My Story Part 1: The Rise of SMUD

Where should I start? I do not know for sure, but I believe it all began in college, the spring semester of my freshman year. I was a student at Lehigh University in the School of Engineering and it was time to choose my major. I had no idea what type of engineer I wanted to be. Mechanical? No. Civil? No. Electrical? Definitely NOT! Environmental? Maybe. Then that left Industrial. When I asked my best friend what major she was going to choose, she said “Industrial! What about you?”. And in that moment I said, “cool, me too”, and without a second thought (or a detailed understanding of what an Industrial Engineer did), it was the path I took.


I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the beginning of a long period in my life that I didn’t live passionately as myself. Looking back now, I realize what really happened. I didn’t choose in favor of my passions. I knew intuitively that none of those disciplines sparked a flame inside me, and I knew it even before I set foot on the campus for the first time.


My real passion was Aerospace Engineering… I wanted to be an Astronaut! I wanted to go to University of Colarado at Boulder, where at the time they had a highly regarded Aerospace program from which NASA recruited most of it’s Astronauts. I got into Boulder and held my spot right away. However, my parents were concerned that if I didn’t like the engineering program, getting a liberal arts or business degree from Boulder wouldn’t look as good on a resume. Conversely, they told me that any degree from Lehigh (engineering or otherwise) would take me places.


Although my parents raised a sensible argument, ultimately it was a force inside of me that I now call SMUD (Suzanne’s Mean Ugly Darkside) which drove my decision. SMUD immediately took the opportunity to whisper into my ear, “You can’t be an engineer, let alone an astronaut“, “you are not smart enough“, “how can you possibly move across the country without any family or friends to support you – you will never survive!“, “you better stay close to home and have a backup plan as it is doubtful you will be successful in engineering“.  With these doubts swimming in my head, I agreed to go to Lehigh.

In fact, I  can i buy generic Lyrica did struggle in Engineering, but hard work, determination, and several good tutors got me through. I graduated from Lehigh University with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering, and it was time to get a job. During my junior year, my sister (2 years my elder) had been working as an accountant at Price Waterhouse, LLC. At the time, Price Waterhouse (PW) was one of the top big 6 accounting firms worldwide, and  my sister put me in touch with the HR recruiter for their Information Technology Consulting division. To make a long story short, I pursued them and was ultimately offered a job before Thanksgiving of my senior year!


Looking back now, I realize that during this process SMUD had struck again! I didn’t actively pursue any other jobs. I didn’t ask myself if the job supported my values or if it was a job I was passionate about. Once again, SMUD whispered in my ear, “you won’t get other offers, you better take the job.  The only reason you got THIS job is because of your sister“, and “this is a highly respectable and well paying job, you would be a fool not to take it“.

On the bright side, in this job I met some great people and had wonderful mentors (not to mention I met my husband!).  However, as I moved higher up the ranks, I felt more and more like I didn’t fit the job. I became anxious about my responsibilities and allowed SMUD to fill my head with self doubt, “everyone will see through you and you be be found out that you can’t handle your responsibilities“, “you are not fooling anyone, you can’t do it…you are not as capable as everyone else“.  


These internal pressures mounted so greatly that I started to take things out on my husband (then fiancé) – yelling, picking fights, crying at the drop of a hat, acting out and generally behaving badly.  Finally, one day at work I completely broke down.  I started sobbing uncontrollably and could not function.  I called my doctor from the office and he told me to go home right away.  That is when my 10 year therapy stint started.  I was a mess and had to take an immediate leave of absence from work. I went on antidepressants and spent the next 6 months in therapy trying to recover.  


During those six months I came to realize and confront many personal issues.  One of the most significant was the fact that I had extremely low self esteem and no self confidence.  However, I did manage to recover, and was restored to a functioning adult.  Just as I was thinking about going back to work, a client called me up out of the blue and asked if I was interested in interviewing for a position with them.  The following week I interviewed, and the week after that they gave me an offer. I accepted, and my 5 year career at PW had ended.  


I took my skills as an IT project team lead and went to work at one of the world’s biggest investment banks. At the time, I thought this job was just what I needed, an “out” from my current job.  Looking back, I think I was really looking to escape from myself…or more accurately, SMUD.  And once again, he misdirected me.  I could have taken the time to figure out what I really wanted to do, but the way SMUD presented it, this new job was the only option I had!  He made sure that Ozorków I didn’t stop to think if it supported my values or made me happy.  He led me to be fearful of going back to my old job, and made sure that I felt I needed to take another corporate job, otherwise I wouldn’t be respected by my friends and family.  After all, I had to redeem myself in the eyes of the world after battling depression.

For the first 5 years at the bank I was content in the new environment.  But I moved to a part time schedule (3 days/week) when I had my first baby, which I thought would be a great thing. However, I started to struggle, balancing motherhood while managing a full workload in three days a week. I watched my friends and colleagues get promoted above me while I did the same work. I prepared the same deliverables, and produced the same, if not more successful, results that they did but in fewer days.  Once again, it was the perfect opportunity for SMUD to creep into my thoughts, “you are falling behind”, “you are not performing as well as you should”, “you can’t compete with the others, you MUST do better”.  


I was living with this internal pressure which grew and grew as the years passed.  SMUD had completely brainwashed me into believing that I was no good.  My self confidence hit a record low just as I had three projects coming to their critical point. As a result, my stress levels were through the roof.  During this time I had a mid year review, which through SMUD’s eyes did not go well.   My boss indicated that even though I was an IT project manager, I had to get more involved and more knowledgeable in either the business or technology.  Skating between the two was just not going to cut it.


I was angry.  I felt that my hard work and dedication (I often worked on my days off) went completely unappreciated and unnoticed altogether!  Furthermore, I was told that if I continued along this path I would slip further and further down the ranks.  In not so many words, I was also told that I needed to reevaluate my part time work arrangement.  I was angry beyond belief.  I felt that after all this time, my thoughts – or should I say SMUD’s thoughts, were finally validated.  The reality of being a failure, not measuring up, and not being successful in the eyes of my boss and colleagues was too much to bear.


It seemed that SMUD had won, and I felt entirely defeated.


Continued in Part 2 

Suzanne HermusMy Story Part 1: The Rise of SMUD