Sunday, January 28, 2007

Time to Wind This Up

Hmm...I feel bad about having one of the those millions of blogs that never get updated so I think I'm going to stop going down this particular blogpath. I always have reasons not to blog--I'm taking Spanish one night a week, play soccer one night, but mostly I don't feel like doing the work of writing a post (30-45 minutes per post) on the other nights.

I'll finish with a few observations.

- One year and a quarter after beginning my job, I think I'm doing pretty well. I'm competent, got a good year end review and solid peer reviews. I've become more discliplined and detail-oriented and have learned to adjust my project management style to work with different people, getting really prescriptive in some situations but staying laid back in others. I wish I had developed these skills at Widgets but there was no mentor for me and little chance for training.

I'm on a variety of projects--some long-term, tedious projects but also the key company-wide project for the next year--so the projects balance out. I've actually had two products release into Production and should have more in the coming months. The company is great and will be vastly expanding my campus soon, creating more opportunities that I could move into. I was given a good raise last year and will get the company bonus in a month or so. The company stock that I can buy at a discount is slowly rising and pays dividends. The negatives of my job are pretty minimal--I think if I wrote them down it would be minor whining, so I won't.

- Widgets has changed quite a bit but, unfortunately, has also stayed the same in many ways. I think the situation has improved for some people because of reorganization but not for others and the big problem area of planning and prioritizing work still need a lot of development.

- Some of my friends are leaving Widgets but I know some will be there until they close the doors. I'm hoping for a buyout of my shares next year. I enjoy doing lunch with Widget friends, attending going away parties as people leave, and staying up on the news.

- The ex-Widgeteers that I communicate with seem to have found good opportunities and miss the people, not the place. They have found companies that appreciate it when you work hard don't consider working long hours a requirement.

- I'm so glad I did this blog! Putting time into writing again has inspired me to get back to a writing project I put off a long time ago--writing up the journal entries that describe my experiences during the Democracy Movement in China in 1989. I may do that as a private blog so I can get comments and questions from people who were there (like my kids) and from people who weren't who can prod me to explain things that most people wouldn't understand. If you want to be invited in, let me know.

Thanks to everyone that's read this blog and especially to the people that wrote comments!


P.S. I downloaded these HTML files and copied the text of the blog into a Word file for archiving. The Word files is 133 pages long!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


We do a lot of group activities like icebreakers, motivators, welcoming lunches, etc. Last week our group watched a video called "Fish!" about the guys that work at a fish stall at the Pike Place Market in Seattle.

The video is about how they have fun at work. They throw the fish around (hard), shout out funny things, get people to do goofy things with the fish, and presumably sell enough fish to stay in business.

I can't remember what the main points of the video were but it was similar to a yoga/meditation/mystical book I have called "Be Here Now." That book is about being all in the present and living life fully and completely. The lessons I remembered were something like

- Have fun!
- Make your day great by believing it will be great!
- Bring the customer into the fun (that one wasn't in the book)!

They really did look like they were having fun. While I watched the video I wondered how much those guys got paid, if anyone starting work at 6 a.m. and being covered with fish guts all day could really be that happy, and how much fish (big whole fish) they actually sold.

At the end of the video the person that suggested we watch it asked the group how we could apply this to our jobs. There was a thoughtful silence-a long thoughtful silence. Luckily our time in the room was over at that point and we could leave without discussing how testing legal software was like selling fish.

Not that we don't all try to have fun at work. It just seemed like it was a long way from the fish market in Seattle to my cube. I guess I could throw things...


Monday, December 04, 2006

The Watcher

On the day before Thanksgiving, the husband of a coworker gave her a giant, helium smiley-face balloon to cheer her up (personal story omitted). She tied the huge smiley-face balloon onto the chair outside her cubicle, two cubes up the row from me, and it's floated there since then....smiling.

The workday after the balloon arrived I was sitting at my desk, staring at my computer screen (typical pose), when I had a weird feeling. I looked up and slightly to my left and saw, just over the top of my cube wall, two huge black eyes with white dots in them. The balloon was staring at me.

Of course when I caught it staring like that it very slowly turned away but it happens all day long when I'm sitting at my computer. Sure, you think the ventilation system causes it to look one way or another--you think that giant smiley-face balloons have no free will. You haven't seen this one.

I mentioned the intrusive behavior of the balloon to it's owner but she either wasn't listening (it was a talk-over-each-other conversation) or she thought I actually enjoyed being spied on by a gas bag. She hasn't taken it home and it hasn't lost any gas as far as I can tell. It may be there forever....watching me.

It would be a shame if someone happened to it. ; )`

Friday, December 01, 2006

Winter Holidays at Law R Us

Right after Thanksgiving they put up the holiday stuff at work. For those of us that aren't the majority religion, it's very refreshing.

Holiday banners are hung from the ceilings near the main doorways. The banners are probably ten feet long since the following holidays are listed on them along with appropriate symbols:

Chinese New Year
Hmong New Years

In addition to the banners, there are small tables put in the public areas with items symbolic of these holidays. There's a Hanukah menorah but also a couple other candle things--one is for Diwali and I don't know about the other one--and some dishes with something in them. I stopped at one of those tables once and tried to figure out each item was but nothing is labeled. I should put in a suggestion to the Diversity Council to label that stuff.

Of course there is still a Christmas tree in the big lobby with fake presents and wreaths in strategic places. I don't think you'll ever see that go away even if a large percentage of the people have last names reminiscent of South Asia.

