IT office

Episode 66: Are you having a “Quail Week”?

You’ve seen quail, right?

When you see quail, what do you notice?

Do you notice that they seem like old British women, when walking around: their heads held high with their feather sticking straight up and then their pear shaped bodies wobbling around as they shuffle along the sidewalk? I’d like to put a scarf around that quail and give it a handbag to hold.

And have you seen quail fly?

They can.

Although they can’t fly for long distances. It’s probably because of their big hips. Must be hard to fly those around for long.

I saw a quail as I was driving during my lunch hour last week. It was crossing Sunnyside Avenue. I have to admit that I thought I was about to watch that bird get squished as it attempted to race in front of cars. It was doing what quail do all the time: sticking its head way out in front of it and running like crazy. “Hurry, hurry, I can make it, I can get there, oh there’s the other side of the street, faster, faster, CRAP there’s a car on top of me!”

And just as I was sure I would witness the demise of that quail, it finally decided: “Oh yeah, I’ll do what birds do: I’ll fly.”

And it flew to the curb.

Last week, I was that quail. Metaphorically speaking of course as I did NOT just avoid becoming road kill. But it felt like with everything I did, I was just sticking my head out and running like hell instead of taking the easy route and flying across the street.

Keeping things simple would have been much easier. Silly me.

Next week, I’m hoping for an Albatross week. Do you know what those birds do when they fly? They don’t have to flap their wings when they soar across the ocean because their wing bones lock into place. They can also sleep while flying. Their glide efficiency is 20 feet forward for every one foot down.

If you see me sleeping and flying through meetings, you’ll know… it’s an Albatross week!

Episode 62: In The New Job, I Depend on Others, Constantly

As a software tester, my success mostly depended on myself. I did have to work with a developer who could hopefully code well so that I had a working application. But guess what? If I found a way to break it, all I did was send it back and say, try again. All I needed to succeed at my job was MYSELF.

I did well. It surprised me because most of the training I had to do my job came from Google. But when left to my own abilities, I just put in the extra time to eventually figure it out.

In the new job, though, I only look good when my TEAM looks good.

I can put together as many reports as I want.

I can stay as late as I want going through emails, sending emails, telling people to make sure and get stuff done.

I can come in early and print off charts, post them all around my cube, and write project deadlines on my calendar.

But it doesn’t matter if I do all that if the developers, software testers, and end users I now work with aren’t doing their jobs.

It’s a big adjustment that I’m trying to figure out how to make. So far, these are the “tricks” I’ve tried using (whether or not they really work is still to be seen):

  1. Bringing food to meetings (donuts, éclairs, other sugary goods so they get that temporary rush)

Um, yeah. That’s all I’ve tried so far. Maybe I’ll ask Google how to do this new job of mine.

Episode 59: Some People Call Me Tim… or Scrum Master

Remember how we decided that I could now go by Master Larrie? I earned the title and all: wrote the papers, virtually attended the classes, read loads of boring textbooks, read one interesting novel, had meetings in Second Life, and had professors hood me in a ceremony.

Now I’m here to tell you to add another word to that title.

Ready for the new title?

Okay, here it is.

Call me Scrum Master Larrie.

That’s my new job.

Technically it’s the unofficial title, but I AM THE SCRUM MASTER for our new costing application we’re developing at work.

Isn’t that HOT?!

I know, right?

And now you might be wondering what in the world a scrum master is. Clearly, I am not manly enough to play rugby nor do I even understand the rules enough to follow the game particularly well despite the numbers of BYU rugby games I attended back in the day.

It’s funny to be called the Master of a word that basically means Hubbub.

I kind of like that title better anyway: Hubbub Master.

Or maybe Hubbub Guru. Lots of U’s makes for a great title.

Obviously, if you know much about me, you know that I live in the IT work world where we have no rugby players and very few athletes all around. Despite how talented I am at getting tripped up in soccer, the new job title has nothing to do with sports.

Instead, it’s my new project management title.

But doesn’t it sound cooler than IT project manager? We have those here, too. I’m not sure what they do other than send me invites to meetings I’m not sure I want to attend and have really detailed agendas for those meetings.

