The start of descent

In January of 2020, I had started a new job at a FinTech startup in Silicon Valley. FINALLY, after over 20 years in tech marketing, my first Director of Marketing role. I was, at the time, under the illusion that I’d be able to take all my years of experience and trial and error and build a team and effort from the ground up the RIGHT way. I was so excited to choose the right people for the right jobs, mentor a team with empathy, spend money wisely, calculate risks appropriately, grow the brand and the business and make a real impact in a way I had always hoped my previous employers would’ve done with their brands. In FinTech (Financial Tech for those unaware), an industry that typically focuses 150% on money with zero empathy or brand humanization, there was a lot of opportunity to use my empathetic approach to brand-building for good and help us differentiate ourselves from the rest of the pack. I was stoked!

Now, in the big corporate world, while you have bigger budgets, more resources at your fingertips, etc. it’s almost impossible to get things done as a visionary type if you aren’t a C-level executive. Your path is often obstructed by corporate politics, insecure middle management land-grabbers, power-playing ego-driven leadership, and the minutiae of ever-changing market dynamics that seem to pull out the best and inherently the worst in people (the movie Office Space was not lying. That shit is real.). At a startup you usually have more freedom as a leader which made my new job exciting in my mind.

So I finally get to the next job title step that mattered in my corporate career trajectory and am ready to go gangbusters with it…until after a few months in, I realize that my CEO was an insecure status-driven sociopath doing unethical things at work and treating people horribly. Pre-pandemic, his in-office antics were his way of feeling powerful as the poster-child for the Napoleon-complex. However when the pandemic hit, he was forced to be remote and let the rest of his team be remote. This turned him into the tyrant I always knew he was on the inside. He could not use his in-person energy to intimidate anyone anymore. What was already bad for everybody just got horribly worse.

I was saddened by this because here I finally got an opportunity for a stable paycheck again after running out a previous contract AND it was the next title of career growth for me that I’d been waiting for. I tried to tolerate the insufferable dynamic at this company but it was just too much. Unfortunately right after the first shelter-in-place started, not knowing how bad COVID would actually get, I resigned from my role and the company as the stress of dealing with the minefield of a boss was having a drastic effect on my mental health. I was put in a position to take care of my own health while risking unemployment during one of the most fragile economic times in US history. As a provider my whole life for my family, it was terrifying.

Little did I know what lie ahead…

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