On Monday, August 17th, my contract supervisor sent me an email rescheduling our 1x1 conference call that was originally set for Thursday, August 20th to Tuesday, August 18th at noon. I didn't think much of it. Our phone conversations typically lasted less than ten minutes. They were mere monthly formalities of her checking in and seeing what new events I was working on.
Since the pandemic hit, every event we've held has been virtual and largely geared towards COVID-19 and the market. My job as a Web Developer in Global Events at Bank of America hadn't changed much. Obviously, I was no longer building websites for in-person forums, conferences, or client entertainment events, but the work continued. It felt great when planners would request me to work on their event. Our department had a 24 hour turnaround policy for new event submission requests. I worked on a four person design team, and three of us took AMRS (also known as AMER for the Americas) requests on rotation. The other person worked in Europe and took EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) events. On occasion, we would work on APAC (Asia Pacific) events, too. I had a reputation among event planners of creating websites quickly, along with the invitation and collateral, and emailing them the event overview the same day. Most times, within an hour or two depending on the workflow. I can't tell you how many emails I received from colleagues saying, "OMG! That was fast. Thanks for getting this built out so quickly. YOU'RE THE BEST!"
So when my contract supervisor arrived three minutes late to the call on Tuesday, and told me she had some unfortunate news that was hard to share, I was shocked. The bank decided that due to the pandemic and pullback of events, they had to make some tough decisions. They let me go. She made it clear that it was not due to my job performance. I was hearing her, but not really hearing her. I was numb. Processing the gut punch. While still on the phone, I IM'd my team and told them I was literally on the phone, on mute (so she wouldn't hear me typing away), getting fired. They were just as shocked. I wanted to warn them that I was told they were laying off half the team. My former co-worker and I were the victims of "last in, first out." My three year anniversary would have been October 2nd. He would have made two years in September. The other two former co-workers had been there more than five years.
I was laid off just five days after my 36th birthday. For five months, I'd watched the news and read articles about the rising number of people claiming unemployment benefits when the jobless numbers were released every Thursday morning. Over 30 million Americans have lost jobs since mid-March. I was already uneasy about the security of my job when my contract company sent us an email on May 11th stating they were reducing our hourly rate by 15% from May 23rd to July 31st. Did the bank implement this temporary reduction or decrease the pay rate they had with the contract company? No. It was solely the contract company's discretion to skim off the top of their affiliates' paychecks to protect the firm's financial health, and there was nothing we could do about it. We couldn't even talk to the bank about it.
During the call, my contract supervisor said that the bank would pay one month's severance to assist in my transition into joblessness. It would be paid over 4 weeks, making my last day on their books September 18th. Therefore, I have to wait until after I receive my last check to file for unemployment. I noticed I was receiving a call from my bank supervisor, and I told my contract supervisor who was calling. She told me to take the call and to call her back if I had any questions. She said she would update me on the off-boarding details as they become available, and that an HR rep would likely reach out to me to discuss what I needed to do regarding my 401(k) and ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) account.
The bank supervisor basically reiterated what the contract supervisor said. They both conveyed sympathy for having to relay the message. They both thanked me for the work I contributed to the team. They both offered to write me recommendation letters and be a reference. I was sympathetic to them, too, because I knew this was awkward and tough for everyone. It just sucked all around.
After I got off the phone with my former bank supervisor, I just sat in silence watching "25 Words or Less" on mute. I ran through a gamut of emotions in the span of 30 minutes. I was stunned, scared, and sad. Actually, I was mad - more like pissed. I also understood that it was strictly business, nothing personal. Then I prayed. I realized that I wasn't the only one getting laid off, and I wasn't the only person now unemployed due to 'rona.
Still, overwhelming anxiety set in. We're in the midst of two pandemics: COVID-19 and systemic racism. Seeing the death of George Floyd replayed multiple times in media already weighed on my mental health. Knowing that Breonna Taylor's killers still have not been arrested is completely infuriating. Then there is all this footage of cops being overly-aggressive with peaceful protesters. They've been maimed with rubber bullets, sprayed with pepper spray, police SUV's plowed through crowds, a woman was trampled by a police horse, and college students were stopped, pulled out of their car, and tased for no reason at all.
