That’s it. I’m done.
I know wholeheartedly that I never want to work in a corporate agency environment ever again. I am declaring my independence from the state of decay which thrives in countless corporate offices the world over.
For the second time, I have been sucked-in by the false reward of working with ‘big clients’ and earning ‘good’ money. I am grateful for the opportunity of experiencing ‘enterprise SEO’ as it provided both positive and negative insights. Sadly, my biggest observation of the last 6 months is that the highest professional level breeds the highest level of unprofessional-ism.
There is no elite barrier to entry. I observed many people winging it with the biggest companies in Australia. I saw no special magic or hidden knowledge that set these guys apart from Joe SEO and this reaffirms my belief that anyone wanting to succeed with their own business can do so at any level.
Being happy is more important than any job – working for any company – for any money
So what has happened?
I got my second-year Working Holiday Visa, I hit Sydney for New Years, 2014 with a plan for a new start – with a new job and direction that (on first glance) seemed like a great opportunity. It started off well and I told myself that (this time) it would be different – I would make it different. But it soon turned into a stressful nightmare; a callous and cold environment after only a few shorts months.
So why did it not work out?
It did not fulfil my needs and expectations
Like any normal human being, I have basic human needs that need to be fulfilled. As any good manager will know, you need to empower your workforce with a real sense of belonging, team unity and achievement in order to slay dragons and maintain success. None of this was present and it lacked even the most basic structure that a team needs to operate.
In this role there was no empowerment, no recognition for the hard workers and no way for the employee to gain self-worth and acceptance for their work. In 6 months I had no realisation of an end goal and no sense of accomplishment or achievement was ever attained
Not once did I actually hear about any client improving their rankings or increasing their traffic. It was like being forced to play the worlds dullest computer game and never getting anywhere near the end of the first level.
No camaraderie – all focus was in the micro process and there was no sharing of findings, no focus on the results, no talking or mention of the results. Being able to realise an end goal or see the end game for project completion is fairly important for ones sense of achievement.
Lack of communication and structure
When I began the role in January, we were using Agile Scrum to complete work sprints. This provided communication between the team and I was grateful for this. It also ate a lot of time up. Agile is designed for iterative software development. It gives software developers a frame work to operate within (but also free reign on creativity) to reach an end goal (making the software do the job it is intended to do). With something as subjective as SEO, Agile will not work effectively because there are too many variables that change (input from stakeholders, ad-hoc work, scope creep). SEO needs to focus on the end goal by measuring and benchmarking the present. Tangible ranking and / or traffic results backed up with referable source data (if needed / wanted by the client).
In this role, I was expected to complete work and make very specific decisions (that aligned to the managers ever changing expectations) without ever having any proper view on the client information. I have worked in Prince2 establishments previously and you need to (at minimum) be aware of the following:
- Project Stakeholders
- What work has been previously done for the client / access to client notes / lessons log
- A mandate (why are we actually doing the work)
- What work we are going to be doing for them – broken down into the appropriate time and budget bound stages
- A central data repository – there was no notes, CRM system, no share point, no Base Camp, no history and everything was saved in drop box…
- Closing a project – what are the end goals?
Moving Targets – through lack of structure, the targets for completion would seemingly be grabbed out of the ether and be comprised of micro details laid out in specific formats, for which acceptance criteria was held exclusively within the managers brain. How can one accurately hit a moving target that is highly specific and resides in someone else’s brain?
The ship was already sinking
Grey Clouds – It’s hard to maintain motivation in a new role if the people you work with are already deeply unhappy or so stressed out that its affecting their health.
Delusion – People so wrapped-up in being correct about granular / microscopic data that they had completely lost sight of the end goal and why they were actually doing what they were doing. Perceptions were completely contorted from looking at everything through an environmentally focussed and tortured lense.
Imbalance – I observed extreme levels of stress, manifesting into physical health concerns that were a direct result of overload from trying to control and micro-manage the minutia.
Tortured Souls – I observed a talented guy, constantly diving into microscopic data and drawing conclusions from complex analytical scenarios that didn’t actually mean anything to the stakeholders and only served as a pointless one-up for self-worth against the managers and colleagues that were making his life unbearable. The daily grind of degradation and loss of confidence from the onslaught of bullshit that was present in his working environment.
Misplaced sense of loyalty – If you stay loyal to something that you do not believe in you start to question yourself and lose your identity. Insecurity will blossomed from working your way up through a company that you do not believe in. Is it really smart to ‘press the right buttons’ and pretend you like playing the game if you are suffering inside and wasting the best years of your life?