The company has one big company event which consists of thousands of people streaming through the cafeteria for a drink and some appetizers. There's usually a jazz band playing too. It's time away from the usual routine so people generally go, even if they skip the appetizers. I think last year the Moose coffee shop also gave away free holiday drinks but the lines for their free stuff are too long for me.

Our organization is having a bowling afternoon for our winter holiday party (we did a big picnic thing during the summer). We did the same thing at Widgets during our first year as a big Production group and once as the company's yearly party. It should be fun.

Our group is having a massive potluck. It's been organized in terms of "booths" with themes, as in the "Indian booth." The booths are spread out over two group areas on two floors plus one booth isolated way at the end of the building. That, of course, is the Healthy/Natural Booth where I'm taking my spicy noodles. I can't believe people are going to walk down the hallway with plates of food past all the other groups so I'm expecting a lot of leftovers.

There's also a kids party on a Saturday. I guess thousands of kids are brought here which seems scary but the company has been doing it for decades so I'm told it's well managed and also fun.

I don't have much vacation left for December but I will get two long weekends. Imagine, using all my vacation! I never got to do that Widgets.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Turkey Day at Laws R Us

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving at my workplace is Turkey Day. Okay, it's not officially called that but it is the day they give every employee a turkey. Giving away six or seven thousand turkeys is quite a production.

During the two weeks leading up to Turkey Day, everyone is given a turkey ticket. You then have the choice of hanging onto the ticket and turning it in for a turkey or you donating your turkey to Second Harvest (which I did).

Early in the morning on Turkey Day, they cordon off a large area near the front door. Why a large area? Well, they need to park four or five large moving trucks full of turkeys nearby. They also need room for the conveyor belt that runs from the truck parking area to the front door.

Early in the day, the boxes containing 14-17 pound turkeys start rolling down the conveyor belt. Third shift workers pick up their turkey on the way home. Some people pick up the turkeys at lunch time and head home. Retirees come in for lunch and a turkey. During the day you see people walking around the building carrying the boxes.

At the end of the day (people start leaving in droves at 3 p.m. and stream out until 5 or 6), you can either just take a turkey off the belt or drive up to the conveyor belt and have a cheerful volunteer puts your turkey into your car. I suppose they're there distributing turkeys until the end of the second shift in manufacturing.

Turkey day kicks off the holiday celebrations at work. That will be the subject of my next post.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hiding Places

(Okay, summer, construction projects and the elections are over. I have no excuse not to blog.)

I thought I would ease back into it by writing about something light--my hiding places at work. Wait, they're not hiding places, just places I go when I want to get away from the attractive nuisance of email and the piles of things to do sitting on my desk. Sometimes I just need a relatively quiet spot where I can think through my next step on a project or read through some background material.

My favorite space is back behind the "university" classrooms on the fourth floor. The space is divided into three small areas with four comfortable chairs in each. It's a great place to sit and think because it's a relatively quiet spot in a not-very quiet building.

This space is next to big windows that look out over...some parking lots and a big package express factory--but that's only if you're standing up. If you're sitting down you see some pretty hills and a lot of sky. It's a nice place to watch the weather on stormy days.

The best part about this spot is the big sound-reducing baffle-things hanging from the ceiling. They not only reduce the noise floating in from the elevators/cafeteria/classrooms but they very effectively hide me from anyone who might want to interrupt my thoughts by talking to me about their favorite topic.

There are a few baffle-enclosed tables nearby in the library area. I would sit there too but there are usually groups there doing their collaborative projects for classes. I suppose I could go the huge library downstairs (my daughter's former turf) and sit at the single table but the library workers would think that was really weird.

I also sometimes sit at one of the small tables next to the windows in the cafeteria, again on the fourth floor. That side of the building has a view of...parking lots. Oh well. Actually it also has a good view of the "back door" of my building so I can watch people coming and going. You can also see a very pretty city park that is next to the Laws R Us property.

I like sitting in the cafeteria spot. I don't think I've ever run into someone I know there but, unfortunately, the shortage of meeting rooms has forced many people to hold their meetings in the cafeteria. If the person running a nearby meeting is loud I have to slink back to my desk.

I almost forgot about the far corner of the OTHER cafeteria. Unfortunately I always see people I know there. They don't always talk to me but they do that quick look and move on. I know they're wondering what I'm doing sitting there....

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I Applied for Another Job

Well I celebrated my year anniversary at Laws R Us this week. I couldn't believe a year had gone by.

At our group meeting on Monday I was awarded the one-year anniversary recognition gift--a nice pen. My manager told me I had to tell the group what my best moment was during my first year. Put on the spot like that I couldn'think of anything interesting or humorous so I just said it was the free fruit. I think now the best thing was probably going home after eight hours and not even thinking about work but I don't know if that would have been an appropriate thing to say in front of all the new employees in our group.

Since I've completed a year in my job, I started thinking about what else I might like to do in the company, expecting that job search to take months. In my department it's often said that management doesn't expect you to stay in any job for more than a couple of years. I began a regular scan of my company's job listings, both for my Widgets friends and for myself.

Amazingly, I quickly found a job that was a promotion and would use my web skills. I asked around and found out that the proper way to apply for another job in the company was to talk to your manager first, then apply online. I was nervous about that--what manager wants employees telling them that they want to take a job somewhere else. But my manager was very professional about it and even offered to find out more about the organization I was going to apply to.

Luckily there wasn't much updating to do on my resume. A quick, enthusiastic cover letter and it was done. Now the waiting.....