Monday, February 28, 2011

Not to be

Well, I submitted my resume for a position at work that could have been interesting and a combination of existing skills along with MBA skills I'm learning. It would have been outside the IT department, which isn't really a problem, but interfaced with IT. I knew it was a longshot when I applied but I was hoping to at least get an interview and get a chance to talk up my skills. Alas, it was not to be. They were solid on a requirement of 5 years marketing experience, which I can't make up no way no how. Ah well. I have my 2010 performance review on Friday and I think that will tell me a lot about how my organizaiton values me (or doesn't). I'm confident my boss tried to give me the best score he could, but the process is less about score on your review than fitting you into the correct "bucket" to figure out what your raise will be. We have this stupid "forced ranking" system that's supposed to be a pay for performance setup but what it really turns out to be is what senior management thinks of you. Who knows, I might get surprised, but I suspect that I'll be ranked lower than I think I should be. However, as long as I get a raise, I'll be marginally satisfied.

Had last week off with the boys and the wife. It should have been a relaxing week, but turned out to be stressful in a different kind of way. We booked a vacation to Baltimore during the April recess. Which should be a blast. However, I have 3 MAJOR assignments for school due right around that time (just after we get back). That means if I'm to enjoy that vacation, I need to get pretty much everything done before we leave, or 2 weeks early. So that means I spent last week going crazy trying to get ahead. And not enjoying it terribly much. We did do a fun thing and visited the Corning Museum of Glass in, where else, but Corning, NY! You would think a museum all about making glass would be dull, but it was totally cool! There was even a live demonstration of glass blowing! And if you wanted to pony up $25 you could even blow your own glass ornament. Not to mention all the other cool stuff. It was a welcome break from all the other things that had been weighing on my mind last week. I could probably do a whole post on that, but it would probably be more stressful to write about it.

Lastly, it appears I'm going to get to meet another of my blog pals! JennyJinx of Fabulously Jinxed is heading my way in the beginning of June so we're arranging for a meet. I'm looking forward to getting a chance to speak to this lovely young lady in the flesh after years of corresponding on the web. I have yet to meet all of my fave bloggers though I've spoken with many on the phone. Perhaps one of these days I'll have to go on a blog road trip. Perhaps for my 50th birthday. That could be fun.

As soon as I download the pics from CMOG from the SD card to my network I'll post a couple. Ellen is becoming quite the shutterbug with her new camera and we got LOTS of pictures.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Week off

This week is break week for the boys so I've got the whole week off and the wife is only working Monday. No set plans but we want to do a day trip one day. Beyond that, it's a catch up week. I'm trying to get ahead on things so we can have a nice vacation durign April break. Not that I wouldn't go anyway, but it will be nice to have all my major assignments done.

Beyond that, things are pretty much the same. I feel like Dorrie in Finding Nemo. I'm just going to keep on swimming and hopefully I'll get to where I'm supposed to go.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Its the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Now that I'm on a roll with school, I'll probably have time occasionally to come here and put ink to screen and lay down my thoughts. So I told the story of how my professor pissed me off all to hell. Now its time to tell the OTHER story I mentioned about my career. Such as it is.

I had a one on one meeting with my boss. I'll say up front that I like working for him. He let's me do my job, he's there if I need him, and he's straight with me. No hidden agendas, no backstabbing, no cover your ass type of stuff. If he has a problem with you, he'll say so, probably rather bluntly. I can respect that as I know where I stand.

We've broached the conversation a few times over the last 6 months of "what I want to be when I grow up". He is interested in helping achieve my career goals and willing to give whatever assistance he can. The reason he's brought this up is that he's hearing rumblings of a possible department reorganization this year. And the bottom line is he has no idea what that means for me.

Here's the deal. Since taking over my current team full time, I've got them kicking ass and taking names. We CRUSHED all of our metrics for 2010. Call volume is down as our systems are better. Lots of impovements have gone in. Which means I'm now overstaffed. And my boss could use the resources elsewhere. I've already told him these things as I've been doing this long enough to know that if senior management really looked at my numbers they'd see the same thing. And that's something I'd rather get in front of than be dictated. So I've suggested to my boss that we really should take a new look at how the teams in our department work together and see how we can gain efficiencies with the staff on hand. It's the smart (and responsible) thing to do.

