The bittersweet reunion with my former colleagues

In the world of IT consulting, the group of people that you work with generally change every 6 to 12 months, as a project and/or your role on that project has a finite start and end date. Often when a person’s role on the project ends, there is a roll-off party held for her as she “rolls-off” the project. It’s one small way to recognize and thank that person for their contributions to the project. Several weeks ago, I was invited to a roll-off party for a friend who was also leaving the company. I was excited to see some of my friends and colleagues who, uncharacteristically for IT consulting, I had worked with through many years. It ended up being a somewhat bittersweet reunion with my former colleagues.

The Bitter

There was laughter at the table as they shared another story about another crisis that occurred and how they managed to right the ship. It was the same type of stories we’ve been swapping for years, populated with a cast of the same colleague and client personalities. The issues, while different, are bound in their similarity by occurring in the same or similar complex landscape. Multiple business units coexisting with different business rules. The many different client team members in different functions working in these business units, often with competing interests. Vast amounts of operational data required to enable their business to function. A complex spaghetti of back end technical infrastructure as a result of mergers, history, and business growth. And the multi-year IT program we were part of to implement and integrate their IT systems. It was not unlike being on a Tolkien quest to deliver “the one ring to bind them all”.

In short: it’s hard work. You are placed in teams for a relatively short amount of time, and disbanded after the project is done.

This is why having a great group of people to work with, is so key. You have built trust in through your shared history. You each have a role and to trust each other to do their roles. Less effort is needed on establishing people’s boundaries and power positions (i.e. the BS part of work), and more effort is spent to set up the structures of the project work to make it succeed. You learn from each other and help each other when it’s needed. Having people that you actually enjoy being around too makes it bearable to slog through the (many) tough times together. Our laughter makes the craziness bearable.

Now that I’ve left the company, the chances of my working with any of these people again in the next 5 or 10 years are slim. The finality of that realization is hard, and is more emotionally wearing on me than I expected. This roll-off party had a real sense of finality that mine didn’t have. I suppose until now I’d always held the belief in the back of my mind that I’d soon be staffed on a new project with a few of these friends. This kept me from feeling too sad at the prospect of a roll off. Now, enough time has passed that the reality of my not returning is established in my brain. There will be no next project for me to be reunited again with some of these great people. A little part of me despairs at that realization.

The sweet

Still, it was great that I was again enjoying the company of my former colleagues. A small collection of men and women I highly respect, trust, and enjoy being around.  That venn diagram intersection of people is hard to hold on to in the life of IT consulting. I’m glad of these relationships and I really don’t want to lose touch with them.

Also, I feel a real sense of satisfaction that I was able to positively contribute to something so large and complex. To know that I can navigate the chaos and add value with my work in something so difficult and complicated is a great confidence boost. That experience is something I’ll take with me anywhere in the future.

Thank you friends, for being part of my 12+ years at Accenture. I’ve learned from you immense amounts from about working, and projects, and being an adult. I am much richer for the experience. May we continue to have laughs in the future together.