In February of 2010, I returned home after ten months traveling abroad. I toyed with the idea of turning my new love of photography into a living, but decided a steady paycheck and benefits were more important. Although my experience with AT&T was one of the kickers that inspired me to leave the country, I gave U.S. Cellular a try on a friend’s recommendation. It was call center work again, sure, but it would do until I found something I was more passionate about. I started on May 3rd of that year – my father’s birthday.
“I’m just going to take calls,” I told myself. No need to move into management like I had before. Too much stress and not enough appreciation.
Well, just a few weeks into training I was already creating job aids for my peers. By the time we reached the production floor I was put into a team lead position. By my 90 day mark I was serving as an interim leader and was quickly moved into the formal leadership pipeline program. I really liked the company culture and felt like my work mattered. As fast as it was, it all felt very natural.
I worked my way through Customer Service leadership and moved into Resolutions, a tenured escalation department. I lead several teams through a complicated and protracted billing system conversion. I filled in for the regional communications team and became a point-of-contact for many people in the call center. I regularly participated in and took photos for our annual walks in the MLK and Pride parades. I drove down to Moore, Oklahoma to hand out car chargers and bottled water to folks whose homes had been devastated in a massive tornado.
In 2015, I moved over into the Workforce Planning group and helped manage inbound call volume across the organization. I had five monitors on my desk for that job! The next year, I moved over to Engineering (and our downtown office) to work as a Project Management support specialist for the network deployment team. I’ve been doing that ever since; it’s the longest single role I’ve had at a job in my entire life.
This week, a real estate consolidation plan was announced. It makes sense, considering the post-pandemic world. The call center is for sale and the downtown office is shifting to an open desk environment. All personal items needed to be taken home.
Anybody that has seen my desk, at ANY time during my U.S. Cellular tenure, knows that is a tall order. I’ve always considered work my second home and decorated accordingly. So, this week, I sorted through my 12 years of workplace accumulation to bring stuff home. I’d only been back in the office twice since February 2020 anyway – shouldn’t be a big deal, right?
I vastly underestimated the emotional journey. There were plenty of company tsotski, of course (pens, paper pads, coasters, stress balls, etc.), but there were also photos and cards and reminders of another time. I came across a stack of condolence cards when my father died in 2010; more from Grandma Mary’s passing in 2012. Congratulation messages from my promotion to leader and several years’ worth of Bosses Day recognition. Printed memes for my cubicle wall from before the word meme was even part of the common vernacular. A stuffed Kool-Aid man I used to throw at my co-workers and exclaim “OH YEAH!”. Matchbox cars, Lego sets, leadership books, a Save The Clock Tower Flyer, calendars frozen on March 2020. About a dozen coffee mugs and travel tumblers.
All in all, it took about six boxes (AFTER purging!) to get everything packed and out. Looking at the bare space afterwards was a little heartbreaking. The world has changed and I love working from home; it has greatly improved my quality of life. But I do miss my friends at the office and the environment I had built there.