Tag Archives: work

Shooting The Bullshot

Activision had posted a job opening for an “Art Services Screenshot Associate“. Among the many bullet points of requirements (four year degree!) and job duties was this gem:

Perform advanced retouching of screenshots and teach skills to others as needed.

This sort of “honesty” from Activision is becoming more and more common. I look forward to the inevitable “Game Reviewer Bullying Associate” position getting posted.
But this isn’t a post to knock Activision around again. This is about career paths.

Continue reading Shooting The Bullshot

Milestones

It’s been nearly four years since I joined the staff of Weill Cornell Medical College. In that time I’ve held three different titles and worked on over what feels like a hundred projects.

The first project I worked on, the one I was hired for, has stuck with me through all four years. In one capacity or another, I’ve always had a hand in the WCMC Elearning team, supporting the curriculum efforts at the Qatar branch of the Medical College. In the spirit of honesty, it hasn’t been my favorite project over the years: an operational effort that rarely gets acknowledged for keeping things running, but the first under fire when it falls apart. It’s been a rough existence, fighting with 270 millisecond latency and MPEG-4 encoders. (Good thing we’re not streaming live 99% of the time.)

On May 8th, the very first class of students graduated from WCMC-Q. This is the first time an American medical school has awarded M.D. degrees outside of US borders. These are the students that my work went towards teaching for those first two years when I was most involved with the project.

I’m proud to have been a part of this effort, knowing that it has achieved substantial good in the world. And I’m proud of the team I’ve worked with over those four years to help make fifteen students halfway around the world make history.

Escalation

I have a small subset of my home music collection on my work computer. A number of these tracks are things I purchased off the iTunes store, which includes a fair number of tracks that I can only justify owning as “for nostalgic value”.

Because I value nostalgia so deeply, many of these songs end up in rotation, and I’ve taken a small amount of shit from a coworker about the number of times he’s heard House Of Pain’s *Jump Around* in the last month.

After publicly threatening to purchase a copy of Wreckx-n-Effect’s *Rump Shaker*, Adam Kuban (a fellow crap music lover) gifted me the song on iTunes.

But this, I fear, is not enough. Two obnoxious 90’s songs are not enough to terrorize an office, and even the Richard Cheese albums have too much artistic merit to enjoy ironically. I promised my friends that I would out-crazy them in 2008, and if there was ever a resolution I intended to keep, this is it.

So to my coworkers, I apologize. My hand has been forced.

This is, as it turns out, the second CD I ever owned as a child (the first being the original C+C Music Factory album). For the years of 1991 through 1996, I lived on a musical diet of the sorts of things one would hear at a middle school dance (not strange, considering I was *in middle school* at the time). Regardless, my mom was throwing out some of my things and came across a pile of CDs. This one deserved rescuing.

Now if only I could find my MTV Party To Go CDs…

On Goodbyes At The Workplace

As you may know, I work in the education segment of the technology world. This has taught me a few things.

*One*, very few people are here for the money. We tend to be below market price for base salary, and while the difference is usually made up in fringe, many people are looking at that dollar sign for an indication of self-worth.

*Two*, very few people are in it for the prestige. Despite the idea that you are afforded more lulls (not lulz) by the concepts of winter break, or spring break, or summer vacation, you aren’t. There is a constant, overwhelming pile of work – not only to keep the lights on, but to advance the mission as well.

*Three*, because of points one and two, there are a few types of people who mesh very well into this environment. It takes a very particular mix of multitasking, self-sacrifice, persistence, optimism, and zany madcap humor to feel comfortable here. It takes a person willing to trade the spoils for the stability to stay here.

I’m proud to say I work with a handful of people who fit that description. But today, I have to see one leave – not for money, not out of frustration, but to spread her wings and travel the world for a year with her husband.

This wasn’t a surprise, per se; the employee in question was kind enough to give four months notice. But it only really hit me last week, that this constant source of balance and sanity in my workplace is going to be gone as of 5PM today. The contact won’t be gone – I still expect to be chatting endlessly over IM late at night – but the constant interaction will be.