As for me, I make my little team meet every morning to talk about how our day went and how we feel about our next tasks and whether or not we feel like accomplishing those. And then I crack the whip and say, work work work, people. They love it.

Oh, and in case you were wondering about the title of this post, nobody actually calls me Tim. It’s just a quote from a movie, if you know it…

Episode 58: Bring Back File-For-Fun Fridays

I think the fact that my desk at work was often covered with paperwork, labels, charts, and post-it notes was just a sign that I had a lot of work to do and that I was doing it. But some of my coworkers had clean desks and I know for a fact that they were still getting their work done. I think they did something that I only did once a year or so: THEY FILED THINGS.

When I first started at this company, I was the IT Secretary. I have no clue why they didn’t change the job title to Administrative Assistant, as that seems to be the PC term, but I just wanted a job with benefits while I finished my last classes for my ever-useful English BA so I took it, job title and all.

And then do you know what I found out?



But thankfully there was a cubicle next to me that was empty so I used it to store things to be filed. Strangely enough, it kept getting filled up with more and more papers. I swear, I filed things, though. Friday was filing day.

After several months of spending Fridays filing (and wearing Capris… Friday was also Capri day, oh, and it was also Friday High Five day, but people didn’t always play along with that one), I decided the best way to get out of File-for-Fun Fridays was to get a new job.

So I transferred.

They paid me more for doing it, too.

I moved around the corner, we hired a new secretary and I trained her on how to file. Luckily, she, too, had learned how to alphabetize back in elementary school so the training was pretty easy.

In the new job, I had minimal paperwork. Mostly, I just had documents on processes for how we built things in the computer system. They started out in piles on my desk, but I was sitting in a large cubicle and sharing it with a very neat coworker, “Stacky.” She never said she didn’t like my piles of paper, but her side was so neat. Eventually I decided to use the filing cabinet that my new boss had purchased for me and wrote some labels on a hand full of folders.

I filed my paperwork and had a clean desk.

Then they promoted me. That meant they paid me more… again. Nice.

I even got my own desk and now I sat across from Stacky. By this point, we found ourselves getting even more paperwork, which actually meant that we were getting even more work, but can I tell you what was GREAT about this paperwork? It was REQUIRED to be filed. And guess what your boss does when everyone in your department is REQUIRED to get their paperwork filed and she doesn’t want you to get behind or forget to do it?


When I finished with my paperwork, I put it into an outbox and it went on its merry little way to the filing cabinet at the end of the row on the new secretary’s Filing Fridays.

My desk remained clean.

And then I decided that I should find a way to get some more money again so guess what I did? I transferred.

And they paid me more. Nice.

And then I found out there was even MORE paperwork in the new job. So I did what I did best. I put it in an outbox on my desk (which really meant that I put it on a pile on my desk). Filing Fridays came and went and NOTHING HAPPENED.

Oh man. They were paying me more because now I would have to file MY OWN PAPERWORK. They didn’t pay me enough.

Before long, there were papers that needed to be filed on top of my label printer, then in between my computers, then in the corner of my desk. I kept telling myself that this way, I wouldn’t have to dust my desk ever. Just add to the paperwork pile every now and then and there would be a new top paper to gather a wee bit of dust. Good plan, right?

I did this for a couple of years.

And then I decided to try the whole transfer thing again and guess what? I got THAT job, too. And they even wanted to pay me more. Wow. I started to wonder: would I have to file EVEN MORE?

When leaving the old just two weeks ago, it took me an entire day to go through those piles of paperwork on my desk and file them. Not bad, actually. And then I moved to the new desk and it was lovely how nice and clean it was. JUST LOVELY!

It lasted for a week.

I have four small piles of paperwork on my desk today.

Oh, and the secretary is out on maternity leave.

Looks like for today, the Filing Friday will be so much fun! And when I get all the small piles put away (which I will do, oh yes, yes I will), then I will dust all of the empty desk space. And by dust, I really just mean wipe it down with a Lysol wipe.

I really missed Filing Fridays for the past four years. Glad they’re back.

