What an exciting week! I submitted my notice to quit my full-time job at Tarrant County College on March 15th and three hours later, I am on the road with my business partner to Austin to attend the Titan Generator. I filled the trip recanting my discussions with my supervisors and the events leading to my decision. Interesting how much impact leadership has on an organization and on an individual. What started out working for a dysfunctional family turned into a corporate milling factory. Gone are the days of talking and collaboration, bring on the reports, departmental silos, and the process overload. A shift in mission from addressing the needs of the college to addressing the needs of one individual who constantly shifted the conditions, and for whatever reason was constantly playing defense against the rest of the team. So, what caused this? Hard to say exactly; a new chancellor, a new vision, or perhaps lack of leadership.
I find myself going back to a Rutger Bregman's interview a couple of years ago, going over our economic system’s ability to fabricate bullshit jobs. Is this the situation I found myself in? Being reduce to task so minimal and redundant that it offers no real value. It is interesting when we think about this as it pertains to what we get paid vs the value the job brings to society. Take a social media consultant. A valued asset to get the word out on the work an organization may be doing, but if tomorrow all the social media consultants went on strike or where laid off, would we feel the ripple? However, if we consider the same for let's say a garbage collector, police officer, teacher, or farmer, how long before we see a noticeable change? Yet when you look at pay as it relates to social value is there always a direct translation? How many jobs fall in this category? How do we align pay with the amount of social value brought?
We seem to live in an era where jobs are being fabricated from thin air and technology is upgrading things that really did not need to be upgraded. When we think about the jobs we are producing, are they just excusing the conditions we need to address? Let's go back to the garbage collector for a minute. The roll is simple pick up garbage, which in this scenario means there must always be garbage to collect. Is this an acceptable reality? Are we ok having a job that excuses these types of conditions? How many other jobs fall into this category and what are we overlooking, especially when we get enamored by a radical new technology? Are we missing a bigger point?
Arriving in Austin the following day for the Titan Generator, I immerse myself in a daylong session with 80(+) entrepreneurs of color, honestly a bit of a shock for me. I live in a multi-cultural city, Fort Worth, yet most of the entrepreneur events are celebrations of Anglo achievement. I cannot downplay the work being done, yet it is interesting in a city with a 59% colored population that I have not seen an event like this. Is my city promoting an achievement gap? Surely there must be more successful entrepreneurs of color in Fort Worth. How do we showcase talent, or more importantly activate talent?
Diving deeper into our discussions at the Titan Generator we discuss the idea of the funding gate, and how we must diversify our resource and funding pools to keep our missions from being tainted by the influence of our donors. How do we create our own funding mechanisms? Why are we are we all chasing the same grants, donors, and sponsors? Surely there must be a better way? I feel like I am stuck back in the same loop of my previous industry, real estate, fueling the desires of a few wealthy individuals to make a product.
I leave Austin with more questions than answers. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I am intrigued. Is this achievement gap part of the southern hospitality curse? Don’t rock the boat, don’t make commotion, be nice, and follow the rules. The good old saying “well that is just the way things are”. Frustrating that getting an answer to why is not only difficulty but taboo. I am reminded again of why I just resigned my job. The unwillingness of leadership to ask why, and build a better future. Why is this normal, more so acceptable? Seeing how I realized that there is not growth potential at my former employer was I part of this achievement gap? Reflecting on the classes I took to promote myself and the effort I poured in the first five years, what kept me from moving up? A seeping question. I begin to wonder how we can create more opportunities for folks to take the leap of faith and break away from the redundancies of a unfulfilling job.
Back on the key question, how do we build our own table, and who gets invited? How do we reach a broader audience with our missions, and how to we keep people engaged? I am not for sure I have a solid answer, but my next quest in this chapter is to open as many doors for as many people as I can. Laptop out and a stack of cards in hand, I begin to follow up with the participants I connected with. Let's see what happens if I can help each make at least one connection or help them with one thing.
The race begins, let's see how well of a table we can build.