Promotion! Part 2

So the field of eight got whittled down to two candidates.  Next steps… We would have to interview with the CFO (the overarching head of our department) and with some of the managers in the merged department we would be supporting.

Once again, I used my time-tested preparation methods.  Clear your head and just go in.  The interview was more of a conversation.  Our CFO is smart, and his questions were probing and required long answers with details from the breadth of my work experience.  Seriously, for one question the only relevant experience I had was from the early 90s when I was still working at ye olde bank ops center.  I hadn’t thought of those events in ages, and my presentation of them probably wasn’t the best.

For other questions, I was able to use more recent experience at ye olde newspaper.  And in a couple of cases I was even able to use my current job as an example.  Still, this was a tough interview and it had me on my toes the entire time.  Originally, the interview was only supposed to last 30 minutes, but it took nearly an hour.  I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.  I think I answered well enough overall, but there were a couple of my answers that left me scratching my head and thinking for the rest of the day.

A few days later, the other interview was scheduled.  This was the first of the interviews that I actually prepared for.  My preparation consisted of running a report to see how many open tickets each of the two departments had currently for Reporting.  Between the two, the list was somewhat extensive (some would say daunting).  More than I had actually expected.  For a split second I thought…  “What am I getting myself into!?!” I read through the lists and made some mental notes just in case questions were asked related to them.

I was to meet with four of the managers in the merged department.  Two from each side.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  After the very different formats of the two previous interviews, I was pretty much prepared for anything.  Fortunately, they had prepared some questions… and this was going to be a more standard interview.

Throughout the back and forth of the interview, I felt I had answered all of the questions really well.  I mean, when people are nodding their heads in favor of what you’re saying, it seems like you’re hitting it out of the park.  Then one question was asked and I drew a complete and utter blank.  It was like my brain was finished.  The odd thing is that it should have been an easy question for me to answer.

I don’t remember the exact wording, but the gist of it was… “Describe a time when you explained a complex subject to an executive.  Try to explain that subject to us.”  I mean… this is my bread and butter.  I do this all the time, but for some reason I couldn’t think of any specifics.  After a couple of stutter-stops, one of my interviewers threw me a lifeline by reminding me that I had described a complex situation earlier in the interview.  Whew!  But it was a weird moment for me that left me wondering if I had left a bad impression at the end.

I was on pins and needles for the next two days, wondering which way the decision would go.  Do you know how hard it is to get work done when you’re on pins and needles?  Don’t get me wrong, I got work done, but it was really hard to concentrate.  I kept revisiting questions that had been asked.  Were my competition’s answers better?  Meanwhile, my workmates kept needling me about the new job.  (I don’t think a person has ever been called traitor and Benedict Arnold more than I was over that week).

Finally, late one afternoon, I got an e-mail from my boss.  “Come to my office, please.”  I would love to say ‘you could have smelled the rubber of my soles burn on the carpet as I dashed to his office,’ but I took the elevator.  When I arrived he asked me to sit.  Braced for the worst, I heard… “Do you want this job?”

Confused for a second, I asked, “What?”  He repeated the question.  To which I finally responded, “Yes!”

I was shocked, giddy, and scared all at the same time.  I got it!

Promotion! Part 1

A few weeks ago a new manager position in my department (Reporting) was announced.  This new manager would be overseeing the Reporting team that would support a new department that was created when two others were merged together.  Being in a support role when two cultures are being merged is never easy.  Lots of shifting priorities and lots of opportunities for failure.  Difficult, but also very exciting… if you can figure out how to make it all work.

The opportunity was made available to everyone in my department, and eight people, including me, applied.  All of the folks that applied are strong reporting analysts… and great people to work with.  Competition was going to be tough.  I updated my resumé and sent it in.  A few days later, I had the first interview.

Continue reading “Promotion! Part 1”

Update for the Peoples!

It’s been two weeks since I started working at ye olde online retailer.  Things are going well.  Everyone I work with has been super nice.  My boss is great.

These first two weeks have been about learning their database.  I only started to do “real” work late last week.  It’s 100% straight up SQL, no chaser.  I have the option of using Business Objects Desktop Intelligence or Crystal Reports.  However, for now, I’m going to take this opportunity to delve into some of the more esoteric SQL stuff that I never used in my 12 years at ye olde newspaper.

