Category Archives: work

Two Weeks Into the New Job

(Hounori) BusyNow that I’m two weeks into the new job, I figured I’d write a bit about things.

One of the things I hate the most about being the new guy on a team is not having the specific knowledge to do the job. Sure, I’ll have that soon enough, but it is always frustrating to me on a personal level to not be in the know.  After all, when I left The Company, I was an OpenVMS guru on the team.  For my new job at Company B, I knew nothing of UC4.  Still, things are progressing forward. I’ve already impressed one of my coworkers, whom I’ll call “Beer Meister”, by how I’m rapidly picking up things.

That brings me to my new team. I’m the baby on the team, which is kind of humorous to me.  All three guys have been there for over twenty years, having started at lower level jobs way back when, and now they are where they are.  I think the changes to Company B have them a bit unsettled. Old Salty, a 400 pound ex-Marine with a vocabulary to make a profane person blush, got shifted from Company B to Company C, so he expects to be gone in 18 months unless he can shift to another department under the control of Company B. He’s quite a character to be sure, but he knows his stuff and is a good worker.

Beer Meister is pretty laid back. He liked beer and cheeseburgers, so he and I get along well on the second part of that (I’m not a beer person). He’s a hard worker and knows his stuff too.  He does get a bit flustered when he’s the oncall, namely because of the increased workload, but now that I’m on the team, as I pick up more things, I’ll be handling that increased workload, so the next time he’s oncall, he’ll hopefully have an easier time.

Finally, there’s Mustache. He’s a hard one for me to figure out. I’ve heard him described as an introvert, and I guess he is to a degree. The only person around that he seems to really engage with on a non-business level is Old Salty. He may be the most knowledgeable person on the team as both Old Salty and Beer Meister will consult with him on odd requests.

Our reporting manager is also a director at Company B. As such, he has several teams under him. I haven’t quite figured out how it all works, ’cause I don’t think the folks in Ops report directly to him, but are under him. Regardless, Mr. Director is one of those managers who knows a ton about the actual work that’s done and the business workings of Company B.  So, at times, he’ll roll up his sleeves and help us when needed despite his title and how busy he is with all of the executive things he has to do. At the same time, he’s a very laid back kind of guy. If you do the work, he’s not going to have a problem with you. My kind of manager.

It really is a shame that Company B is being broken up like it is. Man, I wish I had known about this place years ago. Even if the place goes away in two years (which might happen if the parent company on the east coast decides to send the work that way), it would still have been a blast to work at.  While I loved my coworkers at The Company, Company B was just the kind of company I would have loved to have been a part of.  Oh well.

A New Job

A new chapter starts in my life as I begin a new job.

Computer Anime 01

Things didn’t get off to a good start as Sunday night, I was amazingly not sleepy even though I went to bed when I had been going to bed. As such, it was well after midnight until I drifted off, but to make matters worse, I woke up a lot and ended up getting up much earlier than planned. I didn’t feel nervous, but I suspect that nerves might be playing a role there.

Regardless, after that, things went pretty well. Traffic will be a small problem, but I’ve got a great, comfortable vehicle with a 6 disc, MP3 player in it. So the kid in my can thump tunes on the way in.  ^_^

My new team are all guys my age, and so far, seem pretty cool. I’ve no idea if these guys are into more geeky things, but we’ll cross that road when we get to it. Things are pretty casual atmosphere-wise, which is awesome. Blue jeans tomorrow for sure. ^_^

As to the work, officially I’m an Operations Analyst, which is in the production scheduling family.  Looks like my main job will be to monitor a Remedy ticket queue for stuff assigned to my team (and there’s usually at least 50 tickets in the queue at any time), grab something, and perform the request, whether it be a change request, service request, or a problem ticket.

As for my work space, I have a decent laptop (Dell) provided me along with two, 22″ monitors. Making things sweeter is that this is connected via a docking station, something The Company couldn’t be bothered with when they forced crappy laptops on us (which I refused to use).

All in all, I’m fairly excited about things. Since “Company B” is not a huge company (its parent company is), it makes for a more friendly environment.

