Inexperience vs. wisdom
I remember being in college and being told that sometimes companies appreciate new hires who lack experience, because sometimes "the way things have been done" isn't always great, and new blood brings new ideas and new approaches to solving problems.  This was especially comforting to a young person who was about to enter the workforce with little to no experience. 

Now that I'm on the other side of the equation, I sort of feel exactly the opposite.  Sure, new people bring new approaches and new skillsets.  And maybe that makes me feel threatened in some way because I'm older.  But I've really developed an appreciation, especially in recent years, for knowing and learning "the way things have been done" because that's literally the foundation of the entire profession.  Just because things used to be done a certain way doesn't mean they need to be done that way in the future.  But at least knowing how they were done can inform you either that they can be done that way or that they should be done that way.  The most valuable resource for large organizations with years of experience is wisdom.  A new person can come in and have all sorts of crazy, exciting ideas, and that's great.  But wisdom says, "Yeah we tried that years ago; here's why it didn't work." #business

Silence in meetings
One of the consequences of pandemic-induced remote work has been the removal of visual body language from group phone calls.  When there are 10-15 people on a call, it's hard for the leader to keep track of individual people, so there's a lot of communications checks like "Is my mic working?", "Does that make sense?", etc.  One of the weirder examples from my experience was when this one coworker would say something like "I'll move onto the next section unless there are any objections" and after hearing nothing for a few seconds, would say "I'll take your silence as consent."  Thankfully we've moved on in recent weeks to the much less rape-y, "I'll take your silence as concurrence." #business

Back to work
I have a sneaking suspicion all these work-from-home promises we've heard over the past year will suddenly vanish once the world opens back up.  At first it was a bunch of technology companies that went fully remote for the foreseeable future.  But even regular corporate-type jobs were on board with supporting remote work.  I've heard lots of ideas about how future work will go:  Maybe fully remote, maybe every other day, maybe alternating weeks.  As a remote-capable worker, it's been refreshing to hear people realize how much work can be done without being in an office.  And despite the drawbacks (of which there are quite a few), I was a fan of teleworking before we were forced to do it. 

But I just have an inkling that once enough people have been vaccinated and the infection rates have gone down, there will be a sort of boiling-over anger from bosses and managers who've been holding back their opinions of the drawbacks of telework, and there will be a rapid push to re-normalize working at work.  And the collective PTSD of the teleworkforce will be like gasoline on a fire.  Once back at the office, working from home will feel like going back to quarantine times, which obviously no one wants.  So I think within the next year or less, we'll be fully back to the way we were, for better or worse. #business

Work but not work
It's surprising how much of my "job" isn't really my "job".  Like my job consists mostly of writing code, analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and documenting results.  But other things I do during working hours are things like: 

- Wait for computer to boot
- Wait for mandatory software updates to finish
- Wait while virus scan bogs down 70% of my computing resources
- Spend 45 minutes burning a CD with 30,000 files containing software I need to do my job
- Try to find a way around network firewall to access information needed to do my job
- Take mandatory training
- Walk to other buildings, wait to be let in
- Wait for the network and/or electricity to come back on

There are "job" tasks and there are "meta job" tasks.  Work about work, but not actually work. #business

Cancelled project
My project at work got sort of cancelled last week.  I say "sort of" because it's not technically cancelled, it's more like they're gonna stop funding it in a few months, which is a more wordy way of saying it's cancelled.  I shouldn't feel bad about it because this sort of thing happens all the time, largely due to the industry I work in and the whims of powerful people in authority.  And honestly it's not a huge deal; I still have a job, I'll be paid regardless.  But I've been having trouble coming to terms with it, and here's why: 
  1. There was no communication about it from management.  I heard second or third-hand:  My coworker on the project CC'd me on an email to our shared boss asking about other funded projects.
  2. The funding shortfall was known about four months ago, and based on accounting math it was determined that this date in the future (last week) would be when things got real.  I had no idea about any of this, not that it would've made everything better, but still.
  3. I'm having trouble finding an appropriate person or group to direct my anger at, and that makes me more angry.  My project managers aren't really to blame, since they've been trying to get more funding.  The people above them aren't really to blame either, because they've been on our side the whole time.
  4. There's talk of the program getting more funding in the near future, or maybe in several months from now.  But I feel like it's too late for that.  The cat's out of the bag.  We've started closeout activities.  We've joined other programs that had funding and needed personnel.  It's like breaking up a relationship and expecting the other person to wait around for you while you work some things out.  Fuck you; we're done.
  5. This was a pretty good team of people who had been working closely together for over a year.  It took a lot of effort to assemble the team and convince their management it was important.  You can't just reassemble the same team at the drop of a hat.  It might take weeks or months, or not happen at all, because people are now funded full-time by other projects.
  6. I'm an engineer, and I work with all engineers, and we're pretty emotionless people in general.  It's normal for me to think of humans as cogs; remove one, replace with another.  But that's just not even remotely how things work, definitely in engineering, and probably in pretty much every other area of life.  People are unique and have unique qualities and abilities.  Even two people with the same education and same job title and same work experience can have vastly different strengths and talents.  It's unfortunately true that you can't simply replace one person with another person.  So those team dynamics and skill balance are now thrown out the window.
Possibly the worst part of this (aside from learning about it through hearsay) is that there was no plan for what to do in the present moment, in addition to there being no communication about anything.  So we were all sort of left in the lurch as managers tried to figure out what to do with the remaining funding and time.  It's very disengaging. #business

