Life Without Practice

We all live lives without practice - you only live once, and this ain't no rehersal. Life is what happens along the road. Plan as we might, things sometimes take another path. This is an on-going diatribe from my perspective. Don't live like it's a rehearsal!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Months? Did I Say Months?

Oh yeah, I have a blog. I guess I lost enthusiasm for that, and moved on to a new persona. Perhaps I'll resurrect this a bit.

I'm still chasin the dream. Two and half years later. Moved on to try and make that earth-shattering project a reality. Still plugging away.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Every Few Months

Aha? What did I say? Yes that's the way of the big mindless company - time zips by without perspective. It's probably a little better than my original perspective, but I fear that's just the mire clouding my view.

I have a better sense of the business, lots of contacts and projects that are fairly stable. The opportunity for advancement seems weak, in spite of the join-up conditions, but an imminent change does seem likely. Hence I will continue to watch.

There is an interesting period a foot as two similar organizations need to be merged. One has a structure with inflated position titles, the other has deflated titles. How do you merge them? If you do a straight join, then peers are faced with suddenly becoming subordinate to someone with the same role as them. That would be the most dysfunctional, thus that's what I would expect.

The only other alternative is to demote or promote a group. You can rename all the titles, but it's hard to do anything other than manager, director and VP in this modern tech world. So I'm skeptical. Maybe boss, head honcho and grand poobah?

The Bottom Line
I get paid pretty well, my job comes pretty naturally without huge effort. I report to a very busy, distracted person who seems mostly nice. I do a bit of travel, but not so much that I'm always gone. I have time to do stuff like type a blog. Hard to complain - except that I long for working on an earth-shattering, life altering project that leaves a mark, making the world a better place.

Ho Hum, check in later for more updates of what happened, or better yet, send me your speculation or advice!

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Emersed in the New Mire

With each passing day in the new job, I get a sense of my mortality. The large company workplace is a mindless place in some ways. There's certainly anonymity as you slog away on things that will likely never go anywhere. Nifty new product ideas, researching capabilities that will be forgotten mostly, though occasionally hauled out when someone says "Hey - we did that years ago" in resonse to elements of an early idea that finally show up in a product somewhere.

I've got the desk and the co-worker thing going on, but it's a pretty miserable existance. There seems to be deadwood about and a sense of some foreboding. Layoffs are expected somewhere, and frankly I wouldn't be upset if it caught me too. I've had a few nice paychecks and would get a little severance package, and I could go back to hunting for other opportunities. Perhaps I'll do that anyway.

The toughest part of the thing is that working full time takes so much of your time. Reminds me of the industrial revolution period when people just basically worked and slept. There was a bit of time in there where some miserable food was stuffed into yur engine to keep it working, but work, sleep and die was the norm. Sure I get to come home now and then, and there are weekends now, but a 25 hour week would be a much better idea.

If I can ever get a firm of somekind going, I think I'll shoot for the 25 hour work week. Come in at 11:00, work for an hour, have a bite, do some more work till 5 and then head home. A real opportunity for a work/play balance.

Oh well - such is monday. Ah for an inspiring project without sad, dysfunctional folk around me.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Criteria By which you Judge

I think the value of any job needs to be judged by a different set of criteria that you are probably using right now. People tend to think about money and type-of-work, and co-workers. I think if you truly look at your life as a whole, there are other things that make a big difference. Having lived with minimal income for a while, I recognize that money isn't such a big issue. My lifestyle was virtually unchanged. Sure I used lots of savings for getting by, but the quality of life was good (with the intellectual freedom etc) that it was a good trade off.

In fact, I would raise a few less considered elements much higher than before. Drive time - time wasted sitting in your car - has got to rank highly. Plus the social environment at work. I eat lunch alone and read mostly because the classic geek in his natural environment can't get away from his monitor during lunch, and so few venture to the caffeteria.

I've been listening to audio on my MP3 player on the way it. It's a bit fiddly to cue up the right chapter, but Aldous Huxely's Crome Yello is quite good, and the amateur reader does a good job, although with a bit of hiss on the recording.

Now, salary is important as a score-card. I mean I wouldn't want to earn a measly amount as it would indicate some diminished level of satisfaction with having my contribution to the company. But I would happily work in a 20% lower salary range if I could drive only 10min to work. I'd give up another 10% if there were chatty happy people to have lunch with. Hell, I'd give up another 20% to get away from the noisy, hacking, snorting cubicle loser who seems to have reached adulthood without any basic hygiene or etiquette from parents.

I'll give up fifty bucks a year if I could get a decent chair, and another fifty for a decent cup of tea. A busty co-worker who keeps dropping her pencil? Nah, I should say that would be too distracting - take that off the list.