The only downside is that I’m still contractor scum, though it isn’t as bad here than it was at The Company. It is a weird work relationship as I’m a contractor, working at Company B’s site, but I’m actually contracted to Company C, who is a business partner of Company B’s and for whom Company B owns a percentage of Company C. It is rather convoluted, but everyone hopes that in the next couple of months, things start sorting themselves out.

Tomorrow — a training plan begins. ^_^

Information Technology Security Stupidity

The biggest bane of my current job is stupidity, whether it be stupid laws like HIPAA or Obamacare, or “We’re so smart, we’re stupid” Indians, or corporate stupidity, brought about by the people running said corporation who have no idea how things actually work, but they have a college degree and theories on how things “should” work.  All of this stupidity is quite, quite frustrating.

The account I’ve been working for the past few months is a major health insurance company, whom I’ll name HCIC. Because of Obamacare and HIPAA law and regulatory requirements (to say nothing about any of the countless other laws out there), HCIC has been forced to do a lot of stupid things, including having those of us who actually work the account have to beg for permission to do our jobs every 72 hours (improved from every 24 hours). That way, they don’t run afoul of any laws or regulations.  As such, to accommodate this, The Company (the place I’m contracted to) initially had to hire tons of people for their IT Access Administration department. However, since The Company is only in business these days to cut their own costs, this was a major problem. Their solution was to use a tool, called the Vault, to place our “privileged” IDs into, whereby they’d be treated like shared IDs and “checked out” every 72 hours.  HCIC agreed to this and that was that.

In order to process HCIC’s nightly batch, which covers everything from insurance claims, billing, pharmacy, data warehousing, medical providers, etc., and make sure the onlines are up by the Service Level Agreement (SLA) time, I have to use my privileged ID’s to accomplish this, as a specific script has to be kicked off to start the ball rolling, part of which has me remoting into other machines to set their environments for processing.

Fast forward to Friday.  When I came on shift, I had active privileged IDs. However, a few hours later when it was time to start the night batch process, I found my password wasn’t working. I did a quick check and discovered that my IDs were revoked, manually. So, I contacted the oncall Service Delivery Manager, who naturally is in India, thus making him a pain in the arse to work with, who then started a chat conference with myself, a member of the Access Admin team, and my Dispatcher.  It took nearly an hour, but the AA person was able to determine that 86 IDs had been revoked because the AA team had determined that we all needed to get revalidated in order to use the Vault. Since we were no longer authorized to the Vault, even if our IDs were still in the 72 hour activation window, they were revoked.

So, nightly batch processing for HCIC has been delayed for an hour. My team lead and manager are paged by the Dispatcher and apparently, my manager goes nuts, wondering why this wasn’t detected earlier. Yeah, ’cause having my IDs pulled on me after I come on shift, which does not force me out of the system if I’m already logged in, is something I’d know earlier.  *_*  So, I’m forced to scramble to provide all sorts of information, including proof that I’ve taken the legally required, yearly HIPAA training and certification. I’m told to cut a SEV 2 problem ticket for this issue so that my access request may be expedited. I do so, then I send everything in to my team lead, including the HCIC HIPPA training certificate.  I then get notified that I can’t use HCIC’s HIPAA certification, but I have to use The Company’s HIPPA certification.  Yeah, thanks to the stupid HIPAA laws and regulations, I have to take redundant certification training (currently, three times since there’s another account that I have access to, but am not currently working on, which falls under HIPAA).

After finding and sending in the proper HIPAA certificate, my team lead fills out all the paperwork, then my manager approves everything and sends it on. However, by the time it gets to the people at Access Admin who are responsible to add their approval, they decide to reject it, citing that specific verbiage has not been used. Even though my manager put, “I approve AstroNerdBoy’s access for the next 72 hours, starting with today’s date”, this was not good enough. It HAD to say, “I approve AstroNerdBoy access for today’s date-time through the next 72 hours.”  So, my team lead had to be paged out again, fill out new paperwork, then my manager had to be paged out, approve it with the absolute verbiage, and then it went back to Access Admin.

