If you haven't already, I recommend first reading my post A Journey of Adventure and Unconventional Job Hunting. This Story will set the stage for what's covered in this post.
After getting hired, one of my initial steps was to spruce up my appearance. I opted to keep the beard but gave it a trim and got a much-needed haircut, hoping to present a more polished image. Even before my first paycheck, I decided to invest in suitable workwear, free from stains or unsightly holes in the elbows.
Amidst the whirlwind of excitement that accompanied my initial months in Ireland, I looked forward to the structure of an office job, even if only temporary. I mean, realistically, what could be expected of me in those initial weeks?
But life always finds a way to upend our expectations and throw in some unforeseen curveballs that keep us alert. As I set off on my first professional journey post-university, I had no inkling that it would continually test the boundaries of my resilience.
First Day on the Job
On the job training started with figuring out what exactly I had just signed up for. The role I was hired into is called a Solutions Engineer, however I had never heard of such a thing. From the job description, the responsibilities seemed straightforward enough: technical sales demos, customer support, and assisting integrations. Clearly, this type of role relies on technical knowledge, but tasks often involved engaging with a range of customers, whether they were technically inclined or not.
Starting on day one, I began the customary onboarding process, like setting up my accounts and acquainting myself with my new colleagues. John, my boss and now close friend, immediately brought me in on sales calls and encouraged me to connect with my more tenured counterpart based out of the US.
As the old adage goes: "be careful what you wish for."
While I had been briefed on my job responsibilities from a theoretical standpoint, this wasn't a career path covered in school. This role (and those similar) are quite common in tech companies, but are somewhat niche and don't interest every software developer. So not only was I taking on a role I never knew existed, I was now working for a startup building an emerging technology in which I had no direct experience.
So when I began, my expectations for the job were to have time to learn the technology plus the mentality of sales. But one of the distinctions of working for a startup can mean there's little time to waste on this phase of onboarding. Some people like that, other people don't. As for me, I loved it. However, I hadn't quite grasped how this would translate into reality.
Within a week, a major task came knocking. A client of ours in London was facing persistent integration issues that threatened getting the deal signed. As the Solutions Engineer, it fell upon me to step in. But it wasn't going to be enough for me to work over the phone, I needed to be on-site working directly with the client's engineer assigned to the project.
My first day on the job was Monday, February 19th. Nine days later I was on a flight to London, tasked with resolving issues of a technology I barely understood.
Beast from the East
My first trip to London was one of true wonder, literally. In the days leading up to my arrival an unprecedented snow storm, dubbed the Beast from the East, delivered snow not usually seen in London. Thinking back on it, I'm surprised planes were even flying into the city at all. On top of that, I chose the airport with the worst possible public transportation options into London.
Fortunately, I had some insight into the challenges of navigating wintry London from my sister, who was studying abroad there at the time. However, dealing with the snow proved even more troublesome as train and bus routes were diverted or canceled. After a lengthy bus ride, I trudged through the snow and slush, making my way to my hotel located near King's Cross Station.
While I weaved through the streets in search of my hotel, I had an unexpected yet heartwarming encounter when I peered through the window of a McDonald's – there was my sister. This reunion wasn't entirely unforeseen, given her ongoing stay in London. However, without an international phone plan, I hadn't been able to contact her upon my arrival. To top it all off, we managed to capture a photo of us together to celebrate our mom's birthday.
Weathering the Storm
What started as a simple two-day business trip turned into a six-day odyssey. Although I successfully navigated my way to the client's office on the first day, the rest of the week didn't go quite as planned. Public transportation ground to a halt, offices told employees to stay home, and the city was covered in a thick layer of snow.
Each morning, I awaited news that the client would return to the office. In the evenings, I'd trek down the road to join my sister and her friends for dinner. As the weekend drew near, the weather displayed no signs of letting up. I eventually found myself in need of alternative accommodations to prolong my stay, since the hotel I had originally booked was now completely occupied. To compound the struggle, I was unprepared for this extended stay and lacked enough suitable clothing for a winter storm.
But my directive was clear: remain in London until I could meet with the client and complete the job, no matter how long it took.
Finding the Silver Lining
Despite the logistical nightmare and the unruly weather, there was a silver lining. The additional days afforded me time to further delve into the software and experiment with potential solutions. When the storm finally subsided the following week, I returned to the office and, in the end, successfully solved the problems and the client was up and running.
This rollercoaster ride of unexpected twists and turns was a masterclass in adaptability. It underscored the importance of this valuable skill in any profession. My journey, from an unforeseen hire to a Londoner battling a relentless snowstorm, emphasized the unpredictable nature that often characterizes professional life. Yet, it's precisely these unexpected curveballs that inject the journey with excitement, making it all the more memorable and rewarding.