Monday, May 28, 2012

My "Career" ~ Part 5 ~ Welcome to the I-Land

Three people.

That's how my new department began.  Well, four, if you count me.

The office facilities guy had dusted off a dank corner of the building, an area that had been used to pile broken-down computers and various unwanted office furniture.

He had assembled a glass-walled cubicle in the front of the room, and from there I sat and gazed out three employees.

They weren't even actual employees; they were temps.  I was yet to be convinced that the company had the utmost faith in this new enterprise.

Somebody from the home office in Philadelphia flew out to show me how to use my new software; how to view the inventory and the real-time production stats; and to show the four of us what the hell we were supposed to be doing.

Bugs in the system?  Perish the thought!  There were nothing but bugs in the system for....oh, I'll say...about a year.  Thus, the majority of my eight-to-nine-hour days were spent on the phone to IS in Pennsylvania.  I got to know those two IS guys really well, although our conversations weren't exactly uplifting.

ME:  The system seems to be frozen again.

IS GUY:  (sigh)

My three temps were real troopers, though.  They put up with all the starts and stops and they diligently logged every error that popped up, and they tracked their downtime, which was most of the day.

We bonded.  We were there alone on that island, the one that no one dare visit, except, of course, for Phil.

For Phil, having another place to wander off to, was a dream come true.  He could only hide out in the men's room for so long, after all.  So, when he wanted to disappear, he stopped by and visited with us.  No one would think to look for him there, if anyone actually was ever looking for him, which they weren't.

One of my three girls was Gaby.  She was a German emigrant, and smart and sassy.  Phil kept calling her "Gabby".  She'd correct him every time.  "It's GAH-bee".  And every single time, Phil would say, "Oh, I thought it was 'Gabby'; like Gabby Hayes."  She would just stare at him like he was insane, and then look at me with eyebrows raised, silently imploring, "Who the hell is Gabby Hayes?"

The most unfortunate aspect of all the system downtime was that I was never able to shoo Phil away on the pretext that I was "busy".  Because I was never busy.  Unless I was on the phone to IS.  So, Phil would just sit there, and drone on and on about Omaha (no offense to anyone from Omaha, but I've driven through Nebraska.  It ranks right up there with the most boring landscapes on the face of the earth; and I'm from North Dakota!)

Eventually, though, the bugs got worked out enough so that we were able to bring on more temps.  (The company still didn't want to take that last step of actually hiring anyone).  

We got quite the unit going after a time.  We had about 17 people within a few months.  And once the system actually started working semi-regularly, it snowballed.  Our company was huge, and we were entering claims for every office in the country.  We kept having to add people.

And the facilities guy had to set up more cubes to accommodate more people, and he had to find someplace else to throw the musty furniture castoffs.  We began to take over!  At least the unused space, that is.

And the company finally said, hey, let's hire some of these guys.  Gaby was my first official employee.

Remember Dave?  Dave, who saved me from the evil Connie?  Dave was the brains behind the IKFI outfit.  He had his minion in Philadelphia who functioned as the titular head of the operation, but she answered to Dave, like we all did.  And this project was Dave's baby, so he remained actively involved.

Dave would call me from time to time and yell at me for something or other.  Normally, that would stress the hell out of me.  But I don't know how I knew, but I instinctively did, that Dave was testing me.  He wanted to see if I would crumble.  I just didn't.  But to be frank, I couldn't have possibly been doing anything wrong, because nobody knew what was going on anyway, and we were just making it up as we went along, so I wasn't fazed by the yelling.

During one of those yelling sessions, I sort of raised my voice, too, which is something I never do!  And Dave's response was a soft chuckle.  So, then I knew for sure.  Bastard.  And I say that in a fond way.  Phil always shook in his boots whenever Dave would call and harangue him.  I, however, caught on to the game.  I liked Dave.  He expected a lot out of his people, but the one thing he hated was for people to back down.

Things progressed to the point that I had to have an assistant.  I did get to take a day off here and there, and somebody had to be around to monitor the "stats", and to put people into different queues when the workload required it.  I didn't have the option to hire an actual assistant, so I made Kristen an unofficial one.  She was smart.  She had no business doing data entry, which is a fine occupation; don't get me wrong, but people should live up to their potential.

So, Kristen handled things for me when I was away, and when I finally got the go-ahead to hire an assistant, well, guess who?

I essentially found myself playing mother hen to all my chicklings.  Jobs were scarce in my town, so people took jobs that were beneath their skill set.  I set about instilling some self-esteem in them.

After about a year, I still was working with a mix of regular employees and temps.  Whenever Dave would give the go-ahead to do more hiring, I would gently nudge certain people to apply.  One of my temps, Jessie, was an awesome producer.  Far and away the best in both production and quality.  And it frustrated the hell out of me that whenever a job opening came along, she wouldn't apply.

I pestered Jessie a lot about that, and she always brushed me off.  Then, one day, she came into my cubicle and sat down, and was silent for a good long while.  Finally, she said, "I can't apply.   When I was sixteen, I worked in a convenience store, and I stupidly, stupidly stole some money out of the til.  I have a record.  I can never apply."

After she went back to her desk, I picked up the phone and called the HR lady.  I asked, what would it take to get Jessie hired?  HR Lady said, write a letter; lay out your reasons for wanting to hire her, and you have to VOUCH for her.

So, I did.  Jessie got the job.

Everybody there had a story.  And little by little, they all found reasons to love the IKFI island.

Of course, this love did not sit well with the Claims folks...........

to be continued......

My "Career" ~ Part 6 ~ "Who Do You Think You Are?"

My "Career" ~ Part 7 ~ Another New Boss?

My "Career" ~ Part  8 ~ "Everything's Great!"

My "Career" ~ Part 9 ~ A Cold Wind

My "Career" ~ Part 10 ~  Thank You ~ Goodbye

My "Career" ~ Part 11 ~ Breaking the News 

My "Career" ~ Part 12 ~ Loose Ends 

My "Career" ~ Epilogue

Previous Chapters:

My "Career" ~ Part 4 ~ Phil

My "Career" ~ Part 3 ~ Karma

My "Career" ~ Part 2 ~ Evil Bosses

My "Career" ~ Chapter 1

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