Cubicle Cultures

3 Walls, Plenty of Stories

Illustration by Vidya Vasudevan,

Journal for the week of 5/7/17

 — Got in about an hour ago for an implementation. We are opening a new location tomorrow and need to ensure that all is ready. The PM is out for a few days and I was asked to fill in, yet another decision that I made on fly to help out. I’m usually not one to volunteer so readily but always happy to help. I didn’t remember from last time that I’d have to rearrange a few things in my life to come in for about 3–4 hours…mainly sleep. I say 3–4 hours but last time I was in here for about 6. Everything is in place, just waiting for folks to come in at 0600 to do their part. Why did I come in at 0430? Couldn’t sleep and the anxiety was getting to me. It’s never much fun but the conference call is always interesting to listen to. Other teams are also doing implementations and we’re all on the same call even though much of what all of us do is not directly related. The coordination of all this can be a bear but it always seems to fall together. Thank God the coffee maker is working, I’m on my first cup of what could be many at the moment.

0600 — Started on time. So far…so good.

0638 — All done! Let’s hope nothing breaks between now and tomorrow morning. Now the emails are flying around from folks on the team saying everything has been validated and closed. It’s great to know everyone is covering each others asses. The last thing anyone wants is to get a call later today or tomorrow from people wanting to know if things have been done or why the tickets haven’t been closed.

0649 — Out.

0734 — In.

1201 — A few meetings today, 2 of which I didn’t need to attend but did to kill some time and justify it on my timesheet. The third meeting was for just us Leads (supposed technical gurus with teams). We made a few decisions such as keeping it 1 topic for each meeting, establish a schedule (once a month) and who will lead them meeting, upcoming topics, and other stuff. I was surprised on how calm it all was. We’ve had these meetings in the past and they turn into complaint sessions where little got done outside of all of us asking the same questions, “What does management expect of us?”. We never get that answer from management, they want us to define our positions, manager-speak for “we don’t know and don’t bother us with it”. I think this particular meeting went well. There was a follow up email sent to management asking when it would be good to present our findings to them, ie one or two weeks after we have ours. Like me, many of us get little to no input from management about their expectations. Mainly vague or ambiguous thoughts that lead nowhere. My suggestion (and mantra) is to just move ahead with what we want our teams to do and keep management in the loop. The title of “Lead” is misleading. We’re really supervisors without the title and have little say in resourcing our people or even making decisions for our teams. It’s endlessly frustrating. So, I’ve told my team several times to go ahead and try any and all ideas they have no matter how crazy they may be. Our lowest development environment is nothing more than a sandbox for this sort of thing. I NEVER refuse new ideas as long as nothing brings the entire enterprise down. Just do it! The rest of the Leads aren’t as brazen as that but I see no reason to hold back the creative/technical process of my developers. The call was beneficial to show where we all stand on certain things as simple as mentoring the new Leads to budgeting for the upcoming project cycle. We’ll see how it goes in the future.

1543 — Not a lot happening today. I had to send an email to management for clarity on budgeting for my team’s projects. No response yet and the info is due on Wednesday. If all goes well, I’ll be out of here on time today. Last minute bullshit comes up on Mondays almost always. I’ve been getting texts from my boss’s husband with updates on her recovery. Hip replacement surgery is no joke. She’s home and has already had a nurse and a physical therapy person over. Knowing her, she’ll be up and walking around sooner than she thinks. She used to run 1/2 marathons until recently, the surgery was overdue. I doubt she’s in any hurry to come back to work. Were I in the same situation, I’d milk it for all it’s worth.

1625 — Out.

0740 — In.

From the cubicle: The La La Dog is all the rage here. I showed it to a colleague this morning and it got him laughing. It’s the funniest damn thing since Grumpy Cat. I hope the owners are making money off of this. The dog is not being abused, exploited, but not abused else I would have reported it somehow. No, I’m not for exploiting anything but it’s still funny.

