“Guess what girls? As of August 1st I can get you all of the free bubble wrap and boxes that you want!”, I joked. “I just accepted a new job at UPS!”
“Which store will you be working at? The one next to CVS?”, Kaylee asked.
“Uh….no….”, I laughed, “No, it’s a management role. I’ll be managing other engineers.”
“Oh…..”, they said in unison. Almost disappointed.
More than a few of my friends have also suffered through a similar lack of enthusiasm from their own kids. Working for Apple does not mean you work at the Genius Bar, nor does working at Qualcomm mean you hustle popcorn and beer at football games, although admittedly, the latter is a bit stale given the closure of the prior home of the Chargers football team.
As a manager I’ll be herding engineers rather than the 1’s and 0’s that have been the hallmark of my prior positions. It’ll be a change of pace for me, but one I have been working towards for a while. Over the last couple of years I have been reading books on management strategies, interviewing past co-workers, and enrolling in classes. This year culminated with a Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM) certification, a Certified SCRUM Master certification, and, of course, this new job.
“To be honest, there are faster, smarter, quicker engineers than me…”, I admitted to my soon-to-be boss during my interview.
He raised an eyebrow at me.
“…I mean, I’m no slouch!”, I corrected quickly. “But, over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing people, and, given my own experiences, I feel like I am in a great position where I can guide and motivate them to become what they were meant to be.”
“‘I’m a ‘People Person’, too”, I laughed, “You know, like Tom Smykowski from Office Space? You know, Office Space? The movie?”
A questionable stare. I guess not. Probably a bad analogy anyway, though, given that Tom was anything but a people person.
For me it’s all true, though. Between a one-two punch of a cancer diagnosis and COVID lockdown, I need to be working with people again, not staring at a computer screen. There will still be problems, of course, just of a different, more “people-y” nature, and I am so looking forward to it.
So, before I go, some job search statistics for those who are interested:
I submitted at least 80 job applications over a 3-month period. The first of which was on 4/17/2022, the last of which was on 7/15/2022.
I interviewed with 12 different companies. This equates to 15% of the companies that I had applied to. The majority of the interviews were split into three different parts – an HR screen, an hour-long interview with the hiring manager, and, finally, a half-day panel interview with the team. I am still waiting on responses from some of the interviews that I participated in.
I received 3 offers, which is roughly 4% of the companies that I had applies to and 25% of the companies that I had interviewed with.
The most responsive of the larger companies that I applied to were BD, Sony, and Amazon. The bad news is that BD, after several rounds of interviews and over a month-and-a-half of waiting, cancelled the requisition altogether. Meanwhile, two months and three interviews later I am still “waiting” to hear from Sony. As for Amazon, I almost felt I had to beat them off with a stick. I was contacted by so many of their recruiters over the course of my search that I lost count. I can’t help but think I was just a quota as follow-up calls were few and far in-between. An engineer with a heartbeat, yup, that’s me.
The least responsive large companies were Intuit and HP, both of which I submitted multiple applications, but never received a single follow-up. Intuit was by far the most frustrating as I attended not one, but two career events – uh, I mean, mixers.
“Are there any tests available yet?”, Jodie asked me.
“No, not yet. I’ll check again tomorrow.”, I replied, discouraged.
“I’m going to forget everything before I get a chance to be tested on it!”, I continued.
“Same here.”, Jodie smiled
It would be almost three months from the point I finished studying for my California real estate agent exam to when I was actually allowed to be tested on it. The testing centers were either closed or restricting the flow of candidates to a small trickle. Thank you, COVID.
Fortunately, I passed.
Over a year ago my wife, Jodie, decided to get her brokers license. She started in real estate over ten years ago right after our oldest daughter was born. She had done really well, too, building relationships and selling and buying homes all over San Diego.
“Well, what if I get my agent license, too? Then I can help you out – maybe hold open houses or something.”, I offered.
I smiled back. In real estate, agents work “under” a broker. My wife would essentially be my boss.
“Unless you have something against sleeping with your employees?”, I smiled.
“Nope”, she laughed back.