The company is celebrating their 10th anniversary.  As part of that, the CEO hosted a party for everyone at the Saltair Pavillion with special guests…  The Wallflowers.  It was a fun show, but the drinks at Saltair are pricey!  Good thing we were all given a couple of drink coupons to keep us from going thirsty.  If you know what I mean… and I think you do.  At any rate, I can now check off “see Bob Dylan’s son” off my bucket list.  😉

One other work related thing.  Commuting is super easy now.  I live less than 10 miles from the office.  That sure beats the nearly 3 hour drive I had in Illinois.  I can also catch a bus a couple of blocks from my apartment that takes me directly to my office without transfers.  I even rode my bike part of the way and used the bus the rest of the way a couple of times.  Gotta love that!

Liz is doing great.  She just got a cool new haircut.  You can see pictures on Facebook.  I think she looks FAB!  🙂

The puppy is doing well, but as it gets colder… it becomes more difficult to get motivated to go for walks. She’s big now… 63+ pounds… and growing.  She has developed an unfortunate trait.  She’s starting to become a digger.  I think we may have inadvertently contributed to this behavior taking root.  Now we’ll have to figure out a way to undo it before it becomes a serious problem.

Kiko is doing OK… has an ear infection at the moment, but he’s doing his thing… which mostly involves sleeping on the bear chair.

I’ve come to realize that I don’t use Livejournal nearly as much as I used to.  That’s kinda sad… really.  I like LJ a lot, but it’s not as conducive to the quick bursts that I’m doing lately.  Right now my platform of choice is Facebook… but I would dump it for something better in a heartbeat.  If Facebook had tag support, better group options (it would be nice to make a posting only viewable by a certain group (a la Livejournal), a decent search, and doubled the max character limit… it would be perfect.  Oh well.

That said…  if you haven’t joined Facebook…  you should…  and be sure to friend me.  I post a lot of fun stuff there… not just navel-gazing.  😉

Later gang… for my Orlando peeps… I’ll probably be in Orlando for a few days around Christmas.  I don’t have a lot of vacation days with my new job so I’m not sure exactly when, but Christmas weekend for sure.  See you then!

On Choosing

Today I made a choice.  I decided to take a job at Overstock.com instead of One on One. I’m super duper excited about the new job. Who wouldn’t be. I would have been excited about either job, really. Let’s break it down a little…

Overstock offered slightly more money and better benefits. Overstock is closer to my house. The job at Overstock is a defined position within a defined department doing a defined set of tasks. There is variety there, don’t get me wrong… but the idea I’m trying get across is that it’s a job that can and has been described.

One on One offered something a bit more amorphous. However, the offer implied growth, change, potentially greater rewards. The job at One on One is not defined… at all.  There are certain things that need to be done and there is the promise of more to come beyond that. As you can see… the two jobs are quite different… even though there are some similarities in tasks.

Here’s the deal…  The job at One on One sounded very good. It sounded like it was right up my alley… so why did I balk and jump in the other direction? I had a moment to think about this because One on One called me back after I turned them down.

The real reason I turned the offer down is uncertainty. After a lay off, the last thing you want to hear from a potential employer is that your actual job hasn’t been created yet. While the job at One on One would have likely been more rewarding overall… that level of uncertainty about what I would be doing took the shine off the whole idea. My exact wording was a bit more diplomatic, but that was the gist.

I’ll be honest, if I had been living in Utah longer or if I had been coming from an existing job, I would have gone with One on One… hands down. Right now though, I need something steady and certain in my life. Sure, it’s only been a month of unemployment. But I’m a worker bee at heart. Up until this layoff, I hadn’t really been without a job since the day I turned 16. And the prospect of not having a job… well, it scared me.

So when I was presented with this choice between two very different employers… I decided to take what appears to be the safer route. The thing is… I know it’s not really any safer. There will be challenges at the new job, there will be change, there will be growth, and there will be rewards. I know this… and yet I definitely feel like I might have let that big fish slip my grasp.

I had this feeling before when I took the job at USA TODAY. Back then, the other job was a technical writing position vs. the more technical job at the newspaper. I always thought it was funny that I turned down a writing job to go work at a newspaper where I wouldn’t actually be writing. At any rate, I had a similar feeling back then… like I let something go that I shouldn’t have.

After 12 years at USA TODAY though, I can honestly say I don’t regret it. I learned a lot there, I grew, I saw change on every level and ultimately it was very rewarding. I suspect the same from Overstock… and I’m really looking forward to getting back to work. Having been unemployed… I know one thing for sure. I don’t like it.

If you haven’t heard me say it… thanks to everyone that has sent a word of support. I couldn’t have made it without you. Lots of love!

Job Search

Here’s a list of places I’ve looked since the layoff on Aug 18th.