Episode 50: Fridays Used to be Capri Fridays

I kept on finding great excuses to buy new shoes: I’d started a new job; that job required closed-toe shoes; I probably needed these shoes in many different styles and colors; and then we decided to have Capri Fridays! It was Janet’s idea and, of course, I went along with it. This also meant that I now needed cute, casual sneakers to wear each week. The collection slowly started to grow: a fluorescent green pair of Diesel sneakers, a black pair of Pumas, brown, rugged J-41s.

I loved Capri Fridays and needed to share that love with others I worked with so on Thursdays, I would go around telling women (because I don’t live in Europe so no men were included, sorry) to wear their capris the next day.

I told Cindy and she just stared at me, thinking, “Why would I take style advice from you? You have fluorescent green shoes.”

I told Tammi. She laughed and replied, “I’m too white to show any part of my legs at work.”

“That doesn’t stop me,” I retorted, but my argument was futile.

I told Mzia and she said, “Okay!”

And then one day Janet left the company. It ruined Capri Fridays. Nobody around here even remembers that we once had them.

Probably because they really only existed in my world, with Janet playing along and once, several years ago, Mzia also wore her capris on a Friday.

Kind of like how nobody takes a Diet Coke Break now or excuses themselves to use the middle stall.

So instead, I tried to instigate High Five Fridays!

Do you think it stuck?

Episode 48: Improving my PC Posture

A chiropractor once joked with me about how we’ve DE-evolved. If we started out hunched over as apes, then eventually stood up straight like men, we’ve gone back to hunching over like apes again. Blame Bill Gates or Steve Jobs; pick your poison.

I came into work the other morning, and sat down at my desk. Oh super, I thought, another day of typing, not answering the phone (since it doesn’t ring), and feeling exhausted by 2:00 p.m. The exhaustion, is brought on by my posture, not so much by the work. When I first accepted my job, part of my negotiations included a very nice, ergonomic chair. They said yes, because they knew my lower back is past its prime and would complain constantly otherwise. Poor lower back. It needs a cane.

Since then, my mid and upper-backs have been complaining. My lower back would probably like to tell them to shush up already because they don’t have any herniations to complain about. But, they’re still fussy and they get louder and whine more as the day progresses.

So I started stretching. Turns out, there are plenty of ways to help my back evolve back to that of a man and leave my ape ways behind.

  1. Switch up the mouse every so often. I know, if the mouse is on the left-side, it seems awkward or we feel the need to make fun of the south paws. Don’t. It’s actually good to change that up so you’re not always just reaching for the clicker with your right hand. Also, it’s good brain stimulation to have to click with your middle finger.
  2. Put your keyboard on your lap. This, however, is more difficult than it sounds unless you have a wireless keyboard. I still struggle with getting the wire to allow me to pull my keyboard down to my lap to type and then allow me to set the thing back on the desk when it’s time for a bathroom break.
  3. Every time I send an email, I drop my shoulders. Throughout the day, I have a tendency to hunch my shoulders up. This happens every time I look at the hours remaining on one CERTAIN project where I’m not the biggest fan of one of the coworkers involved. Turns out, this is how I handle stress so I’m trying to help myself relieve it by rolling my shoulders back and down every time I hit SEND.
  4. I stretch on the roller. We have a gym onsite here at work and one of the nice quirks is that it’s stocked with foam rollers. So on particularly bad days, I’ll take a 15-minute break to go and lie down on one of those, with the roller running the length of my spine, and make snow angels in the carpet. Is nice.
  5. I raised my monitors. I don’t want to hurt my neck by looking down at an angle to my monitors so I found a couple of phonebooks (so high tech, right?) and lifted both of those bad boys up to a nice height. Feels better.
  6. I stretch against the wall. Another stretch that really helps me (because my mid back is über tight) is to lean up against the wall, knees bent so my entire spine is against the wall, then put my shoulders and elbows against the wall so I look like I’m being held up by a bank robber. I then slowly raise my arms until they touch over my head without letting my shoulders, elbows or wrists come off of the wall. Okay. I totally lied right there. Most people can do that just fine. I, however, can only move my arms up a few inches. It’s sad, but I have really high hopes for one day touching my hands together. One day.

