Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Employment Evolution

One of the other themes of 2011 was job satisfaction - or lack thereof.

I joined the staff of PPMM on November 1, 2004 as a part-time program assistant to support the replication of Teen Success, an innovative and award-winning secondary pregnancy prevention program. Initially, I worked 20 hours a week at $13/hour, which was absolutely perfect, given that I still had commitments to my role as Business Manager & Technical Director with Le Theatre de la Chandelle Verte along with my work as a Teacher & Trainer for Kaplan Test Prep. The part-time schedule provided sufficient flexibility to accommodate my other activities, including travel with Chandelle and evening classes for Kaplan.

After less than a year, however, my role at PPMM had broadened, based on the needs of the replication project and the skills I brought to the position, such as strategic planning, project management, and organizational development. I gained the title of Project Coordinator, with an increase to 30 hours per week as a salaried employee, which also made me eligible for full-time benefits. I really enjoyed the work and was blessed with an extraordinary supervisor who unceasingly encouraged my professional development and truly appreciated my efforts and expertise.

A little over two years ago, PPMM went through a dramatic (and traumatic) re-structuring process for the Education Services Department, which included my position. The changes included different job titles and some new/revamped positions. Everyone had to apply for these "new" roles, even though the jobs were practically identical. This experience was rather demoralizing in many ways, and several staff left the agency under less-than-ideal conditions.

I submitted my application for what was basically my current position with a new title, but I was not selected and instead received a letter indicating that my current position would be phased out once the new position was filled. This was incredibly challenging and hurtful, especially given some extenuating circumstances surrounding the process. Regardless, I was determined to remain with PPMM until I was truly handed my walking papers, mostly because I so strongly believed in PPMM's mission and in the importance of Teen Success.

Eventually, I ended up in a new position as PPMM's first ever full-time Director of Grants, Data, & Research. I had originally submitted an application for this position during the first attempt at re-structuring, but that process was delayed due to issues with the state budget that affected PPMM's funding stream. By the time we had to re-submit, I decided not to apply for this particular position due to the reporting structure, as I had lost respect for the member of the Executive Team who was slated to supervise the position. The reasons for this change in my attitude are myriad, but I'm not going to enumerate them all here. Suffice to say, this person's leadership style was/is sorely lacking in many ways, and I did not want to subject myself to that interaction. When I was offered the position, however, I really couldn't refuse, as that would have made me ineligible for unemployment, so I reluctantly accepted the new role.

In the end, this position was an apt fit for my skill set, and luckily the reporting structure shifted (3 times in 2 years), which helped to alleviate some of the stress and discomfort I initially experienced. But by the fall of 2011, other frustrations with the job and with the agency in general were starting to build up and affect my overall quality of life beyond the workplace.

So I started to explore my options. At the same time, I started to work on figuring out how I could be at peace with the situation, given that I really didn't want to leave PPMM and that I certainly didn't want to leave without another job in hand. After a couple of months, I had succeeded (mostly) in coming to terms with what was going on at PPMM, although I still had moments when the toxicity of the work environment impacted me. To counteract these feelings, I kept reminding myself of the good things about PPMM - the mission, a select handful of colleagues, flexible scheduling, generous FTO policy, etc. But I also kept my eyes open for other opportunities.

At one point, when I was feeling almost at the end of my tether, I remember thinking that I would give myself until the end of the year (2011) to find something new. And as it turns out, my timing wasn't too far off.

In early October, I applied for a position with PPLM (Massachusetts) and had a brief phone screening during a layover at the Dulles airport when Mr. E and I were on our way to Geneva. It became clear very quickly that the compensation package allocated for that position wasn't sufficient, especially given that we'd have to cover all of our relocation expenses. However, having the opportunity to consider the potential of such a transition was quite revealing, as both Mr. E and I had hesitations about moving back to a colder and more humid climate, and we realized that we really weren't ready to leave Sacramento. So I re-focused my efforts on possibilities in this area, which of course restricted my options. Good thing I had already adjusted my mindset at that point to be more content with the status quo at PPMM!

And in fact, I truly believe that my change in attitude resulted in having something great come my way. I submitted my application to the California Primary Care Association ( in early December and was called in for an interview just before Christmas. After a successful writing test and second interview, I received an offer to join CPCA as Assistant Director of Development in early January, and my first day with CPCA was January 31st (after the requisite 2 weeks notice plus some time off to visit Mom before beginning the new job).

From the first day on the job, I've been extremely happy with my decision. I immediately felt welcomed and valued at CPCA, and I'm surrounded by colleagues who are professional, motivated, dedicated, intelligent, friendly, and supportive. I feel like CPCA provides an environment in which I can thrive and grow. I'm working harder, but that's a welcome change in many ways, since it's a result of being truly empowered to do my job and use the skills for which I was hired. And besides, the Break Room at CPCA has a dishwasher and good coffee (Peet's, Seattle's Best, Starbucks, etc.) - what more could I want?! Seriously, though, so often it's those little aspects of an organization that can radiate out and affect the entire work environment, employee morale, and overall productivity.

I feel very fortunate to have found this opportunity with CPCA, and I'm definitely feeling truly engaged in my work for the first time in a long time, not to mention that my level of job satisfaction has risen exponentially over the past two months.

So although the story of work in 2011 revolved around challenges with job satisfaction, I'm confident that the story of 2012 will be quite different - in a good way!