Refresh Rate…

avatar graphicI know I’m not one for posting my proper status update on a regular basis, and while I generally hold off for major things that are worth sharing ( as opposed to ‘had a great burger today, yum! #pointless’ ), I will also admit that I have been holding my breath on this one for a while. Because historical reasons. For the few who read this site that have grammatical minds, I am wholly aware that was not a proper sentence, but also if you’re just now taking issue with things of that nature welcome to the party, you are late. I mentioned recently that I was on the job market again, but the update I have been holding off on is that yesterday I started a new job. For the sake of keeping things separate I will refrain from mentioning employer specifics, but for the curious what I can share is that I have gone back to doing what people probably think of being my field the most. I started as an IS Technician at a local corporate office for a national company. I will be doing much of what I have done before; remote support, troubleshooting, computer repair, end-user service and training.

When I interviewed a couple of weeks ago, the first real skill-relevant question I was asked in the course of the discussion was what my philosophy on escalating a ticket was. We had already discussed my previous experience with help desk environments, though I did clarify that at the time our staff was so small there was no true reason to designate separate support levels, but I understood the reasoning behind it. However, it is my philosophy that escalating a ticket should be a sort of last resort, and really only in very specific circumstances. Just because the issue is something that I haven’t been able to personally resolve doesn’t mean that my coworkers haven’t encountered it before, and it is very possible that simply asking them about the issue can provide a very quick fix, or point me in the right direction of one, and if that is the case then not only have I learned something new, but I’ve also solved the customer’s problem without having to add a delay in service for what is ultimately a two minute fix. It also prevents adding to my coworker’s workload for something so simple. Ticket escalation should really only be necessary when the solution is so specialized that it requires access permissions that I do not have, and never simply because I do not want to take the time to learn how to fix a problem.

The interviewer said that they thought that was a very good answer.

While the rest of the interview went very well, I was fairly confident that my answer to that question is what got me the job. My technical experience is a little behind the curve because of the environments that I have been exposed to in the past, and I will admit that my continued education has been lacking for a multitude of reasons that I am likely to correct in very short order. Despite my technical gaps, which the interviewer also had acknowledged, they offered me the position.

It is nice to be back in a technical environment where my direct coworkers understand the complexities of information technology and systems, and also be with a company whose technology department is properly equipped to deal with the size of the job they are faced with. While there are of course bumps in every job, and I am not so naive to assume that I will never encounter a rough day, this is a nice change of pace from some of my previous environments, and considering the turn-around time from my previous job to this one, I’m feeling very optimistic about my situation for the first time in a while.

Besides, a glass half full of Scotch is always a good reason ( and way ) to celebrate.

— Vid

Closing The Books…

avatar graphicYesterday was my 2nd anniversary of being a permanent employee of a company in which I held many responsibilities. I was first working as a general laborer, someone who would go out to the job sites that the company was servicing as a general contractor and property maintenance company when it was discovered that I had far more technical experience than I did labor experience ( no shock there, I’m sure ) and so they asked if I could perhaps build a database for them that could make their estimating easier. There should be no surprise that I was in fact happy to do this for a number of reasons, first and foremost being that it meant I was not going to be required to do the physical labor that I had taken to largely out of desperation during a recession that hit my field of expertise pretty hard. The second reason being that I am exceptionally fond of numbers, and seeing them work does in fact give me a sense of pride and joy that I’m not sure anyone outside of a pure mathematics field [generalized] might understand.

Happy to have the opportunity, I said yes, and asked a few basic questions about what it was they needed, what the goal of the data collection was, how they would like it represented, if it should scale, and so on. It was not the first time I have done something like this either professionally or personally, and I had a fair understanding of what it was the owner of the company was after once I asked my questions so it would be just a matter of time. The short version, I compiled a list of all materials and tools that the company might require as well as their prices at a major hardware retailer over the course of a few days, and the higher ups were so impressed that they determined my talents were better used in the office as assistance to the administrative staff. I was quickly trained on how estimation worked so that I could assist with invoicing; taking the costs of what was actually used on the job in combination with the labor rates and various other expenses to determine the total job cost and by extrapolation how much we should be charging the customers for the work completed. Each work order was a little different, every job and customer had it’s quirks, and soon enough there was a position carved out for my talents.

As the company grew and new opportunities developed, my role changed. My familiarity with coding lead to my building their website by hand. I used a few tools that were not ideal, but they were free so that’s what I had access to, and it meant a lot of clean up work to get it published, but I did so. I’ve heard that it has gotten some compliments from various customers, so that’s nice, though I never took any direct professional credit for it because I happily did so as an employee of the company. Soon a new role opened up as we took on a completely different aspect of business, and I found myself being the only person who had the time as well as the proficiency to manage the expenses and payments for a multitude of property associations. While I was not responsible for their management, I handled the budget for a total of seventeen different communities throughout the span of ten months. Having been thrown into the deep end, I did all I could to learn the industry as fast as possible to ensure that no one whose units we were responsible for managing was unduly charged or neglected, and while the work was overwhelming at times ( there were a multitude of 60 hour work weeks, sometimes fourteen hour days even ), I enjoyed seeing the numbers work and count out as they should.

