Category Archives: work

Three Months…Maybe Not

Today marks the 3-month point to when my ETE term expires. Hopefully, I can have three more months to save money so that if I don’t get one of these other two jobs in the Company come January (when hiring should begin again), I have plenty of money to survive for a while without a job. However, I don’t expect to go another three months. I expect to be laid off the week of Thanksgiving.

It is sad to see how many accounts are just leaving the Company. Those that aren’t leaving, the Company is desperate to send to India or Brazil, even when it is illegal to do so (for which they got nailed, though it is a “simple mistake” officially). The accounts that were supposed come to replace our losses now won’t be here until January at the earliest. Thus, my manager has to get rid of a lot of people. With only three months left on my ETE, I figure I’m one of the perfect choices to be let go.

But I’m not alone here. More and more people are going to be let go before Christmas in other departments. Eventually, the “showcase” and “mission critial” command center will have almost no one in here. In 2002, this room would have been full as would the other two major command centers in our building and two small command centers. A/o December 1, only one major command center will remain, and it will be all but empty. Management claims that “something” will be in here. We figure they’ll put manikins in here, or hire day laborers to pretend to be working on something. ^_~

If I’m let go after next week, I’ll start looking seriously at where I want to go from here. If I’m let go in three months, I will hopefully have some clue as to what I want to do. If I’m picked in the meantime, sobeit. No matter what, I have to remember to look to the Lord and not to myself. ^_^

There’s No Money in the Training Budget

We have this fairly large account called “Big Road Bank” (BRB). The account has been with The Company for a number of years, but the new executives in charge of things there have decided that they do not wish to outsource their work. Thus, they have begun to transition servers and support slowly back in-house to be completed by 2010. No problems thus far.

The Company is clearly not happy about losing such a big account, so as BRB begins transitioning the account in-house, The Company is desperately trying to get the account to India so that they can maximize their profits for the last year it is around. Thus, a big chunk of our work is leaving us to go to India for now. The Company wants us to train the Indians to do our job. However, there is a caviot — there is no money to train them.

What?

For other accounts that The Company rushes to get to India or Brazil, two things happen. Initially, members from the offshore team come to the U.S. for two weeks to start learning to do the jobs. Then a couple of people from the U.S. head to India or Brazil for a week or two to insure things are up and running smoothly. This helps minimize the impact to the customer for the transition.

So, how do we train Indians with no training budget?

“Oh, you use our Instant Messaging tool. They log into your ticketing system and work all BRB tickets. You will be in a chat with them and they will pester you with tons of questions about the same things over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. That’s the best way.”

Because Indians do not operate without a tight script or flowchart, we have increased our ticket count. Why? Because whereas we in the U.S. know that a CPU running high, paging rates, or other “who cares” alerts can be sat on until we see the problem go away, India does not do that. These servers are supported by other teams so the tickets have to be sent there. The System Admins or other support people see these worthless SEV 3 tickets (which BRB won’t get rid of) and immediately close them as “server working as normal” even if the conditions that caused the alert have not stopped. That means that we get another alert and another ticket whereas before, we would sit on the ticket and monitor until things returned to normal.

Further, because the Indians are so “by the book” oriented, they give us constant updates.

“We see ticket in the queue.”
“We open ticket in the queue.”
“We see this is SEV 3 ticket for Oracle to look at.”
“We transfer ticket to Oracle Support.”
“Ticket is transfered.”
“We are waiting for another ticket.”

It is interesting that as The Company continues to rapidly send stuff to India and Brazil, conditions continue to degrade that make it a cost savings for The Company. The Brazilian folks have proven to be pretty dumb when it comes to IT/IS work (not all, but most) so The Company is sending more and more work to India instead. However, the Indians are expecting more and more money (how dare they?), so much so that the projections we are told is that by 2013, it will cost the same to work stuff out of India as it does out of the U.S. If thats true, this is a huge waste of time and energy for what will ammount to a very small cost savings in the end.

Well, who am I other than a worker bee who tries to do the best job he can, only to have the executive bees make a right mess of things for their own 6-figure cost-cutting bonuses?

