travel junkie, the perks can’t be beat.

Over time, most career IT professionals find their sweet spot: you settle into an industry or two, you may become a subject matter expert on an industry-specific technology system (i.e. SAP or Sabre) and that ends up guiding much of your career progression.

But when you switch from one job to the next, the more pertinent question is about the COMPANY itself. A company is often a microcosm of its industry and so there are certain things that a career industry person will expect, but it’s the subtle differences that, in the end, make ALL the difference.

Once upon a time, the culture was ours. We still cling to the idea that it is: we still talk about it, we still give it credit for much of our success, and we still hold out the hope that we’ll find a way to revive it. But in the end, we have new agents of change — some internal, some external — and they have no regard for the value we all placed on the culture in the first place.

And without truly understanding that the culture was the reason we were here in the first place, they have no understanding that disregarding the culture is the fastest way to lose the best and the brightest.

So, for as sad as it is to go, the fact is, this place isn’t the place I used to love coming to every day. The balance in the equation has changed. And, like most successful career professionals, I have the luxury of not feeling trapped and forcing myself to stay in a situation that is no longer worth the price.

But it also means that I had to let go of the fantasy that the change in culture wasn’t permanent.