0850 — Currently on a conference call with our tax team. They are implementing some form changes and going through balancing for the generated numbers. Going pretty well so far. My tax team is incredible. I’m grateful for all they do. Two grizzled old farts really lead the project. Actually only 1 is grizzled and a bit of a prick, the other is just a little grizzled and stays pretty calm. Both expert developers and this is their full time job.

0859 — Again, I’m in two places at one time. I have two remote sessions (shared screens with others) for two different meetings but can only be on one call at a time. Crazy.

From the cubicle: During these continued conference calls I’ve been distracted by blogs on Medium. I had to put my phone down because I’m feeling guilty about wasting time. I write a weekly blog which is basically this journal but I feel no guilt when writing it during the day. There’s downtime built into every day whether we know it or not. Keeping my hands busy also keeps my mind working.

1058 — I’m reviewing a friend’s resume and bouncing it off of a new job announcement. This is going to take a while. I’m not fully sure she’s qualified but encouraged her to apply. She’s got many years of IT and business experience but I’m not seeing too much correlation. Maybe some tweaking of verbiage would be helpful.

1356 — Tracking down budget numbers from last year is not my idea of fun but the financials are due tomorrow and there’s a mad rush for them. Since my boss is out, another has stepped in and doing everything she can to get numbers from everyone. She’s a really good person and has always treated me great so I’m happy to provide her with anything she needs. The biggest issue is that my team really doesn’t need to budget for anything outside of training. We don’t handle mainframe upgrades of any kind, just maintenance projects that are handed off to us.

1619 — Going to skate a bit early today after a quiet afternoon. Been a good day.

1620 — Out.

0733 — In.

From the cubicle: My colleague and I are showing off pictures of our new nephews. Both were born yesterday. Both boys are beautiful and I’m very excited for all the new parents :) I’m a total pushover when it comes to kids. My three own me and know that I’ll give them practically anything. Being in their 20s now is still hard to imagine, it feels like they grew up overnight. However, all three are strong women and very independent which is exactly what we wanted. They don’t call for money (I’d gladly give them money if they ask) and they have kept the drama of life to a minimum. I’M SO PROUD OF MY GIRLS!! I just wish they lived closer.

0831 — I’m confused about a couple of courses assigned to me, both dealing with leadership. I got two emails (1 for each class) saying both are due tomorrow but the course description says a due date of 5/12/17 and the internal training center says 5/19. I sent an email to the POC and she’s out today. So now I’m in limbo. Both are online but I don’t want to miss anything. Stay tuned…this might turn out funny.

1148 — Finished a very long meeting going over a SRD (Systems Requirements Doc) for a project that probably won’t come to my team but it was just a heads-up for us. The next meeting was very similar; a large project that my team doesn’t handle. We take on repeatable processes and Service Catalog requests which are just small turn around coding if that. The latter meeting was good. The PM was kind enough to give us a brief overview but none of it qualifies coming to us. I have a feeling that we’re on it just for FYI purposes but we’ll find out soon.

From the cubicle: Trump is a fucking moron. ‘Nuff said.

1220 — There’s no buzz around the office which is unusual. Just a few loud folks on conference calls. A lot of coughing in my area. The weather has been crazy which is probably making everyone sick. A week or 2 ago we hit the high 80s, this week will be in the 50s to low 70s with rain expected tomorrow through Saturday. My wife has been battling a sore throat the last couple of days and I’m thinking it’s my turn next.