So we studied together. Then, after we were done studying, we waited together for exam spots to open up. It took me almost a year. It took her even longer because, to become a broker, she had to prove her work experience, a process that took forever due to the glacial pace of the Department of Real Estate weighted down by COVID restrictions.
Jodie passed, too.
We threw around names for a while and decided on “Vandervort Realty”. Over the years I’ve realized my last name can be a bitch to spell for newbies, but instantly memorable – if only because it’s a bitch to spell. It would be perfect for a company name – as long as we didn’t have to create any musical jingles to go with it.
The company logo proved trickier.
Initially Jodie wanted to go with a design she had found on Etsy, but I insisted on designing one for her. Illustration and graphic design has become my “thing” over the last few years, just as real estate hers.
“I work cheap.”, I told her. “You can pay me in vegan brownies!”
“Deal!”, she said.
We went through countless revisions. The endeavor expanded into a business card, listing sign, and Facebook Page, too. But finally the day came.
“I like it.”, she admitted.
“Really, so we’re done?”, I asked, stunned.
“Yeah”, she smiled, “Well, for now…”
“Good”, I smiled. “You have a lot of baking to do, you know.”
Take care. Stay healthy. Live life.
Vandervort Realty is a family-owned real estate brokerage located in sunny San Diego. We pride ourselves on making relationships, not sales. Our goal is to educate people to help them make the best decisions in any market. For more information you can contact me here on DrawnAndCoded, or visit our Facebook Page.
I’ve been working remotely from home for one year now and it’s been great….well, mostly. Like anything new, there have been obstacles. However, after many trials and tribulations I can now run the gauntlet like a soccer mom evading children playing in the street in her minivan.
Here are some things that I have learned ( maybe they’ll help you, too ) :
I’ve learned that there is no longer anyone to blame other than myself for burning the popcorn in the microwave
….and, that that horrible leftover smell in the fridge is, in fact, my own.
I’ve learned that having an “open door policy” doesn’t work when your officemates are two kids ( and dogs ).
I’ve learned that when everyone is working from home on battery powered keyboards and mice, he who holds the last two AA batteries is king.
I’ve learned that my wife showers at precisely the same time as my daily webcam meetings – and that the camera faces the bathroom.
Lastly, I’ve learned that pants are, indeed, optional.
Take care. Stay healthy. Live life. Forgo the pants.
Ever have one of those weeks where everything just happens all at once? Like a slow moving train wreck, you can see it all coming, but aren’t really sure when or if it’s going to hit until it does? Last week was one of those weeks, and it all started with a couple of phone calls…
Ring (Bzzzzz) Ring (Bzzzzzz).
I looked up from my laptop to my buzzing iPhone to see my boss’ name staring back at me. I was used to early morning meetings, but this was earlier than usual.
“Let the games begin!”, I thought to myself, smiling.
“Hello?”, I answered.
“Hi, Scott, do you have a few minutes to talk?”, my boss asked.
“Sure, what’s up?”, I replied.
A new voice chimed in. She introduced herself as Tracy, from HR.
“Hi, Scott. We regret to inform you that as part of the restructuring, your job has been eliminated.”, Tracy told me over the phone.
I’ve never been laid off over the phone before. Chalk it up as another COVID first, the pandemic has changed the way we live, work, and apparently, are dismissed.
My company, like all companies, has had an incredibly rough year. A couple weeks ago the CEO had announced a restructuring and 20% headcount reduction. The call wasn’t a surprise, but still left a pit in my stomach given that I was pending radiation therapy for my prostate cancer. In the United States health insurance is typically tied to employment. An interim solution, COBRA, can bridge your insurance till your next job but it’s not only messy to set up, it’s also incredibly expensive.
Tracy walked me through the process of returning my laptop, COBRA, severance, and vacation payout. At the end of the call my boss chimed in.
“Thanks for your service, Scott. Call me if you need anything.”
And that was it.
Or so I thought. Within minutes my phone rang again.
Ring (Bzzzzz) Ring (Bzzzzzz).
This time I considered letting it go to voicemail before ultimately picking it up.
