Category Archives: IT

Cubicle Envy, the novel, is now available!

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Cubicle Envy cover 300 ver 4

I’m proud to report that after a year of hanging out in my cube, the novel, Cubicle Envy, is finalized!  You can pick it up for $2.99 at all of the major ebook retailers.

I’m an accountant and I love working in an office.  You never know what’s going to happen next.  Some of those fun elements I’ve got a chance to joke about in the blog and it has been fun.  I appreciate you taking a coffee break with me.  There’s no doubt, though, that sometimes our laughter comes from frustration.  The novel is a reflection of the frustration many of us were feeling during the economic downturn.  The main characters decide to defraud their company to give all employees a much needed bonus.  Though their motives may have almost have been noble, their methods only serve to make things worse.

I’ve been fortunate to get the perspective of the cube dweller, but also understand the frustrations of middle management and the big picture decisions of upper management.  That full view is one of the things that sets this book apart a bit from some of the other office satires that often focus mainly on the staffers’ concerns.  I was able to take a serious topic like fraud and add just enough fun anecdotes to keep things rolling.  I hope the characters remind you of folks you’ve worked with or encountered along your path.

Cubicle Envy came out better than I expected.  If you read it, please drop a short review wherever you purchase it.  That partnership goes a long way as I’m just a one man marketing crew right now.  Thanks again for coming around the blog.  Good luck in your cubicle adventures!

Geoff

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Another acronym or stab yourself with a pencil: choose your own adventure

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In addition to writing this blog I’ve been working on writing a novel.  The first draft is close to completion (!!).  As we start to work back out of this summer into the meat of the fall, it got me thinking about acronyms.  You’re like ‘What the hell suddenly got you thinking about acronyms?’ Well, they’re everywhere.  Being able to write out words and not use them in the regular degree gave me a chance to do some analysis.

When I was a kid there were a few acronyms floating out there.  You had the old reliable RADAR.  It was good to use IQ to belittle the other kids on the bus.  There were a couple others, but, for the most part, you were forced to write out everything…in cursive!  In fact, acronyms look weird in cursive.  We didn’t bend the rules.  Then you got to be a teenager and you knew about SATs and maybe RBIs if you were a baseball fan.  Hey, we got a vernacular – that’s pretty cool.  In health class they told you about AIDs and STDs.  If you were real smart you knew Lou Gehrig’s disease was ALS.  Still, you remained unfettered by adding too much to remember and decode to your already busy schedule of being a jerkwad teenager.  Even in college maybe you added on GPA or DPS.  It didn’t stop anyone from having a few beers.

Suddenly your bright eyes brought you into your first office job.  For me I was working for the CPAs.  We were battling against the IRS.  Did we ever call it the Internal Revenue Service?  Have you ever called it the Internal Revenue Service?  No?  Well, there’s your answer.  We used more form numbers than acronyms, but it’s still speaking in a language normal people consider…well, they wisely walk away.  If you learned how to say ‘I need to go to the bathroom’ in French you will probably get to go to the bathroom.  If you learn ‘I’ve got a section 1231 loss that probably needs to be put on a 4797 with possible section 179 implications’ you will never get to go to the bathroom and you might just get a wedgie for old time’s sake.

Many accountants get burned out by form numbers and move on (actually we get burned out trying to magically turn boxes of faded receipts into something approximating a tax return while the owners keep calling us asking how it’s going).  The corporate world is a slushpile of acronyms.  You thought you were the North America Accounting Manager, but suddenly you’re anointed the NAAM by the GAM.  You look across the table at the guy who washes his hands before he pees and he’s giving you the once over.  ‘I’m the VeepSO, bitch!’  And the other Knights of the Round Table (or misshapen table that your PS (Purchasing Specialist) bought when HP went out of business) sit stoicly with their awkward acronym armor protecting them from people trying to logically connect how the Director of Program Development (DPD) being a jackass has helped program development in your company.

Close your eyes.  Well, open your eyes because you have to read this.  Imagine if you read these two sentences:  Marty Richter is the DPD for 123 Systems and he’s here today to talk about why the company struggles with Program Development.  Marty Richter is the jackass Director of Program Development for 123 Systems and he’s here today to talk about why the company struggles with Program Development.  Wouldn’t you surmise from the spelling out of his title in number 2 that Marty is the reason they struggle, whereas he remains more anonymous when he has his acronym?

I knew for me it was time to return to the forest of tall, well grown words when I started using sentences with three acronyms or more.  “How can you be sure the TBL revenue is hitting the P&L properly in Q1 if we are using a JE instead of an MRE to book the transaction?”

Look, I live in an Amish Acronym world where I can get by on the bare minimum.  If a twelve year old makes fun of me for not knowing what TTYL means, I’ll just tell them I noticed their thumbs looked a little misshapen when they text.  Go find an acronym to describe that complex.

Do you have insane amounts of acronyms at your workplace?  Have you ever actually invented an acronym on the fly to sound like you know what  you’re talking about?  Have you caught others misusing acronyms?  Have you given up like me?  Tell us about it!

If George Clooney was in IT they’d put him in the basement too.

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The plight of the poor IT professional.  Thirty years ago there were no IT people.  They all worked at IBM and other software companies.  They were the cutting edge of a cool, sci-fi, Tron-like world where there was no doubt they would own those people who once made fun of their amped up graphing calculators and mastery of their joysticks.  For a wonderful moment in time there was a binary bubble.  Then Apple and Microsoft decided to put a computer in everybody’s home…and car…and phone.

