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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Longest Day of the Year

It was the longest day yesterday. Days at work are definitely feeling longer than they are right now, so it was fitting. Commencement took a lot out of me, not because it was especially busy. On the contrary, it was tedious. There were 22 commencement related tickets total for the whole week, and yet I got nothing else done. This wasn't because they were difficult or time consuming. It was because the 'coordinator' for commencement was watching the queue so asiduously that if a ticket came in and sat for 10 minutes, he would come to my office and ask if I was going to take care of it. So I spent the week on the razor's edge. By Wednesday, I was losing it. I had to send out these messages at 11, 3, and 7 about the status of the help desk. At 11am I sent out:

Still quiet.
Commencement treads on little spider legs.
Many legs in motion
Yet nothing is disturbed.
A web of transactions is created
Yet few bugs are caught.
Perhaps the spider will go hungry this year.

I got promptly scolded for being "unprofessional". So, I returned to the "X tickets today. All resolved." format. Later, I was told by several folks including two of my former managers that they really enjoyed my little note and it was nice after all the monotony. I sighed and resigned myself to life in the new department I was reporting to. And started job hunting. So far, I've applied to 3 jobs on campus and 3 jobs off campus, but again found myself facing the issue that I've grown into an odd, poorly defined skill set here at Stanford. I'm not a professional trainer or a functional business analyst or a UI designer or a testing coordinator or a technical writer or anything easily definable in terms outside of Stanford/ITSS. I'm all of those jobs, but don't have enough concrete experience with an appropriate title in any of them to look attractive on paper.

Meanwhile, the next day, the coordinator came over and stirred up a bunch of trouble about a pending enhancement to PeopleSoft HR. The item had just been loaded to UAT, and he was pressing for it to go to production next week. I said that wasn't possible because having just gone to UAT, Jia hasn't had time to build it into the web form, and she'll be on vacation next week. He said that the business owner requested it for the 16th. I said that Wipro hadn't gotten the first part done in time to accomodate that schedule. He said we needed to work to the business owner's needs. I said that would be great if they'd gotten their work done earlier, or done right the first time, but it didn't happen and Jia will be on vacation. We tussled back and forth a few more times with him insisting on the date and me saying "Not possible. It's not done." Finally, he said, "Well it's done except for the web forms part. Let's go with out that." At which point, I'd had it. I said, "Fine. Let's leave web forms as the red-headed stepchild. Nothing changes." So then I walked away because I was really done with him and needed a cup of coffee, and got my cuppa joe and went to talk to Jia about pulling off a miracle in the next 24 hours. She said she thought she could do it (bless her), and just needed a sample position number to work from. I was headed back to my desk to deal with that, and get back to the commencement issues when the coordinator intercepted me again, this time to say that there were four commencement tickets in the queue and if I was going to be away from the queue then he needed to be notified. I said that I thought my walking away from the previous conversation might have been a hint that I was going to need a few minutes to a) take a moment for myself, and b) deal with the crisis he had created. He said that commencement had to be my top priority this week, and that if I didn't understand that then he could have my manager talk to me about it. I said, "Yes, it is my top priority, but I've got 24 hours to have Jia pull off a miracle, and I needed to get that started." He said that commencement was my top priority and nothing else mattered this week. I said that I heard him the first time he said that. He said that it didn't seem like my top priority. I said that I was going to work on it now and to please back off. He said that commencement needed to be my top priority. I said I heard him the first time, and continuing to repeat that does not produce a better outcome. Then I walked away, chucked my now empty coffee cup towards my desk and kept walking to the toilet (to get rid of the coffee). Back at my desk, I took care of the commencement tickets, and received no more for the rest of the week. Did I mention I've been job hunting? Yeah.

So in the long run, this coordinator is not my boss, but he is routinely assigned these roles because he is perceived as being good at them by the management. The rest of the staff all know he's an ass, and backed me up in the staff meeting on Tuesday, but my manager said we'd talk about it off line and the discussion was over. My manager then did not talk to me about it off line for another week.

Meanwhile, they've decided they need to reform the performance support group rather than having support analysts. This returns Jo-Ann and Sarah to their former roles. Only Sarah has cut a deal to become the GFS analyst, no longer doing performance support. This means I'm now taking over her training classes starting in a week. And Jo-Ann is pissed because she too was working toward a full analyst role, but there's no one for her to pass the performance support work to, so she's feeling completely screwed, doing the work of 2 people with none of the recognition. And me, in the Project Office I felt like there was a future for me as a project manager. That cookie was smashed last December by a re-org, and now I'm back where I started four years ago. Sure, I'm still making my improved wage, so maybe I should just be happy with it, but I just don't feel like crawling back into my pigeon hole, and certainly not on the Student Records side. The student side of the organization is full of overblown self-important crisis junkies. The support model is deeply broken. I get all of the incoming tickets, but by and large all of the assistance must be done by the Registrar's Office, so I spend all day on the phone with them asking them to make changes, or emailing the requestor back saying, "Take this form to the Reg Office window". It's wildly disempowering compared to the HR side. As commencement week attests, I'm not a good fit here. So yeah, I'm looking for a job. If I leave Stanford, my vacation build up gets paid out in cash, so all that time without a break at least has some financial gain. And if I stay at Stanford, everything I've applied to is in a dramatically different department, so it'd be as good as leaving. And in the meantime, I answer tickets. It's all about summer session and visiting researchers and duplicate IDs and course maintenance this week. Being the first week of summer session, it's really busy. I tick off my day in five and twenty minute blocks chasing down assistance from the Reg Office and evaluating security assignments from my windowless, overly air conditioned office. And at the end of the day, I'm exhausted. These are the longest days.


  • Sorry to hear about job situation. I didn't know that things had changed around it. When looking at new jobs, I would think in broader terms. You may not have the exact skills required, but if you have the broader skills sometimes that's good enough. There's stuff that they expect anyone will need to be trained in. When you strated at Stanford, you didn't know any of their specific systems.

    By Blogger Chris S, at 12:57 PM  

  • I know this, and you know this, but most prospective employers are more willing to look at the person with "8 years of professional training experience" than me. That's what I've already heard from my application to Google. Luckily, I've got Kevin pitching me there, but without that, I wouldn't have made it past the first resume screening. So yeah, I know I'd be valuable elsewhere, but that can't be conveyed by my resume. C'est la vie.

    By Blogger Ammy, at 1:04 PM  

  • I'm sure you can tweak your resume to look good for whatever you're going for. The fact is many employers (including my group here, when I'm interviewing) look for people like you with breadth of experience. We often hire based on "She clearly has the brains for the job; what she lacks in experience she makes up in ability".

    And life is too short to work for someone who wears a condom as a hat.

    By Blogger Flonkbob, at 8:08 AM  

  • >> And life is too short to work for someone who wears a condom as a hat.

    This made me laugh. A lot. Had to tell my office mate why. She laughed too.

    By Blogger Ammy, at 4:55 PM  

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