Sipping From a Fire Hose

The new job is intense. The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of names, numbers, meetings, and local politics. Also, my Spanish abilities are being tested and it is clear that all of the academic success in the world does not compare with being able to speak "the people's" Spanish daily. It sometimes feels as though I have been dropped in a foreign country to build an aqueduct, but I do not speak the local language, know only a handful of people, and I have no idea where the water is.


And it is a great job so far. I am obviously tired and stressed but I am working with people to build something; something a community can use. We are working to meet a need. At any given moment I am working on a task within a larger objective. But that task becomes its own objective with an array of sub-tasks the further down the rabbit hole we go. It is not necessarily scope creep but rather learning exactly how big and complex this idea is. It is kind of like watching a single crack in a windshield spread and branch until it consumes the entire thing.


One of the most immediate tasks is planning next month's open house. Even though I am currently going to local schools and meeting with principals and teachers to spread the word that this resource will be available, we want the community to come see the place for themselves, meet the after school teachers, and meet everyone their kids will spend their afternoons with should they choose to enroll. However, inspiring people to show up in the middle of winter, to a building not easily accessible by public transit (though it is located on a bus route), to learn a program that currently exists only on paper is not going to be easy. Fortunately, the organization has access to a consultant with years of experience planning such events. She is very clear about what needs to be done and in what order. I am eternally grateful to her for all she is doing to help this succeed.


Working in a non-corporate environment has been disorienting. The pace and the daily schedule are very different. There is a lot more latitude in terms of coming and going, but a lot more work being done outside "normal business hours." Also, schools are much more politicized environments than I was expecting. I am surprised to find how resistant they are to work with us. They apparently fear the optics of our program offering something they otherwise could offer, even though no one has asked them to offer it nor given them the resources to do it. I understand every work environment has its politics and power structures, but it makes no sense to me how an aligned resource is seen as a threat when the goal is to provide an after school service for students.


All of that aside, this is the shakeup I was hoping for and trying to create for myself. It is such a contrast to what I was doing that I can clearly see I made the change for the right reasons. But I am also starting to see how many roads lead to Rome, and that there may have been less-jarring alternatives that might have produced similar progress. Still, I am happy to be doing this now rather than regretting not doing it later.

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© 2020 by Mark Konold