Category Archives: work

So, where were we?

It’s been a bit since I last posted on the joys of The Company. So, here’s an update.

The pilot phase of the Skinny Project has completed. As expected, some people were let go because that was the point of the exercise — prove you could make the lazy, overpaid so-called workers do more with less people AND with lots of bottlenecks and time-wasting, but Skinny-approved, tedious tasks (ie: the Whiteboard). Our department saw only one given the boot, but that’s because two others got jobs elsewhere. So really, we lost three more people. Now we have five per shift from a peak of eight per shift on days and seven per shift at night.

There are cracks forming in the Skinny Project concept. For starters, the people in charge of Skinny Project felt that in order to enforce the wall of separation between the Rock and Roll teams, the two couldn’t sit together. Rock people could only sit with Rock people and Roll people with Roll people. Ultimately, it was envisioned that Rock people would eventually do every account at our site, but only the SEV 3 issues and the Roll people would do the same, only for SEV 1/SEV 2 issues. Naturally, the surfs (that would be people like me) saw this as never happening for a host of reasons.

With this in mind, we learned that there will be moves in the command center. Our Rock people will move to the row where the Roll and Dedicated folks are sitting for our team. The wall of separation is still there, only now our old team (what’s left of us) will be sitting together again. It hasn’t happened just yet, but word is it will happen soon (the Project Skinny people may stop it yet). Still, the removal of a small bottleneck (larger for other teams) would be a blow to the stupidity that is Skinny.

The next crack comes from the Router team. As I mentioned, this is staffed by Team Leads. Team Lead’s have a primary job of doing projects their manager has sent their way as well as doing some interactions with the various account teams. Well if they are spending half of their day answering the phone and being a non-value add, then they can’t spend all this time doing delegated work for managers. Plus, Team Leads hate working nights, even if they do get a 12% raise to do so. Twelve percent is enough to have me going, “OK, I could do this for a while” and get paid. Not so with our Team Leads and so soon there will be no Team Leads at night.

However, the Skinny Project powers won’t allow the teams to have their phones back. Instead, from our limited numbers, one person becomes the Phone Monkey, routing calls for everyone on that team. How unfair is that? After all, The Company spent a ton of money on a phone system to fairly distribute calls among a team. But I suppose if The Company and Skinny Project people allowed us to actually get all our calls, it would be further proof of the stupidity of Skinny and might lead to horrible concept of our team being a true team and not have a wall of separation (the removal of “Rock” and “Roll” teams).

The term “value add” has great weight with management and some managers are beginning to see (if they didn’t already) how little of what Skinny did added any value. All it did was make us do a ton of busy work and create a lot of bottlenecks to prevent gold plating. Instead, we are starting to miss SLA’s thanks to Skinny. Combine that with a general negative moral throughout The Company (at least in the U.S. — they are pretty fat and happy in India and Brazil), and The Company’s cost reductions in removal of people is much offset by the SLA misses and irritated customers in general over not getting the level of service they used to get.

Bottlenecks

It was another exciting week working for The Company. The Cheerleader picked up a job outside the company and I guess my manager is just going to retire. However, the most important thing I learned about this week was the true purpose of Skinny Project — bottlenecking!

As I mentioned last week, gold plating service is public enemy #1 for The Company now thanks to Skinny Project. As such, the goal is to drive the numbers down so that we perform only what is required by Service Level Agreement (SLA), thus providing people for the unemployment line. To accomplish this, Skinny Project has erected an number of bottlenecks in the process to prevent efficiency and thus prevent gold plating. Here’s how The Company and Skinny Project consultants have set things up.

1) Phone Calls

The Skinny Project people told The Company that employees taking phone calls was a bad thing as this wasted employee’s valuable time that could be spent doing actual work. Apparently, the Skinny Project consultants were under the impression that most of the phone calls received were unimportant and should be reduced. The thing is, my department gets the following calls:

  1. Support returning pages. If I paged out a support person, I need their assistance so those are calls that must come to me.
  2. Customers, Help Desk’s, account managers, support people, or other authorized persons call in to report a SEV 1 or SEV 2 issue that requires our support. Again, those are calls that must come to me.
  3. Support persons calling in to report changes they are working on.

