Visit To Headquarters

On Wednesday I and my department at work visited our new corporate headquarters, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. We were there for a few reasons.

  • To learn.
  • To teach.
  • To brainstorm
  • To get some idea of what we might be doing in the future.
  • To see the place.

To borrow a phrase from possibly my least favorite POTUS (or at least his PR people who probably decided to put up the sign): “Mission Accomplished.”

The day started super early at 4:05 am, when my alarm went off, and I got up shortly after. The plan was to be ready by 5am, when one of my co-workers was supposed to pick me up behind my apartment building. Qapla’! (Success!) He showed up almost exactly at 5, and we headed off for Kwik Trip. From there we headed up good old highway 61, stopping on the far side of Lake City for a necessary break. At Hastings we headed for highway 52, and then to 494 to Eden Prairie. We made good time overall and got to HQ shortly after 7:30.

After getting let in the front door (they don’t open until 8), we were lead to the conference room where our morning meeting was going to be taking place, and basically instructed to sit in the front row. It’s a very nice conference room, quite large with three rows of tables, each with 7 chairs facing the front. In front, a podium with the necessary connections for a computer, and on the front wall a 10 foot by 8 foot (approximately) rear-projection screen for use with the podium. Very impressive.

A bit after 8, we were lead back to the front desk where we signed in and obtained visitors badges for the day, before returning to the conference room. At that point, basically everyone invited to the meeting was there. I grabbed a cup of coffee, my first in years, some sort of pastry and headed back to my front row seat.

First on the agenda was short introductions. Next up, business stuff that I can’t actually blog about very specifically. About all I can say is that my new company has some very cool stuff that my old company did not, and has some very smart people working for it. I didn’t really have anything to do other than listen, but it was interesting enough that I wasn’t bored until one of my Lewiston co-workers started his presentation about software that I have, quite literally, written (or at least heavily edited) the manual for. After all the presentations, there was a brainstorming session about how to make some stuff work. It went quite well I’d say.

There were a few breaks throughout the morning session, and during one of those I snapped this picture with my phone out the back of the building from a lobby/break area:

Lake Smetana behind Corporate HQ

Lake Smetana

So yes, there is a lake right outside the buildings! Very nice. Rumor has it that it takes about 1/2 hour to walk around, but I didn’t get a chance to test that myself.

Then it was Noon and time for lunch. We had catered sandwiches from a local sandwich company. We ate in a 5th floor conference room that had the stereotypical central table with ‘executive’ chairs around it, big enough for about 10-12 people or so. The sandwich was good. We got a bit of a chance to chat with some of the people that work at HQ more informally, which was nice.

After lunch, we got a demo of some photography related stuff, which was pretty neat. Then we headed for a different conference room, where the Photo Engineering manager and his lead software developer discussed with us projects that they need help on, including some documentation projects that I will almost certainly be working on. Huzzah! A lot of the afternoon meeting was developer speak that didn’t technically affect or concern me, but I paid attention anyway, since I dabble in computer programming, as my Sunday D&D group knows (I’ve programmed a simple VB.NET application to keep track of combat numbers). I scored at least a few points by knowing that CLI stood for Common Language Infrastructure and mentioned that I dabble in programming.

And then it was one last demo of some neat software stuff, and we were off for home. We left from HQ at a bit after 4, and I got home at about 7, as we hit slow heavy traffic on 494 going east. A long day, but very interesting. By the end of the day I think all of us visitors were on information overload. I know I was. Just trying to remember who was who and did what and what all the acronyms meant was somewhat tricky. At my old company, we didn’t use any acronyms. At my new one, acronyms are all over the place, so that’s a pretty big change. The campus is very nice, and everyone I met seemed nice and smart. They seem genuinely interested in doing good work, and having us help.

Where this leaves me longer term, I still don’t know, but short-term it looks like I’m going to have extra work coming up. The Photo Engineering manager made a point of asking me how much I had on my plate right now, so that’s a good sign.

Anyway, until next time: Have fun, don’t die, and make mine Marvel!

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‘Last’ Day Blues

Today (Friday) was my, and everyone else in Lewiston’s, last work day with the company I’ve worked for for the last 7+ years. Technically I work for them until May 1st (Sunday) but I’m not planning on working between now and then so effectively today was it. We had a pot luck today to, umm, ‘commemorate’ the event. I won an M&M dispenser, so that was fun at least.

When I left for the day, someone in our marketing department was playing ‘Taps’ loudly on their computer, which seemed fitting…

Of course, I’m immediately getting hired by a new company, starting the second after I’m terminated, and my ‘new’ job is in the exact same chair in the same office, in the same building, in the same town, in the same county, in the same state, in the same country, on the same continent, on the same hemisphere, on the same planet, in the same stellar system, in the same galaxy, in the same universe (as far as I can tell!), with the same job duties for the immediate future. I even get paid the same salary.

Differences are things like my email address changing, the name of the company on my direct deposit statement, the location of corporate headquarters, and who my boss reports to (his current boss isn’t part of the division being aquired). I don’t know if they’re taking down the sign on the building and replacing it with a new one. Also, moving from the 66 2/3 lb chimp to the 800 lb gorilla of the industry. Whether this is good, bad or indifferent remains to be seen.

In other news, either a cold or allergies have been kicking my butt the last couple of days. Hopefully I can get some extra rest this weekend and feel better…

Until next time: Have fun, don’t die, and make mine Marvel!