It’s tough losing someone who’s been so valuable to your work experience. And it’s hard, in an environment you’re so used to be professional in, to realize how much certain coworkers mean to you.

Enough melancholy – Paula, it’s been a dream working with you. Thank you for everything. I am undeniably jealous of your plans, and wish you all the best. New York will be here, waiting patiently for your return.

Promotion

While it hasn’t formally been announced to the entire department, it was seemingly announced to enough people last night that now seems to be a good time to post about it.

I am no longer a *Technology Services Analyst* with ITS. Effective July 1, I am now the *Manager, Collaborative Technologies*.

I will be heading up a new group that covers a lot of ground – wikis, enterprise IM, enterprise syndication, video conferencing, etc. This is, unsurprisingly, the stuff that I tend to be knowledgeable about. I’m looking forward to diving into it in a formal leadership role. I’m especially looking forward to see how we can do more to link technology between the three Cornell campuses.

Fiscal Year End vs. iPhone

For much of the last week, the conversation with nearly everyone I know has been the same.

“Are you getting an iPhone?”
“When are you getting in line for the iPhone?”
“Are you ditching your Sidekick?”
“I don’t understand the iPhone hype.”

I need to let you folks in on a little secret that does not immediately appear to have anything to do with the iPhone: I hate the last week of June.

Everyone, in the course of their professional lives, will find at least one day a year that fills them with dread. This day is not a surprise or appear out of the blue, but instead telegraphed by the calendar. It can be a busy season like holidays (retail), the arrival of students (education), tax season (small businesses), the end of the calendar year, whatever.

For me, it’s the last week of June, because it is the end of the fiscal year.

A Crash Course In Fiscaliciousness

Many people hear the term “fiscal year” and correct identify it as something to do with money and time. The idea is simple: your budget extends for one year. The date where one budget year stops and the next one starts is called the (say it with me now) fiscal year end.

For companies that make money, the fiscal year end is when they have to close all their deals for the accounting year to make sure they can report it to the investors as a good year. (This happens on a quarterly basis, too – hence quarterly earnings reports – but the year end raises the stakes a bit.) For institutions that aren’t in the profit business – say, education – the stakes are different.

Our goal is not to make money, but instead to spend it. And not in some willy-nilly fashion: we have countless support contracts on both hardware and software that expire in time with the fiscal year end. We also have some new purchases that we try to do if there’s money left over in the budget.

Now Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Complaining

Why this sucks: It takes anywhere from five to nine people to get a purchase from merely a requisition to a purchase order. These people must act serially, not in parallel. They often have to talk to each other, or send each other documentation. The process traditionally takes five business days and is pretty low-key.

During fiscal year end, however, it is occasionally necessary to get this full process to happen, from start to finish, within an hour.
Now repeat that well-defined, multi-person process over one hundred times. In one week.

Oh, and we must not forget about the vendors. You can’t requisition something without a vendor giving you a quote – and many vendors are slammed this time of year, as it’s their end of quarter/year as well. So best of luck trying to get quotes revised and clarified. This also means that when they do call you, it’s to get the purchase orders because they need to book that revenue.

This was a sixty hour week with almost no downtime. No windows, no sunlight (working lunches only!), the familiar smell of whiteboard markers and my laptop, the eye-ruining grid of Excel. Endless context switching, drilling through an ever increasing pile of email, scribbling on white boards, learning how mainframes work.

The Inevitable Question

Yes, you, in the back.

“Dan, I thought you worked with, you know, computers. You’ve got a degree in computer science. Last I knew you were doing server administration and all that. What the hell are you doing?”

I will skip the elaborate description of how my job got this way. The short version: I seem to have a significant gift of keeping tabs on nearly everything our organization is doing. (I blame my NADD.) This is a blessing – everyone knows they can come to me and I’ll probably have the answer, if not a direction to point them in. This is a curse – everyone knows they can come to me.

I have been pegged with so many random projects over the last year in my current role that my self-appraisal could only be completed by scrubbing over all of my outgoing mail for the last year. “Oh yeah, I did that!” is never a fun thing to hear yourself say.

And so, since it appears that nearly everything falls under my purview, so too does the fiscal year end.