By now, it has been three hours since batch was supposed to start and if I don’t start it soon, the dozen jobs or so that must complete before online come up won’t be done in time, meaning we’ll have an SLA breach. Access Admin then has to cut two Service Requests to get my ID back. After it gets to the SDM an hour or so later, the SDM then wakes a bigwig at HCIC to approve my request for access.

With all of the approvals in place, now the machinery has to go through the process of actually restoring my IDs. The actual time it takes to remove the disabled flags on my IDs would have taken me about 60 seconds, and that’s for two clustered environments. It took Access Admin nearly two hours to accomplish this, partially because of procedural requirements, and partially because AA uses 3rd party software to accomplish in 10-15 minutes what I could do on the command line in moment.

It has now been nearly six hours, but I now have working IDs so that I can now start the night batch script, do the things that I’m required to do, and then actually launch the night batch. The Indian SDM was desperate for The Company to not look bad (and as a result, make himself look bad), thus he insisted that I not cut a SEV 1 problem ticket and just use my SEV 2 ticket to account for the fact that the onlines missed their SLA. I protested, but my manager told me to let him make the call and take the hit. However, I wanted that SEV 1 because that’s the only way The Company wakes up to problems is when they have to pay financial penalties for the stupidity that goes on.

Thankfully, an HCIC employee in the U.S., who just happened to be Indian, stepped in and overrode the SDM, citing the fact that the onlines not being up impacts hundreds of users in India, thus a SEV 2 problem ticket is not adequate to the issue at hand. Since the customer demands it, the SDM has to bow and agree. I got up and did an evil, gleeful dance.

With the SEV 1 now in place, a new problem raised its head. The entire next shift had their IDs revoked as well. I laughed and laughed at this because this meant that once I went home, no one could work the production environments for HCIC as security policy dictates that no one may use my IDs when I’m not there.  Because the next shift would have to submit all of the same stuff I had done earlier, paperwork to get access restored to their IDs couldn’t even be started until after they came on shift. I laughed again.

Once the next shift came on, their Dispatcher told me that I was now authorized to stay as long as I wanted and collect O/T. On one hand, I was tired since I’d not gotten as much sleep as I should have and I wanted to go home. On the other hand, I’d lost a week’s pay when I caught that nasty flu-sinus infection and had a doctor’s order to not go to work. So, I opted to milk the overtime and hang out with the next shift.

By this time, I’d already worked twelve hours. I stayed another five and a half hours before I just ran out of gas and went home.  When I left, my co-workers on the next shift still had not received their access back, and it looked like their access request had hit a snag. I laughed wearily and walked out the door.

Hopefully, Access Admin will get hit with the SLA and teach them a lesson that when revalidations are required, advanced notifications must go out instead of just revoking the IDs on a whim.

Another "Great" Job For Me

When people are looking for work and receive e-mails about a job, do they not look at the “From” e-mail address? I suppose there must be enough who don’t because I’m amazed at all these so-called job opportunities where the sender claims to represent some big company, but are e-mailing from gmail. Granted, I some some large companies are VERY cheap but they aren’t going to use gmail to recruit people. *lol*

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Subject: Open Vacancy For You at American Express
From: “Amanda Bostler” recruiter.bostle@gmail.com
Date: Mon, April 6, 2009 12:18 pm
To: AstroNerdBoy
Priority: Normal
Options:

Good afternoon
We found your resume on Jobs4You web site and after reviewing your resume concluded that you could be a positive match to a few of positions available at American Express Card and Merchant Services North American Division. There are couple couple positions listed below you might be qualifying for:

– Payment processing coordinator
– Data entry specialist
– Mail distribution coordinator
– Client database builder
– Payment collection coordinator

Guaranteed base salary package for all positions starts from $3900 monthly, incluide Weekends with holidays, Medical and Dental coverage and other benefits. There is full-time and part-time positions available.

These positions are office or home based due to our new policy on remote employee
program. We are accepting entry level positions, qualified applicants must be at least 18
years old, must have fluent reading and writing skills, bilingual is a plus.

If you are interested, email back to me and i will send you detailed information about open position.

