Bamidele O. Shangobunmi

JANG Speaks!: December 2006

Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Years approaches...

I could have sworn I already posted this, but I don't see it here, so I must be trippin'. Mid-afternoon Friday my department director came around telling everyone to go home & start the weekend early, and he made a special point to insist to the two managers in my cubicle row to get me out of the place ASAP. (Evidently word of my extended hours has gotten to him.) Normally I give lip service to this kind of thing and then keep on working, but for once, I took the offer, finishing one document review and emailing it out before getting the heck out of there. The person I'm working with most closely in this late phase of the project worked really, really fast, so we're now in much better shape than expected.

We have Monday off, then it'll be back to the grind for two more weeks as the pieces of the puzzle all start to fit together. This week I should get a preview of what projects are coming up, but my manager has promised me a couple days of "coming in & just zoning out at your computer" as a reward for my hard work. I'd have preferred a fat spot bonus check but I'll happily take whatever I can get.

PS: When I say "my manager," of course I mean that loosely, since right now I actually have three of the buggers.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A short week

In the two work days that have passed so far this week, I've managed to actually move forward a day in schedule, and I have a fighting chance of meeting my deadlines. Unfortunately, with various folks going on holiday breaks (how dare they?!) in shifts, it doesn't look like the entire project is going to come together on schedule no matter what any individual contributors manage to pull off. There's even a possibility that... no, I don't want to say, it's too frustrating to consider. I'll wait & see what happens as the drop dead dates approach (next week & the week after that).

The really good news is that my hiring manager is back, though the rest of our group is now out of the office (along with what looks like about half of the company, judging from the open parking spaces). A couple bottles of champagne were opened for a random holiday celebration in the afternoon, and I hear there's more where those came from. There was a suggestion floated that we all come in to work on New Year's Eve. HHHHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahaha..... oh man.. jokers I tell ya.

At least I don't feel hopeless & at the mercy of an unknown quantities of unknowns this week. Problems that are understood, I can work with. Not knowing what the heck is going on and being expected to make everything work out great anyhow? Not so fun.

OH, and when somebody sent out pictures from the afternoon get-together, I learned we have another RC fanatic in my group; he has pretty deep manufacturer hookups, apparently races at a rather high (national) level, and knows about hobby shops & relatively young tracks in the area that I'd never heard of. Woot! He has a LiPo-powered Lunchbox on top of his cube!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Finally, a calm day

Today I was one of a small handful of folks in my whole department who came in to work, and most folks left really early on top of it all. It was great; quiet, peaceful, darker than usual (only half the lights on). Around 2:30 I ducked out to meet up with my buddy Tim at Sheldon's Hobbies (1 exit down on the freeway), which was having a 40% off everything sale (inventory reduction). I bought five RC kits. Don't ask which ones please, you'll find out next year!

I had to sort of hurry back from that to attend a 3:30 meeting, and by 4:45 I was out the door!

Hello 4-day weekend! I didn't bring my laptop home (yay me), but I did bring back ~100 pages of documents to review multiple times over the break.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Looking up

Today on the way in I caught one of the user experience directors in the stairway and told him that I was not going to be following one of his & the VP's main recommendations from our design review, and why. He was like, "Ok, yeah, whatever you feel is best; just make sure you're good with your manager on it." My hiring manager is out of the country. My actual manager is also out of the country. My acting manager is out of state. I guess I'm in the clear! I also chatted with him for a few seconds about some state-of-the-department type stuff. It's good to know that at least the higher-ups have a pulse on what's going on overall, even if they're out of touch on some important specifics (no fault of their own, there's so much going on and there are so many viewpoints to listen to, it's impossible to keep up). They definitely seem to need help, though. I'm beginning to wonder if I can do for this company what I did for four others in the past; play my ace card, pull my special move, spread on my secret sauce. Hmm, how to make it work with so many a chef de partie in the kitchen...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Getting untethered