“Uh …. hello?”, I answered, a little more cautiously this time.
“Hi, Scott. This is Karina at UCSD. I’d like to set up your initial body mapping for radiation therapy.”
“Oh! I’ve been expecting your call. I guess you finally got insurance approval?”, I replied.
“Yes, we did. Sorry about the delay.”, she said. It had been almost a month since I had been told I was healed enough from surgery and ready for radiation therapy.
“No problem. Honestly, I wasn’t in a mad rush to get my crotch irradiated until just a few minutes ago”, I replied, more than a little concerned about what would happen once my health insurance was migrated to COBRA. Between surgery, appointments, and hormone therapy I had quickly maxed out my out-of-pocket within the first few months of the year, I really didn’t want to start from zero again. Cancer is an expensive beast to tame.
Wisely, Karina avoided the bait about why I was in such a hurry and proceeded to outline the procedure.
“You will need to perform an enema and drink 24oz of water leading up to your appointment.”, she told me over the phone.
“Scott, are you still there?”, she asked.
“Like an enema, enema?”, I asked.
Thirty-five years ago I had my first experience with an enema at, of all places, a waterpark. There was a slide there named “The Nairobi Express”. Three stories up, at the top of the slide, there was a large sign instructing riders to cross their legs. At the bottom was a shallow pool of water designed to slow riders down after their descent.
In my excitement I ignored the sign and forgot to cross my legs. After launching myself off the platform and craning my head back in glee to see that I had beaten my friends to the bottom, I tore into the pool of water at the bottom and came to a very sudden and painful stop. After three lengthy trips to the bathroom I spent the rest of the day on the “Lazy River” nursing my wounds.
“Scott, can you do that?”, Karina repeated.
“The enema!”, she reminded me, a little agitation creeping into her voice.
“Oh, yeah, I’ve uh, kind of done one before.”, I replied
“Between my bladder being full of liquid and my rear being loosey-goosey you’re really putting your CT machine at risk, you know?”, I joked.
“Is that a yes?”, she repeated.
My mapping appointment was in two days. As I was, unsurprisingly, fresh out of home enema kits, I decided to do some shopping. My wife, Jodie, and I had been doing the majority of our shopping online since COVID. Shopping online, we hoped, would limit our exposure, but in this case it would also allow me to discretely buy an enema kit. After viewing the purchase options I started laughing.
I turned around to see Jodie hovering behind me.
“Check this out!”, I showed her my screen.
“… if I buy the Open Box item we can save $1.99!”, I chuckled.
She just kind of stared at me in horror for a minute.
“Please don’t.”, she replied, flatly.
“I’ll buy two, just in case.”, I smiled.
“In case you like it?”, she shot back.
“Ha. Ha.”, I replied dryly while clicking the “Buy Now” button.
After completing the transaction I looked to my corporate laptop next to me on my desk and frowned.
It sat there like an ugly scab; a reminder that I was now unemployed during the worst recession in history, during a pandemic, and undergoing cancer treatment. I had an urgent desire to ship it back to my ex-employer as soon as possible. I strapped on my face mask, pocketed a bottle of hand sanitizer, tucked the laptop under my arm, and headed to the UPS Store.
The UPS Store was crowded. It took about ten minutes before it was my turn to talk to the clerk.
“I’d like to return this laptop to my employer.”, I told her, handing her an index card on which I had carefully printed out the shipping address.
“How would you like it shipped?”, she replied.
“It’s not mine anymore and I’m not paying for it, any suggestions? What’s the most expensive, elaborate way to ship this thing?”, I joked.
“We could overnight it!”, the clerk next to us chimed.
“You can do better than that! Is there a white glove courier service, too?”, I smiled, adding, “I just got laid off a few hours ago. Have you seen a lot of computer hardware being, uh, returned?”
“Lots. That guy that checked out just in front of you had a whole box of electronics!”, she responded.
“Same here!”, a voice behind me announced. I spun to catch the eyes ( we were all wearing face masks after all ) of a man about my age motioning to a laptop slung under his arm.