Also, there’s some good stretches here:

Episode 46: A Corporate Lactation Program

I logged in to our time clock application this morning: Double click to open the kiosk, enter employee number, enter last four digits of social security number (oooo, how secure). Ah, there you are. Let’s check and see when I’ve been arriving at work. Yep, lookin’ good (for me):
8:11 AM
8:09 AM
8:05 AM
8:26 AM
8:16 AM

Let’s check and see how much paid time off I have accrued. OH BEAUTIFUL VACATION HOW SWEET IT IS: 89:10 hours just waiting for me to sign up for on the calendar. I need to come up with a way to trick my boss into letting me use those. Last year, it was, “Hey, I’m going to Portland, where you used to live and I need some suggestions on where to go… oh yeah? Multnomah falls? Sounds good. Oh, yeah, and will you approve my vacation, please? It’s in four days and I already bought the flights. Thank you.” Yep, I got the vacation.

Okay, back to the time clock application.

Let’s check and see how much long-term sick I have accrued: HOLY FRAGRANT B.M., BATMAN, THAT’S A LOT OF SICK TIME: 264:53. So if I want to use that I have to do one of three things: really get injured so I have a doctor’s note about why I’m staying home or in the hospital for 33 days; find a doctor friend who will write me a note and a really good reason like, “Her imaginary therapist (whom she fired) says she needs a mental break for 33 days or she’ll go seriously insane”; or, have a baby.

Looks like I won’t be using that sick time for a long time, but that brings me to my next topic: having a baby.

I was talking to Stacky last week.

“Hey, you look pregnant.”

She’s due at the end of July and I’ve known since almost the start. See how funny I am saying things like that? We laughed so hard.

No. We didn’t. Stacky just looked at me and said, “So, I look fat?”

I quickly changed the subject to something much less awkward.

“So. You’re going to be breastfeeding before too long now.”

Yeah, I’m pretty smooth. And somehow, instead of giving me an odd look, she started talking about some of the things that she’s purchased already, some of which are related to breastfeeding, but let’s not really go into details here. And then I found out about our company’s HUGE SECRET.

Did you know that companies have corporate lactation programs?

Yeah, you read that right: a lactation program.

Somebody in HR was sitting around one day thinking, “Hmm, wonder what kind of a benefit program I could come up with today because I don’t have anything else to do this moment.” She looked over at a picture of her little baby and thought about how right this moment, she’d really LOVE to have a private place to pump some milk.

Yep. That’s how it went down and the next day, the lactation room was created.

So now I have a new mission at work and it has nothing to do with testing web applications. Somewhere there is a locked door and behind it, is a serene room with soothing music, comfortable chairs and, if I was the designer, a couple of hammocks.

We have a lactation room somewhere.

They give out keys to this secret room.

It’s a benefit I had no idea existed.

Did I mention that there is a SECRET lactation room somewhere?

I’m going to go for a walk now. There’s a door down the hall that I haven’t checked behind yet.

Episode 45: 10 Steps for Work-Life Balance in the IT World

It’s tough some times to strike that ideal balance between life and work. For me, I am always hoping to find that career path that leads to me being paid to do whatever I want (like travel places on an airplane, play soccer, drive sweet cars, etc). So until I find that path*, I continue to adjust the scales to balance my geeky IT job with my totally-not-geeky life. It is SO tough, but I came up with a helpful list to help.

Inspiration comes from’s 10 items list.