A caffeteria with a bit more choice - maybe some Chinese food or a do-it-yourself sandwhich bar with real bread. Yeah. Oh, and why is everything $6.95. They should subsidize that sucker and sell me a sandwich for $3 tops. Sure I can get a small salad, soup and a roll for $4.50, but it's a bit tired after a few days of the same thing.

What also sucks is not feeling like you're contributing. I don't know enough people, or the subject matter deep enough to be autonomous from my leader yet. I could really use that.

Anyway, give it a couple of years and see what happens. I'm a bit worried that the big company thing will keep me mired in meetings, reports and circular travel without any real opportunity for a strong outcome.

So to sum up - I'd put my job satisfaction at the end of an equation comprised of drive-time, people make-up, desk/office location, authority, salary, caffeteria quality. Yeah, that sounds good.

What's your criteria?

Monday, January 01, 2007

It's Over in a Blink

Twenty Oh Six is history and off we go on another one. I've tried to think up analogies for the passage of time, but never really came up with anything super useful. I look for elements of steady movement, with huge inertia. A seemingly slow, tortoise like pace but one which actually accomplishes huge expanses of coverage if you don't pay attention for a little while.

It's a bit like rock-climbing, in that last element. You concentrate and work out your moves and then look down at some point, thinking you're just getting away from the ground, only to find that you're already well up the cliff.

The Train

But one of the more apropos analogies was the idea of a low, long train of flat-cars that is meandering across a track-less desert. We can sit on the car, legs dangling and do nothing. That's not too bad sometimes. Othertimes, we walk alongside and pick up stuff, like rocks and wood and little things lying hither and yon and put them on our flatbed car. It moves very slowly, so you can stroll with the slowest pace, and keep up with it.

So, got that image in your head? So imagine, that you're sitting on your designated car, and you've got an assortment of interesting stones and twigs. You get off and sit on the desert sand for a while, and chat with friends, then wander over and an easily get back on to your car, and it toodles along a bit more. Occasionally you dawdle for a while, and when you get back to the train, you walk briskly, or maybe even jog a bit to get back to your familiar car.

Some might doze off in a pleasantly warm desert evening, and wake to find that their car, even though it moves ever so slowly, has disappeared into the distance. Jogging for a while, you still don't recognize your car, and so you get back on, squeezing between some strangers you don't know. They grumble a bit, but you're back on, a little dishevelled, and uncomfortable.

Maybe you get off occasionally and jog a bit along the train, still hoping to find your spot. How far could it really have gone? But each time you get back on when you're tired of the search, and your feet are aching. Some people are helpful - "Hey jump on fella. Take a rest, you'll find your spot soon." Others are dismissive and territorial. "You're in my spot. Move over there, this is my car. I've got stuff I want to put there!"

When you find your spot, you're releived and sit enjoying the familiar environs, your rocks and sticks. That old iguana skull. The girl from the next car over waves and says "How've you been?"

Waterworld, Tower Builders and Road Trips

It's an analogy that has some merit. I think I'll explore it some more in another forum. Other analogies have elements I like. Walking on a planet of shallow water, perhaps. There are spots that are deeper than others, but the water is a bit muddy sometimes and you don't see the deep spots unless someone else has hit one, pointed one out, or you use sufficient caution.

Or perhaps building a tower of stone, with spiralling steps up the side. Occasionally a scarcity of stone sets you back. Occasionally you've got a structure that won't be stable much longer and you have to backtrack, and rebuild some elements. Sometimes, the stones are hard to find, or someone is pilfering stones from your structure.

A favourite literary/cinematic device is the road trip - driving a car a long distance. Stopping in roadside towns and truckstops, picking up hitch-hikers, navigating confusing routes, or dealing with ornery weather. It's got the break-downs, gas shortages and annoying driving partners. The need for rest, or trading off the driving. It's a good vehicle, to pun my way through this, but sometimes over used, or applied poorly.

Back to Real Life

The danger with analogies is that they can break down sometimes, or get applied too broadly. The train keeps going, regardless of our ability to stay on it, so on with my update.

Christmas (a secular holiday about trees and presents) is completed, as is the new years eve celebratory event. Tomorrow it's back to my P2 role, without having appreciably acheived anything on the grand list of ongoing projects. Lots of time for reflection, finished a few books, cooked and ate some good food, found some other interesting food elsewhere.

Oh, hey, those are in fact various projects on the list. P4, P5, P6, P8, P9 all got some good attention. Even a touch of P11 as I yesterday explored the "Faces of War" element of the Archives website. It is a great array of pictures from the 40's. None of my relevant research people, but still interesting on its own.

Well, so goes it. I am thinking I'll do a bit of P10, P12 with the stuff I outlined above. Your assignment for this moment is to stop and think up another analogy for life that is particularly interesting to you. Send me a note if you come up with something good!

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Time of Changes

As we creep toward the end of the year, there are so many changes. I sit in my home office typing as I have so often over past years, but already a week and a half into a new job and it feels pretty familiar.

