Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New job

Ok, long time no post. I’ve been getting used to my job: trying to learn something new and still try to show the boss he made the right decision in hiring me while I figure out what’s going on. At home our marvelous internet provider, Cox Communications, has been treating our side of town in their usual marvelous customer oriented manner. Internet access has been up and down for a week – over half the time when I click on a web site I get the ‘cannot connect’ message, and down totally for the past two days. In order to get the internet access we had to subscribe to the Cox ‘digital package’, which requires us to use a set top decoder box, but does provide an additional 150 channels (and still nothing’s on, well, noting interesting to us). One of the critical items this provides is access to PBS television, which is the provider of Sesame Street.

Sesame Street, and more particularly, Elmo’s World, has become a critical item to have on screen during breakfast time. Somehow somebody in our house has become ‘hooked’ on Elmo, and it is a requirement now, not a luxury. The past two weeks we have had Sesame Street visually, but with a very low sound level. Well, the voices when speaking were very low but for some reason the music was loud. And if you have ever watched Sesame Street you would know that music is an important part of the show. Which means we either listened to the music at a comfortable level and then could not hear the characters speak or we turned it up so that we could hear Elmo but then were deafened by the loud volume of the music. And then yesterday the decoder would not provide a picture at all. This resulted in much complaining, and eventually a disconnect of the box and a reconnection, which did provide us with the all important channel but lost us the upper 150. But nothing is as important as Elmo.

So I thus have a bunch of photos sitting awaiting upload, and you just get words today. I have been hesitant to post from work, still getting adapted here, but figured it was time to start.

I really like working at this place compared to my last employer. There the MIS department had about 30 programmers, with around 450 other bank employees – mostly phone people. Everybody had a computer in front of them, and the programs drove the phone dialer and popped up information on callers, and was basically a requirement for operation. Here there are only two programmers, out of about 180 full time employees. The main thrust is rental of the large halls, and providing services such as power and lights and food and cleaning for the booths rented for shows. The programs I work for are used to order services, and perform accounting functions, and accept credit cards as payment. But if the computers are down they can still function on paper, though the computers are not allowed to be down. So the IT department is not as integral a part of operations here as it was at the bank. We are more of an overhead accessory instead of a required part of operations.

This feels like a great reduction in stature, but along with that comes a great reduction in stress. No more 2am phone calls about the transmissions being late and nightly processing delayed. No more calls about the statistical reports on collections calls being two hours behind. A lot simpler here, though there are times when things become critical, it is quite different.

So it seems more like being an employee of a small company – having a staff of 180 is considered a small firm here. But there are the benefits of being attached to a hotel with over 4,000 rooms and thousands of workers. Right now they are setting up for a big show – all of our space is being used: over 1,000,000 square feet. 35,000 people are expected to attend, and there are hundreds of vendors setting up. This is a show that deals with carpets and tile and wood floor coverings, and the tools to install them and the software to plan installations and everything associated with this stuff. On Friday setup started, and there were over twenty big trucks at a time in the hall upstairs being unloaded. There were over fifty fork lifts zipping around unloading the trucks and moving stuff to the right area of the hall. As one truck emptied another one came in to take it’s place.

There were piles of crates and boxes and wall segments and all sorts of stuff. The show opens tomorrow, and so everyone is scrambling to make it pretty. Yesterday the halls were full of tile installers putting down every type of floor tile and countertop tile imaginable, and wood installers putting down hardwood floors of every color, and carpet people and laminate installers and carpenters building walls and houses right inside our hall to show how their stuff would look. Downstairs the ceiling is lower and it’s mostly smaller booths, with kitchens being set up to demonstrate cabinets and countertops, and tools being laid out, and literature assembled. It is amazing to see all that it takes to put a show together.

I am impressed with the coordination involved. Somebody had to lay out where all of the hundreds of exhibitors would have booth space, who paid for a better location or a bigger space, who needed how many electrical outlets, who wanted carpets or tables or chairs, who wanted extras. Before the trucks arrived somebody put tape on the floor and labeled each booth. The electricians dropped wires from the ceiling and set up power. And somebody had to figure out where to park several hundred big trucks, and the order they should arrive to be unloaded so that the stuff in back was put there first so as not to block the stuff coming in later. Where to put the food booths and the coffee machines, where to put chairs to rest in and small places to sit and talk. How much food to order, how many sandwiches and cokes and salads would be consumed. How many servers would be needed, and custodians to clean up during setup and each evening after the show closed. Dozens of security guards to watch every door are also here. And then to have a place where exhibitors can come and complain about missing a crate, or order more power, or ask for extra chairs.

I tried walking around the hall yesterday to see the construction, but all the aisles were filled with boxes and open floor space was being used to build counters and walls. The floors were slippery, covered in sawdust and trash. Lots of people are pushing brooms and hauling away packing material. Hundreds of people all interested in getting their individual space set up correctly. It is quite different than wandering through the cubicles of collections agents back in the bank.

So I like it here – even though my office is down in the basement and not as nice as at the bank. I can always take a break and go up to walk along the canals of Venice and watch the entertainers. There are food courts and fancy restaurants available. We get vouchers for the food service when shows are here, and I get to watch while they build and then wander the aisles to see all of the wonders presented. Last week was a show for the catering industry, with exhibitors showing off plates and silverware and coffee makers for hundreds and delivery trucks and all kinds of pretty restaurant things. This week it’s floor coverings and counters, next week it’s fancy shoes. Each week is something different.

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