Tuesday, February 12, 2013

2/11/13 Enjoying Work

My guess is that the (legal??) immigrants who clean my house, and barely understand English, are likely the ones that Mexico most misses: ambitious, hard-working, practical, and humorous -- and able to find small amusements in their work. One of the ladies who cleans my house makes cute flowers out of the TP rolls -- my guess more for her amusement than mine, though it works very well on me too.

I haven't talked much about work here....for good reason. As regular readers know, just over a year ago, I was employed at a struggling company with some wonderful co-workers, but an astoundingly oppressive management, including a boss whose religious beliefs excluded shaking hands with women.

Before anyone rushes to defend that position, consider this: he should have refused to shake hands with all, so as to conform to his strict religious beliefs, rather than singling out a single group. Imagine if he'd refused to shake hands with Blacks or Jews only?! Never! So why should only Women be "ok" to exclude from a common social more? No way. But that was the least of the troubles....my former boss's religious beliefs and their unreasonable manifestations didn't even make it to my Top 10 of complaints with this jerk.

Problem #1: he wanted to hold me back, to drive me out by squashing my ambition and desire to learn. This "boss" once cancelled a project when he learned I'd volunteered for it, after he'd called for volunteers, instead assigning me absurd busywork that had no bearing at all on the struggling company that I helped build in its early days. Since I'd filed a formal complaint against him, he couldn't do anything overt, but he was extremely perceptive of peoples' dynamics, and knew that he could drive me out by keeping me down technically.

Fast-forward 18 months or so to my current job, found through a former coworker at the same company, who wisely left immediately when the Taliban-mentality invaded our previous employer.

I've mentioned a few times how very much better my current job is, but superlatives don't exist to describe the humanity and competence and kindness and supportiveness of my current employer. My current much smaller company also has absolutely no room for a stupid vindictive person deliberately trying to drive out an employee, and standing up to nonsense is appreciatged, not criticized.

(As an example of how thoughtful my employer is: recently our national payroll processor messed up and delayed numerous direct deposits -- So the VP sent email to the whole company saying if this created a financial hardship for anyone, to please let him know and he'd make sure to cover it out of his own pocket.)

This difference struck me especially today when I was asked to do yet another project for which I have no direct experience or knowledge for. What a contrast -- instead of being held back, I'm expected to step up. Instead of being soundly criticized for talking with reasonable knowledge of something I worked hard to learn in a short time, I'm praised and thanked for the very same actions. Indeed, I've become my company's de facto "wireless specialist," despite my pitiful lack of background in physics, radio frequency technology and digital signal processing -- but my interest and time spent learning is completely recognized and appreciated. (Just wish I could turn that lucrative...)

And instead of begging to have access to new equipment, new equipment is tossed at me and my coworker all the time - it's all we can do to hold it off. It just doesn't get better than that for network engineers! No longer are we passed over for a choice project for a favored junior team member who attends the Mosque with the boss during Friday prayers!

But my technical interest is barely an indulgence. At a sales company, margins are key, and sales are king. I don't mind -- I'm a huge appreciator of the Bottom Line, even though I'm not commissioned (and never want to be). Occasionally this creates a massive "customer is king" scramble, but I understand, even if putting together a complete network design, including choosing and configuring equipment, for a new data center in 2 days isn't my strength (yet --I'm a lot better than I was a year ago!). I thought I'd dread that aspect of my job, but turns out, I really like making customers happy. And it seems, they like it when I do that too.

No job is perfect, but mine is about as close as it gets, despite my rough-around-the-edges-ness that plagues the poor sales reps I try hard to represent. Seems I'm still a bit of an oddity, especially in my favorite technological area of wireless networking. Not often one finds a middle-aged engineer spouting half-baked nonsense about regulatory domains and maximum transmit power levels in a higher-pitched voice; a short, quasi-social-geek with curves who trips over 1" heels (I try, but I just can't handle heels).

In another blog post, I'll spout about my opinions and experiences on the pros and cons of being the only woman in a roomful of men on a regular basis...it has its pros and cons. Honestly, I think I've always been better off not paying much attention to that, even if they do.

So though I have no talent for transforming TP into flowers, I really appreciate the lesson it brings to any workplace. And so it will help me even more enjoy my work!


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