Showing value through the Pandemic

Amazing to think that it’s already been two years since we entered this global pandemic. I recall as if it was just yesterday, March 9, 2020, here I was, a fresh CCNA walking into my first day at a new company and starting my journey as a Network Engineer. I was ecstatic, I felt this was a huge step forward in my career and I had become part of a team of rockstar engineers. My desire to learn everything I possibly could, combined with the Engineers’ desire to teach, was a lethal combination and I knew I would explode it to the max because I wanted to be a rockstar too. This feeling of certainty and fulfillment was short lived because Friday that week, March 13, 2020, the world as we knew it would change forever and my fate as an Engineer for this company was in the air.

The stress level went from zero to one hundred REAL quick. Here I was, packing my belongings Friday morning, not sure whether or not I would be back the following week. As we watched the Pandemic unfold, It became clear that this was going to be long term and not a few weeks lockdown like we assumed. Unfortunately, many people not only lost their jobs but their lives as well, and it had me thinking “What does this mean for me?”. I had literally just started this job and I was the lowest man on the totem pole,x I knew if it came down to it, I would be the first one to go. Fast forward a few months, I had turned my room into my home office and was getting acclimated to this drastic change in work environment and lifestyle. The main objective at this point was to keep that magnifying glass away from me, incase leadership decided they needed to start cutting some of the fat on the team. My team leads would put together any task I could do to keep me busy and show that I can provide value to the company during these work from home times. Getting a grasp on my day to day duties became ten times harder now because I was having to communicate with my team over Webex instead of having them right next to me if I had questions. Not a day went by where I didn’t feel like tomorrow would be my last day, and it sucked because I felt like something I had worked so hard to get was being stripped from me after having JUST obtained it.

So how was I supposed to show value if I had just started working for this company and was still learning the ropes? I decided to get involved in everything I possibly could, from joining other engineer’s meetings with clients, taking over some tasks for my team lead, cleaning up the company’s network documentation etc. I was doing everything to make my presence felt and show that I wasn’t just that new kid sitting at home twiddling his thumbs. As time elapsed, there were many times where I would be in meetings with my team and they would say things like “there will be some changes coming soon” or “We are making these changes and we just want to be transparent with the team”. Believe me when I tell you my heart sank every time. The very worst scenario would play in my head every time something like this was said. I knew that I was doing what I could on my end, but in the back of my mind I was always on my toes. Luckily for me, my team understood the circumstances we were in and they knew I was green before they hired me on, so we just had to work with what he had and try to get me up to speed as best we could. Fortunately, business never let up, we actually got busier, and this meant clients were purchasing hardware from us. This is where my opportunity to begin staging equipment for clients and get my hands dirty came along. I took over our staging area at work and made myself responsible for receiving, prepping, and shipping out any hardware. I learned tasks such as how to rack devices and hook them up to a console server so that my senior engineer could remote in and configure them, set up a WLC and join Access Points to it for configuration, and how to upgrade the IOS on switches, amongst other things.

Almost two years in and here I am, still with this great company learning a lot every day. Although my goal is still to show I’m valuable to the company, there have been times where I ask myself, when will this whole “prove yourself to me” thing end? Does it ever or could it be because I’m still fairly new? Only reason I ask is because, to the day, I still get asked to do a task and “continue to show value”. In my opinion, I’m valuable to my company, I’ve never shy’d away from work, I’ve always agreed to work on the task at hand even if I had no idea how to do it, always on time, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely appreciate it and don’t want to seem like I’m complaining, but, sometimes I wonder why I feel like I always have to keep proving I’m worth being here. Maybe its just in my head and nobody is looking at me in that light anymore, otherwise they would have gotten rid of me early on, right? Who knows, I’m just happy to still be employed at a great place with great people, but just something that makes me think.

One thing I feel this pandemic really took away from me is, the opportunity to sit in an office surrounded by rockstar engineers and hear them talk to clients, interact with them on a daily basis and see how they move. I believe this is a crucial part in anyone’s career because you pick up on little things you can’t pick up on working from home. That said, I’m always picking somebody’s brain on my team, looking at how they carry themselves, and just really analyzing every situation so I can become a better me every day. This is the first time I’ve ever been in this situation, I’ve never had to feel like my job was in jeopardy and I could be let go at any moment, I’ve always just seen myself out of previous jobs but always on good terms. It’s a weird situation to be in, to this day I’m still meeting new people at the company, people who I’ve had many conversations with over the past year online but never met in person. I really wonder how everything will pan out in the end.

What I have learned from this situation is to stay optimistic and continue to grind. I believe my go getter personality and overall humility has played a huge role in getting me to where I am. I don’t take anything for granted, ESPECIALLY now, and everything happens for a reason.

Is anyone else going through a similar experience? Having just gotten a new job RIGHT when the pandemic locked us down? How did you or are you handling it? Do you feel pressure every day to show value to your employer? I would love to hear from you!