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Archive for January, 2011

Do you remember the movie “A Bridge Too Far”?

“It is an historic telling of the failed attempt to capture several bridges to Germany in World War II in a campaign called Operation Market-Garden.” (From The Internet Movie Database)

The problem turned out that the planners may have chosen one bridge to many to cross and at Arnhem they failed, resulting in 0ne of the worst defeats by the allied troops during WWII.

Well, I haven’t done that badly but I do believe I may have gone “A Blog Too Far”. It just seems that to keep this one up on a weekly basis I won’t be able to do what I had envisioned, that being creating a post and a photo based on what was in that post. I can’t do it.

I already have a blog called Riff’s Photography Journal, another one called Riff’s Christian Journal, a photo site at Flickr and another main photo site at SmugMug. So, to have added another blog may have been one too many, as I can’t do it justice.

However, I still plan to carry on, but in a different way. I will keep up with this and, when possible, I will also insert a photo into the blog, even though it may be just a general one and not in any way connected to what I’m writing about. I will still continue to talk about my countdown to retirement even though it may not be everyweek. At least I’ll continue to have a blog a week completed, which is what I’ve commited myself to finish in a challenge from WordPress.

So, consider this this weeks post, even if it is a bit late; the last day of the week.

Here’s a bonus. This past week we had our first real snow storm of the Winter and here’s a photo of my house that evening.

This was after just 8″ of snow… 🙂

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Think of that title for a moment. You go off to be factory trained and at the end of the course you are told by the instructor, “You Ain’t Going To Make It As A Service Tech.” That is exactly what I was told just a month and a half after starting my new job.

If you remember from last week where I said that my new employer and I agreed on a thirty-day trial period. Well the thirty days came and went, and then two weeks later I found myself going off to be trained by factory instructors on copiers.

Now school was quite interesting. I had already had some training in the Navy in repairing teletype machines so I figured that this would be a piece of cake. I mean, I was always pretty good with my hands, especially where mechanical aptitude was concerned. So, at this school I figured I would do quite well.

It did start off well. From day one we tore down the copier completely to the bare frame. Several of the items that we took off, like the cleaner section, feed section and the fuser section, among others, we also took apart. There were parts all over the workbench; in cups, on shelves and on the floor around the bench. Things were looking pretty good.

However, the instructor we had, was someone who took more interest in the electronic aspects of the copier more than the mechanical side, and he always went out of his way to show us how “intelligent” he was where this was concerned. He was always trying to catch us with trick questions. Problem was, I wasn’t that great at troubleshooting circuit boards. I mean, for me, if a board was bad then all we should have to do was to just replace it. Not with him, he wanted us to be able to do component level repairs. Even though that wasn’t part of the course requirements, as we found out later.

Well, to make a long story short, I passed my daily written quizzes, I participated in class discussions, asked questions and completed all my assignments. Then came Friday. You’ve heard of hell week? Well, this was hell day. I quickly found out why.

Upon completion of the course, one-third of our grade was based on what we did during the four days leading up to Friday. Two thirds of our grade was based on the finals we had on Friday. Finals was just that. If you didn’t pass the “Finals”, you didn’t pass the course.

The first thing that we did was take a 50 question test where each question, with multiple choice answers, with some trick questions thrown in,  was worth 2 points each. Then we had to trouble shoot our machine. Of course, if we had not put it back together correctly by then, that would contribute to our troubleshooting portion as we first had to fix our problems and make the copier work, while at the same time fix the “bugs” that the instructor would put on each machine.

When I say “bugs”, by that I mean that they would create 3 problems on the machine, which would be a combination of mechanical and electronic. Well, with this instructor we each had 1 mechanical and 2 electronic “bugs” on our machine. Now a bug could be anything from a tooth missing from a drive gear to a partially plugged in connector somewhere to putting clear Scotch Tape on one end of a fuse somewhere on one of the boards.

We had one hour for the written test, then we had one hour for troubleshooting. As we finished our test, we could leave the room and wait for the hour to be up. That went fairly easy and I felt that I had passed that part but I knew it would not be 100%. There were a few questions where I wasn’t sure I had selected the correct answer.