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Corporations and the Future

I went for a walk today and as I was walking I was thinking about my job situation. I’ve also been reading a lot of futurist websites lately, and a lot of them are about Artificial Intelligence, or AI. How do these two things relate?

Consider the following quote:

“The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else.” — Eliezer Yudkowsky – http://yudkowsky.net/singularity/ai-risk 

The quote is about AI, the assumption being that unless it is specifically programmed to be friendly towards humans, it won’t be.

A slightly modified version  of this quote could apply to Corporations, in relation to their employees:

“The Corporation does not hate you, nor does it love you, but it pays you money that it could be using for something else.” 

This is true of most traditional, vertically integrated corporations, whether they are publicly held, privately held, or ’employee owned.’

It is possible, however, to organize a corporation such that the first part of my version of the quote is not true. (See, for example, this list: http://www.worldblu.com/awardee-profiles/2011.php ) But the vast majority of  corporations are not organized that way. In most corporations, the low-level employees have almost no idea what is going on at the top, and the top has almost no idea what is going on at the bottom. 

At most corporations, the low-level employees learn about decisions, even major decisions, after they are already made. I’ve been on the receiving end of this several times in the past few years. This is wrong, and completely backwards! It’s also extremely frustrating for the low-level folks.

Unfortunately, my soon-to-be-employer is a corporation that operates this way. I know this because my current boss told us that some of their people that we met with shortly after the sale announcement only knew one day before we did! Lame! This was a major decision. We should have known about this months ago! It may not have changed the final outcome, but at least we’d have had advance warning instead of having it sprung on us at the last minute!

Even better would have been to have a meeting and discuss the possibilities, and maybe, just maybe, have come up with some better ideas. Likely? Maybe not, but possible? Definitely.

So why do so many companies operate this way, and why do so many people (employees) put up with it? I don’t know for sure, but my guess is fear and inertia. Companies are afraid of what their employees might think/do if they knew about decisions ahead of time, and employees would rather put up with it than try to change things or find a new job.

What is needed instead is transparency and courage, two things which are in short supply at most corporations.

It may be time for me to explore my options for working for a better, more transparent, more courageous company, or help my new company become such a company. Wish me luck?

Until next time: Have fun, don’t die, and make mine Marvel!

Posted in and Everything!, Life, The Universe, Work | 4 Comments

-sarcasm- Hooray for corporations! -/sarcasm-

On Monday (April 11th)  I found out that the photography division that I work for of the company I work for (Herff Jones) is being sold to a different company (Lifetouch), effective May 2nd 2011.

For those who do not know, Lifetouch is the largest school photography company in the US. Herff Jones Photography was the second largest, but still quite a bit smaller than Lifetouch.

The good news about this is that they are offering all of us that work in Lewiston employment as of May 2nd, so I am not out of a job immediately. They are also continuing Herff Jones Photography products and services through the Fall photography season, which means they need the people in Lewiston to support those operations.

As you may or may not know, what I do is Technical Writing as well as some Techinical Support for some of the software. Which means I write instruction manuals, web blasts, and so on, as well as answer phone calls from our sales representatives and the independent studios that do business with us and use the software. So they are, apparently, keeping all of us in Lewiston on our current jobs until sometime after the Fall photography season.

How this impacts my job situation in the long term, I do not yet know. How it impacts my job situation in the short term is that the deposits to my bank account will say ‘direct deposit – Lifetouch’ instead of ‘direct deposit – Herff Jones’ after May 2nd.

What I can say is that they seem interested in us and what we do, and my boss is optimistic that we’ll be able to be a longer term part of their team. They, like most large companies, have bought competitors before, and some people from those competitors are still with Lifetouch.

The not-so-good news in all of this is that it is possible that at some unspecified date in the future I may have to move to the Twin Cities area if I want to continue to work for them. I’m not opposed to the idea of working for Lifetouch.

Yes, I’ve been used to thinking of them as ‘the enemy’ in some sense, and right now, at this moment, have a negative comment about them in an e-mail on a printout on my wall in my office at work, but I’ve met some of their people, and they didn’t have horns and hooves, and in fact seemed very nice. I’m almost certainly going to accept their offer of employment as of May 2nd, unless something drastic happens between now and then.

The problem comes in the fact that I’d really rather not move to the Twin Cities area.  It wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it’s not my preference.

Also, after the last couple of years, I’m not sure I want to work for a large corporation long-term. My experience is that corporations care about money and business more than they care about their employees. But that’s another post.

The best case scenario is that they let some of us software-type people telecommute, either from home or from Lewiston. They are keeping the Sales office in Lewiston open, so there is some hope of that.

The worst case scenario is that they hate my work and don’t want to keep me around beyond the transition period. 😉

I don’t think the worst case scenario is very likely, and I don’t know how likely the best case scenario is either, but I’d say more likely than the worst case.

I don’t know right now what I’ll do if my options are work for Lifetouch in the Twin Cities or find a new job. But I’ll think about it. I’m sure I’ll blog about this again as I learn more.

Thanks for reading.

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Welcome to my new blog!

Hello everyone, and welcome to my new blog! I used to blog quite a bit on MySpace, and I still have that account. I decided to start a new blog, however, for a few reasons:

1. I feel like blogging again.

2. Every time I log in to MySpace lately I get spam messages from people running scripts looking at the last login date, which is very annoying.

3. Wordpress is much nicer than MySpace for blogging purposes.

My next post will have actual blogging content.

So, sit back and enjoy the ride!

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