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Summertime soldier

The year was 2011. The government debt crisis in the EU had reached a stage that required the bailout of several countries long thought to be considered creditworthy and stable. I was a senior analyst then and the bank that I was working for wasn't spared from this contagion. The outlook was bleak and the bank's share price had taken quite a beating. As part of 'austerity measures', there were also talks of bonus and job cuts across the offices from Europe to Asia. The economic turbulence and uncertainty kept everyone on their toes.

On one afternoon that year, I was pulled into my CEO's room for a chat. A few words were said, the message wasn't direct, but in short, I had been given a "golden ticket". I was also being recommended for an overseas training trip to HQ. At that point of time, I had no idea what this meant. After more than a year into the job, I felt I didn't need the training and as a result, gave it up to another colleague whom I felt needed it more.

Much later on, I realised that it was in fact an all-expenses paid two-week trip to wine, dine, possibly stroll along the Champs-Élysées, and rub shoulders with our colleagues from all over the globe. The valuation training was simply a side show.

A few weeks later, I resigned to join a competitor bank for a no-brainer 60% increase in pay. The money came at a time where I had to fund several huge upcoming expenses including the downpayment on my new house.

But the news of my departure didn't go down too well. While everyone else was 'congratulating' me, my CEO refused to speak with me during my final days at the firm. Later in that year, I also discovered that the entire analyst/associate pool had basically been decimated, leaving only the VPs and one analyst. That was supposed to be my golden ticket. I was supposed to be the last man standing, for better or for worse. A couple of years later, the team that I jumped ship for was shut down as part of an internal cost cutting and re-organization exercise (talk about karma).


Decisions like these can be tough. Some might say it was foolish to trade goodwill for money. I was paid a handsome amount in the process and without that money otherwise, I probably would not have been able to fund the purchase of my house amongst other things.

Besides, goodwill (to be blatantly transactional) is only good if you can derive something tangible from it in the future. Don't get me wrong that we should do something only if it pays in the short-term. Many of the benefits and opportunities I enjoy today are the seeds of goodwill planted 10-20 years ago.

But being able to effectively gauge when to cut your losses and call it day, versus hanging around and sticking it out requires a certain amount of psychological conditioning, constant self-persuasion and perhaps a certain wisdom (some say craziness) - even more so if you have something seemingly more commercially lucrative on the table.

"Summertime soldiers" is the term that Marc Andreessen uses to describe people "who only joined [a company] in the first place because [it was] already successful and have no interest in really bearing down and applying themselves to a challenge". These people while hardworking, are also apparently not the type of people you want to retain and groom.

While it isn't technically wrong to jump ship for a better paying job, I think that the incident of 2011 gave me some wisdom in deciding whether I would become a summertime soldier in my future engagements. I never regretted what I did, but given the choice to re-write history, I probably would have went for that incentive trip, soldier on being the lone analyst within the firm and later on down the road, find a way to make back that 60% increase in pay.



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