Then came the troubleshooting. My mechanical problem was a cleaning blade flipped and it was scraping backwards on the drum – a quick fix. Then the 2 electronic “bugs” were just what I said. It took a little longer but I did find a connector to a feed clutch not fully placed in its port, indicating a bad clutch. Then the last “bug” was a piece of tape on a fuse in the scanner section, representing a blown fuse.

The final result was a 78 on the written test, 100 on the troubleshooting and a 75 on my class work. My final overall grade average was an 84. Passing was 72. So, you can imagine that I felt quite ecstatic with my final grade for my first school. However, that feeling didn’t last too long.

After a final review of the test and a discussion of the”bugs” that we had we were allowed to leave. However, as the other techs were leaving the instructor asked me to stay behind for a moment as he said he wanted to talk with me about how I did in class.

Well, I thought he was going to congratulate me on how well I did, but that isn’t what happened. The first thing he told me was, “Glenn, you are not going to make it as a service tech.” Now, that caught me completely off guard. That definitely was not what I was expecting to hear.

He went on to tell me that even though I seemed to do OK through the week, he felt that I just didn’t have what it took to be a good service technician. One reason was because I seemed to spend too much time talking and not enough time thinking. Huh???

To him I was weak in electronics knowledge, and without a good background in electronics I would eventually fail. So, to spare myself the embarrassment of fumbling around in that department, and eventually being fired by my employer, he suggested that I should just go back and put in my notice, and look for work doing something else.

Man, this hit me like a brick wall falling on me. I was flabbergasted and I just didn’t know how to respond. I just walked out without saying anything. All the way home, a six-hour drive, I could not get out of my mind what I heard him say, “you ain’t going to make it as a service tech.” And he told me this while holding up just one finger as if to say, “let me make this perfectly clear.”

Well, five years later this same instructor was let go by the company. I never did find out why or what happened. As for me, well, he was right about one thing; I’m no longer a service tech.

Twenty four years later I’ve gone from being a Service Technician to Service Manager to Manager of Information Technology at the same place where I began on a 30 day trial period. Also, concerning the MFP’s that we sell and service, the same make that I started out with back in 86, I’m also considered to be a factory trained Network Print/Scan Technician.

Not bad for being told, “You ain’t going to make it as a service tech.” Maybe, in telling me that, it was the best thing he could have done for me. After all, any time someone tells me that I’m not going to be good enough to succeed at something, that’s when I seem to reach down deep inside and find that part of me that will do what it takes to prove them wrong.

Yeah, I guess I did… 🙂

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Even though I spent most of the previous years in sales, and the money was good, having a steady income became more important than making a lot of money. Yeah, I know, that’s crazy, but I was tired of the ups and downs of this type of an income and to have a known steady paycheck week in and week out sounded really good.

So, that is the reason I switched from sales to a service oriented position. Besides, I like working with my hands and this position was ideal for that.

When I first started this job, I was to learn how to repair typewriters and copiers. The dress code, however, was the same as for sales. I had to wear dress pants, shirt and tie. In addition I also had to assemble furniture and make deliveries. I had some technical training, while in the Navy, in repairing teletype machines so I figured that this would be an easy transition.

Unfortunately, the service department only had three workbench’s, at that time, and being the fourth technician I wound up working in the garage/warehouse area. In the Summer there was no air-conditioning, but at least the garage doors were open, and in the Winter I had some heat, but doing this type of work in dress clothes made one pray that his deodorant worked above and beyond was advertised. Many times mine didn’t.

Here is a photo of what my first ” work space ” was like…

When I first interviewed for this position, the employer and I came to an agreement on a trial period. We decided that I would be trained for 30 days and at the end there would be a review, and if the employer felt that I was not service tech material he would tell me so and that would be the end of it. In return, if I felt that I didn’t like the work and did not want to continue I would say so and that would be the end of it on my part.

Well, the 30 days came and went. I have yet to have that review. Don’t know what happened for sure but I guess I did something right during those 30 days. It’s been almost 25 years now and I’m still here. 

So, after all these years, here is a photo of what my present ” work space ” is like…

Yeah, there is a little difference, don’t you think? If you look close you can see me peeking out over the top of one of my laptops. I look busy, dont I… 🙂

Well, during these years, I’ve been a full time service technician, service mananger and now I’m our company’s I.T. Manager. Not bad for passing a 30 day trial beginning.