  1. Identify Priorities. What do you want out of work and personal life? Enough money to buy the sweetest gaming PC? More than enough money to retire early and start your own web company? Or perhaps your goal is just to avoid too much social interaction and spend quality time with your code. Whatever it is, make a list. Then, see if you think those priorities are appropriate.
  2. Edit Yourself Personally and Professionally. If you’re spending all of your time playing with electric-shock tanks, Sudoku, or photoshopping your coworkers into awkward pictures, you should probably take a minute to evaluate how much time you have to dedicate to your important tasks (those being the ones that your boss expects you to do). Apparently, if you get your work done, you can go.
  3. Learn Your Employer’s Policies. For some IT folk, this could require a HUGE lifestyle change: like showering daily and ALWAYS putting on deodorant. It’s important to know what your employer expects from your appearance and other policies.
  4. Have a Support System. You’ll probably want different support systems for different needs: support for helping when you can’t figure out the problem with your code, support for when you need a mental break and want to talk about the latest LAN game, and support for when you want to complain about a coworker. You might want to save that last one for somebody not at work.
  5. Communicate. If you don’t like to communicate in person much (because of body odor or personal bubble issues), hit up your coworkers on IM. Don’t overcommunicate, though. The entire 100+ IT department probably doesn’t care if you’re taking a day off so just tell the people you work with directly. You’re not THAT important.
  6. Use Technology to Your Advantage. Obviously, if you work in IT, you’re expected to use lots of geeky applications and all of the real-estate on your multiple monitors.. But something you might not think about is NOT to let technology take over your life. Don’t bring your iPhone to the dinner table with you.
  7. Telecommute. If you’re a developer and your boss likes you, you can work from home twice a week, plus have every Friday off because you work four ten-hour shifts. If you’re in Software QA, regardless of how much your boss likes you, you don’t get to work from home, take any Fridays off and your probably work five nine- or ten-hour shifts, plus check in on the weekend. But feel free to check about options for commuting.
  8. Find a Balance Mentor. If you see somebody who seems to have life well balanced, try to be like him. Just be wary that if he’s spending lots of time with his kids and you don’t have kids, this doesn’t mean that you should spend lots of time with HIS kids. Get a dog.
  9. Set a Time Frame. Write down your goals, make them specific and assign time to them. Go get ‘em, Tiger. Good goal: accomplish this specific development task in 1.5 hours. Bad goal: work really hard for another year until somebody thinks I finally deserve a better job title.
  10. Be Sure to Ask. If you don’t ask for flexible hours, you’ll never get it. It can’t hurt. Unless of course you are on-call, then don’t expect your boss to be okay with you not answering the pager on a Friday because you decided not to work that day. That’s a good way for your boss to give you REALLY flexible hours – the kind where you don’t come back.

*Or find me a sugar daddy.

Episode 40: Today’s Team Meeting – Subject: Century Egg

My boss is out; my lead is out; it’s Friday and March Madness is happenin’. Despite all of this, I’m working. It’s the best way to make the day go faster. That’s ALWAYS the theme of Friday, you know, hurry up and bring on the weekend already.

With the boss-ship being out today, we don’t have our regular team meeting. For some reason, this meant that we needed to have an irregular team meeting. This is the meeting that involved the century egg and for this (despite my tendency to get loquacious with the typed-word) I will let the pictures do the talking.

(I didn’t actually take the pictures so don’t try to give me a hard time if you don’t think they captured the “action” as well as you may have liked.)


Episode 36: What would YOU do with four walls?

Stacky forgot yesterday that she only has three walls here at work. I reminded her of this, but didn’t remind her that those walls are mostly made of fabric and not even as tall as I. They’re still taller cubicle walls than some workplaces, though.

So I got to thinking about what life would be like with four walls at work. Stacky helped me with this thinking. We came up with a nice list in our IM conversation of what we would do if we could close the door and get some privacy. None of the list items had to do with working… imagine that.

10 things to do with four walls at work:

  1. Sleep – a power nap every now and then (or every morning and afternoon) would really work wonders for me
  2. Exercise – we’re not talking about lifting weights or busting out the treadmill here, but more like some yoga stretching after sitting for so long
  3. Surf – cowabunga, dudes, we can look up stuff online without checking over our shoulder constantly
  4. Read books – yes, this was my preference and I do it anyway, but only when I eat lunch at my desk
  5. Read magazines – Stacky prefers this type of reading enjoyment
  6. Photoshop pictures of my coworkers – need I say more?
  7. Play computer games – it’s been ages since a good game of hearts against my PC
  8. Change – sometimes, it’d be nice to mix the day up a little by changing my shirt… just for the reactions of coworkers
  9. Breastfeed – guess who came up with this one
  10. Pick your teeth, nose, and/or wedgie – because we’re ladies and would NEVER do these things in public

What would you do with a little privacy at work?