Maintaining Sanity While Going Insane

This is obviously not the first year I’ve gone through this, but it was the first year where I’ve had a major portion of the workload for it. As such, here are a few observations as to how to keep your head from falling off when faced with major time-limited projects.

  • As soon as you see sit coming, firebomb your calendar. Remove anything you don’t need to be in, and blanket the rest in contiguous blocks of time. Long stripes from 9-5 every day send a clear message to your coworkers: stop booking me into your meetings.
  • Bring in things that will make you happy and remove stress – music and snacks are safe bets.
  • Prepare your family for the coming onslaught, but don’t forget to call them when you can.
  • If you feel yourself start to fry, take a lap. Find someone else and catch up with them for five minutes. Then get back to it.
  • Defer the people who call or email you. Say no. Otherwise, you will have something pulling you off point.
  • Slightly disregarding the last point: it may be in your best interest to plan something totally ridiculous as a major stress break in the middle of the project, like a group lunch. Note that this can backfire totally if you’re not careful, so try to have some extra help.

(These observations may seem obvious or useless. I think I may be writing them down more for my own future reference.)


Back to the question I started with: was I going to camp out for an iPhone? Would I join the crowd of Apple faithful, early adopters, and media circus at 5th Avenue and 59th Street? Would I be first in line for what Steve Jobs described as “the most revolutionary and exciting product in Apple’s history”?

No, friends, I would not. There was work to be done, and you better believe I got it done. The fiscal year end waits for no product launch.

I got mine Saturday instead.

Unofficial eTech 2007 Google Calendar

If you were to make a Venn diagram where circle A is “my blog readership” and circle B is “people going to eTech 2007”, the intersection would be non-existent. Still, in the off chance that there’s a slight overlap…

I’ve spent about an hour pulling the [eTech 2007 schedule](http://conferences.oreillynet.com/pub/w/52/sessions.html) into Google Calendar, so that I can quickly push and pull it off of my personal calendar and plan which sessions I’m looking forward to.

If you’re not using Google Calendar, you can also get it in [Atom format](http://www.google.com/calendar/feeds/mjrso671dg5mvm82qgrs9i3cq8%40group.calendar.google.com/public/basic), [iCal format](http://www.google.com/calendar/ical/mjrso671dg5mvm82qgrs9i3cq8%40group.calendar.google.com/public/basic.ics), or [plain ol’ HTML](http://www.google.com/calendar/embed?src=mjrso671dg5mvm82qgrs9i3cq8%40group.calendar.google.com&dates=20070301%2F20070401).

Note that the conference is at the end of March, so looking in February for events may be pointless.

Again, the calendar is a work of my own; it should not be treated as gospel and all inaccuracies are my fault, not O’Reilly’s. Unless they put up faulty information that I correctly copied – that would be their fault.

Finally, if you’re going, please let me know – I’d love to meet up with some readers.

(crickets chirp)

Oh. Right.

In Print: Working Mac – January 2007

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been published a second time for my Quicksilver work.

This time, you can find my contributions to a MacWorld article, entitled “Working Mac: Launch Your Productivity” in the January 2007 issue, which should be on newsstands now and online within the next month. The article covers tips using all three major launchers (Butler, LaunchBar, Quicksilver) for OS X. Dan Frakes and Rob Griffiths also contributed.

I realize, looking at the article, that it actually got chopped down from what I had originally written – which bodes well, I guess, for my ability to write lots about Quicksilver.

For those who missed my first printing, my original tutorial was published in O’Reilly’s [Mac OS X Panther Hacks](http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/0596007183/).

I hope to be able to announce my third printed Quicksilver endeavor within the next month.

I’m Fine

For those of you who have heard about the [small plane crash](http://www.gothamist.com/archives/2006/10/11/helicopter_cras.php) – I’m fine. Not my building, although very close by.

I [took a few pictures](http://www.flickr.com/photos/remydwd/tags/72ndstcrash/). Gawker has some [better ones](http://gawker.com/news/photos/first-photos-plane-crashes-into-manhattan-building-206915.php) – the scorch mark is unreal.