Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

Traveling III: Character

I've talking about traveling with work a few times on this blog (here and here for example) and although I tend to be on the road quite a bit with my job there are still things that I discover each time. Sometimes it's about the places I visit, mostly it's about the people I'm with. Usually we meet a lot of new people on the road, putting a lot of faces to names and voices that we've interacted with through e-mail or phone calls for weeks, months, or even years. Sometimes it's traveling with someone for the first time. You really don't know someone until you've been forced to spend 12-18 hours a day with them.

On my most recent trip I traveled with someone new, who had never traveled with work before. I don't interact much with him at work and even when I should I try to avoid him because he annoys me so much. I always figured he was just a bit slow and geeky, not knowledgeable about our operations as a whole, more like a factory worker then a business man. It wasn't until we traveled together that I discovered he's a stereotypical Japanese chauvinistic pig.

Japanese, culturally, are known for having distinct gender roles and expectations. Women are weak and helpless, men are strong providers. As with everything, there are exceptions to this rule, and for the most part the men I work with don't follow this line of thinking too closely although it remains their default thinking when meeting someone new. When I was still newer here and they were unfamiliar with my personality they tried to treat me like I was weak. Then I shoved it back in their faces and made them look like a fool, now no one dares think of me as weak or dumb.

So back to the Geek. As I said before I try not to generally interact with him because he annoys me, though I'm always nice and kind to him because most of the time he just doesn't understand what's going on. So heading off on this trip he was more or less just along for the ride. Then I slowly started to notice things. First, he wouldn't talk directly to me, he would go through my boss who was with us. I figured it was because he wasn't comfortable speaking English, no big deal. Then he gave me an attitude about sitting in the front seat of the car. Everytime we entered or exited the car he would give me a dirty look so finally, on our way to dinner, I asked him if he wanted to ride in the front. I figured it was a good idea since he would be driving us back to the hotel later. He literally pushed me aside and said yes with this smug look on his face that made me want to hit him. At dinner he scoffed when I ordered a drink and doubted that I could hold even one beer. Anytime Boss chose to talk to me he would get this look on his face like it was such a chore to have to entertain a woman, why would Boss even want to speak to me. He even had a little, silent, fit when my luggage buried his in the trunk of the car.

Between the Geek and the other Japanese guy at the office we visited I was fit to be tied. It took all my energy not to scream at the two of them.

I'm usually a laid back person who doesn't notice these kinds of things but when they're concentrated in such a short amount of time it's hard not to notice. I hate being treated like a third class citizen.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"I don't recognize you Alex..."

Since the mass exodus it's also been a mass of happy hours. We had two this week for Horsea and since she's not exactly my best friend and I definitely don't have the extra cash I decided that I wouldn't be eating or drinking at the first, more casual, one. I was just standing around enjoying the conversation when The Boy came up to me and said,

"I don't recognize you Alex. Where's your beer? Are you not drinking?"
To which I replied, "Nah I have to drive home and I don't want to stay too late tonight."
"Wow I can't believe you're not even going to have one! I don't know what to do with myself. Are you not drinking at the second happy hour to?!"
"I'll have a drink or two there, sure."
"Oh good I thought you were done drinking. I got worried!"

I'm not sure how to feel about it. Yes usually I'm part of the drinking crowd and usually I'm the foundation of fun. They're some boring people I work with and usually I'm the one cheering them on or poking fun (I do this sober as well). I guess when you're the only one not drinking it does look a bit weird.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Grueling Travel Pays Off

I'm a big fan of Frequent Flyer programs, as I've written in the past. They definitely make those grueling trips slightly more tolerable. Slowly I watched the miles in my preferred carrier's frequent flyer program go up and up over the past three years and finally I've been able to put them to good use.

There's nothing like the feeling of getting a Business Class roundtrip ticket to a far off land for free.

Suddenly all those weeks flying back and forth and not seeing my home or bed is so so worth it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mass Exodus (or How I Know the Economy is Getting Better)

There's a crazy exodus going on right now. For the past two years everyone has been saying how they need a new job, then this past year the complaints came more frequently. I sent my resume out to a ton of places, got a few interviews, but nothing stuck. Now that I'm back in school I haven't made any effort to find another job, but it seems that all my peers have.

Within a matter of weeks we've lost three people, one of whom hasn't officially announced her departure left. Our ranks are growing thin, with four vacant positions still open after a year and now three new ones our group has been reduced to almost half it's numbers. We haven't been able to hire anyone besides New Guy because the salaries here are abysmal. This company is barely competitive with Starbucks.

With everyone moving on to bigger and better things it just goes to show you that a poor job market can't last forever. Even garbage slowly shifts downstream.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rhythm and Blues

They always say finding work/life balance is important. One of the few upsides to the place I work is excellent work/life balance. I can come and go as I please for the most part and generally never have to work late if I don't want to.

Rounding out my 3rd year here I have found a certain rhythm to it. Get up, drive to work, breakfast and e-mail, work. lunch, work, gym, dinner, sleep. Adding the gym to my routine was difficult at first, but thanks to a good friend of mine I was able to work it in to my  normal routine and shed a few pounds while I was at it. It's amazing how your life has it's own flow to it, like you're not sure sometimes if you're headed down the path of life or if life is just taking you wherever you happen to go.

