Pride

Well, here it is. My last day of work for Pacific Continental Bank. Yes, I know, technically since November 1st I have been an employee of Columbia Bank, but for  most of the non-continuing employees, in our hearts and minds, we have been employees of Pacific Continental Bank.

I’ve known since January 9, 2017 that this day was coming. I’ve had ample notice and ample time to prepare. Over the last year we (continuing and non) have celebrated a company that we had a personal stake in. That we helped build. We have mourned the loss of something bigger than just a job and losing the daily interactions with coworkers who know us as intimately as our families. But even with all that time and all the events I. Am. Not. Ready. to say goodbye.

My career has taken me from Operations Supervisor to Network Administrator to Information Technology Manager to Business Resource Manager. When I first started at PCB there were 4 offices located in Eugene, PCs were running a mix of Windows 3.0 and 3.1; the network was Netware 3.x; our core was Jack Henry 20/20 and we had a single dial-up line to the internet that I used for server patching. There was no online banking, no external email and relatively little pressure. As a young network admin learning my new duties I could bring the network to it’s knees and nobody really noticed or cared. Phones still worked, typewriters still typed and original signature cards and processed checks were still in the offices. On the core side of the house, upgrades could go bad or transactions could mis-post and as long as everything was in order when statements cut nobody was the wiser.

Fast forward 22 years and PCB has 15 offices in 3 geographic regions and a national dental banking presence. Data flows in and out of our network continuously on fiber and sophisticated telecommunications lines. Clients have a real-time view into their accounts through online banking and the ATM network. Sometimes they know there is a problem before we do!

During my initial interview with Hal, Carol and Tom if they had told me all the things I would help accomplish I would have said “I can’t do that.” There was no way I could imagine helping to implement such change! I don’t think any of us could comprehend what a group of “home-growns” could do! But we did it! We did big amazing things… and do you know how? Working with like-minded, talented bankers.

On the system side of the house we had employees dedicated to making processes work. Every day. Task oriented, project-minded people who could sit around a table, discuss the situation, crisis or project and walk away knowing their piece and also knowing they could rely on the other members of the team to do their part and do it well.

On the client facing side of the bank we had employees dedicated to building relationships with their clients. Understanding their businesses and business practices and offering solutions and support. Always championing to get them what they needed to meet their business and personal goals.

Personally and professionally, we have watched each other grow and learn. We’ve seen each other through better and worse, sickness and health, tragedy and triumph.

Yes, we had conflict. No, it wasn’t always perfect. Yes, as we were growing it was getting harder. No, I didn’t always love my job. Yes, the stress could be immense. No, we didn’t back down or cave to it. Yes, we believed in The PCB Way. 100%.

Today around 30 of us will leave our desks for the last time with a few more leaving over the next few weeks. Debbie, one of my longtime coworkers and a truly amazing, strong woman, summed it up in a Facebook post, “I’m walking across that finish line with pride.” That says is all. We built an amazing institution; we were part of something unique; we were a successful bank and Columbia paid a premium to get us. We will walk out with our heads held high. Even knowing we were losing our jobs we did whatever it took to hand over the best bank possible.

Pride.

Clients.

Employees.

Shareholders.

Community.

Heart.

The PCB Way.

 

 

The homestretch

For some time now I have had the surreal feeling that I am in a horse race. I can feel the power of the horse beneath me, legs stretching, hooves pounding, sweat flying. It’s been a long race and both my horse and I are growing weary. We round the last corner and I look to the finish line…only to find it has been moved. Ugh. What can I do? I must stay in the race. So I loosen my grip slightly on the reins, crouch a little lower and give the horse his head. At some point I realize I can not control it all, and that is OK.

The stark reality is that life is not a horse race, until you die there is no finish line. There is always that next thing up ahead, both good and bad. For over a year “the finish line” has been the end of my job. When I reach that milestone I will accomplish X and Y and Z. Wrap it up, put a bow on it. And then my mother’s Alzheimers worsened …

Things that had been easy to laugh at were suddenly serious. This is not amusing anymore. Things are rapidly becoming more than my 88-year-old father can be expected to handle. Difficult decisions must be made. Life changing decisions affecting both my mother and my father. Let’s bump that finish line out a couple more laps. I tuck my knees into the horse’s side and push through. OK, my job is going to end giving me more time and capacity to get my mother placed in memory care; my dad placed in an independent living community and disperse the contents of their home. At that point I will head to the winners circle and collect the purse. What? My husband has cancer? Are you fucking kidding me?