With Best Regards,
Amanda Bostler
Company Direct Employer, American Express Corporation

First Week on the Job

Its strange being back at “The Company” after 3.5 months away. Its almost like I never left. Being the popular guy I am, people all over come by to say “welcome back” and to chat about things. Now that I’m again a contractor, I go back to being a “bastard step child” in terms of how “The Company” views us. Right after I and the others were let go, “The Company” forced all contractors to take massive pay cuts or quit, some upwards of 30% of what they were making. Well, the job market is in “The Company’s” favor right now, so they can do that and get away with it.

Of course, “The Company” can deny that they cut wages because their cuts were to what they paid the contract companies. Therefor, the contract companies are the ones who cut the wages. Clever, eh? Not that any contractor buys that crap. They know what the deal is and they don’t blame their contract companies. Still, I think “The Company” is playing a dangerous game. Sure, the economy sucks right now (and thank you President Obama for making it worse but that’s another issue) and “The Company” can do anything and get away with it. However, eventually the economy will change and people won’t put up with this kind of treatment. Further, all it takes is someone channeling their anger in such a way that “The Company” is harmed greatly. That hasn’t happened yet, but man, I can see someone snapping and doing something ugly.

Me, I am trying to follow the advice a former boss and mentor gave me — when you are dealt lemons, make lemonade. So yeah, it does suck making 50% less than I did before (and that’s because as an employee of “The Company,” I made WAY more than contractors back then though now my pay is pretty much in line with every other contractor’s), but I’m learning something new (VMS) and I have an opportunity to score some certs. I can pay my bills, put some aside, and even splurge on a few things if I like (but not too many things). So I am thankful to the Lord for giving me a job at all. There are lots of folks still unemployed after months and months and months of searching.

As to the job itself, I’ll be quite proficient within a month. I’m sure my current manager will have me learning his A/S 400 accounts because he knows I’m good like that. ^_^ So begins a new yet old adventure in employment.

The Return

Well, I have a badge again, thus making me a mostly real person at “The Company.” Sheeze. It has been rather troublesome to get though, mainly because my contract company contact is an Indian. While “Sudip” speaking English, he doesn’t communicate that well in English and so it took quite some time just to square things away. *_*

So, with a badge, I start work immediately. ^_^

Despite not being the ideal situation, I am glad to have a job in this economy. Word is that of the five of us who were let go from my old team, I’m the only one with a job. I hope they can land something soon.

So I Have a Job

As expected, I got hired by Company 3 on Monday. It also means that I’m back at “The Company.” *lol* Yeah, 50% less pay stinks and no benefits stink too but it is a job and I’ll be bringing in more money than I did on unemployment. That also means budgeting in order to maximize savings and pay for school. Since the job I wanted at “Company 1” did not come through and I won’t accept an offer from “Company 2” (unless they match what I’m being paid as a contractor for “The Company”), I now see a career path heading before me and I know what classes to take and what certificates to get when I get back to class.

Amazingly, I’ll be seeing Taco’s Rule, Savage Piper, and the others again since I’ll be working the same shift I worked previously. The only difference is that I’ll likely be on a different row from them.

So, goal 1 is to get all the paperwork cleared to actually get started working. Goal 2 is to learn VMS (a new skill for the resume) and become my usual guru self at my new job. Then goal 3 is to start classes and get those certs. From there, I can then branch out into another, better job.

I do want to thank God for taking such great care of me throughout my life and setting things up so that during this time of unemployment, I have been provided for. Seriously, it was God who put it in my mind to get my medical bills paid off sooner rather than later. It was God who put it into my mind that I should go ahead and buy a condo (thus also scoring tax benefits). It was God who put it into my mind to start saving money, though I could have saved more had I been on a budget. God now has me on a budget and now I will keep to it in order to make the best of the situation.

I also want to thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers and words of encouragement to me during this time. I really do appreciate it. ^_^

A New Job Hunting Phenomenon

Today, I learned something that is rather depressing — the job I was a sure hire for has been pulled from the market. That makes five jobs by my count where this has happened — a job placed on the market, interviews are conducted, things feel great, then all of the sudden, “the company has decided not to fill this job at this time” (or something like that).

