Category Archives: Work

What’s it like being your own boss?

I’ve been my own boss for about two weeks now and people want to know how it’s going. Well, you know the old saying about working for yourself – the boss is crazy and you can’t get away from him.

I do find myself putting a lot of thought into what I should be doing with my time – what can I do now to build my audience? So far, I haven’t really been doing anything different but I will be expanding over the next couple of weeks. I might even get a bit organised and put a big to-do list on my wall to remind me of what I should be doing.

But I do think my boss is crazy.

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My new career as a public speaker

I am seriously working on developing a career change and moving into public speaking – specifically on IT and new media related topics.  I picture myself as being the “funny guy” they use to close IT conferences.  I’ve been thinking about this because

(a) I seem to have more first hand knowledge than most people I see presenting, and

(b) I’m a far better speaker than most people I see

And I want some of the money these people are making, dammit!  I want to be flown around the world to talk and be treated like I’m an expert!  Because I’m shallow that way.  I already have some presentation ideas I’m working on:

  • You’re stupid – what to do about it (for management conferences)
  • Project management – why it’s bollocks
  • IT staff – lazy, overpaid slackers or priceless diamonds you should cherish forever?
  • Why the latest internet fad is pointless but you should follow it anyway
  • And a presentation I’d love to give to the music and/or movie business: “You are evil, rapacious scum and your customers will eventually drag you into the street and burn you at the stake”

I’m looking forward to this new career.

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Taking the PIS

Looking through job ads sometimes depresses me because of the way they commonly spout mumbo-jumbo jargon as if it actually means something.  It leaves me wanting to grab the next recruiter who uses the phrase “leverage core competencies” and leverage their core competencies straight down their fucking throat.

But sometimes the job ads make me laugh.  Usually because I have a very juvenile sense of humour.  Case in point: today I saw an ad for a Process Improvement Specialist in a government department.  This caught my eye for a few reasons.  First, it’s the type of work I do.  Second, it was a one year contract with the government  that sounded like a complete boondoggle.  Hide away in some massive bureaucracy and charge massive consultant fees for a year.  Payday!

But most importantly, the acronym for the job title was PIS.  Did I mention the part about me being juvenile?  I wondered if I’d be able to resist saying in a job interview that the job sounded like a piece of piss?

But if I was going to interview, I’d need to come up with the right jargon.  Government departments love their jargon.  I considered saying that I thought the role of the Process Improvement Specialist would be to Facilitate the Adoption of Revolutionary Thinking in the department.  But they probably spend all their time PIS-FARTing around already and don’t need my help for that.

I also cogitated that the PIS might promote Widespread Enterprise Application Knowledge.  But that sounded a bit PIS-WEAK.  I’m sure somebody can help me with some other ideas.

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Heroin is fun

Heroin is fun*.  It really is.

By which I mean, revulsion and fear regarding heroin use are so strong in so many people that even mentioning heroin tends to provoke a strong response.  Also, not everyone shares my sense of humour.

Case in point: at work I’m getting one of my many drinks of high-caffeine cola I require to make it through a day.  A drone cow-orker feels compelled to comment that this is an unhealthy thing to drink.  I get really fucking sick of this type of comment.  Usually I’d pretty much ignore it but I decided to respond.

“Well, given that I actually have very few bad habits I think I’ll survive.  I don’t smoke and I rarely drink alcohol so let me have this vice.”

She seems prepared to stop with the unwanted platitudes at this point so I probably should have left well enough alone.  But she really annoyed me.  So I followed up with:

“In fact, if it wasn’t for the heroin I’d be leading quite a clean lifestyle.”

This little throwaway line leads what I will charitably call an uncomfortable silence.  She’s staring at me with a look that seems to be equal parts shock, horror, revulsion and pity.  I could do without the pity.

The first thought that goes through my head is “She can’t possibly think that was anything but a joke.  She doesn’t have to think it’s a funny joke but she must know it’s a joke.”  Then I think about it for a while and realise this is the sort of unimaginative lump who gets all their “information” from nightly current affairs tabloid shows.  She is clearly waiting for me to grow horns.

In situations like this, my mind tends to go a hundred miles an hour.  I mentally run through multiple scenarios of how this could play out in seconds.  None of the scenarios I was imagining were ending well.  Every variation of “It was a joke!” had me looking like a junkie in denial.  Or maybe a junkie who was getting agitated because he was strung out and in need of a hit.

