Courage During COVID-19: Why I Quit my Job

“A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting” — Russell H Ewing

Having worked in cyber security for 15+ years, I know what is normal and what is abnormal. Normal is a manager who one can approach for guidance; abnormal is a manager who shows no trust in his staff.

Building anything is difficult; tearing down something is easy. Years of work — relationships built, buy-in achieved, value established and delivered, and the culture of a business changed — can be torn down in 1/100th of the time.

And so is was with the company at which I worked, up until 2 months ago. My previous manager had established an information security management programme, including funding to undertake a multi-year transformation programme, under which systems & processes were implemented and staff hired and incentivised.

My previous manager left, and a new manager was hired. Given the shortage of cyber security talent in Melbourne, it took months to find someone. And that someone was a complete disaster for the company.

One knows something is off about a manager when the following happens:

  • Micro management. I’ve reviewed hundreds of system architectures over the years. I certainly do not need my manager demanding separate sessions with vendors for him to do the exact same review, finding nothing. Not only does this waste people’s time, it undermines me in front of my peers.
  • Company values. I don’t need to be told that I don’t meet “company values” by a manger in his first week, because I refuse to bow to unreasonable requests, such as monitoring who and when I’m meeting. (Not that companies have values to begin with; people have values.)
  • Being told that I don’t understand the technology. Nothing screams, “I have no clue how to manage someone” more than questioning if someone understands basic computer networking.
  • Being kept out of the loop. I do enjoy hearing boneheaded ideas such as encrypting all Word documents by default, without an option to send Word documents to external parties. That’s why I implemented the information rights management system in such a way not to disrupt the business.
  • Three people leave the team. In a month, three people leave because working with the new manager is untenable.
  • Refuse to admit fault. This is the biggest. If you’re not man enough to admit when you’ve done something wrong, you don’t deserve to be a manager.

Likewise, HR exist solely to protect the company. And even with new managers, HR is too slow to react. Engaging HR is mostly a complete waste of time. Why bother when one can use the free market to find a better job?

When team members openly talk about leaving, peers roll their eyes at needing to deal with the person, and the person’s personality causes multiple issues, it’s time to leave. I’ve seen this play before, and the ending is always the same.

Luckily the job search for cyber security architects in Melbourne during COVID-19 wasn’t too difficult, and I had a 6-month contract after a few weeks of interviewing.

The decision to quit wasn’t actually too difficult, because my girlfriend works full time, and we support each other in case something goes wrong. This is one of the better aspects of being in a relationship: the ability to take risks. My girlfriend’s income can cover us both, and I have additional income from investment properties.

Unfortunately I’ve had to move on from two jobs in Melbourne because of changes to management. Each time, I’ve landed on my feet, with a contract role from which I earn 75% of a year’s salary in 6 months, don’t need to worry about corporate bullshit such as KPIs, and simply deliver rather than getting involved in corporate politics. It makes me smile that standing up for myself in a corporate environment, getting pushback from management, and then quitting has always put me in a better place than before. Maybe Jordan Peterson is right about speaking the truth?

Courage without a cost means nothing. For example, celebrities virtue signaling woke politics are not courageous for supporting Black Lives Matter because celebrities suffer no cost. Courage is the act of doing or saying something with a cost: e.g., taking on a contract in uncertain economic times, pushing back against political correctness, or telling your boss “no”.

I love telling a horrible manager these words: “I quit”. Right, I need to get back to researching AWS EMR security.