From Cart Pusher to Manager

From Cart Pusher to Manager

If you don’t believe in yourself, believe in the potential that others see in you. It took me so many years to realize this.

Mark Bailey

My First Job

So my first actual job is one that I don't usually talk about. Why? Well, it only lasted about two weeks, and I was only 16 years old. It was working at a Subway, and I quickly learned that I HATED working in fast food and swore I'd never take another one of those jobs.

My first real job was when I had just graduated high school. I became employed at Walmart as a cart pusher. Cart pushing was pretty darn simple: push the carts back into the store that the customers bring out. It was very labor-intensive, especially on hot days.

In addition, I was attending a community college because I got approved for a scholarship that let me earn my associate's degree for free. If you're older and wiser than I was, this would be an absolute no-brainer to pursue. However, I was fresh out of high school, didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, and couldn't stand the idea of more school. This action I took as a result of social obligation. Without going into the cringey details, I'll say that it didn't pan out, and I ended up accumulating a lot of debt before dropping out. On top of all that, I was working this cart-pushing job. All of the odds were completely stacked against me, destined to fail.

It's kind of funny because as I think back on this job, I realize that I showed signs of managerial experience. I understood the methods I was taught when I first started and came up with new and better ways to do the job. The managers may not have agreed with me, but I got the job done way better than anyone had ever done before. I'd even showed signs of leadership by assigning my coworker's different roles that helped improve the efficiency of gathering all of the carts.

On the topic of managers, I was not too fond of mine. They asked for so much, not understanding what indeed went into the job. They didn't get what it was like to work out in extreme heat and cold rain. This isn't the way I wanted to lead. I tried to show understanding and compassion, but also firmness. Nobody likes a pushover.

I continued to work this job for about four long years (guesstimated). I wanted more. So with the help of my grandma, I made the push to get an inside job. I ended up moving inside to work as a stocker for Walmart's dairy department. With this position, I worked closely with the department's manager to learn the structure and the systems that made the department run. They worked well enough, but the department's back, where the inventory goes, was a hot mess. In the back of my mind, I knew that something had to change.

There would be days that she wouldn't be there, so I'd have to take charge. I'd keep the inventory count up to date, assign people to work specific areas of the department, and spend most of my day trying to make the back organized and neat. I'd do everything my manager did without actually ordering the product. I'd need codes and fancy boss stuff to do that.

From Grunt to College Guy

After a pretty traumatic life event, I did some soul searching about where I was at with my life. I learned that this grunt work still wasn’t good enough for me and wasn’t fulfilling enough. I barely got by, I was still exhausted, and I wasn’t moving forward. I was getting by at a forced, steady pace. I started the transition of quitting my job and moving to college in Orlando. There I learned outstanding leadership and teamwork skills. Naturally, I would take charge of many group projects because I found I love structure. Click here to read about my whole experience in college.

Back to Grunt

After almost two years at college, I returned home with my bachelor's degree and was back to work. This time, I was a grocery stocker at my local grocery. I was there for only a few months because that kind of work didn't fulfill me. I felt like I was right back in that right spiral, just with a piece of paper that says I went to college. I spent a lot of time stationary in college, so when I went back to labor-intensive work, my body felt weaker than before school. The heavy lifting and constant movement felt tough. So I applied for a desk job where I'd be answering phones and helping customers.

Grunt to Beautiful Butterfly

The desk job I applied for was with a local web development company. I knew very little about coding, but I had great people skills from my years working in the retail industry. I was fortunate enough that my two beautiful bosses gave me a chance. I still believe that they took a chance because we spent the last 5 minutes of the interview geeking out about Star Wars.

By the way, whenever a new Star Wars movie came out, the whole office would take the afternoon off to see the film together, and the office paid for it. If I’m being honest, that was enough to sell me!

When I first started the job, I was terrible. Like REALLY bad. I was so used to hard labor and constantly being on the move. Desk work felt so strange and confusing to me. It was a completely different shift in my work mentality. However, through work experience, talking to coworkers, and asking an annoying amount of questions, I gained more and more knowledge of the programming industry. My Project Coordinator had been in the position I was currently in and taught me everything I knew.

After two years, the Project Coordinator moved on to a different job. I wasn’t aware of this, but she and my bosses had been subtly training and prepping me to take this position about six months in advance. With the reputation I gained, knowledge, and approachability, I was offered the Project Coordinator title. Everyone believed that I had a ton of room to grow and thrive.

I was reluctant to take up this new role because I was so used to answering other people and being told what to do. I couldn’t imagine being the person that others respond to and look to for work. On top of that, I’d be in charge of overseeing all projects and making sure they get done, in addition to what I currently do. With the convincing argument of my bosses giving me more money, I decided to give it my best and see what happens.

For the first few months, I found myself doing everything myself by teaching myself to code. My mentality was, “Why would I waste 10 minutes telling someone to get this issue fixed when I can get it fixed in 5?”. After a come-to-Jesus meeting with my coworker, who shares a similar role for his side of the office, he told me that I’m in charge of the work that my coworkers receive. Even if I can do it, it’s my responsibility to give them the work I know I can do.

Now, not only do I ensure that projects get done, but the quality and reputation of the company have vastly improved. The products and services we offer have never been better. I’ve helped us achieve new levels of efficiency. I’m also taking the initiative to help the company grow by implementing new and better systems.

Smooth Notion Rant Segway

About a month or two ago, I learned about a free program called Notion. Notion is free software that lets you do pretty much anything productive-wise with it. You can do note-taking, make to-do lists, set up personal habits, etc.

I use this software in my personal life and now my work life. I use it to manage my tasks and log any notes about projects or clients throughout the workweek.

It’s my goal to use this software to help take my office job to new heights. For example, I’m in the process of developing a Contact Activity Database. The idea is that I take the tasks that I’ve completed and assign them to a client page and keep them there like a log of their activity.

Also, my big end goal is to transition the whole team into it entirely and have one notion account for everybody. We could assign tasks to each other and coordinate workflow. The significant long-term outcome would be to have a knowledge database for coding tips, designing, email support, etc.

The Takeaway

There’s a couple of things I want you to take away from this long post (thank you so much if you read the whole thing and made it this far). First, if you don’t believe in yourself, believe in the potential that others see in you. It took me so many years to realize this, and I’m still not fully there yet. When I got my first job, I was convinced that I’d never been more than a grunt doing grunt work. Now I’m pushing my current job to new heights and helping the company thrive and evolve.

If I’m being honest, being a project manager is not my passion, but it’s something I’m good at, and it pays well. People always believed that I had a tremendous managerial mindset. My true love is writing like I’m doing now.

My other advice would be to do the shitty full-time job during the day while doing the thing you love in your downtime. Do this until you can afford to make that downtime thing into your full-time job.