COVID had not only made telecommuting the new norm, but the corresponding recession and subsequent layoffs had also created a booming business for the UPS Store.
“What do you do?”, he asked.
“Software developer….”, I replied.
“Oh? You’ll have no trouble at all finding work!”, he reassured me, “There’s lots of work for programmers!”
“I, uh, can’t start looking for work yet. I need to take care of some things first…”, I replied, not quite willing to open up to a complete stranger about my cancer, much less the six weeks of radiation therapy I was in store for, “It’s, uh … complicated.”
At this point I stared at a rubber bracelet on my wrist. I had strapped it there almost a year ago. It was bright blue and embossed with the words “Prostate Cancer Awareness”. While looking at it I recalled a discussion I had with my psychologist last week about looking for work while undergoing treatment for cancer. He reassured me that it was against the law to discriminate. However, he also warned me to not bring it up during interviews nor post about it publicly. He told me that hiring managers would likely look at my public profile and, although illegal, might inconspicuously reject my resume upon discovering my cancer. Oddly enough, in stark contrast to his suggestions, here I am writing about it …
“Sir?”, the clerk asked.
“Uh, yes?”, I replied.
“That’ll be $42.95 for shipping.”
“Is that the best you can do? Any chance you can round up?”, I replied.
“Unfortunately, no.”, she said smiling.
It’s always nice to end the day, and this one in particular, with good news, and this news came from my oncologist, Dr. Stewart.
“Your PSA is still undetectable.”, Dr. Stewart told me over the phone.
“Are you still planning on keeping me on Lupron and Zytiga for two years?”, I replied.
“Yes, you’ve almost completed a year, too. Congratulations! So, how are you doing?”, he asked.
“I’m doing good!”, I replied, “I’m still on a plant-based, low-sugar diet. I’m still able exercise every day and keep up with my kids, too. I’m a little tired all of the time, but I assume that’s just due to the hormone therapy that I’m on. Overall, I am still able to do everything I was doing before.”
“Also, I also just got scheduled for radiation, so I can get that underway, too.”, I added.
“Good!”, he replied. Although this was a voice call I could almost see him smiling on the other end. “And the plant-based diet? A while back you were complaining about how restrictive it was …”
“It’s delicious!”, I interrupted, “Tell you what? One night I’ll invite you over for dinner and you can decide for yourself!”
“You’re doing a good job, Doctor. Thank you!”, I told him.
“You’re doing all the work”, he responded.
He was wrong, and we both knew it. Fighting cancer requires a team. He had alluded to such almost a year ago during my first appointment with him when he referred to himself as my team “quarterback” who would help me navigate my upcoming treatments. My team has only gotten bigger since then – my family and friends are all on my team as well, and they are all helping me beat this thing called cancer.
“Dad! A box came from Amazon for you! It’s heavy!”, Kaylee screamed excitedly as she plopped a small box in front of me.
With the girls peering over my shoulder I ripped off the packaging tape, opened the box, and discovered that I was the proud owner of two enema kits. I opened one of the boxes to discover that each box had 4 treatments.
What in the hell was I going to do with 8 enema kits?!?!!
“Dad, what’s an enema?”, Ashley asked me.
I looked over my shoulder to see that my girls had taken a keen interest in my new toys.
“Uh….”, I floundered. Sigh“… It’s, uh, a bottle of fluid that people stick up their, uh, butt to wash everything out.”
“Ewww gross!”, they screamed in unison, “Are you going to DO that?!?!!”
“I have to for my appointment tomorrow….”, I replied grinning at them.
“Does it hurt????!?”, they asked.
“Generally I consider the bunghole an ‘exit only’ hole….”, I said, and then, seeing a little too much amusement in their eyes, added, “… I have enough for everyone if you want to try it, too!”
“NOOOOOO! Gross!”, they shrieked, eyes bulging.
I clamped my ears shut as the girls shrieked and ran away, leaving me alone to read the instructions.