That is 99% of our calls. The other 1% might be calls from an account manager wanting some additional information on some issue or someone on the team getting a personal call. I suppose the personal calls could be removed, but that still leaves over 99% of the calls that have to come to us and cannot be reduced.

The Company placed hands over their ears along with the Project Skinny consultants and went, “LA!LA!LA!LA! I can’t HEAR you!”

So, the Router Team was created from all the team leads throughout the various center’s departments. The Routers now take all of our phone calls. While they are getting a bit better on being able to route calls to us, there is still a lot of time wasted as often they either don’t get all the required information or they still end up sending it to the wrong place. As such, we are starting to get some dropped calls from the numbers I’ve seen and certainly we are wasting time. But this does what Skinny Project wanted — create a bottleneck.

2) Whiteboard

How things work in my department is that we have Tivoli Enterprise Console which captured all of the alerts for the various account’s systems and then creates a ticket for said event to route to our queue. There are tools which can generate tickets for us as well as customers or Help Desk folks who could generate tickets and place them in one of our queues. Our team then has a 15-minute SLA to respond to a SEV 1 ticket and 30-minutes to respond to a SEV 2 (using a special code for our problem notes to indicate our response). This has never been a problem and it was a very rare event to miss a respond SLA as it takes seconds to get a response placed into the ticket (10-seconds at most for a ticket, and that number can be reduced with multiple tickets with a copy-paste of the response text into each ticket).

Since Project Skinny needs numbers to justify itself and The Company executives want metrics, an online Whiteboard was created to track EVERY TICKET that comes into the environment, no matter what. Further, Whiteboard entries are supposed to be created for everything we do, even if there’s not a ticket. That way, numbers can be produced to show results, whatever those are supposed to be.

The Whiteboard takes a minimum of about 30-seconds per ticket. That’s because we have to document which department the ticket came to, what account its being charged to, what the severity is, how was the ticket generated, which team is going to work it, who is the ticket assigned to, what was the date-time we started working on the issue, was the ticket an auto-generated ticket or a manual one, was there a bridge call, and any notes (I hope I haven’t forgotten a field). Further, if I have to page out support, I have to edit the Whiteboard to log that time and make other changes (say to flag that I had to get on a bridge or something).

This is a nice bottleneck. Not only does it take a lot of time out of our day that could be spent working tickets, it is a severe headache to keep track of on a busy day. Further, in a case where we get a lot of tickets all at once, or I as a “Rock Team” member am busy working another issue and am not refreshing the queue every few minutes (something we didn’t have to worry about before Skinny Project even with SLA response times) to see what tickets are coming in, making the SLA’s on responds becomes very, very difficult and in the last month, we’ve missed more respond SLA’s that we have my whole 2.5 years in this department.

That’s quality for ya.

3) Teams

In the pre-Skinny Project days, a day shift would be staffed with eight people, 2 of which were on “dedicated accounts” and at night, we had seven with two on dedicated accounts. The dedicated people were not to do anything but their accounts and the remaining staff monitored the queues for issues and worked them. So the shift worked as a team most of the time (sometimes you could get a person who was worthless, but the shifts I worked on were tight). As such, SLA’s weren’t missed and incoming calls from support were quickly sent to the right people.

In the Skinny Project, that’s all gone. For all shifts, 1 person is designated as a “Rock” person and they rock out the SEV 1/SEV 2 issues. For day shift, 2 people are on the “Roll” team (one is so designated at night) who roll out the SEV 3 issues and in theory cut manual tickets that might be required. They are to be pulled by the Rock team whenever that person feels SLA’s are about to be missed or the SEV 1/SEV 2 ticket volume is high. Two people are still on the dedicated accounts, but because The Company has deemed these not true dedicated accounts (meaning the accounts aren’t paying for double the headcount), they are designated “Dedicated Rovers” because their primary responsibility is their dedicated account but if they aren’t busy and required, they can be pulled into the Rock or Roll team to work issues. And for all other shifts, there’s at least one “Rover” who’s supposed to sit in another room and do no real work unless it is an absolute emergency (prime candidates for the next round of layoffs if they aren’t used much).