After over a week of waiting to get a key for my laptop dock (without which I couldn't take my laptop anywhere) after submitting the request via a web form (per instructions from the tech support guy on the phone) & going through manager approval, I decided to escalate things on Friday, and by the end of the day I was told one more phone call would have it prepared to pick up. First thing this morning, I made the call, got an answer within 2 minutes, and got disconnected by a routing system bug. When I called back, the wait time had increased to 5 minutes and after 6 minutes of waiting, I decided to just march on over to the Desktop Support department in the next building and handle my business. I wrote on a Post-It the name of the person I was supposed to contact, plus the location code of their office, and the ticket number I had been assigned. I went to the support center and it was locked up, so I rang the buzzer. The door opened and there stood this gal who looked like she had just gotten ready for a tuner magazine photo shoot or import car show; fully dolled up, makeup, hair just done that morning, heels, a little bit of cleavage peeking out of a lace-trimmed top. Certanly not the stereotyped chubby, balding White tech-nerd I was expecting. I interpreted the wide-eyed, stuned look on the gal's face as saying, "Oh my god, how did you find us?" Well, come to find out, it was nothing but a ditsy blank stare. I quickly explained my situation and gave her my Post-It, and she said "Oh, yes, you needed to talk to _______ or ________, okay" before turning to walk to her desk (which was about 3 ft away). Well, it turns out she's actually the person who responded to the ticket, the 2nd "__________" on my note. She asks how to spell my name and I show her my badge, and she picks up a solitary black pouch from the edge of her desk, reading a small note on the label, and comparing it to my badge. She then shows me the note and asks if "they" spelled my name right. I guess she had trouble reading the sans serif printed version of my name on the badge. Well, no, "they" didn't spell my name right, they were missing an 'e'. She asks which 'e'. I hold up my badge again and say, "The first one." She draws the pouch closer to her again and looks at it with concern. "That's strange, it says your desk location is __._.___." With one raised eyebrow and a deepened voice I replied, "Yyyeesss that is my desk location." She said, "But..." and pointed with the manicured nail of her left thumb to the location code on my Post-It, holding it up towards me and looking at me with scared puppy-dog eyes (you know, the "don't leave me" or "I didn't eat the chair leg, it was termites, I swear!" look). Still with that same eyebrow up, I give a slow-motion nod of approval and explain, "That's your desk location." "Oh," she looks at it again, pauses to think for a moment, fails, and hands me the pouch to fend off further embarassment. Hot like fire. Not too bright, though.

Triumphant and armed with my shiny new key, complete with black "betcha don't know what's in here" security pouch, I raced back to my desk, freed my computer from its captor, and went on my way to the other local campus of my company, about 8 minutes away. There, I got to sit in a dark room with a handful of colleagues making faces at and cracking jokes about visiting users from behind a one-way mirror. The sessions were being recorded (the hapless users on the other side, not our face-making antics) and with our tech gone, I got to play around with the video mixing/fx board and the remote 3-axis camera controller.

After about four hours with a very brief lunch break in the middle, I returned to home base (North campus) to prepare for the big executive review. When it was time to rock, the review coordinator slyly invited us to start bringing our super-sized page flow diagrams (printed in color on one of our huge plotters) into the presentation room to give an extra push to the group that was already in there. The other crew got the hint and after brief project introduction by our product marketing manager, I was taking four directors (maybe 5, one guy came late & I don't know who he was) and our VP on sequential tours with the ghosts of page flow past and future.

The review went without a hitch and we were left with only a few recommendations for change. Tomorrow & Wednesday I get to make faces & push buttons & tweak joysticks again in between typing out ~7 pages of raw notes per hour.

Disclaimer: I was kidding in the part about making fun of users from behind the one-way mirror. I wasn't kidding about the mixer board though.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Just my luck!

The executive review yesterday morning was interesting. The product manager had busted his rear getting a PowerPoint deck prepared, and I had busted similarly preparing the design presentation. The review was scheduled for 30 minutes. The VP arrived 20 minutes late, instantly waved off the PowerPoint, had me walk through the designs at breakneck speed, dropped a bomb about some particulars that now have folks in 3 departments really worried, told me who to contact to set up another review session, and left. I got lucky and pulled strings with someone who pulled strings for me as well, and the new review is set up for Monday afternoon. Should be fun.

I got my Outlook calendar levelled out for next week. For one time slot I was triple-booked, and for two others I was doubled up. I wanted to schedule a lunch with someone, but couldn't find a time slot before Thursday.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The stage is set

My presentation went up on the conference room wall at 8:15pm this evening; getting ready for the big one...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Saved (?) by the bell?

Today the Friday executive review got pulled forward to first thing Thursday morning. Plus, tomorrow I have to present my project in three meetings, in front of the project team, my whole team, and my greater team (one UI Design group and all of User Research). The good thing is that we went from incomplete design to a full draft of visual design *and* I got it all done up as clickable HTML prototypes today, so we've gone from being 1 week behind and needing a person who was never going to get allocated, to actually being about day ahead. Hooray for 50-60 hr weeks. This ain't gonna last much longer!

Oh, and I almost forgot, I was there late enough to pick up the holiday gift all employees are getting tomorrow!

Monday, December 11, 2006

No pressure...

