Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nine Years Spent.

I have come into some more time recently.
On the eve of my ninth year working in the mineral exploration sector I got laid off again.   This is similar to the fall of 2008, where market forces drove my employer to abandon the camp.   All in all I am rather sanguine about this.  At some level I was always waiting for it.  I knew I was the most expendable person in the office and the least engaged.

There were many draft posts about my relation to my now former job, and the industry I have worked for. These were either never written or were incomplete overly cautious fragments of the whole.  Any readable narrative is incomplete, however, it will become clear why this state of play is more a relief than a burden.

There are many factors that cause tension between me and the mining exploration industry, there are the obvious things such as working in the ass end of nowhere, repetitive jobs and long hours. Then there are the less obvious stressors, the right wing bias behind everything, common global warming denial, and more.
 Detracting from my motivation is the fact they are trying solve a problem I am indifferent to.  To make people rich through finding a possible or real gold mine does not drive me. I honestly don't care about getting more gold out of the ground  It emberases me to have stayed so long in professional world I fit so poorly into, this then is the story of my last best hope for the industry.

 The job, I got sent home from was the job I had described in my grant application, prior to applying to  BCIT four years ago.  Land a desk job in an industry where I had past experience and apply my recent training.  Everything about this plan was reasonable and logical but the execution was flawed and passionless. In the end I had landed exactly where I had planned to go and stayed there.  It was still an improvement at first.    

The job was a blessing after after bouncing between some no fun at all geology contacts I was happy for some security and work that kept me in the city. There was an undeniable satisfaction in having achieved a goal set two years prior through planning and work. Heck at the beginning I had an office.

As with any new venture the learning curve keeps things interesting.  The level of engagement was high at first, it faded over time.  There were only so many problems to solve in such a small office.  To make matters worse, I  had not quite enough freedom.  I was stuck working under the company IT contractor, a man who equates, tens of cups of coffee a day with being well rested and equates doing lots of things at once as being productive. While he gets lots done, much of was support for outside ventures.  Naturally he sucked at delegating.

This left me with either the option of trying to work around him and come up with my own fixes or wait for him to focus long enough on solutions related to in office problems. In the end, I would try to implement my own fixes and then change gears and work with his plan, neither got the attention needed.

During my post, I spent a lot of time with a software suite called MapInfo.  A collection of bugs and patches intended to display and interpret mappable data.  At first I was cursed with a compatibility bug, our old edition was incompatible with windows 7.  Later we updated and it ran smoother.  Even when it ran smoothly the style of the workflow and interface proved irritating for me.  Producing any thing was a series of short attention sucking jumps from one point of view to another.  Forever changing my focus and shortening my attention span.

This endless string of micro tasks fragmented my already flighty attention span.  It would often take the better part of an evening to slow my brain down enough to read a novel, to decompress enough to write was almost always out of the question.  It chewed at me, a slower drain on my resources than the stress of isolation in the bush but it built up.  I felt I was getting dumber over time, I never got my head out of that cycle long enough to consider my next move.  Office drone work took just enough that I could not reevaluate.  It made me feel a little depressed for a long time.

In a timey whimey way this brings me to last week.  Things had been slowing down for a while. I was spending more time on low priority longer term projects because there was little pressing work to do.  Heck I estimate that the small project took about 6 hours to produce and that was the only concrete thing coming out that week.  On Wednesday of the week I was downright depressed, even hung over I can't recall the morning passing so slowly.  By 10am I felt like 6 hours had passed.  Thursday saw me over caffeinated, with an attention span of a small bird for ever jumping from view to view.  All I really wanted these last few unproductive weeks was to be outside in the cool sunny weather.  Friday was greeted with the question of why am I getting up to go to the office, and the question of what the heck am I going to do Monday.  I could not tell you what I did Friday morning, it likely amounted to little.  I do know that after lunch I actually tried to cook up a going forward plan, collect all my loose ends and turn them into some project that could sustain my interest into the summer and have me ready for the field season prep.  I did not come up with much.  It was in the process of trying to cook this up when I got summoned.

Now I am free of that job.  I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up.  But I have added one more thing to the list of things I don't want to be.  I want out of the Mining Exploration Industry for good.  This MapInfo job was my last best hope, It failed.  I am still open to work related to environmental sciences, geology or geospatial systems but mining exploration is something I am going to stay away from.

It has been just shy of 9 years since I took my first student job on an exploration project.  The pattern has been the same since. At first the thrill of a new project in a new place. Field work can be great, but the thrill wears off quickly.  Soon I am left drained, doing a repetitive job somewhere far from everyone I know.   This describes very nearly every field job I have ever done, the only thing that changed was the burnout time shrank.  

The four year experiment that ended in the secondary boardroom last week was not an outright failure.  While I no longer want to work for that industry, I am in a better position not to.  I have yet to take stock of what I have learned and what it could be applied, but I am less pigeon holed than I used to be.  


Dorrie Williams said...

Hear hear. Can I add: an industry that considers one as a dollar figure primarily. As I write I am playing hookey from building a Cost Benefit Analysis for the EXP.company I work for that will leave me, and the people I work with in the field (and love, let me mention that) with less work.....

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Nice to see a blog again. As John Lennon put it: Life is what happens while you are making other plans. Your heart has not been in the job for a while, it may be a good thing other factors ended it before you started effing up. There has to be more interesting work out there, even if it pays less. Meanwhile, enjoy the spring!