The Real Damage
This place was a highly non-producing, inefficient (and at times) painfully unproductive environment. How can you be inspired when you are doing tedious work just for the sake of a misplaced perception of value. The people I worked with were highly stressed, did not like their jobs (I don’t blame them) and offered no inspiration to my cause.
There was far to much attention to the minutia and not enough focus on output, end goals or the bottom line. We were constantly going round in circles, getting lost in the details and being guided by individually warped perceptions of what we were actually doing. No one could see the wood through the trees and we all deluded ourselves that what we were doing had tangible value.
Why I can no longer work in the corporate environment
Quite simply put, I do not like doing things I do not like doing. Office work does not meet my needs or align to my core values and it does fulfil my desires.
what I need instead
From now on, I’m not going to kid myself into believing I can make a square peg fit into a round hole.
I need to be in total control of my life and for me – this centres around being self-sustainable. I will pursue the creative practices that inspire me and design a work arrangement that allows me to live within my means, whilst meeting all of my life’s needs (physical and emotional).
what I will miss about the job?
Well, there’s the free coconut water… oh and the handful of genuine people who were trying to make a difference.
Some simple truths.
Business is not hard, only people make it hard. It is through lack of direct and sincere communication that we have replaced our tribal roots for posturing, insecurity and negative emotions that get in the way of reason.
We are pleasure seeking creative creatures. We are wired up to pursue creative learning and experimentation not monotonous automaton tasks that suck the dynamics of life from our very existence. Submitting ourselves to a controlled environment goes against our innate being. We all know deep down that working toward someone else’s agenda feels wrong. This is why so many people strive to become self-sustainable from their favourite creative practice.
Casting off the shackles of corporate oppression will present me with so many positives and opportunities. I am ultimately in control of what I do, say and feel and I can make anything work in my favour. I am truly grateful for having the courage and lack of fear to say – this is not the life for me.
What could be more inspirational to my efforts in helping me succeed, than knowing that I simply have to succeed.
Observations from the Office
When I first started the job, I was repeatedly told about the company mantra and how the companies core value was to nurture talent and that they really believed that it was the people made the difference. This repeated brainwashing continued in meetings, events and conferences and I soon realised I was experiencing that age old trait of humanity – People will always try to cover up insecurities and short comings superficially.
It became clear that the companies biggest fault and weakness was the total lack of care, compassion and consideration for the people. I watched quality talented people leave the company because they were not treated how most humans need and like to be treated.
Some people tolerate bullshit, some people do not – In my last two agency roles I have witnessed so many people suffer because they fear the consequences and care too much about what other people think. Fear of the unknown. They build their life and support structure in an oppressing environment and then wonder why they cannot escape its overall negativity which they are a part of.
SEO as a Service
I have often seen SEOS convince clients that a particular strategy or keyword focus is good for their business when it simply is not. I have been to seminars where ‘so-called’ SEO experts are preaching the benefits of some snake-oil software package or plugin that focuses on a single flavour of SEO or a specific aspect of a specific variable. People invest so much interest and get so wrapped in what they are doing that they lose sight of the process. I often like to compare this impairment to being delusionally ‘consumed’ like Frodo with the ‘One Ring’.
And what is ultimately responsible for this delusionally consumed disease? The belief that one needs money to attain happiness.
On paper, SEO is a long term ROI strategy that should improve sales via traffic and ranking increases. If you apply good website house-keeping and play by Google’s rules, then you have already won most of the battle.
If you employ an external business entity to provide SEO services then SEO simply becomes a game.
What I have learned?
I am truly thankful for the wake up call. I had a plan, got derailed by the falsehood of riches and now I am adding my learnings to the book of life and moving forward.
I feel fucking excited – I will not regret my time by wasting it doing something that I do not enjoy. There is always a positive to every story and I have learned a huge amount about myself and my inner workings and from the last 6 months.
I am truly motivated and excited by the prospect of starting my own business and not having to be a corporate sleaze bag any longer.
Thank you Sydney – you have shown me that life is short and precious and I need to be completely self-sustainable in order to meet my own needs.
Winter is drawing in here now in Sydney and it’s starting to get cold. I’m going to head back to the UK to make the most of the British Summer and spend some quality time with my family. Mid-way through July, I will return to Sydney to start my third Australian adventure. When I do, I will be with my Brother and we will be aiming to start a business that has nothing to do with SEO.
The views and thoughts expressed in this blog post are that of my own and represent a fictional scenario. If you do not like them – you can kindly go fuck yourself 🙂