HOWEVER, his point to me is that assuming we do something like that, senior management may decide they don't need a supervisor to manage the 4 people it would take to handle the calls my team takes. And he has absolutely no idea what they would do with me or my position. He flat out told me that opportunities for me in the IT department are limited. We both agreed that my director (his boss) basically is unwilling to hear that my performance is far better than she thinks it is. I would probably have zero chance of her advocating for me. Given the other teams in the department, there's only one group I'd fit in well with. And the one possible opening they had is under review.

So what does this mean? He didn't know. On the plus side, this is all speculative and probably would come together for several months at least if this year. However, what he basically told me was that if I can find another position either in the department, in the company, or outside the company, it might be a good idea to jump and take it. You want to take about shaking me up? Not that I was very surprised by either the conversation or the fact that a couple of people in senior management have written me off. It's a sad part of my reality.

So, I did the only thing I could do after stressing about it for a little. I've been praying and just giving it all to God. This has happened to me so many times before in so many ways and the first time I trusted in God to take care of me it all worked out great. And has worked out great since then. So, I'm keeping my eyes open. I've updated my resume, I'm keeping an eye out for possible opportunities, and I'm reaching out to my network of professional friends. The Lord will show me the right thing when He's ready. It does sadden me that very few people at a high level in the organziation seem to value my work. Because I bet if they asked the people that I work with, my staff, my peers, my business partners, and my customers, I bet they'd get an eye opener. Perhaps I don't conform to their vison of what the organization needs in a leader. Perhaps I don't always follow processes exactly. Perhaps, worst of all, I have the audacity to have a vision of what this department should be. I don't know what it is. But I'm getting the feeling that perhaps its time to move on. Which kind of stinks because I actually like working where I work and really do care enough to want to make it a better place. You would think a person like that would be valued in this organization. Apparently, that isn't the case.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A simple question of Math

So, more detail on the last post. The work thing will be next time, as I'm processing a great deal on that.

Soooo...Here's the deal. One of my courses has "journal" assignments instead of actual "papers". What is a journal assignment you ask? We'll basically this. The textbook for the course is made up of 34 chapters of essays and articles on leadership in nonprofit and public organizations. Which, by the way, is the name of the course. Ok, fine. Our "journal" assignments are to write a summary and reaction for EVERY chapter in the book.

The summary is just that. A synopsis of the important points in the chapter. The "reaction" is my thoughts on the chapter, preferable with some real world examples from my experience thrown in. Sounds pretty easy, right? Expept it takes about 2 pages to summarize a chapter (single spaced) and 2 pages to "react". And some of my real reactions is "who freaking cares?". Some of the topics are interesting and thought provoking. Others are "here are 10 steps to a better organization". And they're no brainer types of lists like, "know your mission, figure out were you need to improve, improve, measure, repeat". Duh. I need a graduate course to tell me that?

In any event, these assignments are due every two weeks. The semester started on 1/18 and the first assignment was due 1/30. The schedule gave dates and said for that date (each 2 weeks apart) "journal assignment due". I specifically emailed the instructor and said essentially "So I can summarize and react to half the readings for the module (should have mentioned the semester is broken into 3 five week modules) every two weeks, correct?" The response I got was "yes, that's right."

Cool. So, on 1/30, I turned in summaries and reactions to the first 5 chapters since our reading assignment for the module was chapters 1 to 10. I get the grade and feedback from the instructor by the end of the week, around 2/4. Besides some general comments, the instructor puts at the end, and I quote, "I am presuming that the other chapters will be coming later?" I was thinking to myself when I read it, "duh, we emailed back and forth that you'd get half every two weeks. Of course the rest will be later."

So, next assignment is due 2/13. I did pretty good and got cracking on it reasonably early. Had it done and ready to proof read by 2/9. I figure I'm in good shape. THEN comes the email. Instructor basically says, "In response to a fellow student's concern I want to apologize for not making the schedule clear but yes assigments are due every two weeks so chapters 11 to 23 are due on 2/13. I'll have an updated schedule out to everyone soon."

What the fuck! I had BARELY finished the first 10 chapters and NOW, FOUR DAYS before an assignment is due you tell me I have to do a shitload of work? Is that what that stupid comment meant at the end of my last assignment? So I quick post what I got and email the instructor that I'm sorry I didn't get the whole first 10 chapters submitted by the first date, but I posted the rest and I'll get at least half of the next 13 chapters posted by Sunday and get you the rest as soon as I can.