Then the evil part of my brain took over.  The part that thinks it’s funny to fuck with repressed people.  Hey, whispered my evil brain, if she’s gonna treat that obvious joke seriously then go the whole way.  Freak her the fuck out.  Say something about “watch out for used syringes near my desk”.  Ask her if she can loan you some money.  Or just roll your eyes and then collapse.

That last one started to sound real good.  It would have a double bonus of scaring the cow-orker and I wouldn’t have to finish the conversation.  I could just lie on the floor until she ran away.  Approximately three nanonseconds before I put this plan into action she backed out of the kitchen.  I didn’t hear running but it’s distinctly plausible that she was sprinting for safety as soon as she was out of sight.

In retrospect, if you’ve just told someone you’re using heroin, staring at them glassy-eyed until they leave the room isn’t the best way to convince them you were joking.

*NOTE: This is not an endorsement of using heroin.  If you’re stupid enough to think it is then you’re too fucking stupid to accept this disclaimer.  Let’s just go with “I’m a horrible and irresponsible person”.  And fuck you.

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The day I met Apu

I was having a bit of fun at lunch today, sharing work horror stories with a friend.  We covered the usual range of bad bosses and horrible cow-orkers and then we got on to interviews.  I’ve complained about job interviews before but one area I’ve never really gone in to is what it’s like to deal with vendors/salespeople. 

I don’t like to judge by appearances but I have this crazy idea when someone is trying to sell something to a corporate client, particularly when the contract crosses into the millions of dollars, they might make a fucking effort to appear professional.  I don’t go with a vendor solely because their guys dressed the sharpest but I’m never keen to go with someone who comes across as a total gimp.

Another thought is that a vendor should not come across as a criminal.  Just another one of my prejudices.  I know it’s shallow to make judgements based on how someone sounds but I figure when you’re planning to drop a few million you earn the right to be judgemental. 

A personal favourite of mine was a guy who talked with a heavy East London accent, telling me about “dis fing” and “dat fing”.  For fans of classic British TV, think Arthur (Arfur) Daley on “Minder”.  He’s extolling the virtues of his technology and all I can think of is “Holy crap, can’t you even be bothered to take the time to pronounce ‘th’ properly?”

Then there was the day I met Apu.  I have a very bad habit of equating nearly every experience in my life with something I’ve seen on The Simpsons.  So when I was seeing a presentation from an Indian guy who had EXACTLY the same hair as Apu that took all of my focus.  I didn’t remember a damn thing he said.  All I was thinking the entire time was “Dude, you have the same haircut as Apu.”

Let me make this clear: He didn’t sound like Apu (He never said “Thank you, come again” once).  He didn’t have the same features as Apu.  It was just the hair.  I became slightly obsessed about it.  Did he realise it?  Was it on purpose?  Had anyone ever told him?  Did he think it was a good idea to have the same hair as Apu?  Does he not have friends?  Does he not know anyone who cares enough to say “you have the hair of a fucking cartoon character!  Get it cut!”

Actually, even if the hair was nothing to do with Apu it was still a worry.  The thought of this guy lovingly sculpting a massive bouffant each day did not make me trust his judgement.  But the idea that he might be deliberately going for the Apu look really weirded me out. 

I guess what I’m say is that if you can be easily caricatured, I’m not sure sales is the career for you.  Ideally a sales person would be remembered because of their professionalism.  Not because they look like a cartoon character or Chopper Read.

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Toilet horror

You know what I haven’t done in a while? Have a good old fashioned rant about how gross it is to share the toilet with people at work. That’s what I’m doing today because of these two horror stories.

First up, one that’s about as gross and unforgiveable as they come. I just went in to avail myself of the facilities and was greeted in a cubicle by a scattering of used toilet paper. And I’m talking bearing horrid orangey-brown stains used. Motherfucker! What sort of fucking animals am I working with?

Now don’t get me wrong, I know sometimes accidents happen. Paper goes astray. But pick it up for fuck’s sake! Some of it had fallen a little behind the seat so maybe a really stupid person could have missed it. But some of it was between the seat and the fucking door! The filthy bastard would have had to step over it to leave the cubicle!

What was he thinking? That it was too gross to pick up? Hey, it’s your shit, sunshine! How fucking gross do you think it is to other people? Animals! I’m working with fucking animals!

The second one is just weird and disconcerting. I took pictures to show how weird. Also because I’m kind of fond of the camera on my new phone. Don’t worry, the photos are safe for work viewing and not particularly stomach-churning. The first photo is obvious enough. This is a toilet cubicle. But what is that little thing towards the top of the picture? The thing I have marked with an arrow for your convenience?

toilet

Allow me to zoom in and reveal the horror to you.

moisturiser

That, my friends, is a tube of moisturiser. In a toilet cubicle. There’s only one reason I can think of for someone having a tube of moisturiser in a toilet cubicle. And I don’t want to think about it. Some freak in the office spends so much time jacking it that he keeps a tube of lube handy.

