Burnout and Recovery with Josh Fidel

Welcome to episode 78 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss burnout and recovery with Josh Fidel @jcfidel.

Original Recording Date: 04-23-2020

Topic – Burnout and Recovery

2:14 – Burn Out and Bail Out

  • Josh loved the job and the work he did within the Globals segment at VMware.
  • The pressure put on Josh and his teammates was immense. Each was responsible for $15M in sales for the year.
  • The sales cycles in large organizations are lengthy, and planning has to happen in advance (possibly years in advance of when a purchase may be made).
    • Josh was thinking about what would happen in the next 1-2 years with these customers and not what would happen in the next two weeks to close a deal.
    • Everything was more visible to leadership.
  • The traveling was so much that Josh would get home on Friday and have to get back on a plane by Monday morning. It was detrimental to his family life.
  • One day he woke up in a hotel room, did not remember where he was, who he was supposed to meet with, and what the meeting was about.
    • "This is insane." – Josh Fidel
    • He sat on the edge of the bed in frustration and realized he was destroying his physical and emotional health as well as the relationship with his family.
    • "This company won’t look after me when I am old." – Josh Fidel
    • "I needed to take a step back." – Josh Fidel
    • Josh scheduled back surgery soon after this.
  • "I’m building these crystal palaces at the cost of what really matters." – Josh Fidel
  • After 3 months home with the family, Josh did not want to go back.
  • He got to do something awesome that few people will get to do but needed to take care of what was important.

9:52 – A Look at Josh’s Current State

  • The pressure is much less, and all the tools are in his toolbox now.
  • He is happier now and gets to spend more time with his family.
  • Looking back, Josh said his temper grew shorter before reaching the breaking point.
    • He would tolerate poor decision making less and would be more vocal about it.
    • Other people commented on him being "wound up."
    • People don’t see these things while caught up in them. He had a goal and became so focused that the signs were missed.
    • Josh thinks he may not have practiced mindfulness at the time. He may not have come to such abrupt decisions.
    • It’s much easier to stay up late working now and only lose 30 minutes of sleep compared to having to fly back home from another country.
  • John makes an interesting point about western culture and the expected role and perception of men.
    • Josh has learned to overcome toxic masculinity by being comfortable with him self and what he is doing.
    • Many people have a hard time being honest with themselves.
    • Some of the most competent people in technology Josh knows are a little quirky.
      • Maybe establishing the brand first allows you to be yourself later?
    • Josh is confident he won’t have to worry about the next job because he is good what he does, and other people know it.
  • Josh is not afraid to speak up if management is doing something that seems wrong and gives a great example of how management at his current employer processes feedback from employees.
    • People in management may be slightly more educated, but at the end of the day we are just people.
    • Right now people are likely going to expect more from their management. John and Josh cite a number of examples based on current events.

26:00 – The Importance of Organizational Character and Being Selective

  • Character matters at all times but becomes especially important under stress.
    • The company Josh works for now has character. The president took a large pay cut to sustain the company and asked people to take smaller pay cuts so everyone would succeed.
    • Josh is willing to forego quarterly bonuses to allow other people at the company to succeed (i.e. so a more junior person does not get laid off).
    • Inspirational leaders need to walk the walk and not just talk a big game. Josh cites a specific example.
  • Maybe you cannot be selective about who you work for today (i.e. an organization led by a decent leader).
    • It is always easier to find a job while you have one than when you don’t.
    • This is about knowing what you value in a manager / company leader and helps you evaluate the organization as a potential employer.
    • Great job interview question to ask a future employer – "what did you do for your employees during COVID-19?"
    • Josh mentions a number of interviews he had with leaders inside VMware before being hired, which helped him make a decision.
    • You as a candidate have the opportunity to say NO to a company after meeting anyone in the interview chain. Don’t forget that!
    • It’s never wrong to ask to talk to someone’s boss to help you evaluate whether a company is a fit.
    • Sometimes more money is not compensation enough for oppressive culture.
    • Think about the kind of person you would be happy to work for someday.
    • Does poor management / oppressive culture / a toxic system stifle innovation? Listen to what Josh has to say, and you decide.
    • People are so tied to their job in this country (job as identity).
    • Is the current crisis that perfect opportunity to step back and turn introspective for people, organizations, regions, the world and make better decisions?
    • Take a critical eye to what you are, what you have become, and where you want to go.
    • As long as you are alive, there are options, even if they are not the best options.

42:56 – Closing Thoughts

  • The story of Josh’s burn out and change parallels where we are as a society.
  • "We are all sitting on the edge of our bed." – Josh Fidel
  • Hopefully we all take a step back, looks at what has happened, and makes some decisions that we will make the world a better place…but not at the cost of someone else.
  • Check out Josh’s blog post on his experience with burn out.
  • Find Josh on Twitter @jcfidel.
  • He likes meeting people, networking, and helping where he can.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

image sources

  • Josh Fidel cropped: John White

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