Advertising exemption
I feel I should be exempt from advertising for products and services of which I'm already a customer.  I should be able to skip commercials for my cell service provider, my cable provider, etc.  Seeing more ads won't make me more of a customer. 

I also think I should be exempt if there's essentially no way for me to be a customer.  I recently saw a commercial for a fast food place that's not in my area.  I'm used to seeing commercials from the nearby metro area which don't exactly apply to me, but there's absolutely no way I'm driving 200 miles for some greasy chicken. #business

Half a bridge
I like this analogy from a Freakonomics episode about developing a Covid-19 vaccine
Any biotech company ... has to manage their finances properly. 

Without money, they can't conduct clinical trials. They can't do research. And so, all the progress that we see will stop if they run out of money. And the asset that they worked so hard to develop actually gets destroyed. 

It's like building half a bridge. A half a bridge is not half as good as a full bridge.
The primary purpose of a bridge is to link two pieces of land across a body of water or a valley.  A bridge that's 50% complete, or 90% or 99%, while it may provide other uses, doesn't accomplish it's primary function. #business

Clean desk
One of my favorite coworker interactions was when my next-cube neighbor was defending his messy desk by trying to quote Einstein:  "Empty desk, empty mind."  This particular person is the last person who should be quoting (or misquoting) Einstein, and also the last person who should be claiming to not have an empty head.  So when I said to him, "I have a clean desk; what are you trying to say?", the look on his empty-headed face was priceless. #business

Hourly work
One thing this whole coronavirus quarantine is pointing out is the futility of tracking progress by the number of hours worked.  When I physically go to work, and I'd imagine this is the same for most people, I'm required to be there for a certain number of hours, regardless of the actual amount of work I do.  What I've found while working from home these past two weeks is that I'm accomplishing way more actual measurable work in much less actual time, while still technically "being present" or putting in the same amount of official work time (in case my employer is reading this, yes I put in the correct amount of hours and yes I filled out my timesheet, now leave me alone).  Part of it is that I don't want my employer to take away the option of working from home, so I'm sort of intentionally working harder.  But there's also the fact that there are so ridiculously fewer distractions when I'm not in an office environment, especially for someone like me who is incredibly introverted, and especially for the type of work I do which is collaborative at the project level but extremely individual at the working level.  For me, there's a stark difference in productivity between being present at an office and working quietly alone at home. 

This brings up the pesky question of what exactly counts as work.  For hourly workers and/or workers who are expected to be present at an office for a set amount of time, the types of activities that qualify as work are quite varied.  Waiting for a computer to boot up?  Work.  Bathroom break?  Work.  Water cooler discussions?  Work.  Leaving the office for lunch?  Not work.  Taking a walk outside?  Not work.  Staring mindlessly at a computer?  Work. 

I would argue that more work gets done sometimes during what would traditionally be considered non-working time.  Again, especially for me and the types of things I do, I often get the most done while I'm taking a break outside or when I'm commuting home.  A lot of times, just having a break in flow or surroundings helps my brain solve an issue I was having or approach a problem from a different angle.  Those times don't technically count as work because I'm not in an office, at a computer, or somehow otherwise checking the boxes that official work entails.  But it's work, and it's valuable, and I hope the employers of the world come around to this idea. #business

Govt is bad at some things
It's becoming more and more clear to me that the government is bad at doing things when there's already a viable commercial alternative.  Case in point:  web-based teleconferencing.  At my job, we're forced to use the government's phone numbers and websites FoR sEcUrItY rEaSoNs, but both products are routinely unreliable and of poor quality.  Or downright unavailable.  If a private company made a product that didn't work, they would lose money and go out of business.  If the government makes a product that doesn't work, oh well, try it again in an hour. #business

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