One upside to COVID is the traffic, or lack thereof. With so many companies enforcing a work-from-home policy, I made the 20-mile drive to my appointment at UCSD in record time and, only after parking, had I realized that I had only finished about half of the prerequisite 24 oz in my water bottle. I walked up to the payment kiosk, hastily chugging water, and entered a 10-digit code given to me during my phone call a few days before. Radiation therapy is a daily process that can extend well over a month. UCSD, like many hospitals, charges for parking, and as a consideration for patients undergoing therapy, offers free parking to those undergoing treatment.
“Cancer has no bounds”, I thought to myself. Somewhere in that building was the owner, likely some old rich dude ( with good taste ), getting treated for a similar disease to my own.
After checking in and sitting down in the waiting room I continued to sip my water and watched people come and go. A lady about my age with no hair walked by. An older man, seemingly perfectly healthy, chatted on his phone. A heavyset lady in a wheelchair rolled by. Due to COVID restrictions there were no guests allowed inside, just patients. Everyone here, including me, had cancer.
“Scott Vandervort”, a nurse announced from the doorway.
“That’s me!”, I said, hopping out of my seat.
The nurse told me that my appointment would start in about 20 minutes and wanted to make sure that I had a full bladder.
“I’m still nursing this bottle here.”, I tapped the bottle in my other hand, “It’s almost empty. However, I can top it off again for good measure.”
“Please. If your bladder isn’t full enough we’ll have to run the scan again. You also did the bowel prep as well?”, she asked.
“Yes…. it should be sparkling clean in there as of this morning.”, I said.
“I, uh, don’t have to do that for every visit do I?”, I asked. I already knew the answer, but wanted to hear it again for reassurance.
“No, just for the mapping scan ….”, she started.
“… because I have seven more!”, I interrupted, grinning.
“…. won’t be necessary.”, she confirmed.
After she left I let out a huge sigh of relief and continued to chug my once-again-full water bottle.
Precisely 20 minutes later the same nurse retrieved me from the waiting room and led me, bladder sloshing, to an exam room. A large CT machine filled the room and two other nurses were busily preparing it for my mapping.
“Do I need to change into a robe?”, I asked.
“Nope!”, one of the nurses replied, “We’re just going to have you lie down on the gurney, create some forms for your legs, perform a quick scan, and give you three tattoos to help align the machine for next time.”
“Can I pick the tattoos?”
“They’re the size of freckles and, honestly, none of us are very good artists.”, a nurse replied.
“So no pink dolphins?”, I joked.
The whole process took maybe 10 minutes. The tattoos felt like pin pricks, no worse than a shot. Later that night while examining myself I could barely find them.
“Whatever you did to prepare, do it again next time. It was perfect. A+”, the nurse who had retreived me from the waiting room told me.
“Except the enema…”, I clarified.
“Didn’t you have seven more?”, she said grinning, “… but, no. No enema is required next time.”
She then handed me a card with a date on it, August 27th.
“Here is your first radiation appointment. Prepare exactly like last time. You did good!”
With the appointment over I was led to a small bathroom to drain the 48 oz of water that I had accumulated leading up to the appointment. The fact that I could still cram that much fluid into my bladder without leaking after having a radical prostatectomy was, oddly, reassuring.
During the walk back to my car my stomach started rumbling. As part of my cancer regimen I had been doing intermittent fasting. I looked at my watch and realized that I hadn’t eaten anything for almost 18 hours. I stopped mid-step as it occurred to me that my fasting probably helped with the scan, and would probably help with my radiation treatments as well.
“No food, no gas, right?”, I said to myself.
Nodding, I decided to continue the intermittent fasting through my radiation therapy to see if my theory was correct. In the meantime, it was time for lunch. I pulled my phone from my pocket and called my wife, Jodie.
“The mapping is all done. It was easy. Do you and the girls want vegan nachos from ‘Greens Please’ for lunch?”, I asked.
The cheering in the background was as good an answer as any. “Greens Please” is one of our favorite restaurants. Their Vegan Nachos are Scrumdiddlyumptious. I couldn’t think of a better way to wind down a hectic few days.
“Good! I’ll see you all in an hour! I can’t wait to show you my new tattoos!”, I said jokingly.
Take care. Stay healthy. Live life. Eat [Vegan] Nachos