2015: all I can say – I did my best

By all statistical [materially obnoxious] measures, I had a great year – successful, exciting, remarkable. At the same time, I don’t remember another year when I felt so unsatisfied with myself, perplexed, and mortally exhausted. You know, like, you’ve done something good for yourself but there is no time or energy left to celebrate what you’ve just accomplished.

Highlights of the year (in no particular order): receiving the EU citizenship, turning around uneasy work situation, Basel Art in Hong Kong and in Basel, FIAC! in Paris and Venice Biennalle, Pavel back home and working for Amazon with my former colleagues (more news to come 🙂 soon), Andrey working in Switzerland, first ever cruise vacations survived (“so-so” or perhaps it’s just an acquired taste), more balanced understanding of Middle Eastern political driving forces, lots of thoughts about Turkey and Russia, incredible meetings with senior leaders of world most important FOREX platforms, 4 new countries visited…

Side effects: smaller number of read books, substantially smaller number of blog posts, very few parties attended while unpainted ceiling remained unattended, multiple unopened magazines piled up.

I joined PayPal to assume a role, which turned out to be unavailable. Several important decision-makers who hired me left the company within weeks after I started. I was valued, needed and had lots of projects, but it was all fuzzy – no career path, rewards and recognition diluted, receiving guidance from multiple managers… Not ideal.

I turned it around: gained visibility faster than I’ve ever thought possible, expanded my new role beyond anything that existed before, cultivated extraordinary mentors who’ve challenged me all the way, criticizing my work as long and as hard as needed for me to get angry and make it perfect… I am still a bit scared every morning before opening my inbox, in the beginning of each problem I have no idea what I’m going to do. Most importantly, I feel like I am building trust and respect with my new manager and I have all the freedom in the world to do what I think is right (or necessary). It was not easy and it could have gone either way.

Here are my personal turnaround lessons (or how to survive an interim phase and make the most of it):

  • You may or may not have a manager in your interim situation, but either way, you know it won’t last. Try to informally enlist several influential leaders to act as your interim managers (per project, per country – whatever) so that people know what you are doing and give you feedback. Your worst strategy is to fly below the radar and hope for the best.
  • Reach out to as many senior leaders as you reasonably can and make sure they know your situation needs to be fixed. Don’t complain, ask for projects and guidance and point out how this interim situation is inefficient for the company or/and prevents you from doing your best.
  • Learn like never before. You don’t know where you may end up, so build as many skills, experiences and networks as you can. Volunteer for projects, join taskforces, offer to project manage other people’s initiatives. Warning: pick the right projects and right experiences – something new, popular in the organization, with big budgets and leaders who are on the rise.
  • Cultivate mentors. There will be many instances when you receive conflicting instructions or mixed messages or even an offer to join a different team. You will be frustrated and may be tempted to say “yes” to anything. Your mentors will tell you what’s right for you. Don’t choose mentors who praise you or comfort you. Find ones who will be brutally honest and challenge you (for your own good).
  • When it’s all over, take some time off, recharge and contemplate what you’ve just accomplished. Our brains too need detox.
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