Those Jobs are Reserved

Since I know The Company has no interest in my welfare and no interest in doing the right thing and converting me from Extended Tenure Extra (ETE) employee status to regular status, I have begun looking (with my manager’s blessing) for other opportunities within the company to become a regular. As I mentioned previously, I interviewed for an on-site System Admin slot on the new team that’s being created. While I had a some hope that this would happen, the reality of the situation is that the ONLY way I would be hired was if the hiring manager couldn’t get enough regular The Company employees to apply and transfer departments. If that happened, then the hiring manager could go to his boss and say, “We can’t get enough applicants to apply and we have this ETE who’d be perfect for the job. Let’s convert him and bring him on board.”

Well, the manager just barely received enough applicants so that bringing me on was not an option. It figures but that’s life.

Anyway, my even getting an interview was an exception to the rules The Company has laid out. You see, if a manager gets permission to either back-fill a regular Company slot on his team OR he gets an FTE (budget to hire a Full Time Employee, which in this case, we’ll assume is a regular Company employee position) for a newly created slot on his team, then that manager will post the job on the internal Company job posting site. ETE employees may not apply for those jobs, making their chances of getting on as a regular much harder. Further, if a manager has posted a job and it is slotted as “regular,” then he can’t hire an ETE anyway. He can only hire those employees at The Company who are already designated as regular employees. Thus, the system is further rigged against ETE’s.

However, let us say that a manager wants to hire from without The Company. Then said manager would post the job on the external website and people outside could apply.

This is where things get interesting. Did you know that on most company job pages, a great many of those jobs are already “taken?” It is true.

In the case of The Company, a manager may already know whom he wishes to hire. However, said manager has to post the job on the external site to give the pretense of making it available to everyone.

So, lets say my manager wanted to play with the system this way and that he has permission to create a new regular slot on his team and that he has permission to hire outside The Company. However, his true goal is to hire me, thus making me a regular employee. So, he’d submit the paperwork to HR, have the budget approved, and then HR would post the job on the external site. My manager would then tell me, “OK AstroNerdBoy. I want you to go to the external site and apply for job #ABC123.” I’d then go and apply for said job.

My manager would then be sent not only my resume, but the resume’s of someone like you who may have applied. Your resume wouldn’t even get looked at because the job was already reserved for me. My manager then might go through the formality of an interview and then I’d get a packet in the mail with a job offer from The Company.

Ain’t that sweet?

It is not just The Company that does this. I know for a fact that many large companies do this. I won’t mention any names, but that’s the way it is and that’s what I’m up against as I attempt to find a regular slot via the external Company site. Those managers already have contractors or ETE folks they’ve already decided to bring on board and the job posting is a fake, designed to fulfill Company requirements.

Frankly, The Company should allow an ETE to apply for internal jobs and be converted that way without this underhanded, sneaky crap they (and other companies) pull.

Still, I may get lucky and score a real job. Maybe.

Where’s the Cost Savings?

I interviewed for an on-site System Admin job within The Company the other day. It is kind of humorous because before Project Skinny, we had such a team. However, company executives desperate for their bonuses at cost cutting wiped out said team in favor of sending more work to Brazil or India. The fact that all of the servers would be remaining on-site (either here or in one of our other locations) was no consideration. The executives decided that the number of times an SA would be needed for hands-on stuff would be few and far between. So they contracted the work out to some 3rd-party vendor with a 4-hour SLA to report on-site.

So when The Company began looking for their cost savings, they weren’t there. For starters, teams in Brazil, India, or wherever were taking two, three, or more people to do the same job that one American did. In some cases, this was due to the foreign managers converting the American dollars in the contract to their own currency and then hiring as many people as that would support. Thus you saw no cost savings because the same amount of money was being spent. In other cases, the problem was that there were no skilled people. As such, the “solution” was to hire more people. After all, everyone knows that four stupid people equal one smart person. What’s that saying about a room full of monkeys and Shakespeare?

If that weren’t bad enough of a slap in the executives face, they received another one from the massive Service Level Agreement penalties The Company paid out for every time they couldn’t get a customer’s servers up within the required time. Because there were no on-site SA’s and the contract company had 4-hours to show up on-site, the result became a lot of angry customers threatening to pull their business and The Company losing money hand over fist. Got to love executive thinking that can’t see past the end of their nose (and bonus) who thought, “Wow! We’ll save so much money!” when in fact, we lost money.