Then I thought about it for a while and decided to send THIS email:

"I’ve submitted the rest of the chapters for the first set of readings. While I submitted through Angel, I thought I would attach here as well. You’ve already graded chapters 1 to 5 of my work so here are 6 to 10. I look forward to seeing the modified schedule as in a previous email you sent me you indicated that the expectation was to post half of the chapter summaries every two weeks. By that measure and given the semester started on Jan 18, it would seem that Chapters 1 to 5 was due on Jan 30, 6 through 10 on Feb 13, 11 through 16 due Feb 27, etc. Hopefully the new schedule will clear things up.

As I emailed previously, I will get as many of chapters 11 to 23 to you by end of the day Sunday but since I only began Chapter 11 yesterday, I don’t know that I can do quality work on twelve chapters in three days. Please let me know if it is acceptable to get the completed assignment to you by the end of next week. I’m pretty sure I can complete by then.

Thanks again for the clarifications on due dates. They’re much appreciated."

As it turns out, I WAS RIGHT. The instructor sent a few more email within the next few hours apologizing for all the confusion and then sent a schedule with specific chapters due every two weeks. She made everyone in the class CRAZY over NOTHING. This is the same instructor that for whatever reason actually lives in North Carolina and can't use course email because she's having some sort of "technical" difficulty and corresponds by personal email. This course is an ELECTIVE for God's sake. It shouldn't be causing this much stress and this much work. Worse, it's one of the few courses I've gotten very little out of. Other than one concept on servant leadership, it's pretty clear to me this course will be a waste of my time. Or, a requirement that must be born. Normally I don't do end of course evaluations, but this will be an exception. This instructor is so unorganized its not even funny. That, and this whole "journal" thing is tedious and not of much value as far as I'm concerned. I'd have preferred to write a pair of 10 to 15 page papers on two of the main concepts in the book. At least then I could pick and chose references and thoughts. Summarizing a book is more high school than graduate work. On the plus side, one of my other courses used a similar format but I tested out of the modules with those assignments so I don't have to do this stupidity for two courses.

On the plus side, I'm now ahead of the game with these silly summaries. Considering we're looking to go away for April break and that its the second last week of the semester so I have a TON of things due, I'm trying to get as much done ahead as possible. Sorry for the long post, but dammit that instructor pissed me off all to hell over nothing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not a good day

So, in the interest of a short 5 minute post, today has not been a terribly "up" day. Without getting into too much detail:

Spoke to my boss yesterday and he indicated avenues of advancement for me in the department are slim. There may be opportunities in the company outside of IT. AND, there are rumors of reorganization in the department. If that happens my future would be unclear.

Got an email today from one of my course instructors saying "Oops, I screwed up and work you thought was due a month from now is due Sunday. Sorry." Took all of my strenght not to flame the woman. Vented to Ellen and came down off the ledge. However, if a reasonaable extension is not granted to catch up with this new, HIGHLY accelerated assignment schedule, I'm blowing her in to my mentor. You can't simply decide 4 weeks in to the semester that all of the assigment dates have changed. I think the original course schedule was quite clear and that the instructor is the one with the problem.

Perhaps I'll give you guys details later. However, I expect to be VERY busy typing a great deal of tedious information for a certain instructor for the next several days.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Making progress

I know, I committed to blogging more and I barely do. With so much energy going into family and school, I don't have as much time. But I do what I can.

We got the 2nd quarter report cards today for the boys. Nicholas has great grades, as usual. He's been excelling academically and we're very proud of him. Now we need to make sure he doesn't get too big an ego. Wish us luck with that.

Christopher's grades have improved. He struggled in a couple of classes through Christmas, but we think he finally sees how important being organized and turnign in homework is. However, we still can't seem to teach him common sense. Today I got a text from Ellen asking about his glasses. Today was his eye exam and he was wearing glasses from a few years ago with an old prescription. She asked me if we'd gotten him new glasses recently which I thought we had. We both figured they were probably hiding in his room somewhere. Of course, after we got home he finally admits he lost them at school a couple of weeks ago. He put them down during wrestling practice and forgot to get them. And hasn't bother to ask ANYONE at school if they might have been turned in. This along with him losing head gear, swimming trunks, and Lord knows what else. If he was worried about his glasses during practice, I don't know why he didn't just tell the coach to excuse him while he put them in his locker. That didn't even occur to him.

