Why I changed jobs

I changed jobs in June 2022, and this post describes why.

A person running towards an open door.  Between the person and the door is a white arrow, pointing at the door.

I wrote this post in 2022, and have debated releasing it for some time. For those interested, here's some information about why I changed jobs.

Regular readers will remember my post in February 2022 where I described "standing at a career crossroads".  On the 14th June 2022 I worked my final day at the full time job I was in when I wrote February's post, leaving the public sector (for now at least) and moving into the private sector.  I'll cover my reasons for doing that here, and hope it's useful to anyone else still standing at similar crossroads.

Yet another review

In February's post I commented on how yet another review of the shared ICT service had been started.  Assuming that would lead to a restructure, which would be at least my fourth in five years, I started to consider leaving more seriously.   When thinking about the likely result of a review it became clear the outcome would be the breakup of the shared service, with staff being distributed among the partner organisations.

Firstly, I want to discuss the timescales and the way the review was handled.  That review was announced on 14th October with very little information made available to ICT staff.  We then waited around five weeks for more information before it dried up again.  Information was gradually made available, and sometimes changed - there was speculation in abundance with a sprinkling of fact.  In late April we were told a decision had been taken to break the shared service up, with further consultation to follow.

To be clear, I don't think the breakup result was a surprise to anyone - it was the only logical conclusion in our complex scenario.  The problem that I and my ex-colleagues have is the way the review was handled.  Long periods of no information, a lack of transparency, changing information (that shouldn't change because the details should have been known from the beginning), and a seeming lack of duty of care to staff were huge issues.  A number of staff have talked to me about the impact on their mental health, and my mental health was impacted too.

People want stability in their jobs, particularly at the moment with the increasing cost of living in the United Kingdom (and around the world).  A director stated that we'd all have jobs because in breaking up the service there'd be a need for more staff (no longer shared) rather than fewer.  While that gives an impression of job security there was no guarantee that I'd be doing a job I wanted.  At one point it was suggested I could apply for a management post (if one existed) at the partner organisations, perhaps a head of infrastructure or ICT - I'm not interested in such roles.  (That also made me query what would be happening to the security function.)

When looking to make organisational changes, I challenge those in leadership to consider your staff.  Involve them from the beginning.  Be honest with them.  I totally understand that not all information can be released to everyone all at once, but it's necessary to be honest and transparent.  If an answer is unknown say so, don't present an answer to change it later.  Your staff will notice, and your change will likely be considered suspicious (I'm being charitable there).

A further challenge: regular restructures don't have to be a feature of public sector life.  If you're in leadership at such institutions you do have the power to change that, although I accept sometimes a restructure is unavoidable.

So I resigned

As I'll cover in a moment, I had somewhere to go, but the fact remains that I handed in my notice and elected to move on.  A day after my resignation came another, unrelated, one, the second that week.  Given we were already carrying one vacancy that meant, assuming no recruitment by my departure, the shared service was 21% vacant posts.  There were seven resignations by the time I left, and since the announcement of the review.

I could have stayed put and seen the review to the end, and I'd have almost certainly have had a job, just not necessarily one I wanted.  Given the impact on my mental health I didn't consider that was worthwhile, especially not given the exciting opportunity I was presented.

Where did I go?

From February's post you'll know I've been considering working on my consultancy business full time, but I've chosen to delay that.  A friend of mine knew I was unhappy at my previous employer and had been talking to me about where he works.  His organisation wanted to expand their cyber security provision by creating a dedicated team and a position became available.  Since late June 2022 I've been working in the private sector.

Moving to the private sector had economic benefits in terms of increased salary, which given the cost of living I couldn't ignore.  Eventually I still want to work for myself, but given the current climate I decided I'd appreciate the stability of an employer.  My new employer is growing, which is exciting, so I'm confident they're not going to go bust or need to delete my post in an imminent restructure.

What about the fear?

I've left my previous employer once before, in late 2016.  Sadly the position I moved to didn't work out, resulting in a manager that treated me badly, and I returned the Monday after WannaCry hit in 2017.  Having been burned before when changing jobs I'm not without fear of a similar thing happening again.

Several things happened that helped to put my mind at ease.  Firstly, one of my best friends works at my new employer, and has done for a number of years.  I've watched him work up through the company, so they clearly care about progression of good employees.  Further, the fact he's still working there is a good sign - I know he could easily get hired elsewhere.  Moving to a "known entity" is a good start.

Next there's the meet and greet I had with my new boss.  He had clearly read my CV and cover letter, and had spent the time considering questions for me.  I was asked about my public speaking engagements, the projects I'd mentioned, what my hobbies were (LARPing [1]), and the fact I was learning Welsh.  It was a good experience.

When I was offered the job I was asked if the offer being made was acceptable to me.  I've never been asked that question before.  There might have been scope to negotiate on the salary, but as I'd been offered what I requested negotiation didn't seem fair to me.  I was then asked what equipment I would like (PC or Mac) and, again, I've never been asked my preferences before.  Giving me the power to choose my own tools was very comforting [2].

What am I doing now?

I wrote the bulk of this post in 2022, not long after having moved to my new job.  My title is Senior Information Security Officer and I'm working with my boss to expand the organisation's cyber security capabilities.  I've been told that, within reason, it's for me to choose how to do that, so I'll be finding out the organisation's goals (security is there to support the business) and determining how best to achieve those.  Being able to shape part of the organisation was a big draw for me, especially knowing that they want this area developed.

If you'd like to read more about what I've been doing, I blogged about being ten months into the role here.

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Banner image: Exit sign from Open clipart

[1] LARP, Live Action Role Play, involves dressing up and acting as a character in a fictional environment.  You can think of it as live action Dungeons and Dragons, or fantasy reenactment, if that helps.

[2] I could have likely requested a preference in my previous role, as my boss (and friend) was very understanding, however, the organisation was generally not that fluid.  I did consider having a Linux laptop though, and sometimes had to boot into Linux for work anyway on a separate device.