It can be a bit depressing at times. With this automatic rhythm comes at times the soul crushing depression that this could be your life forever. I'm trying to make changes to that by going back to school to persue an entirely different profession but that takes time, and until I've got that degree life just has a way of moving you along.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Women in Corporate America

I read an article today about women in the business world (link is here). Generally the idea is that women don't ask for raises or promotions. The article discusses research that shows the opposite to be true - that women ask, but they just don't get them like men do.

Personally I related really well to this idea. Recently I had finally vocalized my need for a promotion and better compensation in a serious conversation with my boss. Usually I don't want to rock the boat but I was told that my two male coworkers were up for promotion. The two men that comprise the other parts of my team and that pull exactly none of their own weight. The Old Man always wants to put his work on other people and the Creepy one is well, a sexist creepy pig who until recently sat around for the last 8 years doing nothing.

Do I think that I'll get the promotion I asked for? No, and I told my boss that. I didn't want to make it seem that I was going to wait around forever as my two male coworkers had, because I simply won't. I don't plan on staying in this job for that much longer and this sense of urgency needed to be conveyed. It seems that urgency is the only thing that people around here respond to.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Repayment of a Loan

On Friday one of my Japanese coworkers was short a dollar at our team lunch, so I lent him the money. Come Monday I had completely forgotten, so when he approached my desk I was expecting him to talk about work stuff. Instead he hands me a gold coin and a small bag of Japanese rice cracker snacks and thanks me for loaning him the money on Friday. Usually I wouldn't accept a dollar coin as repayment, since they're the most difficult currency to spend, but a valuable bag of snacks from Japan to sweeten the deal? Heck I'd take a pile of nickels as repayment.

But not pennies. That's just a step too far.

Friday, February 3, 2012

From Selfless to Selfish

One of my Yakuza teammates came up to me this afternoon to ask about uninstalling one of my products. That would delete all my settings and everything so I told him I wanted to save a copy of my information before he moved forward. He said that it may not help him and I replied No, but it will help me. Suddenly the whole office was roaring in laughter. I wasn't sure I had said anything worthy of the volume laughter that filled the office. Then my new favorite neighbor, the Pirate, shouted above the din of laughter:

Pirate: You should know she thinks the whole world revolves around her!
Me: Well no one else is looking out for me
Pirate: I am, when you're gunning for me so I can get out of your way
[laughter]


At first I was really offended by what he said, after all I usually take a backseat to the needs of my teammates and it's only been in the past year or so that I started to be a little more selfish to counter balance their extreme selfishness. Along the way I learned that if I'm not looking out for myself around here, no one is.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Silent Treatment

I tried so hard to do the right thing with the New Guy. While I didn't necessarily want to take him on as a mentee I didn't want him to get in trouble in his first few weeks here either. I tried teaching him the little things, the things that no one tells you about actually, like how to answer the phone, how the mail system works, the proper way to write an e-mail/what not to write in an email, procedures for personal calls and taking time off, etc. The New Guy has been especially difficult. Not only has he never had any experience in a workplace but he also has no concept of what is socially appropriate nor the ability to read people. His sense of humor leaves much to be desired. He seems to get his kicks by fooling around and trying to make a fool of people. While I have no problem with that generally some things just go way over the line.

When the New Guy first started he was goofing off. A lot. Not just the normal amount of goofing off that occurs on an everyday basis here but an extreme amount. He was blatantly not working, listening to music, and lounging in his chair which sits directly in front of our big boss's cubicle. I tried hinting that that kind of behavior will get you in trouble here by relating to him a story of how I got written up for yawning as an Intern. He thought that the story was funny and it seemed to do the trick of teaching him to watch his actions more closely, since in the following days and weeks he began behaving more like everyone else when there is no work to do. I thought I had done a good thing by keeping him out of trouble, but it only seemed to have backfired in my face.

Over the past couple weeks anytime I've yawned at my desk the New Guy thought it would be funny to scold me for it. The first time it happened I just looked over, thinking wtf, and just shook it off. The next couple times it happened I gave him a dirty look and shook my head no, but like an idiot he just sat there smiling back at me. Then I tried telling him not to do it, that I didn't appreciate what he considered to be a joke (especially since he was starting to really piss me off). Finally he did it again, this time with "tsk tsk tsk" sound effects. I had had enough. I went off on the kid, I said to him how dare you do that to me, someone who out ranks you and has a lot more seniority. He suddenly looked offended and said, "Well I was just joking," in the same tone and with the same facial expression as an insolent little brat who can't understand why you're not aware that the sun rises and sets on his head and can do no wrong. That was it. The facial expression alone sent me over the edge and suddenly I was channeling the voice of discipline and terror, "We do not joke like that in THIS office," I responded and turned back to my work. I had planned to freeze him out, which like all things that take such conscious effort I forgot about half an hour later as I got more absorbed in my work. The day ended and he left, without uttering another word to me.

I came into the office the next day to find the same situation, I was behaving normally, and he was silent. It was like some great miracle had happened. All the non-stop chatter about nothing had ended. I did feel a little bad when he went all the way to Creepy's cubicle to ask for something that he knew I had. I didn't intend to give him the impression that I wouldn't help him out, I still will. I just wanted to knock some sense into him. You don't go around trying to piss people off, especially at work. So it seems that he's intent to continue to give me the silent treatment and dirty looks, and you know what? As long as it keeps him from talking and bitching non-stop about nothing I'm more then happy to be ignored.