I’m the Rock team on my shift and I’m always pulling my fellow teammates into the Rock team to work issues (which they have to document because we need metrics to see how staffing is). In addition to managing all of the SEV 1/SEV 2 issues, I have to manage the team and pull resources as needed. Officially, I’m only supposed to pull resources when absolutely needed. Apparently, getting on a SEV 1 issue is not an absolute need, but I reject that and immediately pull someone the moment I get a SEV 1 issue that requires a bridge. I have too much to do when a SEV 1 starts to be worried about the queue.

Anyway, my teammates are absolutely forbidden from touching any SEV 1/SEV 2 issue (Dedicated-Rovers obviously touch their own SEV 1/SEV 2 issues) no matter what until I evoke them. I am forbidden from just evoking them without a valid reason. The result is a bottleneck which keeps the ticket count in the queue at levels they never were prior to the Skinny Project (we used to keep the queues empty or nearly empty, but that’s gold plating).

There are other bottlenecks such as support people being forced to get off SEV 1 bridge calls when they aren’t actively working the issue, which forces me to have to re-page them and slows down recovery time. Skinny Project consultants believe that I shouldn’t be on bridge calls either for very long, but our surviving managers have resisted that change for now.

The result is that days are much, much busier now, sometimes insanely so. I don’t mind busy because it makes the work day go by faster. However, I don’t like how all these bottlenecks prevent me from doing my job efficiently and creates more work and headaches that I don’t need.

Gold Plating

Well, it has been another fun week at The Company with Skinny Project roaring like a giant T-rex looking for prey. That prey, of course, is us employees and one of its weapons is something called “gold plating.”

For those who don’t know, “gold plating” is also described as over delivering on your product. So in our case, if we have a 4-hour SLA to get a SEV 2 problem resolved and we are resolving problems on an average of 1-hour, that’s gold plating our service. If a server has an SLA up-time of 97.5% and we keep it up 99.5% of the time, we are gold platting. In these cases, it is clear that we are overstaffed and need to get rid of more expensive employees.

This is not a joke.

For my department, we have a 2-hour SLA on SEV 1 issues with a 15-minute SLA to respond to a SEV 1 event and get the SEV 1 process going. Often, we make these SEV 1 SLA’s but last week, we had an account (which I’ll call Foxtrot) have not one but three multi-hour outages, two of which were over eight hours in length. So what is my role in this adventure? I’ll go with outage #2 and #3 since they were the long ones.

In the case of outage #2, the customer called us (but is instead directed to our new “Router” team who then wastes time 1) figuring out what this call is about and 2) trying to figure out whom to route it to, assuming they decide to route it at all) frantic about a problem they were experiencing. My job was to get a ticket cut for her (something we rarely do for entitlement reasons, but when you have an account manager’s approval, you do it), start the bridge call, create an alert for duty management (because they are the interface to The Company management and have to write the reports for management once the outage hits 2-hours), page out any support people needed, and document the ticket.

Now, over the life of the bridge call, I’m not constantly doing things. I make notes in the ticket to document when people come into the bridge (because “who?” gets asked at Risk Cause Analysis meetings) and what progress is being made on the ticket (which also comes into play in those RCA meetings). From time-to-time they’ll request I page this person or escalate something to that person. When I’m not needed, I work on SEV 2 tickets.

Well apparently Skinny Project sees this as gold plating. While on the surface they acknowledge the need for my department to be on bridge calls, they reject the idea of being on the bridge for eight hours. However, thanks to Skinny Project, people we engage have also been told to not be on bridge calls for long periods of time. So maybe a DBA drops off the bridge because we don’t need them at the moment, but when we do need them, now I have to re-page them and we have to wait for them to re-join the bridge to do whatever they need. Before, they’d stay on the bridge to help get the customer back up as soon as possible. Now, outages last a lot longer (and The Company will be paying more and more SLA penalties) all in the name of not gold plating our service to the customer.

