Tuesday, February 04, 2020

posting openly now

I've written a couple "frank" posts about my job situation, but I'm now finally at liberty to talk about it openly. I've been part of an R&D team since I came to work for this company, the Golden Goose. Early last year, months after our boss was put out to pasture for reasons I won't get into, our team got shunted to a whole different branch of the company—one that specializes in teaching young kids. I've spent a year working on the sort of material I was never designed to generate: I'm at my best when making material for older, gifted kids. For the past year, I've also been under well-intentioned but scatterbrained management that had no clear view of what it wanted our team to do or to be. It didn't help that R&D was constantly being asked to help with sudden, "urgent" projects that would always spring up at the last minute, without any warning. This endless interruption of our collective flow of thought didn't help us when it came to generating more significant course material for the students.

Late last year, a short time after I had come back from my big walk, my ex-boss—the one who had been put out to pasture—contacted me to say that the CEO had given him a new lease on life, and that he (my ex-boss) wanted to know whether I'd be interested in joining a new R&D team exclusively devoted to making materials for older kids in Vietnam, for the Vietnam branch of our ever-expanding company. No more interruptions or distractions from other departments clamoring for our help and demanding our attention. This would be pure, unadulterated materials-generation, and with my ex-boss back at the helm, this R&D team would be guided by a clear vision. In terms of my ego, this also meant that moving over to "Vietnam R&D" would return me to a position of at least semi-importance; for the past year, I've watched my work get pulled apart, diluted, and altered beyond all recognition, all in the name of "teamwork" or "collaborative effort." (Cynically, I call it design by committee.) For the past month or so, I've been reduced to doing little more than proofreading other people's work; lately, my big "project" is to transcribe certain tests' audio files because we (i.e., someone inside the company) somehow lost the original audio scripts. While I'm deeply cynical about all the work I do at this company, it's fair to say that I'm being wasted in my current capacity. So jumping ship to Vietnam R&D comes as a relief.

I couldn't tell my current team members about my move until yesterday, i.e., Monday. My immediate supervisor knew about the move because he had to know, but neither of us breathed a word of what was going on to my teammates. I made the announcement Monday afternoon; everyone was as stoic as I imagined they'd be. We're all introverts and weirdos to some degree or other; none of us is the overly sentimental type who might melodramatically beg the departing person to reconsider, to stay just a bit longer. And I didn't expect any sort of big emotional reaction from the team, anyway: we're all Korea veterans at this point, which means we all understand that sudden upheavals and chronic nonlinearity in the workplace are just the everyday reality on this peninsula. Nothing in Korea ever moves in a straight line; there's little reason to formulate long-range plans when circumstances tend to change radically, like what you can expect if you live in an earthquake-prone region. I'll leave my current R&D team and be summarily replaced; I'm expendable, just another cog in the machine, and Nature abhors a vacuum. Change is the only constant.

But because I'll be back to working under an American boss, there'll be a lot less nonlinearity from now until the end of my contract. I'll be given large, meaty projects that I can concentrate on for months at a time, as opposed to my current zigzaggy diet of random bits and bobs, none of which amount to much of anything. Under my once-and-future boss, from 2015 to 2017, I literally wrote the book(s) on grammar—a feat that no one outside our company will ever know about, but a feat I accomplished all the same. I wasn't alone in this endeavor, of course: we had an excellent freelancer who provided us with crucial reading-comprehension passages and reading-comp questions, all of which helped determine the content and focus of the latter two-thirds of every chapter. But the grammar explanations, the grammar and vocab exercises, the sections on writing technique, the word-etymology pages and other material—that was all mine. And do I or our freelancer get any sort of authorial credit? Yes, but it's tucked into the front-matter pages, in tiny font. The "author" prominently listed on those textbooks' front covers is none other than our CEO, who takes credit for everything his underlings produce.

So I'll still be laboring in obscurity, but at least now, there'll be a lot less bullshit and a lot more sense to what I do, even if it amounts to nada. I'm looking forward to the change, and to whatever challenges await. This ought to be a good year.


Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Congratulations, Kevin.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

John Mac said...

And maybe your new team will better appreciate your culinary skills!

Will this require a physical move to a new location/apartment?

Anyway, sounds like a change for the better and a challenge as well. There better be some trips to Vietnam in the future. Culture excursions to better understand your audience of course.

Daniel said...

Sounds like you're back in the driver's seat again. Full speed ahead!

Kevin Kim said...

Thanks, Jeff.


No change of residence, just a change of office. This will be my old office in the Mido building, the same place where I started out in 2015. Life comes full circle.


Yeah, this is very good news. I generally enjoyed working with my current team, but some aspects of that work were beginning to drive me nuts. This ought to be a lot better-- something of a return to the good old days.

Charles said...

Glad things worked out!

Kevin Kim said...


Oh, yeah: the Mido building is just a ten-minute walk down the street from my current office. This puts me farther away from good places to eat and shop, but there are other benefits to being back at Mido, like having a branch of my bank, and my doctor's office, in the same building.

Daniel said...

Cue soundtrack of The Way We Were (or was that the name of the song?)