I’ve checked with a couple of other guys who are also unemployed and they’ve encountered some of the same things. It seems that some companies have a job opening, but the they hear President Obama and his administration imply that the economy will stink for his whole term and he’ll need to be re-elected in 2012 to have enough time to get things right. OK, the president hasn’t said those words, but that’s what’s being heard from what I can see. Thus companies are saying, “if this guy is now saying that all his campaign promises were typical politician lies to say whatever to get elected, then we better prepare for the worst.” So some companies reduce work force and others decide not to fill job openings they have.

I know that everything is in God’s hands and as such, I have to trust the Lord. That means I may be forced to do things I don’t want to do such as move or take on what I would consider crummy jobs and work all the time to make ends meet.

It Has Been Four Weeks

It is hard to believe that four weeks ago tonight, it will be exactly four weeks since I received official word that I no longer had a job. The first couple of weeks went by slowly, but for some reason, the last week has flown by. Weird.

Last night, I got to hook up with a bunch of former comrades as we had a big get-together at Buffalo Wild Wings to at least see each other one more time. I know the King is planning on leaving the state and Billie may likely score other work within the company as may I (more on that later). It was fun seeing everyone and with the adult beverages flowing for the others, it was interesting seeing people let their hair down. Amazing what stuff you can learn from people feeling good. ^_^;

My former boss also came by the gathering, which was cool. She told me things that are changing within the company. For starters, they are rolling out LEAN 2.0. (I guess the first rollout is considered a failure for departments such as the one I used to belong to since it didn’t change anything beyond reducing the number of people who did the job. Apparently, lessons have been learned and they hope to make the manufacturing process work in an IT/IS environment come hell or high water.)

Also, the Company is requiring System Admins to be on site rather than work remotely. So no more working from home and while the details haven’t been worked out, I guess those people who are working from home from other states are either out of a job or will have to move to somewhere close enough where they can commute in. Of course, as I learned today, the Company wants most of the SA jobs done in India. Trivial matters such as Internet lines to India being cut don’t matter because Queen B has $1-million bonus on the line.

As for today, I had an interview. The pay is great, there are zero benefits, and the length of employment is 3 to 12-months. If offered, I’ll take this job just to continue saving money again. Then, I’ll likely splurge and buy a laptop so that I can get my P-Series server up and running as an AIX sandbox. Hopefully, I’ll know something next week.

I do miss my former co-workers but we keep in touch so it is not all lost. Besides, Savage Piper owes me some Tokyo Joes!

And So Another Chapter Ends

As expected, I am now officially unemployed. It happened about an hour ago when my boss came in to do the official stuff. Even earlier tonight when I told Savage Piper that I wouldn’t be in come Wednesday night (I expected to be called on my day off to come in and be let go), he didn’t think it would come down to that. As such, we made a little bet. He lost (and I wants my TokyoJoe’s ^_~ ). So now comes an end to this chapter in my life.

I look back over the six years and while The Company has to be one of the poorest run corporations in the world (which is saying something, considering I worked for WorldCom once upon a time), I will say that once I became an ETE, I was paid what I was worth. While that won’t stop me from needing to vent from time to time, it does mean that I always go above and beyond the call of duty when needed. No matter what I do, I always do the job I’m paid for, but one can always go an extra mile when one is paid well for what one does. For the last ~3.4 years, I have to say I’ve been paid well.

I’ll miss all my co-workers, especially my final crew — Taco’s Rule, Savage Piper, and Red Baron. There’s always a good chance of seeing them here or there and a better one of “seeing” them online. It would be nice to catch the next Starfest with Lepidus too (who went to the sunny side), but we’ll see how things go. ^_^;

To my fellow comrades who got cut (The King, Billie, Race Car, KC, and anyone else let go tomorrow or the following days), I wish you guys the best in your job searches. The word “change” was overused during the political campain which makes our current “change” in situation reveal that the word has as many negative posibilities as positive ones. However, all we can do (as my old boss Jimmy used to tell me) is take our bag of lemons and make lemonade.

To everyone else still at The Company who might read this, good luck to you as well. Feel free to write at any time.