And this helps us how?

Because The Company has been keen on hiding all of this from our customers, one such customer (whom I’ll name VidCo) called expecting a bridge call for a SEV 2 issue. Now, I’ve never been in support of having a bridge call for this specific customer for simple issues because I do believe that is true gold plating and a waste of time (because it takes longer getting everyone including the customer contacts on the bridge and they discuss the matter for a while before (or after) actually solving it, which is stupid). But when that customer ran into Skinny Project’s limitations on what could or could not be done, a big management meeting later came back with the result that they could declare any issue they wanted a SEV 1 (because if they do that, The Company apparently gets paid a bit more for SEV 1 issues even if it isn’t really a SEV 1, but runs the risk of that 2-hour SLA). Nice.

Right now, The Company hasn’t been getting the numbers they want from the metrics and so their plans to boot more employees is failing from the justification point-of-view. So, the Project Skinny folks are looking at things with the strict light of “gold plating” and are attempting to change the metric numbers with that light by declaring more and more things as “gold plating.”

I’ve updated my resume but while The Company still employs me, I can pick and choose what I want. However, I get the ugly feeling that more companies may decide to do Project Skinny (which has been around for a long time and is supposed to make companies better, not a tool to fire folks) to get rid of folks. We’ll see what happens.

Death of a Cheerleader

OK, so no cheerleader actually dies in this story, which continues the ongoing saga of “Skinny Project” at The Company. This tale is the tale of The Cheerleader (I love these Doctor Who Time Lord-styled names), a manager at The Company who has apparently lost their job as part of Skinny Project. But let me step back a bit first…

I’m sure most of us who’ve worked long enough have experienced a company that tightens its belt by getting rid of workers. However, in my 20-year work experience, I have never seen a manager let go because of cut backs. In fact, I’ve never seen a manager fired. The closest I’ve seen was a senior manager who lost his empire at Shepard’s and ended up a project manager who took over my “as I have time” job of documenting our procedures before he found another manager job at another company. I’ve seen managers at The Company who screwed up and were given jobs in other sections of the company, where they all are still employed to this day.

As the hideous Skinny Project was rolled out, management had to present it to us and tell us how it would succeed or else. One manager, whom I now call The Cheerleader, seemed to take a lead role in making Skinny Project succeed. This manager told us in no uncertain terms how they had embraced the idea and how they felt it was great for the company. Further, The Cheerleader had bought into the line that there would be no layoffs as part of Skinny Project. The tales presented to us by management of test runs were of how departments tasked with reducing costs and staff ended up getting customers to pay us more money, enough to ensure no job losses. So The Cheerleader stated how they believed things would be great for The Company and that we needed to get on the bandwagon.

And so it was a week ago Tuesday that The Company whacked a large number of employees, with no regard for their “value add” in knowledge and expertise (and many excellent workers are now out of a job). Nope, these are just numbers who are drawing a salary and need to be removed from the payroll. “We’ll worry about the consequences later, assuming there are any which we don’t believe there will be.” There were rumors that some managers would be let go up to the 3rd-line level, but I don’t think any of us believed that.

Then my manager sent an e-mail to our team stating that he’d be gone at the end of the month due to the layoffs that are part of Skinny Project. I was stunned because as I stated, I’ve never seen a manager fired or downsized. But then rumors began to swirl that there was a second manager let go and that The Cheerleader was that manager. While I’ve not seen anything official to confirm this, one thing I’ve learned about working at The Company is rumors are almost always true.

I suppose the end of the month will prove if The Cheerleader still has a job or not (providing they didn’t manage to sneak a job somewhere else, which seems unlikely with The Company apparently trying to get rid of all its U.S. employees sans the corporate executives and their staff). If it is true, I hate to say it but I feel excited about it in an evil, happy way. That’s not a Christian attitude to be sure and I don’t like feeling that way about anyone losing a job when they haven’t done anything to deserve it, but I’ve never liked it when management spews the company line (no matter what company) even when they know it is bad policy. Skinny Project has been a bad, bad thing (thanks to The Man for hosing The Company with such wonderful management), so when a manager spouts about its greatness then loses their job because of this “greatness,” somehow justice seems to have been served.