100% honesty here. After the shock wore off I was pissed. Angry in a selfish, poor me, kind of way. I had plans! I had this forced retirement all mapped out! My to-do list was a mile long! And then it hit me. Life is not about control. Life does not present itself in a neat package complete with a well written instruction manual. If we are provided any guide at all it looks more like something from an IKEA manual – what exactly is that chubby little guy trying to tell me?!? Life is not always an easy journey.

I have to adjust my plans. I have to cut that to-do list down to what really matters. Mike’s surgeon said something to us that touched a spark in my very soul. “After your surgery you need to plan on being off work for six weeks. Technically, even with your line of work, you could probably go back sooner, however, you have many years to work…take six weeks off to heal from cancer.” 

How often do we push through? Get back to work as soon as possible? Grip the reins and steer the horse? What if…? What if we not only give the horse his head but also relax our knees and sit upright? Or maybe we need to let go completely and lay boneless against the horse’s neck, arms dangling to each side, trusting that the horse will find its way back to the barn?

Mike is going to take his six weeks off to heal from cancer and guess what? I’m going to do the same. This is not a vacation, there are things that will need to be done, but my approach will be different. I will move forward with settling my parents; I will need to do whatever needs to be done for Mike; I will also do what needs to be done for me. I will ask for help as necessary, I will admit when I am not strong. For the first time in 30 years I will not have to meet the challenges of life while also managing a career.

I urge you all to assess what is important at this time in your life and focus your energy there. Let the other stuff fade in importance or even fall completely away. What is important will be different for each of you. Don’t judge yourself by what is important to your friends and family. Realize that over the years what is important will change often so be flexible. I’m winding down and am at the end of my career years, but for some of you, your career and building financial stability for your family may  be important now. Maybe finishing school is high on your list. Maybe building relationships, or focusing on health or paying off debt is on top for you. Make room for the things that matter.

You have many years (or not) to do X, Y and Z…but you only have a limited time to [insert priority items here]. You define your winner’s circle. You, and you alone.

T-minus 1 month

We are one month away from the former Pacific Continental Bank data systems merging with and converting to Columbia Bank.

At some point during the valley of despair many of the “systems people” will do what we have never done before…

It is a bitter-sweet time for everyone, but especially for those of us who have developed, monitored and cussed these systems for years.

As with any conversion things are heating up fast during the pre-conversion frenzy. There will be training to learn new systems and new processes. Groups will be running mock tests of the data to be converted, making updates so it can flow into the new banking systems.  Client communication, client communication and more client communication will be happening. The terror and dread will build to a crescendo and in one month it will break loose into the utter chaos of conversion weekend. Heads will be down in reports, scanning for errors and inconsistency, fingers will be flying over keyboards correcting data and inputting items that could not be imported into the new system. It is fully in the hands of the back office people. Boxes will be checked as each system is validated. Once all those boxes are checked, systems will be brought online and handed over to the clients and our client facing employees.

If we are lucky we will hover in the eye of the storm…calm, for an hour? Maybe two? The length of our reprieve depends on what time we go live. On Monday morning businesses will be anxious to get in and see their new banking tools. Employees will be adjusting to their new equipment and navigating still unfamiliar systems. And then the hurricane will unleash at full force. Login problems, navigation problems…the phones will ring off the hook, email systems will bulge with questions. Internal and external issues will both be vying for the attention of limited support resources. We will live in the midst of this storm for several days.

And then fatigue will set in, tempers will flare. Squalls will blow through as clients need to process individual functions necessary to complete their business cycle. And then, my friends, we enter the valley of despair. It is a slog. Hot spots flare up and are extinguished as vendors write new code, run correcting programs against misinterpreted data and employees manually fix things that cannot be automated. Client facing employees will guide clients through the usage of their new tools.

It. Is. A. Grind.

At some point during the valley of despair many of the “systems people” will do what we have never done before. We, who are used to being the last men standing during conversion or crisis, will get up, clear out our desks and walk away. The job won’t be finished but it will be handed over to our capable counterparts at Columbia Bank.

For those who remain, you need to know, the valley of despair will get better. The chaos will subside. Many of you worry about not having the people who have supported you for so long. We’ve had our moments… but you’ve known you could depend on us, trust us with the care of your clients and you have valued the knowledge and skill we brought to the table. You will build new bridges, interact with your new counterparts, discover the wealth of resources your new systems will offer.

And then it will be back to business as usual.