From the cubicle: I’m going through a conflict in my mind about the weekend. We’re going up to see family for a Seder dinner, my first. I keep getting bugged about bringing a guitar and playing a bit for everyone. I DON’T PLAY PEOPLE’S LIVING ROOMS! This has been a long standing rule of mine because little kids can’t keep their hands to themselves. I don’t want any of my equipment being touched because parents can’t control their kids and, when/if something gets broken, won’t take accountability for their kids’ actions. Typical of today’s parents IMO. Musicians at parties or family gatherings end up being babysitters and not getting any adult time because kids want to fuck around and don’t care about anyone’s stuff. I also don’t do it because it’s demeaning. We’ve all had the experience of doing our little songs, dances, whatever in front of our parents and/or their friends and it’s always cute when you’re young. That’s how I feel about playing living rooms, a little kid looking for approval…”Dance little Johnny dance”. I fucking hate that. My wife’s family hasn’t been too pleased with my refusal but I don’t even play for my family. It’s not selfish if you think about it. My wife has cousins that are renowned musicians (a violinist and a piano player) that bring their instruments and play. That should be enough but there’s always what feels like an inquisition towards me that I have to explain. Every. Fucking. Time. Her next oldest sister tries to guilt me into doing it. Every. Fucking. Time. I’ve played in these circumstances before and won’t do it again. Some of my friends have asked me to play their private parties, ie their homes, but my rule is no children. I get mean looks and never get asked to play again…GOOD! I’ve been in and out of bar bands almost my whole life, love playing live, and getting paid. I don’t expect family to pay me (and would refuse if they tried to) but it’s just a peeve of mine. It’s damn near impossible to get folks to understand that. “Why aren’t you sharing your talents?” they ask or “Why are you being so stubborn?”. Well, if they had listened to my reasoning then they’d understand. I’m getting more pissed as I write this but this is the only way I can release my displeasure. Want to see me play, pay a cover charge, have a drink, and enjoy the show.

1330 — I’m heading home. Can’t take the anxiety I’ve put myself through today and it’s made me sick.

0744- In.

0927 — One of the meetings I had this morning got cancelled…YES!! My disdain for meetings of any kind is well known, maybe even legendary. Send an email, IM the information, anything other than taking up time in my day than sitting on a phone or in a room trying to act interested.

From the cubicle: Decided to try listening to music and working. No actual production thanks to the Beatles. You’re not a Beatles fan unless you know Ringo is left-handed. Now you do, you’re welcome.

1051 — Finished and sent some resume updates for a colleague that I started a day or two ago. She’s going to apply to a leadership position and I hope she gets it. Her experiences sort of dances around the term leadership on her resume but massaging the verbiage should’ve helped out.

From the cubicle: I’m really sick of the phrase at the end of conference calls that end early, “I’ll give you (insert any amount of time) of your day back”. No shit you’re giving us precious minutes of our day back!

1403 — So…I was tempted to put a smart ass comment in a description field but didn’t. We record time spent on projects via tickets which are basically a heads-up that work is being done and tracked. Each ticket can have multiple tasks added to it for individuals that play a part. I had 3 on a ticket today to make some updates across two different platforms, pretty easy stuff just verbiage changes. When I went back into the ticket to close my tasks, I was tempted to put a line in the description field that said, “No Oxford commas were harmed in this process.” but I didn’t. I’m 99.92% sure that no one pays attention to that field. Folks that check the tickets for completion really are looking to see if the task has been closed. I’m betting that absolutely NO ONE would catch it. If anyone did it would be a buddy of mine on the team that ensures tickets/planning/other stuff is done and he’d get a great laugh out of it. None of the description verbiage shows up on status reports, just info that says if something is done or not. This place has zero sense of humor and since I’m a bit of a class clown, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if I did it. I told a colleague what I was thinking of doing and he encouraged me but also said it was a bad idea. I swear on my cold cold heart…I’m going to do it if the opportunity arises. Just once to see if anyone catches it. There’s certainly no joy in Mudville here but all of us try to inject a bit of humor. Sometimes it’s appreciated but most of the time it’s not. I have always remembered and abide by the phrase, “If you think it’s a bad idea then it is”. It keeps my ass out of trouble…most of the time. But when you’re in the moment it always seems like a good idea.