I wish justice would be served on The Man, but Wall Street is against me, making The Company’s stock rise and rise. If it weren’t for the rising stock price, I’d really think this was another WorldCom.

The Company Strikes Back!

For maximum effect, play the “Emperor’s Theme” from Empire Strikes Back while reading this.

Well, The Company finally did it. I really have the feeling I got when I worked at WorldCom (and where are they now?) when they were going through all of their cost-cutting measures to include slash-and-burn tactics for jobs. The only difference is that WorldCom’s stock was tanking and The Company’s isn’t.

So what happened?

Well, as I stated earlier, The Company did the massive reorg. The difference was that I was placed on the “Rock” team, meaning I get all of the fun work (SEV 1 and SEV 2 issues). I don’t mind that because if I’m busy, the work day goes by quickly. However, I think I worked more last week than I did the last three months. I guess that’s what The Company wants.

In addition to a greater workload (because instead of ‘sharing the love’ when it comes to SEV 1/SEV 2 issues, I get them all until I’m overwhelmed and then others are brought in to help me), we have to track the issues we work on a new web-based white board. This is so The Company executives can see their brilliant cost-cutting plan produce metrics that support their plan and they can get rid of people. Sadly for them, after one-week, the numbers just weren’t what The Company wanted.

Solution?

Well, you tweak the white board so that instead of tracking how long problems run, you only track when you touched the problem. Further, you have to track when you engaged the support people. Doing all of this extra work slows us down big time (but it gives the executives shorter times to better support their position), and we have Service Level Agreements on when we respond to issues in addition to when we resolve issues. So, I refuse to kill myself for The Company (I will work hard though) and I evoke help constantly. Those who stop what they are doing to help me work the important issues have to track their time on the “Rock” work. Those numbers aren’t pleasing to The Company either. My old department worked a massive amount of issues every day and we’ve already lost a lot of people and couldn’t afford to lose anyone else.

Monday was a dark day. There were 150 employees of The Company who were let go (not sure if that counts contractors or not). Supposedly, managers were going to be let go, but I know of none in my facility that were let go. A lot of really good, hard-working, very qualified people were let go though and that’s sad. I’m sure they’ll get new jobs fairly quickly, but it goes to show how a major company won’t let things like good, hard-working employees get in the way of an executives’ bonuses and other perks. Those extras have to be paid for somehow, and what better way than to slash-and-burn departments without thought or consideration.

So my fellow former co-workers, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Supposedly, we’ll have another slash-and-burn session coming by month’s end. The Company has shown they don’t much care for who they cut, but it looks like God may have had me answer my phone at Starfest to allow me to keep a job though. The folks on the “Rock” team(s) seem more secure than those on the “Bend” team or possibly even the “Roll” team.

And so it continues… We’ll see how week 2 goes.

Some Personal News a/o April 11, 2007

Well, a couple of items. First, the meeting at The Company went pretty much as expected. No 8-hour shifts, but lots of changes that will succeed (just like the Titanic wouldn’t sink). Ultimately, The Company head honchos are rushing this out and our customers are in for one rude awakening. Supposedly, the various account management are supposed to have told the customers they are responsible for that we won’t be doing certain things without letting them know that we are desperate to cut our costs. One dedicated account we have (meaning the customer is paying for a body to sit and do nothing but their account 24-7) certainly is blissfully unaware that the dedicated person will be doing other stuff (and of course, we won’t let them know will we). I guess we’ll continue to charge the dedicated rates though.

For accounts that don’t have dedicated but we’ve been giving them this, that will stop. This makes sense to me because the customer isn’t paying for the service. However, accounts that want X, Y, or Z done and they’ve been paying for it, they aren’t going to be happy if they find out some of this stuff The Company has deemed as “waste” and we either stop doing it or sit on it for a while (if it is a SEV 3). The Company seems to think customers will be so eager to keep the service we’ve been doing, they’ll pay us more money. The problem with that theory is that the customer is giving us work because we are doing it cheaper than they can do it themselves or cheaper than someone else. For the most part, they aren’t going to be interested in paying more money for services.

