Sunday, February 25, 2007

Happy Trails
I finally got that job offer. It wasn't as high as I was hoping for, but it was only about 5,000 less than my target. I accepted, and with that we went to work on the final stages of the hiring process. The first of which - was to talk to my current boss. I was not looking forward to this part. I still needed to sit down and talk to the guy myself. He was completely in the dark about what had been transpiring. It was Friday afternoon, and perhaps late on a Friday would be as good a time as any to break the news to him. But alas, he would be in meetings all afternoon, right up until 6:00PM when I was leaving what would be my last 7:30AM to 6:00PM shift (don't ask).

Monday morning I waited for the boss to come in and get settled in. Moments later, I attacked. I walked in, and shut the door. "You know it's important when I shut your door", I said. He was all ears. I gave it to him in one sitting. "I have been made an offer ... one that I don't think I can refuse". I went on to tell him a little about the position, and why I was taking it. "How much did they offer you?". I told him it was roughly 10,000 more than I make now. He nodded, and that was about it. No counter offers, no trying to talk me out of it. He was all right with my leaving. I told him "I don't want you to think I am leaving out of here because of you all, I'm just doing whats right for my family ... and my career". That wasn't entirely true. I have about had my fill with the boss on a couple issues, one of which is how he deals with our complaints about after hours support (for which we are not compensated), our suggestions on new business, and process in general. He just ignores us.

I will not miss my work, or my boss. But I will surely miss the guys I work with. I worry that they will be under-staffed for a long time coming. Even when they get someone hired, they will have to spend weeks training that person to bring them up to speed (like they did me). But I didn't have a start date yet. Perhaps I could give them some fair warning. In the mean time, I had some work to do to get hired.

On my first of two required visits to the hospital, I met with a nurse. She put on a pair of thick glasses, and pulled out a clipboard. It was a questionnaire of sorts that started with "when was your last tetanus shot"? Uh oh. I wasn't really sure. Wrong answer. "Have you ever been tested for TB"? I had, but it was at least 5 years ago. Wrong answer. "Have you ever been vaccinated against Hepatitis B"? I didn't even know there was a vaccination for that. I'm not very fond of needles, but I could see that I would be getting quite a few of them shoved into me in the very near future. Sure enough, I was given a video to watch while the nurse went off the get my shots ready. I got to learn about how to deal with spilled body fluids, and how to properly wear a respirator mask. When she returned, there was a tray of needles. We got right to work. Ouch.

When I was done there I was sent to the lab for some "blood work". This is the part I really hate, having a needle pushed into my arm and held there while I am bled out. I guess it's a phobia. I have always feared having needles put into my skin. But I tried to calm myself, I didn't look, and it was over pretty quickly. Two days later, I was back. This time I was given a true physical. I had to stand in awkward places, have a doctor punch me in the kidneys, and do the old "turn your head and cough" thing. And then I was given the golden ticket, a "right to hire" signed by the staff. With this I was able to go to human resources and get my paperwork together. And following that activity, I was sent to the IT director to get my start date established.

She was rather quick with me, as I could see she was pretty busy that day. "When would you like to start? Do you have to give notice?". Technically, I don't. My contract is a "work at will" deal, where I can quit (or they can fire me) any old time. "I would like to give two weeks, but I'm not really required to". "One week", she says, "you will start on the 5th, yes?". I agreed. And that was that.

I took the news back to "the men", and I could see that they were both happy for me and disappointed all at the same time. They are far too kind to give me crap for leaving. They know why I'm leaving, and they want to see me succeed somewhere else. It makes it that much harder to depart. They will be missed.

Tomorrow I will start what will be my last week with the old crew. I have about 30 service tickets that I need to have cleaned up and completed by Friday, or I will have to hand them off to someone else. Throughout the week I will need to take down my pictures, ditch some old paperwork, and just wrap things up. Next week, I will get to start a new job. New faces, new challenges, greater opportunities.

Pa Passes On
Last week I had been talking to my mother about my grandpa. He was in lousy shape, and she wanted me to know that he may be on his way out. He's had Alzheimer's for several years now, and his condition went from mediocre to just plain awful in a short period of weeks. She told me that she thought I should be prepared for bad news, but that I probably wouldn't be interested in any final visits. Partly because his mental state was pretty bad, and also because he wouldn't know who I was. A few days ago I got the call from her. Pa had passed away.

I didn't spend a lot of time with my grandpa. I barely knew the guy. For that matter, I have never known any of my grandparents all that well. But I had a strange bond with my grandfather. People were always telling me that I looked like him. Namely my mother. She brought me a photo one time of him when he was young, and had just enlisted in the Navy and it was frighteningly like my high school senior pictures. It was clear that I had been practically cloned from his DNA. We had many common traits. Pa was a gentle, caring guy. Never one to start fights, or create static. He loved carpentry, and would spend countless hours in his shop building various things. For many years he built clipper holders from plexi-glass for barber shops around the United States. This was a process he had perfected over the years using an assortment of hand crafted templates, heating devices, and glues.