The culture seems to be reasonably positive, but not overly chummy. I'm still eating lunch alone, other than meeting with external friends in the neighbourhood. There's a lot of eating at desks, and many students that won't be around for ever. Making connections with other managers is probably a good goal, though some I've seen seem to be a bit low on skills and personality. I always wonder when joining a new team, who will be the smart ones, and how many dozy ones are there. Funny how, even after the big period of the bubble bursting in tech, that there are still dozy employees without a bunch of skill, when they could be so easily replaced with stronger people.

The Practice We Get
Whe live a life without practice, that is the premise of this blog. Each time we experience something it counts. There are no do-overs. Meeting new people, first impressions can't be retracted. Relationships build based on perceptions acquired in short order. But as we get older we've done the whole thing before a few times. And while we can't start over with those situations, we can learn from the past and build on it.

I think about other situations where I was the new guy and wonder about what I should do differently. Moreover, I think about when new people joined groups where I was established, and what my perceptions are.

There seem to be some simple rules. I there are a few easy approaches that can stand one in good stead. I've always excelled in the places I've worked, but like many people have described to me, you begin by feeling that you don't know what you're doing and are going to get fired when they find out. That's stressful sometimes, but it's a good sign. It probably means you're concientious about learning, and wanting to do well. One shouldn't react in subsequent roles by being blaisé about the ramp-up period. Dilligent effort is still important, but the stress is relieved somewhat by recognizing it from past experiences.

The easy approach mentioned is something coming to me more recently. Often one feels compelled to demonstrate their validity with frequent interjections to illustrate their value. A superior says "Here's where the photocopier is." the gut response is "Oh, we had a photocopier in BobCo too." Well, okay a lame example, but you see what I mean.

I remember thinking that I didn't want to hear anything else about BobCo. So, I try to bite my tongue. I don't need to justify my existance and experience constantly, so I try to repress it, based on lessons learned from other scenes on the stage of life.

The Secret to Success
Nothing beats the basic elements of experience, willingness to learn, and a good work ethic. Assuming you've got the goods, you can still mess it up. I've come to the conclusion that if you talk only when you really have something to say, generally smile and are friendly, with those simple rules you can succeed with a lot less of those 'basic elements' I mentioned.

Of course, if you can't back it up, you'll have trouble at some point, but particularly in a big company, you can go a long way by showing up at meetings, being positive and not spewing long diatribes of words for no reason.

The Words you Need
The most important words are those that reflect back what people are saying to you. You don't always need the answers (though some times you will need them). If you can engage, listen and reassure the other person when you understand (and ask when you don't) your personal-stock rises in all those that you meet. A string of mis-guided comments when you are ill informed is a great way to make your shares plummet.

So as we approach a new year with lots of opportunity, and interactions and a holiday period with time for introspection and discussion with friends, your assignment is to try a little bit of putting yourself in other peoples shoes. What are you projecting in your interactinos? Are you listening? Are you using an economy of words? Can you shift the balance towards more listening and less talking in your interactions?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hey A Project Finished... or is it.

Joining a new company is great fun for someone like me who generally enjoys change. A bit of quiet in the blog lately as I closed the deal and took my position here among the busy. As an added bonus, I joined a group just a day before they started moving their entire office area. So, not having much to move, I mosied on over to the new area in the campus and set up my new laptop there. Not much in the way of stuff yet, but now that I've got some space, I'm ready to start bringing in some personalization gear.

Signs of Life
I have a nice wide window ledge in my office, and decent view, only partially spoiled by a tract of vinyl wrapped identi-homes below among the trees. But a bit of life in the otherwise dated office enivornment would be nice.

I'm in a big multi-national company, but they seem to run a bit leaner than others. No state-of-the-art Herman-Miller stuff here. Just 1980's dividers that have seen better days, and a snug cube. At my level of management I guess I don't rate a door. But compared to the place I used to work in here (for the first 24 hours) this is decent. Sure the dividers were nicer in the old spot, but we're not so high up off the ground here, and my desk is reasonably close to the coffee station, and washrooms. The Caffeteria isn't so far away either, though I've not been too impressed yet.

What About P1?
I guess with P2 fully engaged, P1 needs to either be put to bed, or re-incarnated into something that might engage peripherally. That means a rework of the website to position the thing a bit different. Even though I was commanding a nice rate in the consulting role, the new position is paying me about the same. Who'd have thunk. So the security and proximity to interesting research, as well as pending organizational growth here seems to bode well. Or it could be that I'm an enabler for my director to bail and leave a mess to me. But even if so, it's not substantially more nasty that the challenges of P1 work.

So on it will go from there.

Just a first update from my new digs, to break in the new computer. I'll continue to keep this moving as time allows. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to simply pull up your local jobs list and take a look. Have you done that recently? Well, give it a shot.