What did I learn from my time in the New Ecomony? Several things.
The first is how much business has changed since I first worked back in the early '90s. A company's stability is more fickle (my first job, ironically, was with MCI); the Silicon Alley dotcom I joined merged with another in Silicon Valley that went to the bottom a few months later. The small company I joined after the Internet bloodbath merged with my present company.
Career paths resemble the LA Freeway more than I-80. With all the mergers, flameouts, and regular turnover, I've found that my own path has taken several detours. Some were fun, some weren't. It's helped adjust my work outlook a bit to a less Type-A driven goal. Having some "vacation time" to reflect on what I wanted out of work helped me gain some perspective on the other aspects of life.
Another lesson I learned is that there are not too many workers who question authority. It can be done in a tactful manner! If you have questions about your financials, ask one of the C's. They get grilled by the board and investors, so your queries will seem tame by comparison.
Finally, and most relevant to work, is this: Get it on paper. I've found that the only promise is one you can call back up in your personal folder in Outlook.
Michael P. O'Hara, IT Manager, eB2B Commerce
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A version of this article appeared in the March 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.