Oh well. I do thank the Lord that I have a job. We’ll see for how long though after this latest scheme fails. Sorry, they aren’t schemes but initiatives. And they NEVER fail; they just change with time. Whatever.

In some less stressful news, I have a new camera. I decided to go all out and get a DSLR Canon Rebel EOS XTi since I already have Canon lenses from my old SLR’s. Now, I can actually take some pictures of stuff I want to sell on eBay and actually have clear pictures. Now I just need to get a good flash and a memory card sometime down the road.

My Company Needs More Money

I want the company I work at (hereafter known as “The Company”) to do well. After all, if The Company does well and I continue to perform well, my job is secure. However, I start having problems with The Company when things are reportedly going well as far as the public knows, but privately, there are desperate measures being taken to increase profits.

The CEO of the company (hereafter known as “The Man”) was recently reported to have made some $19 million dollars for 2006. Personally, I don’t have a problem with The Man making whatever he makes providing I’m paid what I’m worth and my work is appreciated. The Man made this much money because, according to the AP, The Company had some record profits last year and a rebound in its stock prices.

Well, stock prices are up, but only after having been driven way down by The Man. They still aren’t even close to being what they were just before The Man took over. That’s something that still irks many long-time employees who remember the high stock price.

However, the thing that has employees REALLY irked is how after supposedly having record profits, The Company is embarking on a “Skinny Project” to cut costs and increase profits. If profits were so good, why is The Company so desperate to cut costs? Maybe there’s some WorldCom type stuff going on with the books.

Ever since I started with The Company as a contractor, The Company, under the brilliant leadership of The Man, has always seemed less interested in getting new customers and keeping the ones we have paying, but rather they’ve seemed to have as their top priority, “How can we cut more of our costs?” Indeed, a month after I started working at The Company, they forced a 5% pay-cut upon all contractors. Officially, The Company can say, “We didn’t cut your pay, your contract company did. All we did was cut how much we paid your company.” However, lets face it; contract companies are in the business to make money and if you cut them 5%, they have to pass that along to keep their own profit margins.

Because I’m a great worker, my contract company gave me a raise before I’d even been there a year, more then overcoming the cut I’d taken. However, about one year after the last cut, The Company pushed another 5% cut on the contractors. Needless to say, contractors were livid! With the improving job market (and I suspect fear of contractor sabotage), The Company informed contract companies that there would be no additional cuts. They were true to their word. Praise to The Man! Praise to The Company! BONSAI! BONSAI! BONSAI!

However, The Company lost a legal battle and were forced to pay thousands of workers back overtime pay while changing them from salaried to hourly employees. Working a 4-3 12-hour work schedule (4 days working, 3 days off, 3 days working, 4 days off), the company now had to pay a lot of overtime to its employees. For some accounts, certain employees were making more money than their manager due to overtime.

So in year three, The Company needed a new cost-cutting scheme to go along with the various outsourcing they were doing to India and Brazil (where the support work is exactly what they paid for — cheap…no offense to the nice people working there). So, The Company took 25% to 30% of various operations groups and declared them to be Level 1 Support. The remaining lucky were classified as Level 2 Support. The Company sent many of its long-time employees who were making too much money to Level 1, then a month or so later, told them they had a month to find a new job or they would be let go. At the same time, a hiring freeze was put in place. Naturally, the result was a lot of highly-paid Company people were let go (though to be fair, some of these people were dead weight). That’s one way to reduce costs.

It was then that I, through my contract company, transfered to another department that was the rising star of The Company. This new department wasn’t subject to The Company’s ramped cost-cutting measures and despite having a VERY difficult boss, the job was a very good one on many levels. In fact, The Company had many TV ads about the overall group of which my department was a part.