It was a shame to hear that he had passed. I knew this would be hard on my mother. Yet, it was relieving for the family. Pa had simply gone to sleep one night, and didn't wake up. It was a quiet and peaceful ending to what could have been a bitter battle with life.

Saturday was his funeral. We were asked not to dress us, although I couldn't resist wearing a suit. It was a respect thing. Pa had asked that he buried in a collared shirt, no tie and with a sweater if it was cold. It was a Catholic service. Those are always awkward for me, not being a Catholic myself. There are all sorts of readings and scriptures which are supposed to illicit a crowd reaction such as "and God be with you". I just tried to keep my head down, and nod when appropriate. I wasn't the only non-Catholic in the house. A good part of my family is atheist, and Pa had some good Jewish friends too (one of which stepped up and read scripture at the service).

They had some pictures of of my grandfather from various stages of life. Everyone kept looking at the photos of him in his thirties and then looking back at me as if they had just seen a ghost. When the service was over, I came over to hug my mother. She said that she will always remember her father when she looks at me. She told me that Pa gave me some of his best traits. For that I am greatful.

I wish I could have known the man better. Perhaps everyone felt the same way. At his funeral, they kept referring to his life as a "mystery" which was a little weird. I hope when I die, they won't consider my life a mystery. But then, they will have years of obscure Blog posts to refer back to.

Historic Comments
Grats about the new job, and sorry to hear about your 'pa
apex81 | Homepage | 02.26.07 - 5:15 pm | #

Hey hey dude,

Long time no read! Still up to no good I see!
Im living in the UK now, so I just wanted to let you know that when you eventually post that T-Shirt you should send it to Bristol not Johannesburg hehe.

Hows things? Im sure the last time we spoke you had been making babies?

Mike "Rattor" H | 09.30.07 - 7:33 am | #

Where'd he go?
eco | 12.30.07 - 8:55 pm | #

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Interview Round II
Monday morning I showed up to what I was hoping would be a job offer. It actually ended up being another interview. Let me tell you, they are very careful about who they are hiring for this position. In a way, I have a great respect for how seriously they are taking this position. It also makes it that much more challenging for me. But I want this job. Soon. Now. Give it to me!

I came in, sat down at the desk and watched as my interviewer grabbed her head and shook her hair around. "I have a terrible headache" she finally said. There were a few moments of uncomfortable silence. "I'm sorry, I'm having trouble thinking right now ... the pain is terrible". She lifted a half empty diet Mountain Dew can and shook it around. "Usually by this time I have had three of these". "Oh yeah", I said, "you should take down some aspirin and a lot of caffeine to chase that out. Sounds like a migraine". She nodded, not really listening to me, and got on the phone. "Hello doctor, can I still take you up on that offer for some ibuprofen? Thank you."

She excused herself and stepped out to meet with the doctor down the hall. She came back a few minutes later, and began to tell me about her style of management. Her accent is very thick. She went on to say that when she speaks, people really listen to her. Partly, because she holds everyone accountable to what she asks of them ... and partly because her broken English is sometimes hard to put together which she joked is probably why people really pay attention to her. But I could tell that she is a tough lady, and she wanted me to know it. In her words, her style of management is very "direct".

She said that the reason she brought me back out was because she was unsure of how I might handle customer service. We talked a bit. She asked some interesting questions which were more to put me on the spot than to illicit feedback. They were along the lines of "tell me about your strengths" and "tell me about your weaknesses". She was not really interested in my answers. Often she interrupted me as I was delivering them. This was a test of speech and mind. "Tell me what you do to relieve stress". "I talk to my wife ... I try to meditate now and then ... and I take karate classes and punch things ... that helps". She immediately asked, "which of those is most helpful". "Talking to my wife". She smiled.

"What have you learned from interviewing?"
"I guess you learn a lot about yourself. You asked what my weakness is. Nobody else would ask me something off the wall like that. Kind of makes you think about yourself, which you wouldn't normally sit around doing. And you can try to prepare for a question like that ... but you're never really prepared"
She agreed.
I added, "or were you really asking me about what I have learned about the job market and IT?"
"No, that was a good answer. But tell me what you have learned about IT over the years"
"Everyone has the same miserable problems, and uses the same miserable products. As different as every environment is, we all know one another grief in this field"
She agreed.

It was going very well. Here's where it got better.

