I don’t think I’ve ever hated a place before… but that sh*t was ghetto af.
So lets start off with why I chose that role in the first place. But we have to back track a bit first.
So right after graduating Uni in September 2019, that Autumn, I began working for a very large multi-national engineering consultancy (let’s call them Alpha). The consultancy would hire Engineers who they would send out as consultants on their various customer projects in energy, automotive, aerospace, and other industries. Like contracting, when the project was closed, or when the contracted time elapsed without renewal, the consultant would be posted to another client project. The client I was sent to was based in Manchester so I had to relocate from my home in London to Manchester (for those outside of the UK, it’s about 300 miles). And for the most part I enjoyed working at the consultancy. The location wasn’t ideal, but aside from initial hurdles at the company (a story for another time LOL) I quite liked the overall role. The salary was good, I liked the freedom of having my own apartment in a new city, the work was interesting, and my colleagues were cool.
But then as spring 2020 came, so did Covid, and we all began working from home. Initially it was all good – great in fact. I had a nice spacious apartment so bringing my work stuff home didn’t really bother me too much and I could stay up a little later and sleep in a little more every day. Even though I now look back on it fondly, the commute between Bolton and Deansgate was the worst part of my commute, and the worst part of the day. I did everything that we all did when the ‘Stay At Home’ protocol was rolled in. I cooked, I baked, I fiddled with my hair, did all the trending home workout challenges and eventually got bored. I was doing my best to keep it together, but the isolation drove me crazy. All my family and friends were 300 miles away and visiting was not going to be easy because of the covid restrictions at the time.
When I started my role in Manchester, I was relying on being able to visit my friends and family on the weekends because I knew the location was not ideal for me, but when that went to hell, I knew I had to resign because there was no guarantee that my next assignment would be back in London. I had to find my own way back home. I began my search for engineering roles in London and not long after I got a call from an agent about a position in London – a 20-minute drive from my home in fact – that was everything I was looking for. Design Engineer position, with room for professional development to transition into a Project Manager role. The recruiter did mention that the role was in a smaller company and the MD had asked the recruiter to check I was okay with this, but as the smallest company I had worked with till that point had a couple hundred employees and Alpha had close to 36,000 employees scattered across the globe, it just never occurred to me that this new company (let’s call it Kappa) would present any issues. I had all my interviews remotely and was successful.
The first red flag should have been when they asked me to take a moderate pay cut to join the company. This was presented to me in a way that implied that by reason of coming from a different engineering discipline, I would therefore require training both for the current role, and to be able to move up to the Project Manager role in the company. From my standpoint, this made sense to me at the time. I had zero experience in that particular engineering discipline, so I thought, ‘Maybe it’s going to be very different from what I’ve been doing and what I’m used to, so I guess I’ve got a lot of training to do when I get there’. I naïvely agreed to this, signed my offer letter, and began the process of leaving Alpha and Manchester. When I started work at Kappa in London in August 2020, that was when I started to see the mess
4 primary categories of reasons why my experience at Kappa was horror story about hell:
The role was misadvertised
The work itself was nothing new, innovative or out of the ordinary – nothing I’d require specialized training for, or any training for that matter, despite being sold as such by the MD. The closest thing to engineering the role entailed was CAD (Computer Aided Design), which on its own is not Engineering.
90% of the role was a combination of copying pre-existing models and manual management of parts using endless excel spreadsheets of part lists because the MD didn’t want to invest in any PDM system.
The company was vastly oversold
The company was 4 people
strong (including me) but only 2 of us were Engineers. And it wasn’t a startup either. I believe the MD was insecure about the size of his organization. Afterall, he did do his best to misrepresent that information to everyone dealing with the Kappa. The MD brought in his two employees on the day I was meant to do my initial visit to the company, because he didn’t want me to come in and see only empty desks. However, the office had 6 desks and the two employees made the office look even more empty than it would have looked if he had just told me ‘The team is working from home at the moment’.
I also believe he wanted to use my start as excuse to have his employees back in the office where he can micromanage them better.
In any case the size of the business meant that there was no room for career progression into a Project Manager role as was advertised in the job listing, and after some time it became clear Kappa had no intention of expanding, neither would they be able to.
The pay was not worth the job, and that puts it lightly
The employment contract I signed (the MD presented it to me a few weeks after I had commenced employment with the company) stated a 6 MONTH probation period, which was twice the length of what I normally see from my experience, and meant that my probationary salary applied for twice as long as I was expecting. Even after that, my salary would still be less than what it was at Alpha. And it was for no real reason other than the MD not being willing to pay better and concocting a story about training.
I later came to find that not only did the Kappa not give Statutory Sick pay, but any sick days you had were taken out of your holiday allowance automatically – which was also all tracked on an excel spreadsheet btw. Bruh. The company had no other benefits, you’d think they would at least give 25 holidays a year – but no, they did not.
Poor handling of the covid pandemic
The MD at Kappa was also intellectually dishonest about the covid situation. Even in the middle of a national lockdown, with a government ‘Stay At Home’ order in place for everyone who was not a key worker (e.g, police, healthcare and transport workers) we were still coming to work. We basically had to get together and corner the MD into a conversation where we all expressed how we felt about continuing to come in to work on site in the current conditions. Anytime someone would try to talk to him to ask his plans around the pandemic he would avoid the conversation. When I managed to get him to talk to me about it, the conversation went like this:
Kappa MD: ‘I don’t know what the new government guidance is’
Me: *proceeds to explain new rules announced in government press briefing by Prime Minister on TV earlier in the week*
Kappa MD: ‘No, we aren’t in lockdown.’
Me: *Stares in WTF* ‘But you just said you don’t know what the new government guidance is – ’
Kappa MD: ‘I’ll have to ask my advisers, maybe you’re gonna have to be furloughed…’
Me: *stares, waiting for more*
Kappa MD: ‘Is that all?’
Then finding out he abused the furlough scheme, which may be a form of fraud – I’ll briefly explain…
The furlough scheme was designed to pay up to 80% of the wages of employees of companies whose doors had shut due to the pandemic, to prevent mass redundancies. The government would pay furlough during the pandemic and that once the pandemic was over and business resumed as normal, the companies that re-open would return to paying their employees as normal too.
I learned from one of my two colleagues that before I arrived, Kappa – or rather Kappa’s MD – had furloughed staff despite having them work full time to take advantage of the government furlough scheme. For real. He didn’t want to pay the only 3 employees he had. My God.
Apart from giving me a source of income to come back to London to (albeit smaller), all in all, Kappa fell incredibly short of my expectations in every area you could imagine, mostly because they vastly oversold on everything. I left not only because I believe my combination of qualifications, skills and experience that I had worked hard for made me deserving of better, but also because I felt that the longer I stayed, the more I would stray away from the career path that I wanted, and the less I would have to show for it. The only reason I didn’t leave the month after I started was because I worried how that would look on my CV.
I felt (and still feel) that I would have picked up on more red flags earlier if the interviews were conducted in person. I would have gotten a clear view of the size and scale of the business and hence would have raised questions before rejecting further offers from the company. But then again, if the role was advertised accurately in terms of job title and job description, I would never have even applied.
Ah well, it taught me a WHOLE lot (including the tips from my post about pandemic interviews) so you live, and learn, eh?