However, The Company decided that low-paid contractors were still making too much money. So they forced us all to take a week off without pay, then gave us weird 40-hour schedules (remember, we work in a department where things are done on 12-hour shifts) so that they could remove our 16-hours of overtime a month. That lasted several weeks.

Further, The Company decided that our group was rogue and MUST be brought under the rules of The Company to include cost-cutting initiatives they’d implimented. So, to get us into a Level 1/Level 2 scheme, they merged my department with another department, who worked many of the same accounts as us, only supported different components. That made sense to me to merge us because of the overlap. But now with two departments as one, 25% of the team could be sent to Level 1.

Year 4 saw more stuff go to India and Brazil, but The Company needed more. So, the Company decided to have an exclusive contract with a single contract company to save costs. As such, Level 1 Support saw a downward push in pay and as people quit, they were replaced with even cheaper labor so that this contract company could make money. While The Company could now claim cost-savings all over the U.S. because of this scheme, the hideous stupidity of the scheme came to life as these poorly paid, “I don’t give a smeg” people came in to do this Level 1 work. Instead, the Level 2 people ended up doing most of it.

Year 5 then saw The Company decide to this “Skinny Project” to further cut costs. Using assembly line work as their basis (we are an IT company), the Skinny Project attempted to cut costs by shuffling staff when it was most busy. Unfortunately, in the IT world, predicting when things will be busy isn’t so simple. One day it could be dead and the next you could get your tail kicked because it’s so busy. There’s no pattern to it.

Undeterred, The Company decided to eliminate the Level 1/Level 2 scheme and so everyone who worked Level 1 lost their job. Then they removed a large number of additional contractors from various teams to further reduce costs. And still, The Company demanded more.

So, multiple teams who work the same rotation as I over several command centers are being forced to come in on our day off as a new phase of Skinny Project is enacted. We wonder what hair brained scheme The Company has come up with now. One theory is that The Company will do some things to force people to quit. Another theory is that The Company will eliminate dedicated support for accounts while continuing to charge those customers dedicated rates.

I suspect they will attempt to merge unrelated departments into a single group. Then, they will force cross-training where people will have to remember ever nuance for all these unrelated accounts (different groups have different rules on how to run issues, depending on the contracts signed). This would be done so that they can eliminate overtime payments by having people work 8-hour shifts. The fact that you’ll have jacks of all trades, masters of none won’t matter because on paper, The Company is saving money. However, as customer support goes down the drain and customers start to leave, The Company’s schemes won’t be the fault.

Well, nothing to do but wait and see what crap The Company pushes on us. I guess I need to dust off the old resume, eh?

Wow! I’m a Winner!

Well, we had a Saint Patrick’s Day thing at my job last night. So we get to see several managers (and one upper-up on the management chain) who wore plastic, green top-hats while we got to grab some BBQ plates. For me, that was a BBQ pork sandwich with a tad of sauce, real (red) mashed potatoes, and some good beans. Oh, and don’t forget the cake and some root beer from a keg (which was a new one to me). I guess our day shift folks got real beer (or other adult beverages) but since I don’t drink that, I didn’t care.

Anyway, after eating WAY to much (because you got to go back for seconds), one of the managers came by with a door prize, which I’d won. Yay! It was a giant coffee mug filled with chocolate candy, a plant, and some cookies all on a tray of some sort. So when I got home, I took some pictures with my lovely, low-quality digital camera. ^_^


My Job

You know, I really am thankful to God that I have a job. After a major telecom company was revealed to have false accounting, then started downsizing folks left and right, I eventually found myself unemployed from that company and remained so for six months. So having a job is better than not having one. That said, the company I currently work for may be the worst one I’ve ever worked for.

I’m a contractor who works for a major, global corporation. “The Company”, as I’ll call them from now on, has two major functions, and one is providing information services (IS) outsourcing for other companies. For those who don’t know, this means that “The Company” approaches “Company X” and says, “we’ll do your computer work for cheaper than you can do it.” Obviously, companies want to cut costs to make the bottom line improve, so talks begin.