This brings me back around and the executives deciding that it would be cheaper to have an on-site team to handle taking care of the physical side of the SA work (which would require us to be on the raised floors). So we’ll see what happens, but if I get hired, I’m hoping that it will improve my chances of getting converted from Extended Tenure Extra employee to regular employee. The manager for this new team seemed keen to try to make that happen.

As for the overseas teams, The Company has been forced to implement rules governing how they do things when it comes to hiring (ie: if five Amercians did the work, you have to make do with five from your country and not hire 20). Having done that, The Company has been working overtime to convince every customer that can legally do so to “request” to have their stuff sent overseas. Two giant customers caved and the Indians are here working with the teams losing said accounts to learn those accounts.

I wonder how much money The Company would save by outsourcing the executive jobs to Brazil or other such place?

Decisions Made

I’m sure that most of us have had major crossroad moments in our lives that we know without a shadow of a doubt is a crossroad moment.

“Do I ask this girl to marry me or no?”

“Do I take this risky job that’s paying a ton of money or stay with the safer job for much less?”

“Do I write the novel within me despite my doubts about my abilities or do I press forward and let the chips fall where they may?”

I just pulled three random examples out of the air, but you get the point.

About ten years ago, I had a choice in my own life — work for a company on a Y2K project as a contractor where I would likely be hired at the end of the contract, or stay put. I chose the former because (1) the money was so huge and (2) working for a major telecommunication company seemingly on top of the world seemed like a safe choice whereas my own company, having been purchased for the second time, seemed less safe.

A lot of things have happened to me over those ten years. I didn’t get hired by the telecom company because they outsourced the work to another company. I went to work for another company that I loved (though I didn’t love my lack of benefits contract) but they were sold to a company who said, “We aren’t in the IS/IT business” and so outsourced our jobs. I went back to work for the major telecom company at a new location, but then the illegal activities of the company heads sent the company into bankruptcy and me out of a job. Now, I’ve worked for “The Company” both as a contractor and as an Extended Tenure Extra employee for well over five years.

With time against me as to whether I continue to have a job or not, I admit that I have at times wondered on whether the decision that has led me to where I’m currently at was the right one. God works in mysterious ways, because my old friend and co-worker Jibster contacted me the other day, letting me know that his job is being outsourced but he didn’t say where (I have a good idea — somewhere in the world where you can get some “foreign bastards” to work for pennies on the dollar).

So, what’s the lesson from God? I am right where I’m supposed to be, even if I lose my own job. This is the U.S. with lots of opportunities and should I lose my job, I’ll have to do some serious consideration and prayer on what to do next.

"Thanks" for the Hard Work

I am what’s known as an ETE — Extended Tenure Extra employee. Nearly 2.75 years ago, The Company decided to convert me from a contractor to an ETE. To put it into terms more easily understood, I went from being a bastard step-child to a step child as far as The Company was concerned. This was The Company’s way of rewarding certain contractors considered to be quality material and give them a foot inside The Company. So, we got paid more, we received some medical/dental insurance, and we received a few paid days off (no vacation though). Being but mere step-children, we don’t received the massive amounts of paid time off the regular employees (the children).

Still, at the end of a 3-year term as an ETE, the idea was to convert these ETE employees to regular status. Well, that was the plan.

As I mentioned in January, I’ve been hoping that indeed I would be converted this year since August marks my 3-year term as an ETE. Initially, things sounded good as The Company indeed were converting ETE employees to regular status, but for others, they were giving them 6-month extensions of their ETE term. One such guy to receive an extension is Crack Corn. His extension was to end last week. Instead, The Company found a way to extend him another month without extending him. During this time, a final decision would be made.

Well today, he got the news. As of May 15th, he’s without a job. That fit with new rumors I’d been hearing, which is that The Company has decided to start booting ETE employees. Immediately upon their being let go, The Company has a contract company contact the ex-ETE with an offer to come back to work. Of course, the catch is that (1) you’ll take a 50% pay cut (the contract company has to get paid, y’all) and (2) you get zero benefits. Oh, and you’ll have to do the same amount of work as before.