Next week, the title of that post will be “You Ain’t Going To Make It As A Service Tech”. That’s what I was told and you’ll find out when and where that happened, and what the result was.

In the meantime, don’t eat while typing on your keyboard and no drinks on the desk next to it. And don’t put your drink in the ” official ” PC cupholder… 🙂

In the coming weeks I’ll tell you the story about pouring in the ink instead of dry toner, mouse in the fuzer section and the offer of big money, that I turned down; twice.

Stayed tuned, there’s plenty more to come…

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You really should know what my life was like before coming to work for my present employer. You might find it interesting to see from where I came, as I’m sure this will help to explain why I’ve been where I am, now, for almost 25 years.

After getting out of the Navy in 1968, I spent several years in sales of some kind or another. Most notably, in no particular order, I have been District Sales Manager for a Liquor Co., a Used Car Sales Manager of a local Car Dealership and a Sporting Goods Department Manager of a local Department Store.

Intermingled, here and there, I have also been a Bartender, an Insurance Salesman and a Marketing / Public Relations and Advertising Rep for a Television Cable Corp.

So, you can see I’ve had some pretty good jobs. They all paid well but the income was up and down because of the commission pay structures, and I just wasn’t happy with what I was doing. It just isn’t worth it if what you are doing isn’t fun and you don’t enjoy it. For me, money isn’t everything and why have it if you’re not happy.

Let me give you an example. The job that I had before going to work where I am now was with the TV Cable company. It was a commission only pay structure. However, it was something new in our area and the growth potential for this type of business was great. Not only did I sell TV advertising but I also helped to create the ads, participated in the ads and I also had to collect the payments from the clients for the ads they purchased. The commissions I received was based on a percentage of what the clients paid us on a monthly basis.

Third month in I set a sales record of over $10,000 in new advertising for one month. Back then that was outstanding because being a new industry in our area no one was used to using TV for advertising.

However, since my commission was based on what the clients paid, my first paycheck after that month, after taxes, was only $6.95 for two weeks. Needless to say that I was quite upset since I had just set a new sales record. I requested and got a meeting, not just with the Sales Manager, but with the Manager of the local Cable TV office himself.

I explained my situation, asked that I at least be given a draw against my commissions so that I could have an idea of the minimum I would pull in each week and that the commissions could be paid on a monthly basis. I went over my sales record, showed him my figures since starting and explained that there is a wealth of advertising to be done in our area. I was willing to earn a minimum on a weekly basis and average things out monthly with my commissions but, I was told no. I had to work with the system that was already setup. If I didn’t like it I could leave.

At this point I felt like I was being boxed in, and that was something I did not like. I was stuck behind the door and the only thing I could do was to get out. I didn’t like feeling “Trapped”.

Two weeks later I went to work for my present employer. I’ve never looked back and the job I’m in, even though it is with a small dealer, I’ve grown and climbed the ladder, so to speak. There has been some ups and downs over the years, but I’ve hung in there and was determined to make it a success. I believe I have, in a small way. Otherwise, why would I still be here almost 25 years later.

Next post, we’ll start into the final year and I hope to give you an inside scene of what the work is like being in a job that is in Information Technology. I will also explain how I went from the garage to having my own desk and what came in between.

Stay tuned and be sure to stop back when the next post is recorded. If all goes well, this time next year, I will have only 13 days left to retirement. I hope you get there with me…

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Starting today, this Journal will chronicle my countdown to retirement. However, this will be done with a twist. I plan on doing this not only in words but with photos as well, and even that will be slightly different. For the photos I will be using just one camera, a Point and Shoot Camera, and that’s all.

Basically this will be a two-fold documentary. It will be a description of my life at work and the ups and downs I encounter in Information Technology through words and photos, as well as my escapism of the stress, the IT world can sometimes create, through my world at play.

You see, I enjoy writing and photography is my hobby, hence the journalistic and photographic combination. The true challenge of all of this is to write about my life at work, and at play, and to photograph it by using just one camera, as mentioned a P&S Camera, it just makes things a little harder to do but it will help to keep me focused as I count down the days to retirement.

In addition, I’m also participating in the PostAWeek WordPress challenge. This will help to force me to make at least one post each week during this count down and more if possible.

So, sit back, read the pages and view the photos, and come along for the trip of a lifetime, that of counting down to retirement.

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