Probation to Promotion

Hello! Wow, it’s been a while since I have written, so welcome back! I felt like today’s topic was extra important because my one year anniversary of being promoted to a finance manager just passed. It still blows my mind on the daily that I am a finance manager at 29 years old!!! The journey has not been an easy one, but rather one filled with a lot of tears, dragging myself through the muck of life, and finding the courage and bravery inside of myself to use my voice in a corporate environment.

In November of 2010 I was a recent college graduate embarking on her first ever career job. I began as a staff accountant at the former gaming company, THQ. I was surrounded by some amazing, hardworking individuals who to this day I am extremely thankful for. They helped shape the beginning of my career and saw something in me that I, at my young age, didn’t fully see in myself. Sometime around spring of 2012 things started to shift in the company. THQ was heading towards bankruptcy and a lot of upper management was leaving the company. With that came a change in my management chain. For a while things were great, but then I came back from vacation and was called into my manager’s office. I was being put on probation. My world crumbled beneath me. What I had I done? It turns out that during our year end close I made a mistake on an accrual. A mistake that came from the information I received from the finance department. A mistake that my reviewer didn’t catch, the manager didn’t catch, the controller didn’t catch and the auditors didn’t catch. With the demise of our company in sight they needed someone to place the blame on and that blame fell on my shoulders.

As part of my probation, weekly and bi-weekly meetings were set in place with the Sr. Accountant and my Manager. During our weekly meetings the Sr. Acct. would tell me that I was progressing and was doing great work, but then during our meetings with my Manager the complete opposite was said. I was making more and more mistakes and I wasn’t picking up on simple tasks. I just wasn’t cutting it. I felt betrayed by this person. I confided in a couple of people at work, those who saw the best in me. They were shocked and told me that it was the Sr. Acct. who was in fact struggling. In their opinions I was the stronger asset out of us two and I was a threat to job security.

After a couple of months on probation HR called me down and gave me an ultimatum. I take a job in the AP department or I pack up my things and leave that day. Man, that was a really hard decision to make. On one had I was miserable and didn’t want to take a $15,000 pay cut, but on the other hand I had student loans and no job on the horizon. I ended up taking the job, which shocked everyone in the company. I was pulled into many closed door meetings to ask me why I was taking a job beneath me, my skill set, and one that wasn’t projecting my career. Lying through my teeth I grinned and said I felt it was the best move for me.

What stung the most was the people who put me on probation told me that they were glad I took this job because I would straighten the department out and that I would be manager of the department in months. They knew I had the skills to make it. How do you go from putting me on probation to rooting me on?! To make matters worse, HR and my old manager promised to pay me my higher pay while I was training my replacement, but when it came down to getting my paycheck they told me I wasted time and took longer than needed to train this person and so I didn’t deserve the pay. My only saving grace was the upper management who saw my strengths and and pulled me onto projects that were needed for the bankruptcy, despite the objection from my old team. I was favored above them and so it felt nice to give them a little slap to the face.

Two months later I found a job, that included a promotion to Sr. Financial Analyst, at Universal Music Group and I began working there at the end of January 2013. I am coming up close to my five year anniversary here and I can say that without a doubt this company has been the greatest step in my career. Since day one the people on my team push me, pick my brain, and teach me more than I could have ever imagined. Amazing things are happening at this company for me and I am shedding more and more of the pain leftover from my THQ days.

I remember after my first year here I got called into one of my manager’s offices. I was beyond nervous that I was going to get into trouble for something. To my relief she wanted to tell me that after all of my hard work and dedication to my job over the last year she wanted to give me a raise. I kept my cool, but inside I was having a solo dance party! Immediately I ran to a friend in the company and told her what happened. She proceeded to tell me that I had the highest paid discretionary bonus in our group. This company was seeing something in me!! Could it be true? Could all of my doubts and and fears be behind me? The positive feedback I was getting from my coworkers solidified the feeling that I wasn’t the problem at THQ, but rather I was just a threat.

Since my first year here at UMG many changes have taken place. Our payroll accountant left the company and I was gifted the responsibility to manage our payroll systems. Then our department went through an outsourcing transition and I was tasked with training our team in India on our overhead entries. Both of these transitions allowed me to take on more of a leadership role, preparing me for my biggest role to date.

About a year and a half ago our VP was replaced and our central team was split down the middle between accounting and finance. This split was probably our most difficult change within the organization since I started. What came out of it though has been better than I could have ever imagined. Fall of 2016 was a very stressful time for me. My mom was diagnosed with cancer and in the midst of chemo, and I was working crazy amounts of overtime (80+ hour weeks). Everyone at work was working a ton of overtime and we were picking up the slack for one employee who was constantly gone due to family and medical struggles. Then one day, November 7th, we all came into work from a restful weekend to a note from her saying she resigned. No goodbyes, no chance of being trained on her duties, just poof, gone. This was my chance!

For the few months leading up to this moment I had been in talks with our VP about a pay raise. I knew a promotion wasn’t possible at that point in time, but I had been with the company for 4 years with barely any pay increase for the duties I had taken on. I felt like I deserved something. The day our Sr. Manager left I walked into our VP’s office and asked her what her plan was. I was ready to ask for that promotion, but she beat me to it. She told me she was going to promote me to Manager because she believed in me. I still had some things to learn to get to the Sr. Manager title, but I would get there soon enough. A few weeks later I went into her office to discuss pay with her. She suggested a salary and I felt I deserved more, but we compromised in the middle. Then something truly amazing happened. The following week she called me into her office and said she discussed my salary with her boss. He agreed to the number I wanted!! Wow, I had just scored myself a 42% pay raise all because I stood up for myself. I was blown away by this and left her office feeling extremely grateful!

A year ago I was promoted to finance manager and was provided a new endeavor in my career. This year as manager has been filled with learning curves, opportunities to voice my thoughts and opinions, and daily gratitude for what life provides when you put in the work. I am not perfect and am still learning how to be a better manager, but what I can say is that I went for it and I am being rewarded!

Life is never going to be perfect. You will go through your highs and lows and sometimes in those lows you get so down on yourself that you can’t possibly see how things could get better. My story is one of many that show that persevering, believing in yourself and being surrounded by people who see what you are capable of will get you places in life. Don’t ever give up on your dreams in life because you will get there, I promise!

Love Always,

Jess


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