I swear, I am never shaking hands with anybody in this fucking place again.

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Religion vs. Science

I think I’ve discovered the secret of the long standing conflict between IT workers and management.  Which is to say, one of my commenters (RobMoir) articulated it and I’m totally stealing his concept.
 
It comes down to the same mentality as religion vs. science.
 
A true believer in religion doesn’t need proof, faith is enough for them.  In fact, a lack of faith and a desire to see empirical truth is seen as a severe failing of character by the faithful.  Conversely, a follower of science finds it difficult to conceive of how someone could simply not want to undertsand something.  The very act of surrendering to a higher power rather continuing the quest for knowledge is incomprehensible to the follower of science.
 
And that’s where the gap in managing IT projects seems to be.  Managers all too often seem to operate on principle of religious faith rather than responding to any objective reality.  The project plan becomes holy scripture.  Or worse still, management exhorts the team to operate on faith alone.  “If we all work together, we can meet the delivery date.”  Reality be damned.
 
A good IT worker treats a project more like science and asks pertinent questions.  What exactly will happen?  How will we make it happen?  Who specifically has the skills to make it happen?  What course of action will we follow when the unexpected inevitably happens?
 
Mind you, if you want to see an IT worker get religious, start up on their pet operating system / programming language / development methodology / technology platform and/or gaming system.  There’s nothing quite as fierce as a technology based holy war.
 
For an illustration I’ll provide another slightly dramatised discussion based on a very real experience from my (thankfully distant) past.  A bit of context first: I’m a Business Analyst (BA) but there are often two sorts of BAs.  One is based with a business unit and represents their interests.  This person usually writes a Business Requirements document.  The other is an IT based BA who looks at things from a systems basis.  This person is often called a Systems Analyst or Technical Analyst and writes a Functional Specification.
 
In my time, I have been both.  Sometimes on the same job.  In the following example, I was a Systems Analyst.  The BA from the business group was presenting their requirements document and wanted us (the IT group) to sign off.  This was the first time we has seen requirements from them.  And quite frankly, they were shit.  The best bits were ambiguous to the point of being useless and it was full of straight out errors.
 
The BA’s starting point was that me signing off their document was a foregone conclusion.  My starting point was that this was a review meeting.  If the document didn’t pass review it was going back for more work.  When we reached the critical point of “No, I’m not signing off on this piece of shit you call a requirements document,” the following discussion too place (translations provided for people who don’t understand polite business speak).
 
BA: But this meeting was to get a sign off.
(Translation: It’s inconceivable that you could doubt the Holy Scripture.)
 
ME: This meeting was to review the document, I can’t sign it of in its current state.
(Translation: I need proof, not blind faith.)
 
BA: But the project plan says we have to have this signed off today!
(Translation: The Divine Word from on high tell me it is so – I dare not question.)
ME: Then you should have had review sessions before today so we could have given you the feedback you needed to have it ready for signoff.
(Translation: We sign off requirements when they’re right.  We don’t sign off steaming piles of camel turn simply because an arbitrary date has been reached.)
BA: But to meet the schedule this has to be signed off today. We’re delivering it on schedule but you have to sign it off.
(Translation: The schedule said I had to produce a document by today.  I produced a document.  What could possibly be wrong?)
ME: We can only sign off on the requirements when they’re right, not when they schedule says they should be signed off.
(Translation: Was I not clear about the steaming camel turd?)
BA: Well, could you do a “conditional” signoff and we’ll make a note of your issues?
(Translation: If you’re stupid enough to put your name to this you’ll never see me again – it’s your problem from then on.)
ME: You’ve got my feedback, that’s all that’s coming out of this meeting.  There’s no way I can sign off on these requirements. Take the feedback to your manager and if he has any issues he can take it up with my manager because I’m under strict instructions to not sign off anything until it’s ready to be signed off no matter what the schedule says.
(Translation: We’re onto your little games.  Now get the fuck out of my face or I’ll jam that worthless document down your throat until you choke.)
Surprisingly enough, I did not extend my contract at that place.  The job market was very strong at the time and life is far too short to put up with that sort of insanity-inducing dysfunction.  Mind you, it did form the basis of my forthcoming thesis “Project Management Failure – an archetypal example of how to fuck things up completely.”

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