These computers are just a fad! I’ll be on TV foreva!

In the 1980s everybody’s dad was Tony Danza pulling out the old ball glove pretending they could still play.  In the 1990s they gave up on that crap.  Now they could be a hero to the family if they brought in a PC.  Now everybody knows about computers – even old people!  But where has all of this knowledge gotten us to?  It’s kind of like when you give your dog peanut butter.  He likes peanut butter, but you really think it’s just funny to watch him smack his lips and shake his head back and forth.  We like our computers, but the real entertainment is when people can’t figure out how to use them.

Enter Donna Double Click.  She’s the nice woman you work with who, just has no luck with computers.  It doesn’t really make any sense because she’s had a PC in her house for years, but you ask her send out a meeting request and she says ‘I know you’ve shown me this before, but can you show me how to do that again?’ You suck in a deep breath and say ‘Of course I can because you’re a nice woman.’  Later on, of course, somebody is steamed about something and exclaims, ‘God, she’s such a dope!’  Then the Donna stories come out.  How she called IT when she couldn’t get rid of the lines in Microsoft Word and they had to explain to her that she was in Excel.  How IT got stuck there for an afternoon as there were 178 automatic updates that hadn’t run on her computer because she didn’t realize that turning off the monitor didn’t actually turn off the computer.  And the seemingly daily struggle of the demons within her computer making the icons either far too small or Super Mario big.

Donna’s not even that old.  You can’t blame people who had worked for twenty years before a computer even landed on their desk to be a little slow on the uptake, but it doesn’t seem to be that – there are just some people who don’t get it.  Then there’s five accountants huddled around a computer trying to figure out why the screen won’t move up and down.

It’s tedious at times (especially for IT), but at least Donna asks for help.  Kevin Keyboard Shortcut never asks for help until the Blue Screen of Death hits.  Then you get ‘Dammit, this computer sucks.  My last one was so much better.  What’s IT’s number?’  IT comes up and grabs the computer and then you see neither IT nor Kevin for the rest of the day.  The problem is that Kevin knows how to do stuff on the computer.  He’s got like 15 printer options because he can add one without prompts.  He’s accessing networks that aren’t really his.  Yeah, he gets error messages, but most of them are just warnings; they’re not critical or anything.  Then IT asks him what happened and he’s suddenly pretending to be as oblivious as Donna Double Click. ‘I don’t know.  It just kinda popped up.’

IT should really just monitor some of these people’s screens all day.  They might if they weren’t stuck running to the planning meeting only to find out one of three things:

  1. The presenter figured out the fix to his problem which probably means something else will soon be screwed up.  For every check box clicked there is an equal and opposite critical error message to be dealt with
  2. The solution to the problem was so dumb that it had to be a practical joke because no one who is potty trained or can tie their shoes should have missed it.
  3. The network is actually screwed up in which case there is a shitstorm brewing in emails.  Sitting here and pretending to try to fix this, while people keep telling me how yesterday their computer wasn’t working either, might be the best thing I can do for my own sanity.

Yes, most IT people didn’t seek it out as a profession, but getting blown around from company to company like dandelion feathers wasn’t cutting it as a programmer.  Or the company they working for blew up and this is a job.  There are two rules in the job as IT professional:

  1. Like a magician you can tell people what you’re doing, but never teach them how to do anything.  It saves you and your buddy’s jobs in the basement plus teaching is for training.  IT only trains their own.
  2. You are a data collector.  Sure, figuring out diagnostics and solving problems is cool, but really you just need stories to share.

Sales conferences, at times, are like the movie Bachelor Party, you know with Tom Hanks before he got all Saving Private Ryan on us.

“God, the owner was freakin’ ancient with like mummy breath.  You know like the mix of dentures and that Robitussin you can only get in Canada.  He’s been jerking us around for three years.  I finally just said to him flat out.  ‘You could have had us at $20 a unit two years ago.  What the hell are you waiting for?  For us to throw in a pack of Tic Tacs for you and your wife? OK $35 a unit and one pack of Tic Tacs.’  I actually wrote the Tic Tacs right on the sheet.”

“No, you didn’t do that, Barney!”

“I most certainly did and he took it!”

I imagine IT conferences are a little more subdued

“Yeah, I was trying to fix this guy’s network connection and I jumped on the phone for a couple minutes and suddenly a screen saver pops up and it’s a naked woman…who might just have been his manager.  I hit the mouse and we pretended like nothing happened.”

“Was she hot?”

“Not bad.”

“You should have said, A little pre-meeting scouting?”

“Yeah, I shoulda said that – damn.”

Poor IT personnel, their stories will make you frightened to ever turn on your computer, but they can’t tell anybody.  They just fix your little hiccups and go back to their basement cubicle monastery in the shadows of the junked computer parts closet.

Screw national administrative assistant day (OK, that’s a good idea too), but IT needs a pat on the back once in a while too.  Who would play a good IT pro in a movie?  Are you the IT Hall Monitor on your floor helping to fix everybody’s computer issues before calling in the big guns or are you the saboteur who uses a broken computer as an excuse to leave early?  IT has a dossier on everybody – what does yours say?