Over time it was deemed that the investment in that industry was too cumbersome for the company and while we sold off that aspect of the business I had proven myself capable at the bookkeeping required, and my new responsibilities would include doing the same for the primary company I was employed by. I resumed the mathematical aspects of our work orders, helped determine pricing points, and even created a rough budget for the entire company that was to help track our expected costs for the year with the goal of pushing towards a 2.7 million dollar sales year. I was proud of the job that I did. I was analytical, and did everything I could to equate every cent. The company hit a low point, but even through all of that I did everything I could to determine how the company could remain profitable. Of course all through this I assisted with reports, played the role of the “guy who knows computer stuff”, and wore many hats. Of course there were things I would have done differently through it all, but I am under no illusions that the same cannot be said for every job.

However, as the time went on, I noticed that the numbers– while they did add up –were not what they could be, and I did try to bring this to people’s attention. It was often brushed off with the explanation of how the customers just would not go for changes of that manner, or that I had a misunderstanding of the finer points of accounting, or that it was not as significant as a concern as I was expressing.

It is because of those things that I was so internally frustrated and frankly hurt when today I was called in to the owner’s office. At first I thought it was for my yearly review, and that we would be discussing my performance over the past year. I had a list of things that I had either suggested as responsibilities or changes to implement in how we processed information, but before I could open my mouth to discuss the future of the company and my role within it, the company’s owner told me that as the tax year had begun, he had some very long and hard talks with his accountants, and he was told that he would have to make some hard choices. Unfortunately, the first of those was that I was going to have to be let go.

I sat there in stunned silence, my mind blank for a moment as he explained that I would be getting paid for the week, as well as my earned paid time off, and two weeks severance pay. When he finished, I admitted that this was not the conversation I had expected, and mentioned that I thought it would be my yearly review, as my anniversary with the company was yesterday.

He hadn’t been aware of that.

He asked me for a list of passwords, accounts, all of the things that I had access to, as well as the keys, and any credit cards I had ( of which I had none; despite being responsible for the payables and receivables, one was never issued to me directly ). I spent an hour packing up my desk, all the while questioning whether the suggestions I had made that were brushed aside could have prevented this outcome. Was I overzealous? Was I just flat out wrong? Was this inevitable? Worse, was I right, and had my warnings been considered would I still have my job? In the end, I knew I would never get the answer to the question, and fighting through the adrenaline that was running through me at a rampant pace, I finished packing up all of my belongings ( it took three filing boxes and my bag ). During the time I was packing up my desk, it became obvious what had happened, and people were stunned. While our office is small, they treated me as an integral part of it, and no one else had been made aware this was about to happen, including my direct supervisor, or the account managers with whom I worked closely on many projects. So I carried my things out to my car and said my goodbyes to the rest of the office staff still there. I returned to the owner’s office, gave him the information requested, and then turned in my keys.

I do not know what the final outcome will be for the rest of the company, either the estimators, field technicians, or new account managers that had been hired so recently, but I hope things go well for them. I made friends there. Good ones. Friends that even though I do not see eye to eye with on every subject, I respect and appreciate for their capabilities and talents. As I move on to a new chapter in my life, I will be honest and say that I have no idea what comes next. This was very much out of the blue, and while the last few years have been full of turmoil, I felt like working with this company provided me with certain benefits that were very dear to me. I do not know if I will ever find all those benefits at another company, and to be frank I do not know that the role I have filled for the last two years is one that another company will have such a specifically relevant gap for me to fill.

The list of skills I acquired in the last two years– in combination with the personal growth I have attained –will hopefully serve me well, but seeing as I am still reeling from the sensation of having left the boat mid-sail, I think the only thing to do is start swimming. I just have to pick a direction and hope that land is near by.

But I sure wish I hadn’t gone in early today.

— Vid

Front Lines…

avatar graphicLittle is as difficult as having an entire world swimming around in your head that you want to get out on paper. Especially when you just can’t find the proper medium. I’ve been wanting to do more with the Operative lately. I feel like he is a character people enjoy ( that’s what I’ve been told anyway ), but for the character to work best he needs to face a worth opponent, and that’s where I seem to be stymied. He has a vast history, and certainly I could manage all that with Encyclopedic Fiction, but one thing I have always enjoyed writing is the emotion of the character. Despite his afflictions, they play him like a symphony, and the story is best when that emotion comes out of the page in such a way that the reader feels what he should. In the past I’ve had plenty of ways to accomplish this; collaborative writing has provided fuel for stories that require very little adjustment, and good writing partners have breathed life into characters that have given me the opposition required for the Operative to shine.

Lately though, the dry spell has left me curious about his nature as a story device. I’ve never fooled myself into believing that the Operative is the hero of the story he takes part in. And I rather like the idea that you see a tale of this nature from the villain’s perspective, but the truth of it is that a villain is only as good as the hero they face. Whatever I come up with needs a solid foundation, because the character will be facing serious overwhelming odds, after all the Operative is a dangerous individual. But then I find myself wondering how do I write a character that in the end I am personally rooting for the failure of? Especially if they need to persist long enough for the story to be interesting? Spy vs. Spy is a wonderful take on two characters who will never stop being the bane of each other, though its comical tones are really the only reason it works so well. I’ve never really seen the Operative as being concerned with an adversary other than his own failings, but we don’t talk about what happens when you’re your own worst enemy too often. The subject has obviously been touched on, but making it original again can be difficult.

I suppose I’ll figure it out, but finding out where to start is going to take some time I think.

— Vid