More than 170,000 Americans have died from coronavirus complications, and the number continues to rise every day disproportionately affecting people of color. No one knows when the job market or economy will recover, when outside will open back up without restrictions, whether or not these vaccines now in trial will work, or how long we will have to wear these masks and social distance. Not to mention we have an election coming up. The uncertainty of the times we're living in right now can really take a heavy toll on you.
It was then that I decided I needed a list of all the events I worked on, during my almost three year stint, for potential future employers. I kept a running spreadsheet of my assigned projects when I wasn't able to enter them into our tracking system, for one reason or another, after I completed them. The system loaded slow then would time out, and sometimes wasn't available while working remotely. I quickly sent my résumé, the list, a few team pics, and some common code language that could easily be found online to my personal email. About 10 minutes later, my bank supervisor was sent an email (I was copied) from InfoSafe, the bank's security protocol, saying that I likely sent files to my personal email that was proprietary bank information. The email I sent was also attached. Awwww shit!
About 20 minutes after that, I got a call from my bank supervisor's supervisor recapitulating what my contract supervisor and bank supervisor had already stated. He then, very matter of factly, requested that I not send any more bank files to my personal email.
"Please stop," he frankly said.
I apologized and told him I didn't do it maliciously, and that I only wanted to show employers a list of events I've worked on - 425 events to be exact. It's ironic because during the interview process, the contract company and Bank of America requested a list of events I'd worked on while I was employed at BNY Mellon, and I didn't have a list. I had to recall from memory, and there were so many, so I was trying to save myself the headache this go-round. He understood my reasoning, again thanked me for my work, and we hung up. I thought I had seriously fucked up, and messed up my chances of getting the severance package, recommendation letters, and references.
The day after I was fired, I watched, with the rest of the world, the Democratic National Convention as Senator Kamala Harris accepted the nomination for Vice President. For a few hours, I wasn't filled with anxiety about my future. I was witnessing history being made, and it made me perk up a bit. I was fixated on the first Black woman and the first South Asian ever nominated telling her story in a royal plum suit.
It gave me a sense of hope and immense pride. It also made me want to start drafting a plan of how to cope over the next few months - the moves I needed to make to reposition myself in the corporate world and in life. Then dread set back in. September 1st marks ten years since I moved to New York. It also marks three years since I launched this blog. The idea of reaching the milestone of officially becoming a New Yorker and entering the job market rat race during a global pandemic with a fifteen year career in event management is daunting AF. I know I have a flexible skill set with tons of experience, but I'm also competing with millions of other Americans who are also looking for a job or a career change altogether.
Then I got a text on Thursday. It was from my bank supervisor. She said she didn't want to bother me, but asked was it ok if she gave my contact information to some of the planners who were asking about me. I told her it was fine, and I apologized again for sending that file to my personal email and my reason for doing so. She said it's no worries at all, and her supervisor worked it out so it was all good. I felt much better that it was smoothed over. The last thing I wanted to do was leave a bad impression like I was some sort of disgruntled thief on my last day.
There is also this spiritual force urging me to reignite my creativity - something that came so easy to me prior to 2010, and I've since struggled with for years. The hustle and grind to survive in NYC, and the determination I had to forge a career in the sports and entertainment industry took priority over indulging in my passion of writing and creating in various forms. I also think I suffered from impostor syndrome and allowed that doubt and fear to put up mental blocks of not being good enough, not going hard enough, and not writing enough. I came across a TikTok video while scrolling through Instagram on Friday by @fauxtivational_speaker that spoke to my innermost thoughts and made me feel seen, heard, and understood. It's like this guy has my apartment bugged, and has heard me having shadow work pep talks with myself and deep, vulnerable conversations with God.
Yep, so this is where I am now. And fully embracing the crossroads of this new reality is the first step to figuring out what my second step should be...