Monster.com
Dice.com
CareerBuilder.com
Craigslist.org
Overstock.com
University of Utah
State and Local governments

At this point, I’ve sent out over 60 resumés. Of those, where do you think I got a response back for an interview?

One from an ad by a small marketing company on Craigslist. One from applying directly to Overstock.com.  The vast majority of my resumé sending has been through Dice and Monster. Not one peep from those.

It’s possible that the talent pool is enormous on those sites and therefore you are competing against too many to be noticed. While I think that’s definitely part of the problem. It might actually go a little deeper than that. A lot of the companies on those sites, have opted to outsource some of the HR workload to other companies.

So instead of sending your resumé to someone in charge of HR or to a hiring manager… you get shunted off to another website where you must upload a text only version of your resumé. That text-only resumé is then scoured for keywords… and whoever has the most matching keys gets passed along. All of the qualitative stuff you put down doesn’t matter because no one is actually reading your resumé.

Or maybe that’s just my conspiracy theory brain working overtime.  LOL

In other news…  I have a third interview at that marketing company I noted above today at 2PM.  I then have a second interview at Overstock tomorrow at 2PM. I have a lot of resumés floating around out there. Let’s hope I hear back from a few more very soon. I want to be able to make the best possible decision for my future.

Fairytales with not so good endings…

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

OK. So sometimes fairytales have not so good endings. Remember my last post where I said all was well and good in the world. Well… something happened on the way to happily everafter.

Yesterday morning I received a call from my boss. I’ve been laid off. He was nervous and sad. I was sad and beginning to cry. The weird thing was this. Since I’m remote and I had logged into the network already, I was able to actually talk to my friends around the company via IM and e-mail while my boss was talking to me.

It was kind of surreal. My boss was speaking to me from a script. At the same time I was typing to my colleagues… “I’ve been laid off.” It turned out that my little IMs were a godsend. I received so many supportive responses that within an hour of learning of my lay off, I was already feeling better and it allowed me to focus on the things I needed to do. It was comforting to know that all of those relationships I had built up over 12 years at USA Today actually meant something.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a little shellshocked about the whole thing. It’s hard to grok the concept that it doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do… the bean counters don’t care about that. They look at the numbers and make the cut. Are there still people working at the company that would make more sense to cut instead of me? Of course. That’s not the way lay offs work. It’s not about talent, it’s about accounting. Anyone that tries to feed you a line of bull about how “businesses are hurting and this is necessary so that the company is on a firm footing for the future” needs to pay better attention. If a business was really interested in having a firm footing for the future, they would trim the folks that aren’t producing… not just the ones that make incrementally more than the next guy (not that I even make that much money to begin with).

That said… maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m the slacker that doesn’t produce. Who knows. It’s hard to judge that from where I’m sitting. I like to think that I produce good to great results with the things I did at USA Today… but it’s hard to be objective about yourself. LOL

Well, I’m not saying that this is the end of the fairytale, but damn if it isn’t that stretch of the story where you’re not quite sure if the hero is going to make it. This turn of events came as a complete and total surprise.

I sent out my first resume today for a help desk job at the University. I’ll be sending a lot more resumes out soon. Some final proofreading and layout, and I’ll be back on track with the job search. If I can’t find anything within the next 3 months, I’ll start doing desperation moves like widening the search to all 50 states.

–sam

Massive Update!

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

Well, it’s been like 5 months since I had enough time to think, much less post anything substantive to the good olde series of tubes more commonly known as the internets.  Well, I lot has happened in that 5 months.  Here’s a quick rundown (with bullet points for emphasis)…