Part of this, I believe, is a reaction on the part of The Company as they continue to settle lawsuits from employees where it has been ruled that The Company cheated said employees out of tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid overtime. Multiply that by hundreds of employees and well you’ve pissed off the executives, who’s bonuses are in part tied to cutting costs. Paying employees is not cutting costs.

Plus, The Company has failed to get all of its customers (excluding government contracts) to buy into this “global” crap, whereby The Company sends all the work to India and Brazil for a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the service (to be fair, Indians are keen to work but the language barrier is just awful, whereas the Brazilians are mostly dumb as stumps, but, “Hey! We are mostly hot so what does it matter?” (I’m told the Brazilian guys are hot from my female co-workers, so I’ll take them at their word.) The fact that customers leave due to crappy service is something to worry about tomorrow. “Today, I got my cost-saving bonus and that’s all that matters,” says the executive, which in turn makes The Man look good. The ship is sinking, but it will look good doing so.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge CEO’s those multi-million dollar salaries, along with all their perks. As long as I’m being paid what I think I’m worth, I can tolerate the mounds of steaming elephant dung all around me (though I may have to rant from time to time). However, when The Company shafts roughly 40 of us (the number of ETE who were hoping to be converted by August) while the executives get fat bonuses and the CEO gets millions, I start getting angry.

The Case of the Hideous Stench

When we came to work last Wednesday night, there was a mild stink in the Command Center. Well, sometimes there are weird smells within the Command Center. People bring a wide variety of foods and stuff in, some of which don’t smell so good. Then there are people like Crop Duster, who will pass gas as they walk behind you. (Me, I just throw up the “V” sign to my co-workers to let them know a bomb is about to be dropped.) Regardless, it wasn’t anything really that unusual.

As the night progressed, the smell started getting stronger. While one would get used to it sitting at their work station, going out of the Command Center and then returning would let you know just how bad it was starting to get. The smell continued to worsen as Thursday continued, so The Company decided to do a quick investigation of what could be causing the stench.

The results?

Condiment packages found in small drawers in certain areas.

OK, to be fair, the Scooby Doo team didn’t specifically blame those evil, unopened packages of ketchup, mustard, mayo, soy sauce, etc., but when they sent out an email to the Command Center staff, that was one of two things they complained about. The other thing the Scooby Doo team complained about were how disposable plates, bowls, cups, forks, knives, and spoons were being stored in the glass-doored shelving units that run behind the work stations down each isle.

When we came in Thursday night, the smell was that of a dead animal to most of us, though Amy-chan thought that maybe there was sewage backup somewhere nearby that could be causing it. Regardless, none of us were happy to find our stashes of condiments trashed and the note from the Scooby Doo team telling us we couldn’t keep them in the Command Center. Scooby Doo did a great job of finding just about every condiment package too. They strangely enough couldn’t actually identify the source of the stench.

By Friday the stench of dead animal was just awful. We joked about how someone somewhere was hiding some condiment packages and needed to be punished. Even though one would get used to the smell after a while, fresh whiffs of it would still hit us from periodically. So, when I went to make a food run, I purchased some car air fresheners for our team to use, which we hung on our lamps. The row behind us were pretty happy about that since the combined smells of pine, vanilla, and strawberry were pretty sweet and were strong enough to overcome the smell of dead rodent.

Since CafePress has just about any topic on a t-shirt, one of the guys found one that said “Smell My Dead Rat!” We thought about printing the image and posting it on the door of the Command Center. I guess better judgment prevailed since we didn’t do it.

Regardless, as we left Saturday morning, the stink was still there despite all the condiment removals. I don’t know what management will do about the stink now. If they follow form (ala two years ago), they won’t find anything and will just get a pass from Security to keep the Command Center doors open and some giant fans to blow some of the stink into the halls.

Case closed!

Larry King and CNN

At work, we live with the torment of CNN all stinking night long because The Company has deemed this is the only thing that can be seen in the Command Center. As such, most of us “love” CNN and “love” Larry King. We don’t have any audio, but even without it, you can tell Larry King is just a tee-ball, candy question interviewer who’s just going through the motions and collecting a fat check. So when I actually got to hear a clip of a recent Seinfeld appearance on his show to promote that dopey movie of his, I thought, “Larry King only knows what his staff put in front of him.” No wonder his show can’t even scratch Fox News in the ratings.