Oh well. If he doesn't find them, he's out the replacement cost. We've taken the position that if he loses something we purchase for him we're not purchasing it again. It can come out of his cash. I guess you win some and you lose some. Grades up but forgetfullness not down.

Friday, February 04, 2011

New phone tribulations

For those that follow me on Facebook, you'll have noticed that I (and Ellen) have gotten new Windows 7 smartphones. Let me say up front that we both LOOOOOVE these new phones. We're totally connected now and can easily contact each other. Both kids now have a phone (with the expectation that they BETTER pick up if we call them).

However, these new phones were not without their drama. We were on pre-paid plans with T-Mobile. I stuck with them because they had the best rates for their plans. At least $20 a month less than everyone else on comperable plans. So we asked them to port our existing numbers over to the new phones. Should have been easy, right? The rep at the store said 24 hours for sure, probably just a couple of hours.

That was Saturday. By Monday, nothing, so I called. THAT'S when the drama started. The first person I talked to didn't seem to know how to help me. So they got me to tech support. Who couldn't help me because my PIN did not match their records. And they couldn't change my PIN. I had to call from my mobile phone or call their 800 number. Except the SIM in my phone was for a temporary number they gave me and you can't change your PIN via the 800 number unless you know the old one. So I called customer service again, who transferred me back into the queue. I talked to a BUNCH more people, getting more pissed the more people I talked to. I FINALLY got someone to tell me that I needed to put my OLD SIM in the phone as that was where the number resided and it would get updated. Which is NOT what the rep told me. So I swapped SIMS and was then able to change my PIN. Which resulted in another call to tech support to find out the request to port the number never got entered. AHHHH! So I FINALLY got confirmation numbers after about an hour and a half of calling people.

So later that day, I called to see if I could expidite the process, I went round and round with the person just to get basic information. As it turns out, he FINALLY told me they were having technical issues and that it would be 48 to 72 hours before the number transferred. I asked about 6 or 7 times if I needed to swap out my SIMS to use my old number and this person couldn't seem to understand what I was asking. If I ask "So will the notification text that tells me this is complete go to my old phone number or to the temporary one you gave me? And when I get it will I have to put my old SIM in my phone?" The person I spoke to couldn't seem to understand me. So to be on the safe side, since I was travelling, I took an old phone with me with my old SIM in it.

The result, on my way home Wednesday, I got a couple of texts on my new phone with the SIM associated with my "temporary" number saying the requests were complete. When I called home on my new phone, the caller ID popped up with my old phone number. So, basically what I SHOULD have been told right at the beginning was that the order to switch my number didn't go through, here's the confirmation numbers to get it done, it will take 48 to 72 hours, and I didn't need to do anything.

I got every kind of story but that. From a guy who works in customer service, I wasn't happy about what I got. However, now that it's all right, I still LOOOOOVE my phone.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Lots of little things going on

Trying to find time to post is becoming difficult with all the stuff going on right now. Lots of little things. I decided to go from pre-paid phones to a family plan and now Ellen and I have kick ass smart phones. Both boys now have their own phones and Nicholas has been sending me the cutest text messages.

I had to travel to headquarters for a meeting for the first time in about a year. The good, I had some excellent face time with the right people and demonstrate some of my abilities. Also got to chat with some peers I haven't hung out with in a while. We had a blast over dinner and drinks last night. On the minus side, I had to travel in what was being billed as a "storm of potentially historic proportions". I'm not home yet (blogging from the train) but from what I'm gathering the storm is a dud. There's been almost no snow most of my trip so far.

Wrestling season is done (yay!). Now we can get Christopher focused on some other things and work on his grades. 2nd quarter ended so we'll see if he improved. Nicholas will be starting even MORE advanced classes. He's definately the studious one of the two (but not necessarily the smarter of the two). Christopher did get a 91 on his jazz solo despite the fact his instructor didn't adequately prepare him for it. He thought he totally tanked it but did very well.

Pretty much the last couple of weeks has been non-stop doing stuff from the minute I get up until the minute I got to bed. Looking forward to a time when that MIGHT slow down. Not counting on it though.