  • The puppy is now 7 months old.  She’s big, but she was the runt of her litter so while she’s big, her siblings are actually much bigger.  Kiko, the pug, had his 8th birthday recently.  He’s due to have some tooth surgery, but is otherwise healthy.  Lilith, the cat is going crazy, but that’s normal.
  • How sly of me to post about the pets before getting to the really big news.  Liz, my lovely wife, decided several months ago that things weren’t working out in her PhD program at Illinois.  She did some soul searching and decided that a clean break was best.  She needed to find a program that worked for her, and more importantly, she needed to find one where she could have a mentor.    Long story short, Liz opted to apply to the U of Utah in Salt Lake City.  She was accepted and she starts this fall.
  • I’m glad that last bit got your attention.  I’m sure you’re wondering what I was wondering.  This is not the best economy for Sam to go move cross country.  What’s he going to do?  And what about the house?  This is the point in time where I must explain to you that there is a world of fairy tales.  In this world of fairy tales things like serendipity, fate, and good luck mysteriously intertwine to make for all the happily everafters we often dream about.  I could be cruel and say… “This is not one of those stories.”  Well, cruel isn’t the right word for it because it would be a lie.  This is in fact one of those stories.
  • One day, out of the blue, my boss calls me and explains to me that my talents are underused in the Chicago office.  Well that certainly piqued my interest because I thought the next sentence was going to be something like…  and it seems we wouldn’t be needing your talents at all.  You see we’ve had a few layoffs in the last year, and I thought my number might have been up.  Instead, he explained that my talents would be better used in the Circulation Systems department.  Not only that, but things had already been arranged and my new boss would be calling me with the details.  I was sitting on pins and needles for a week until I spoke with my new boss, but the bottom line was better than I could have ever hoped.  My new job wouldn’t require that I report to any particular office.  I could, in fact, work from just about anywhere I wanted to.  Sure, it would be nice if it was close to an office, but I could even work from home.  I think you’re starting to see the fairy tale now.
  • Around the same time, Liz and I decided to test the market and try to sell the house.  We didn’t use a realtor.  Instead we hired an attorney to handle the paperwork, then we listed our house on Craigslist.  Yes, Craigslist.  Within a month we had an offer on the house.  Yeah… something like fate might be at work here.  Initially, the offer was really good and we thought we might actually make a little money on the house.  Unfortunately, the arcane art of house appraisals put the kaibosh on that.  Sure, we’ll lose a little money, but considering the kind of money that people are losing on their houses these days…  our $2K loss (from the price we paid, and doesn’t include money we put into the place) doesn’t seem so bad.  Well, even fairy tales have their harrowing moments.
  • So… on the second week of June, Liz and I, Liz’s old friend Shannon, and our pets got into the Penske truck and made our way west to Salt Lake City.  It was a fun trip that was only slightly marred by the sad news about the house appraisal.  If you’re moving cross country, I highly recommend the Penske truck.  Cheaper than U-Haul and the truck was pretty spacious (we were able to fit our lives into a 16′ truck).  As an aside, I would like to thank everyone that helped us pack.  We couldn’t have done it without you.  Even if all you did was come over and hang out for a few minutes.  It was great to have the moral support.
  • A couple of months ago, I happened to make online friends with Madeline Boudreaux, an SLC local.  If she didn’t know it before, she now has a friend for life.  When Liz, Shannon and I arrived in Salt Lake City, Madeline offered to help us move our stuff into our new place.  She enlisted her partner, Paul, who is a pro at this sort of thing.  Well, with their help (and some very nice neighbors too) we were able to unload the truck in record time.  Now that’s what I call a great welcome.

That’s the big news.  Liz and I are now in Salt Lake City.  We’re still unpacking.  Sorry for the super long rambling post, but it was the only way to get everything out.  If you know something about Salt Lake City, please share it.

Oh yeah…  it’s really nice to live in the same city as my partner in life and love.  I knew our situation was tough before, but now that I’m out of it, I can see it for the hell it truly was.  There may be some aspects of Salt Lake City that I probably won’t like, but I can deal with that if it means I don’t have to make that long ass drive each week.

Hugs, Kisses and All That!
–sam

Insert Pithy Title Combining Pitchfork and Thailand HERE…

A couple of things…

First, today is my birthday… and my present to myself is the Pitchfork Music Festival which happens this weekend.  Gus is coming down from Minneapolis.  We’re manly men, staying at a bed and breakfast.  That’s right.  If you don’t start something, there won’t be something.  Expect a report on this next week.

Second, notice that I didn’t mention awesome wife Liz in that first part.  Why?  Because she’s the luckiest wife EVAR.  She left for Thailand today.  She’ll be gone for a few weeks at some “training”…  but we all know that she’s really going there to have fun.

In other news…  commuting by bike in 90 degree weather, not as cool (no pun intended) as I thought it would be.  My friends…  baby wipes, what every adult man wants to rub all over his body when he gets to work in the morning.  Haven’t you heard?  It’s the new black.

In other, other news…  I think I pulled or strained a muscle in my arm.  Does anyone have any recommendations for what I can do for it?  Should I go to a doctor and get something?  Or should I pamper myself and get a massage (will that even help it)?

In even more news…  Work is trying to crush my soul.  Who knew having your soul crushed paid so well?

Finally, I have come to a decision.  I need to sell all the collectible crap that is clogging up my house and never sees the light of day.  I figure I can turn a few grand.   Who couldn’t use a few grand?  I know I could;  especially when we go visit my dad in Brazil.  Have you seen those plane tickets.  Outrageous!

–sam