On weekends, we love seeing some of Larry King’s greatest hits. Anything about Kid Rock or Anna Nicole Smith fills our hearts with joy and allows us to attack our work with gusto.

Skinny Updates

I’ve been asked what the latest is on Project Skinny, so here’s the “skinny” if you will (har!har!).

For my specific team, all of the vestiges of Project Skinny are gone, except that now we do the same amount of work with a lot less people — 40% less people. ^_^; Being the skilled people we are, we obviously can handle doing more work, though it is sad to see so many people having lost their jobs.

For our brethren around The Company, entire support teams had been wiped out because executives said, “support is support” and didn’t consider account eccentricities. Oddly enough, support people who’d never worked account “X” or “Y” were suddenly thrown into situations were they knew the basics, but not the specifics of the account. So, The Company was suddenly forced to try to hire back many of the people they’d previously given the boot to.

And, it wasn’t just support teams that experienced this. Some of the other Ops teams found their numbers cut to ridiculous levels, so much so that some people are working some serious overtime hours. The Company was then forced to try to bring back some people they let go, especially after some things were missed do to the shortage of staff, resulting in The Company paying some hefty SLA penalties and a threat by some customers to pull their accounts.

Pure quality.

Yeah, you got to love executives who seem to think that an idea that works in the manufacturing industry will work on the IT/IS field (with their modifications designed to get rid of as many people as possible to make the stock price go up). We have way to many variables to be placed into a mold. Some days will be quite and some days will have us busier than busy. In the end, the executives will still have their huge bonuses for the fine job they’ve done, while The Company actually is in worse condition than ever. It really is a shame.

A Return…Sort of

It’s been a while since I last wrote about The Company and Skinny Project. The Company removed some more people recently and as such, I’ve been returned to nights (which has good and bad like all things).

Anyway, once The Company completed its second round of job removals, management decided to look at some things, specifically the function of the Router team. That was the team that was formed by the Skinny Project to 1) create a bottleneck and prevent gold plating and 2) was designed to reduce the number of phone calls that the surfs had to take (and hopefully reduce the number of people calling in, period). The Router team was formed from department team leads, who then had to spend half of their time playing telephone operator.

This team caused a rare union between management, team leads, and surfs. The surfs resented not being able to get their own calls, to say nothing of the frustration of the Router team frequently sending calls to the wrong place or forcing calls upon someone already on another call. The team leads resented having to be demoted to a phone operator when they are team leads and supposedly above all that. Finally, management didn’t like the Router team creation because their delegated work dumpage on their team leads wasn’t getting done due to the Router obligations.

So, management went to the Skinny people and got a modification of the system. My team was seen to have 99.9% legit phone calls and with only five people per shift now (down from 8 per shift on days and 7 per shift on nights), they couldn’t make someone a phone monkey. So our phone system has been returned to us as it was, and to our amazement, with an improvement. Now when people call in, they get two options. One option goes to the next person on the list to take a call and the other option allows a caller to reach a specific surf. This later option is the new addition and is freaking sweet. Now, when I page out support, I leave my extension in the page and the support person can call me directly. That should have been in place when the new phone system was installed. It is a shocking display of efficiency, which goes against Skinny.

Our other command center mates aren’t as lucky. On the mainframe side, a massive attempt at cross-training is underway so that all mainframe is done by a single team (still divided into Rock and Roll sub-teams from what I understand). Once they have this established, Skinny will then carve off about three surfs per shift and make them Routers. As I understand it, this would be an assigned task, so the same person wouldn’t do the Router work every day. I guess accounts worked would be assigned as well. Its still a stupid system, but The Company and Skinny Project can’t be 100% wrong here, so some form of the Router system must remain.

We’ll see what The Company has planned for us in the near future. Apparently, our facility is going to have a new 80,000 square foot “green” building added to our already large campus. We surfs tend to suspect that The Company will consolidate itself into fewer locations and so the new facility may end up housing servers and mainframes from other facilities in the U.S. so that The Company can save costs and close down those other facilities. As I said, we’ll see what happens.