"Here's what I think about you. You have looked for a good job that you really like for a long time and never found it. You liked your job of 7 years, but you have been trying to replace that ever since. I think if you found just the right position with just the right people to work with, you would stay there and be happy"
I agreed, completely.
"So I want to give you this opportunity"

That's where she is offering me the job. I said "great!". I waited. She continued.

"I will get with HR and get this moving. We should be in touch very soon"

Shit. I have the job. But I really wanted to walk out of there with my offer in hand. Another grueling interview, and no job. Still it was fantastic news.

Exploring the Land
This past weekend we headed out to Mount Vernon to explore the area. I printed out a big map of the town (it only took one sheet of paper) and then we just drove around. We found that we could get a mansion of a home for the 100 to 115's which would not be out of our league ... but out of our interest. In other areas of town, we could get a very decent looking smaller home for 70 something. As we drove around we scribbled down the names of several Realtors, agencies, etc. I also penciled in the prices of the homes (the ones that were listed) right onto the map. So later we can see what neighborhood a home is in before checking it out. All in all, the whole town looked like a nice place to live. Even the few trailer parks scattered around the outskirts of town were very neat and well kept.

There are difficult, yet exciting times ahead. We will be cleaning up this house, trying to get the kids through the rest of the school year, buying a new home, and moving into it all in a relatively short period of time.

And I still don't have that job offer in hand. What's keeping these people?

Historic Comments
Woo-hoo. Just been catching up on your (mis)adventures of late and was genuinely excited and relieved to read about your interview with this IT Director. I won't say congrats yet, but good luck instead.
Ty | 02.16.07 - 4:00 pm | #

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Opening The Door

I was sitting in my living room earlier this week. It was a non-karate night. I was still lounging around in my work garb (tan pants, polo) trying to forget the day I had and rest my brain. Then there was the doorbell. I don't get visitors. My kids don't really have friends in the neighborhood any more. They all moved away. Any friends we have would tell us that they were stopping by. The only people that ever ring my doorbell are salesmen, or charity workers. I wouldn't have any of it.

Five minutes or so went by, and then there was banging on my door. I had one of my kids look out the window. "It's just some guy ... with a clipboard". I decided that this must be pretty important. Here it is just below zero outside, and this guy is still on my porch wanting to talk to me. I open the door. He says, "I have a package for you". Seeing that nobody sends me flowers, I knew exactly what kind of package this guy had for me. Court papers.

Sure enough, I had two nice packets of paper from the local court system. Nothing unusual. Just the mortgage company doing what it has to do, which is to put a final date on my house. My choices are to sell it, or give it back and let them sell it. The "get out of our house date" is well into the summer, which is nice. Maybe this wasn't bad news. I have some time to get this place into better shape and sell it.

Move forward to Thursday morning. It was tougher going to work than usual because we have all worked a long week. Aside from taking shit from a lot of our customers, we had the boss breathing down our necks about intrusion prevention alerts that he feels have been ignored. I was just as tired getting out of bed as I was getting into it. I went into the office, dropped into the call queue, and away we went. Sometime into the afternoon, my cell phone rang. It was one of those rare opportunities where I was writing up some service ticket notes, and I wasn't on the office phone. I set myself into DND, and I looked down to my phone. I wasn't sure what to expect. For a while, my mortgage company was calling me twice a day to play a recording that says "we need to talk to you". Now that I had talked to them and told them that I couldn't afford the house payments, they stopped calling.

But this was a 740 area code. I only know two people who would call me from that area code, and one of them is a guy working 10 feet away from me. This had to be the hospital calling. But it could just as easily be the news that they had hired someone else, and I was out of the race. Just before I opened my phone, I let all the air out of my lungs expecting the worst.

"Hello, it's Mike from the hospital ... would you still be interested in a position with us?"
"Oh yes, absolutely!"
"Great, we would like to meet with you as soon as possible ... when can you come back out?"
"How about Monday?"
"Okay, Monday it is ... 10:00AM good?"
"10:00AM it is!"
"Good. You will be meeting with the IT director. You can go right to her office, or if you don't remember where it is you can come see me first"
"Great! Thank you so much. Have a good weekend"

Now I went from not having the job at all ... to almost certainly having it ... again. These up's and down's are killing me. I have to keep my hopes under control. But I was all ready interviewed by the whole family there. And the person I am meeting with next, is the IT director. This is looking like it will probably be a job offer. Me, her, and a table with slips of paper being passed back and forth. I may just be moving out to the country (to eat a lot of peaches).

On the other hand, I may have a shot at a job that pays a boatload more than the hospital gig. I would be a "manager", and would get my own department to run. I don't know what my chances are at this job - but my friend Bonnie says "they're good".

I guess it's nice to have options. I can start the job at the hospital, and if I hate it I can hope that the other job pans out. If I like my job, and I still get offered the other one, I will get to decide if I want to try something new for considerably more money - or take the job that I like out in the sticks.

