Failure

Beren Van Daele, Running Isle of IT

I write this now, to capture and understand exactly what I feel. I’ll likely feel better tomorrow, today is an exercise of allowing myself to feel deeply and getting perspective. These posts are often emotionally driven, and its conclusion often comes as a surprise to myself.

Initially, I was going to write three separate blog posts. One on my experiences of hiring and employing people. Another on developing and selling your own product and a last one on consulting.
These were the three threads I was pulling over the last year, all the while a pandemic thread was pulling me back. My adventure turned sour very quickly. The buffer was shrinking and within a very small amount of time you find yourself in survival mode, rather than thriving mode.

Writing this feels very personal. I’ve felt paralysed for the past couple months. I’d appreciate hearing your insights if you have constructive ones. Though I still stand by my ideals, they’ve gotten a good beating. If you can help heal them, please reach out.

A Short Timeline

2019, December.
My project had been downright unrespectful and shady towards me. I decided to end the project and not start another anytime soon. I had a good buffer to support this decision and wanted to go on a business adventure.

I hired a seasoned event manager who I’d have worked with before. She and I wanted to organise events on Diversity and Inclusion in IT across Europe.

2020, March
I had just hired a junior developer who showed lots of potential. That brought us to 4 people, as there was one senior consultant that was already working with me for a year before.

Shortly after, the first lockdown went in effect. Within this hostile market, we started building a product called RiskStormingOnline, which is a collaboration tool for risk analysis. This was a successful workshop before the pandemic and it made sense to invest the idle time to make it possible to run it remotely.

At the same time, we decided to cancel all 4 Diversity and Inclusion events and run an experimental online event in September.

As time went by and funds slowly lessening, pressure to get back into the consulting game rose. Finding a project during these times proved to be a challenge.

I found myself taking care of people’s financial position, mental health, safety… while maintaining my own sanity.

2020, November
We survived.
After several unsuccessful interview trajectories, I finally found a new project as a consultant and would turn our steady monthly loss into a steady profit again.
The event in September was well organised, interesting and professional. If only more people had turned up.

The seasoned event manager was at a loss, as her whole career suddenly felt irrelevant. She decided to re-school herself to Product Owner, then Scrum Master.

The junior dev had been on a short project for 3 months, though that was ending soon.

2021, July.
Today. The seasoned event manager called me up this morning that she was going to accept a job at a different firm.
The junior dev had done the same two months ago.
RiskStormingOnline didn’t take as many steps forward as I had wanted. It feels stagnant and I don’t have the people to move it forward.
There’s two of us again. Both doing what we know, consultancy.

Hope

If I look at the aftermath of this whole situation on facts alone, I see that we’re back at where we were two years ago. We’ve managed to create a financial crater and then crawl out of it. We’re back, but we’ve lost two years.
That’s sour, but it could’ve been much worse.

Emotionally, I’ve taken regular beatings, most of them didn’t come as a surprise. I was just waiting to get this final one.
I feel like I stood at the forefront, working hard to move forward with only small wins to show, all the while creating stability for my people. I’ve worked hard during a whole year, regularly stepping out of my comfort zone, taking on roles I had never done before. Understandably, people’s patience run out and they look to improve their own situation.

Falling down, not staying down.

– Pearl Jam, Dance of the Clairvoyants


I am writing this to acknowledge to myself that I had a difficult time, that I feel I have failed in my business attempts. I have nothing to show for a year of hard work. I suspect most people would see this as failure. That’s my experience too.
On the other hand, I need to realise that due to these efforts, at least two people and their families will be forever changed. We survived a very difficult time together. Even though we are on different paths now and we might not appreciate the circumstances that befell us, we’ll think fondly of the people that we weathered the storm with.

Concluding, I uncovered this silver lining: I’ve helped people through my business. One aspect failed, another aspect did well. Only now I understand what a good friend had already told me.

I must lick my wounds and find the strength again to trust my idealism. I need time.

Failure is only truly failure if nothing is learned. What feels devastating right now, will be an opportunity in the future.

One thought on “Failure

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