Today I got a somber call from a product manager upstairs with the news that I needed to do a presentation at noon tomorrow to the VP & directors because the VP was going to be unavailable for awhile. Oh great. Fortunately we got it pushed back to Friday, but it's still going to be insane.

Today I also got at least 3 more people involved in the project, including the girl in teal from the holiday party. I feel truly sorry for all of them

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Party time

Friday night, with my employment at the ripe old age of 1.9 weeks, I got to go to the full company holiday party, this after attending a 3-hour potluck lunch event earlier for basically just the one floor of the building I'm in. The party venue had one complete main floor and five mezzanines with two open bars apiece, free food everywhere and a live band. Imagine my surprise when I was chatting with some folks and suddenly this very sharp, professional girl I've been (constructively) arguing with in meetings all week runs up out of nowhere utterly w-a-s-t-e-d & practically knocks me down, throwing her arm around me like we're old drinking buddies. Somebody got a picture of it too. Yikes. The real fun, though, began after things started to quiet down and another past-her-limit girl from my team (actually the first person I met on the first day of my interviews) invited me to an afterparty. Complete & utter comedy ensued as we tried to gather people and make progress towards the coat check. The contrast between the folks who had "a couple too many," those like me who were nicely buzzed but trying to pretend to be not under the influence, and the fully-composed DD's was simply classic. I literally buckled all the way to the floor in laughter at one point. We finally made it outside and it was windy & sprinkling, and having a large umbrella earned me escort duty for a girl whose dress was my favorite color, teal.

About 20 minutes later I found myself sipping an Adios MF'er atop a velvet perch in a chichi downtown San Francisco lounge with five women in a crescent around me offering a belated birthday toast and teasing me about being a more gentlemanly "pimp" than the usual one. Alrighty then. Moving right along.

Quite a fun way to top off a rocky early run at a company, indeed. Maybe after another two weeks, hopefully before I present my first work to the directors & group VP, I'll understand my job responsibilities and even be able to remember the names of a handful of the approx. 60 people I've been in meetings with or been directly introduced to.

For this week, one team (overseas for this project) that folks in my position rely on doesn't have enough manpower at the moment, so I'm going to be doing their work as well as my own. What's funny, though, is that this will probably make things easier for me because I won't have to coordinate, review & correct stuff.

Man, oh man.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Oh but the food...

Know what? The PayPal cafeteria alone may make it worth it. One day I scored a turkey & cheese sandwich with ranch dressing instead of mayo, stacked to almost 3" tall on marbled rye. Another day I got this tasty grilled-to-order medium-rare 1/3rd pound swiss cheeseburger and a slice of blackberry pie. OH yeah.

Talk about a "running start..."

On November 27, 2006, I began work as a User Interface Designer at PayPal. And so it began...
The last company I worked for, or at least the division I worked in (formerly a sovereign entity) occupied about 3/4ths of a floor of of a single 4-story building. They had one major product, with four main pieces to the part we sold to customers, plus two major back-end components. After I started there, it took me about two weeks to get up to speed with general knowledge about the moderately intricate product suite, how the major pieces worked independently and together, how work got done at the company (people & processes), etc. During those two weeks I was consulted on a few things, but I didn't have any real projects assigned to me. I was given plenty of time to read documentation, attend random meetings to start getting used to the flow of life at the company, etc. It was all good.

Fast forward to the company I'm with today. The highest building number I've been in is #15, and that's just out of two campuses in the city of its headquarters. One afternoon, my hiring manager invited me to a kickoff meeting for a brand new project that was actually a piece of what had originally been planned to be a large effort with several components. This particular component was supposed to be pretty managable in size. None of the other people in the meeting had I met before, so I was looking forward to checking out personalities & work styles and learning how new product features really begin at this company. Cool, right?

Halfway through the meeting, my manager had to leave. Just like that, he got up, excused himself, and left the conference room. At the moment the door closed behind him, in this room full of strangers, I had become the design lead for this project, which it turns out is rated "XL" on a size scale of S to XXL. Oh, and it was already at least a week behind schedule. I didn't even have a computer yet; it was my second day of employment.

In that first week, I attended precisely 17 meetings (on 3 different floors of our building), did two drafts of a design for a brand new feature, and led the design of a modified user workflow to support this new module. On my third day, I got lost twice looking for one conference room that ended up being about 20 paces from my desk; oh, and that afternoon my computer (laptop w/ docking station) arrived. On my fourth day, I filed an IT support ticket to get a key for the docking station lock so I could actually use it as a laptop.

Talk about a running start...