Friday, August 10, 2012

Giving the Customer What They've Asked For

I've never really been one for job descriptions. I think they're appalling documents. They only take into account what's needed rather than what can be given. They're an attempt to document a need in a particular point of time. I've always been about value add.

When I was 14 I did up a circular for a friend's mother who was a florist. I wasn't asked to do it and I kind of hid the fact that it was just something I was interested in doing by saying it was for a class.  It was never used but I wanted to do it anyway.

When I was in Hamilton, I lived there for 2 ½ years, I was hired as a data entry clerk. It was a factory environment which had varying levels of stress in a single night. i.e. sometimes it was hard to keep up. Other times I was cruising.

In those cruising times, I was looking at ways to add value. I adjusted their printing template. I documented that particular job. Eventually I was asked to document ALL of the jobs around the factory. I became essentially a P.A. I established a way of quantifying work product and mistakes to make the pay structure more fair and was even asked to help with supporting documentation for union negotiations. I did quite a bit of work around quality control. I was doing all of this for around $19 / hour. I had said to my boss at the time that money was not a motivating factor and the only reason I was sticking around was the fact that I was learning off him. When I left, I set up templates and vba (Visual Basic for Applications) code to do all of the tricky bits so that my replacement could just chuck the numbers in.

Enter probably the worst workplace I've ever worked in. I was working on phones in a horribly stressful atmosphere. I was asked to work weekends, had the worst shift (finished around 6:30pm), worked through lunches and other breaks. I did some work outside of my hours to keep some of their customers happy and eventually found that my call quantity dropped as people would call, ask whoever they got to get me to call them (outgoing calls didn't count). I had defined and eventually established the need for a "2nd in charge" role and at the end of this, got a $0.50 / hour pay rise. Money's not a great motivator, but it is a token of appreciation (in a place that showed no appreciation. I remember being raked over the coals after getting a thank you letter from one of their customers).

I got hired (actually - that's not strictly right. The resourcing had been approved but actually hiring people hadn't. The whole team were having to work off USB sticks as we didn't have network access) as what I describe as an "Excel Junkie". During the middle of this project, we held a conference for everyone to get a scope of what was going on project wide. I had to get up and speak - but before doing so, I had counted the number of times my name had been mentioned throughout the day. Around 30 odd. I had moved on from being nothing more than an Excel junkie to being fundamental to how the project ran (at the time). Eventually I managed to make that job redundant.

The "image" has been called into question. Why am I working so hard on it? Because it has the potential to be something awesome. Something I can be proud of. It's been my work product for the last 2 years (I do question the value of those 2 years given the issues I'm currently facing. There's a whole rant in here which I'm not going to get into but right now is a pretty hard time for me). Has the "customer" asked for it to have the functionality that it currently has or the functionality I'm proposing? No. Has that ever stopped me? Absolutely not.

But this does bring up an interesting issue. Intellectual property... If it's something I could be proud of, what limitations are likely to be placed around me if I want to open up the development more?

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