If “Company X” agrees, they send their computer work to us and we do it along with other companies’ computer work. This computer work can run the gambit from mainframes, midrange, distributed servers, networks, and more. The majority of it is still being done in the United States, but one never knows if “The Company” will outsource itself to India.

I’ve been with “The Company” for two years now. During this time, I have witnessed some of the most incredible things. For starters, “The Company” lies to their customers and makes it seem like we will provide dedicated service to them.

In truth, “The Company” uses its employees and contractors to provide service across multiple accounts. However, we are instructed to NEVER let the customer know this. The customer must believe “The Company” has people solely dedicated to the customer’s account. If the customer learned that people working on their account were also responsible for many other accounts as well, then they’d know they were being ripped off and would take their business elsewhere.

Most of the time, “The Company” gets lucky, but from time to time, they get busted when there are problems on multiple accounts and only one person to deal with them all. So “The Company” has lost business because of this.

This didn’t stop “The Company” though. They began to push for operators to cover more accounts. This was done by not replacing workers who quit or retired and giving their work to the remaining individuals.

To further counter the loss of business, “The Company” came up with a brilliant scheme – slash the amount of money paid to contractors while increasing the amount of work given to them. “The Company” covers itself by cutting the money paid to the contracting companies, thus they can say, “We didn’t cut your pay. If your pay got cut, you have to discuss that with your contracting company. We are innocent.”

Yeah, nice try. Contracting companies aren’t in the business of providing you with skilled workers to lose money. So if “The Company” is going to force a 5% cut on the payments to contract companies, obviously that is going to be passed to the worker in order for the contract company to keep a certain profit margin.

Over a four-year span, “The Company” issued some six to eight of these initiatives. If a contractor quit, so much the better. Now “The Company” can request a new contractor be brought in, only for less pay.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough cost savings for the executives and their bonus checks. To add insult to injury, “The Company’s” employees had been wrongfully denied overtime pay for years. Thus, “The Company” was forced to give those folks two years of back O/T pay and a raise to boot. It was another stunning blow for the executives and their bonuses.

“The Company” began to work on scoring new business and did so. However, to get this business, “The Company” took it at a loss, at least in the short term. Since no business is there to lose money, “The Company” needed a way to counter this. So an old scheme was taken and given a face lift.

Level 1 and Level 2 support teams were suddenly created. All accounts were thrown into a single pot and the employees were divided into Level 1 or Level 2. Most contractors found themselves made into Level 1 workers. That means they now are in an entry-level position (regardless of experience or time with “The Company”) with no authority to do squat. As such, “The Company” can now go to the contracting companies and say, “These people are in entry level positions, thus we are cutting back how much we pay appropriately.”

Several long-time employees of “The Company” also found themselves in these jobs. The goal here appears to be to insult these employees so much that they’ll quit, thus forfeiting their pensions. Their work can then be spread to the survivors.

Most of “The Company’s” employees are being assigned to Level 2 slots. That means they do nothing until the Level 1’s say, “There’s a problem!” However, many of these employees are suddenly finding themselves working night shift, 6pm to 6am. As before, the goal here appears to be to piss off these people, many who’ve not worked nights in years, if at all. If they quit, “The Company” can either spread the work to the survivors, or hire some new poor sap for a fraction of what they were paying their employee.

So I’ve learned some things in my two years working as a contractor for “The Company.”

  • First, while my boss and co-workers may love my hard work, all I can expect as a reward is a pay cut.
  • Second, my workstation can literally be moved from place to place, even from building to building at the whim of an executive.
  • Third, my job can change overnight on the whim of management.
  • Fourth, I can expect my workload to increase while taking actual pay cuts.
  • Fifth, I can expect to work on sub-standard equipment.
  • Sixth, I can expect to report to as many as six managers at once, though this could increase.
  • Seventh, I can expect a cloud of doom to hang over me work center which will grow larger and larger as time goes on.
  • And finally, I can expect to have book marked every job site on the web!

Well, it is 03:39 and I’m supposed to be asleep, but here I am writing instead. I just can’t wait to see what surprises are in store for me today.