1523 — I’m about to have a call with an AVP regarding another assistant manager job. It looks like it was posted today. The same recruiter is handling it which bothers me. Other management jobs I’ve been vetted out for and she’s the recruiter. I don’t think it’s her per se but the coincidence is there. I even know her from past meetings and she’s been quite nice but I’ve heard some complaints recently so I’m not sure what’s going on. This call will, hopefully, get me some gumption to apply. Stay tuned…

1536 — Call went well. The hiring manager is very approachable and she has a great way of getting to the point when asked questions. I mentioned the recruiter and she wasn’t too worried about that. She also mentioned that when she gets about an 80% good feeling regarding a person’s personality and enthusiasm that person will most likely get an interview. So…I’m going to apply and send her my resume via email. We shall see.

1426 — Out.

0743 — In.

0957 — Not much going on at the moment. I finally got approved for remote access…only took 4 tries over the past year. Now I have to go through a bunch of instructions when I get home but it won’t be too bad. My wife left for Rhode Island this morning early. We are going to attend a Seder dinner tomorrow and she wanted a head start. Since I don’t like long car rides (mainly because we always get in nasty arguments over nothing), I’m flying into Boston tomorrow and she’s picking me up. Same thing on the way back. I’ve also relented and decided to take my guitar up there to “dance for the people”. My hope is that I don’t have to play since two other musicians will be there and are much better than I. I swore my wife to secrecy about bringing it since her damn sister will start insisting I play and act like a spoiled brat if I don’t. So…what I’ll do is gauge the situation and see if it’s appropriate. Over the past few nights I’ve learned a few songs: Yesterday, Norwegian Wood, Elenaor Rigby, Blackbird, and practiced others I already know. Yes, I’m a Beatles fan, so are the folks we’re going to see. I’m the youngest of that bunch at 47; I imagine there’ll be a few small kids there too. Some of the rest are from/took part in/experienced the hippie culture of the 60s. It’s nice to hear their experiences and stories. One of my wife’s cousins, I think, was even part of a Hare Krishna movement which is pretty cool. I love talking with her, she’s a kind soul. Problem I see is, if I end up playing there, the rest of our collective families will expect me to continue doing it. This is going to open a Pandora’s Box that I won’t be able to close.

1317 — I applied to the assistant manager job today. Re-tooled my resume, spoke with the hiring manager yesterday, fine tuned all my qualifications…all for naught probably. This will be the last time I apply for anything here. I’ve thought of leaving this place for a couple of years and, at 47, I’m not confident I’ll find anything that will pay me the same and have my best interest in mind. Like most companies, it’s who you know in order to get promoted. Lateral moves are more likely to come through but cronyism is rampant. I don’t play politics and it shows. A colleague told me recently that the only knock on me she’s heard is that I’m blunt. It’s utterly true. We’ll see.

1524 — Just had a great conversation with my Service Manager. He reached out for ideas on which of my guys can take on some new skill sets for a project that sounds quite large and urgent. I gave him a couple of names and both guys are usually open to learning new things. One of the biggest complaints around here is lack of training, be careful what you wish for. These two are going to be thrown into something neither has experience with and it’ll be interesting to see the reception. Because I applied to the job mentioned earlier, I also spoke with him about my reputation here, flatly asking if he’s heard anything negative either consistently or otherwise. He was adamant in saying no and it was refreshing. He’s a straight up guy and I trust his opinion. Like my manager, he’s always encouraging people to try and advance their careers. Our talk included some opinions about people that might be involved in decision making that could harm chances for people to advance as well folks that are willing to give good input to hiring managers. It’s a tough thing to talk about. I’m sure politics plays a role but maybe I’ve just pissed off the wrong people over the last 10 years. Who knows? I sent him my resume, he thinks that may be the problem. He’ll look it over when time allows (he’s busier than the next 5 people I can name) and give some feedback. I am very grateful that he’s willing to do that, it means a lot to have a supportive management structure.

1625 — Out.

If you’ve read this far…thanks! Please feel free to click the heart below and comment. I’d love to hear your experiences no matter what it may be.