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Passing my probation twice helped my mental health – Keith’s story

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Hi I’m Keith, and I passed my probation not once, but twice.

I joined AO back in July 2022 as a Software Engineer Manager, excited by the challenge and very eager to help, maybe too eager but more on that later…

My career is best described as 30+ years of “experiences”. Experiences which range from telephone support, globally distributed software development and government project delivery.

All that really means is I’ve had so many different opportunities to understand people and customers. To fail, learn and ultimately understand what is important to me… doing the right thing and helping others grow.

3 months into the job, I handed my notice in

I joined AO Tech in the July of 2022 off the back of some major organisation changes.  In the coming weeks and months would I learned about just how large these changes were, and more importantly, how people were still feeling about the experience.

Eager to help, I literally opened myself to the whole organisation, everyone within it and as such… 2 days before my probation was to end, I handed my notice in.

My head was swirling with other people’s fears and frustrations, and trying to balance critical business delivery along with starting a new job. I was driving 320 miles every two weeks and working from home alone. All of these things I knew I could handle on their own, but when they were combined and compounded, without any boundaries or protective measures; my cup was empty and something needed to change.

It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like it would solve the problem.

My notice had been handed in, and accepted, but I still didn’t feel relieved. The only thing I felt was “this feels wrong”.

Keith, you thrive on challenge and being able to help… “this feels wrong”.

Keith, this is nothing you’ve not experienced before… “this feels wrong”.

I spent the subsequent evening reflecting upon my decision, asking myself would it really solve my problem?

The answer was no. And the solution was me.

I had broken my first rule “protect myself to protect others”.

Everyone needs help.

Surprisingly, I think due to the excitement of the day, I slept reasonably well that evening! But I knew I had to have “a conversation”, an honest conversation which could have gone either way.

EVERYONE needs help at some point. I am no exception and contrary to what I have just described above, I am very vocal/visible about doing so.  Selfishly it helps me, but it also models the behaviours I would encourage in others.

So fully accepting that I may need to leave AO without a job to go to, I said to my Manager “I would like to stay”.

What followed was a conversation about how I was feeling, how the travel, how the isolation at home, the weight of AO Tech coupled with my lack of boundaries had “emptied my cup”.

And spoiler alert… they said yes!

‘Yes’ – along with an agreement for change. An agreement for additional support from my manager and a commitment from myself to not only introduce some personal boundaries but a commitment to get out more to improve my own wellbeing.

So 2 days shy of my first probation… I was not going anywhere! And now embarking on my second probation period.

Some people may have found that strange, and I didn’t expect that start to my AO journey, but I did find it exciting…

No really, everyone needs help.

No, the subheading is not a cut and paste error, its an acknowledgement of just how important it is to talk.

Having gone through some tough “experiences” in my career, I am fortunate to have built up some very strong values/behaviours and ways of managing my wellbeing…

But everyone needs help, including me.

Knowing you are not alone can sometimes make ALL the difference. That’s why I would encourage everyone reading this to check in on someone, just ask.

Similarly, even when you are comfortable with things, there are ALWAYS services you can use or other people you can speak to.

Learning to be more selfish

So what’s next for me? Who knows. But that’s the exciting thing.

I’m coming up to my first year anniversary at AO and because I recognised I needed to change, was honest and had “a conversation” – I am in a better place.

I am going to slip this in, because where I come from “shy bairns get nowt” but because of my Self Servant Leadership, the selfish act of looking after myself – the people, teams and wider AO Tech feel the benefit also.

To be clear, things are not perfect, I still work alone, from home, in front of the coldest draffiest window in the world and I am out of biscuits… but that’s another story.


Keith Office
Software Development Manager

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