To be continued I guess.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Progress Bar
There was a time when everything came with a progress bar. I liked the progress bar. It gave you an idea of how long you had to wait. But some time ago, the progress bar was replaced with what looked like a never ending animated picture. I remember attempting to start problematic services in Windows NT and what you thought was a progress bar ended up getting to 100 percent and then just starting over. Smoke and mirrors. When Windows boots up, you aren't given a progress bar. You are watching an animation. How long will this take? Sure, we could give you a real progress indicator. But we are all so impatient, perhaps we are better off not knowing that it's going to be a while yet.

Still, I would love to have a progress indicator when I apply for a job. How much longer should I wait? I applied two weeks ago. One week ago they were supposed to call with an answer. I guess I blew it.

Wouldn't it be nice to know why you didn't get hired? I wish people were honest. I can take a bit of constructive criticism. Wouldn't it be helpful if when you submitted a resume that was hated, the company would call you up. "Hello, this is Joe. We looked at your resume. Don't like it. You lack leadership, and your skills are outdated. Also, you spelled your name wrong. Thanks for applying". I would respect a call like that. If you ask me, it's more crushing to hear nothing back. But then, I have never asked someone why they didn't hire me. It's not like they would owe me that. It wouldn't hurt to ask, right? I asked.

I sent an email off to the hospital that went something like this ... "I think I have come to terms with the fact that I did not get the job. But if you could spare me some constructive criticism to help me with future endeavors, I would greatly appreciate it". An hour later my wife messaged me to tell me that they had called and left me a voice mail. It was from the HR director. He just wanted to tell me that they had two more interviews before a decision would be made, but I was sill "in the running".

It had been a bad week. But it was better with that news. They made an offer to someone, who didn't end up taking it. They would like to talk to two other guys, but keep me on ice. I get it. They want to explore all their options. They truly want the best damned person they can find. What if I came on board, and stunk up the place? At least they could have a good number two guy to pull into the position while I was still on probation. I was able to relax on that Friday afternoon. That was good news. I needed some.

Leading up to Friday I was sinking into a depression. I laid in bed all week, tossing and turning. I was going to sleep at 1:00AM. Then waking up at 3:00AM and 5:00AM. Thursday night I slept really good, because my poor body was ready to quit on me ... and then I went to karate class. Strange things happen when you are suffering from sleep deprivation, and then trying to put your body to the limit. While trying to perform 50 simultaneous round house kicks, my legs stopped working. We had been working the legs and knees all night. I had been doing pretty good. My body just felt numb. But my leg just started to drop. It was as if my brain was talking to a brick wall. KEEP KICKING. What are you doing? I said KEEP KICKING! It was no good. I was beat.

But Friday was a great day. I was given new hope, and I needed that.

Then Saturday night I got a call from my friend Bonnie. She called to tell me that her department at the University had posted the job that she thought I should apply for. She went over the details with me, and told me all about the department. "You would have to manage a few people", she says, "so you will need to stress your management skills". I have no management skills, do I? I have always had a hatred for management. But that is because I always feel that managers make bad decisions. And "project managers"? Don't even get me started on them. The State of Ohio has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars giving their managers "project management training". I wonder if they will think that was a good investment ten years from now. Would I make a good manager?

I don't have high hopes applying for this job. The posted salary is $65k to $85k. I'm not worth that much money. Bonnie thinks I am. I don't think I can get this job without a degree. Bonnie thinks I can. Bonnie tells me that the guy who would be interviewing me has all ready seen the smaller version of my resume. He seems to think that I am above this job and it wouldn't interest me. Imagine that. She says that my technical skill set impressed him. She added that he doesn't have a technical skill set himself and he would be more concerned with my personality and attitude.

Now I have a couple shots at a job. I probably wouldn't hear anything on this University job for a month. That is, a month from now they may ask if I can come in for an interview. That would be okay with me. But can I stay in this house for another month? Just how long does it take to get thrown out of your home? I would like to think the mortgage company would like for me to help them sell the home. But once attorneys get involved, nothing goes smoothly.

Tyler Durden said, "the stuff you own - ends up owning you".

Historic Comments
Hey steve, this is Matt from when you used to work at Best Buy. We have an opening for the law firm I work at for a trainer. It would be a cake job for you teaching office and a few other progs. This is a real nice place to work for. Email me with your info and so I can get a hold of you and we can talk about it more if you are interested. Hope all is well.
Matt Sunday | 02.07.07 - 2:20 pm | #
Matt Sunday | 02.07.07 - 2:52 pm | #

Yeah, I miss progress bars too. Thought it was just me.. *sigh*
Ty | 02.16.07 - 4:02 pm | #