WcW011: A week in the (professional) life

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Web Conferencing Week

All right, it’s been a lot more than a week since the last of this series appeared. Actually, about 26 weeks. Ouch!

It’s been a time.

Began this post with the aim of sharing what’s been a roller-coaster of a week. So, we’ll try that, but read on beyond the quotidian carryings on to see what’s really underlying the lengthy delay between what I had hoped would become a more predictably episodic series.

Wearing all of my hats this week.

Teaching. I teach web conferencing to my fellow employees; ran some numbers the other day. 650 classes of one to two hours duration; more than 3,900 participants collectively in 5-1/2 years. This is harder than it sounds (you scoff: one to two hours!). All of these classes are conducted on line via the web conferencing product that I’m endeavoring to teach, together with a telephone conference call to provide the audio.

Rather like the radio, in that you are performing for people whom you cannot see, and whose only impression of you is what they hear, and the static slides they see on their computer screen. Takes a great deal of emotive energy.

I’m pretty good. My feedback surveys say so. This week, I’ve taught two regular classes, and two more special one-hour rather more free-form sessions directed at participants in our pilot of the new, much improved version of our product that we’re endeavoring to roll out to full production in less than three months. This is a heavier load than usual, due to the pilot, and there still is one more pilot session scheduled for tomorrow morning as I write this, together with three more early next week, along with the two regularly scheduled ones.

Technical consultant. While our web conferencing tool, IBM Lotus Sametime, sametime

is self service (“even your manager can do it!” … if she takes my training), there are many occasions where a meeting has requirements that an amateur, no matter how many advanced degrees s/he possesses needs specialist assistance to put a meeting “on the air.” That’s where I come in. In fact, so frequently and (usually) competently do I perform this service that I’m known as “Mr. Sametime” among those in the know. I even added it to my business card. So there was a lot of that going on this week, as is often the situation.

Frequently it means I’m dispatched to large conference rooms trailing not one but two laptop computers (the better to have a backup); a tricky experience these days as I’m still stomping around in my “fracture walker” boot, attempting to heal a recalcitrant Achilles tendon that’s torn.

Had one fascinating meeting this week. A new VP in HR was speaking to his newly combined team: more than 100 in the conference room and 40 more connecting via web conference. Other numbers in this series have talked of the technical details of such a broadcast.

This one was routine, except that the speaker, a person fairly new to HCA, was as effective a speaker as these tired ears have encountered here. And by the way, while we’re throwing out numbers, I’ve heard a lot of speakers. During the four years I have been offering my talents in this role, I have logged more than 700 meetings, with more than 19,000 remotely connected participants.

I’ve heard lots of speakers, on a myriad of topics, very often numbingly technical, sometimes usefully relatable.

Our speaker on Monday was one of those. HR. I’m human (some might wonder). So I could relate, and this man was simply outstanding.

One measure. From my station at the back of the room, mirroring the presentation slides for the remote attendees as they were shown on the projection screen for the in-person audience, I watched three people, seated on purpose in the last row (like church, someone observed, the seats in these events tend to fill in from the back forward), gabbing and making faces (“I’ve heard this all before”) as our speaker began. By the end, more than a spell-binding hour later, they were very carefully taking notes and generally paying close attention.

I wrote him afterward, and told him, based on what he’d said, and how he’d so eloquently expressed his philosophy, I’d work for him in a heartbeat. That’s how impressed this jaded curmudgeon was.

His assistant was also a refreshing change from so many I’ve dealt with. As I wrote to her boss: she was “organized, informed and accomplished… attentive to all the details that spell the difference between a smooth running event, and one that could have stumbled awkwardly. She knew what she didn’t know, and took the necessary steps to fill the gaps.”

I quote the above not because I’m so enamored of my writing (though of course I am, I don’t have to tell that to faithful reader!), but it serves as a contrast to an experience I had today.

The assistant I worked with today operates with confidence. She knows what she doesn’t know, and she knows who to call to have it taken care of. I’ve worked for her on various meetings for several years; she’s taken my classes. She’s learned very little, unfortunately.

Let’s assume that the assistant to the VP I worked with and this second person are around the same age, probably early to mid 30s. Let’s assume that they both have 10 years experience. For the assistant to the VP, no question: 10 fruitful years experience. For the second person, sorry to say, one year of experience repeated 10 times.

Project team. As a member of the team (the “non-technical,” “user experience manager” member) I have been asked to spearhead the preparation and launch of a homegrown extension of the web conferencing product that was designed by a couple of our star developers/architects to add necessary enhancements to our client’s overall experience.

This is unaccustomed territory, but, then again, perhaps not. Responsibility without real authority is pretty much the story of a 42 year career.

So, I’ve been busier than usual, as our stars circle back to me between meeting and teaching gigs, to verify scenarios and have me test the latest iteration.

And, as the person responsible for the team’s instant messaging / web conferencing informational website, I’m working with the developers who will be porting that to a more modern intranet site. Meant logging some hours in Visio. Never my favorite endeavor, I was quite rusty, but the rather odd output (my systems analyst days were a long, long time ago) has apparently been taken seriously. Go figure.

Also, I’ll be presenting our technology at an internal global IT event next month, and I’ve been working on those slides, which I needed to complete before we’re off on vacation (in a week!). It will be a change for the guy who has a great face for radio. An audience in the room? Who can throw tomatoes? Not a problem.

Sound like a busy week?

Yes, but that’s not what’s really going on…

Typical corporate turbulence. Things don’t seem broken, but they need to be fixed regardless. How else to justify those expensive consultants, after all.

Got so bad, the senior director of the department, whom at one singular time for a couple of years I had actually directly reported to, tearfully announced her resignation. No, she insisted publicly, it’s not because of the looming reorganization; the stresses of the job are impacting her health. Uh huh.

This is rather a disappointment, actually, her leaving. The Heart of Corporate America has 70,000 employees globally, and about four of them understood exactly what I do and where I fit in the magnificently complex, extravagantly bureaucratic beehive.

One, an early fan, amazingly, was the CIO, one of the corporation’s top ranking women. In my early days in the department, while still a contractor, I worked a number of her meetings. She was quite sharp (and not just because she appreciated my abilities). But, she had put in her 25 years, built a nice retirement package and thus retired several years ago, at a remarkably youthful age.

Another, the divisional vice president of our sector of corporate IT, was also cognizant of the quirky usefulness of yr (justifiably) humble svt. She logged her 30th year, the stock market was up; and retired a couple of years ago. Her replacement has taken those two years of disengagement to figure things out; I firmly believe that he’s the reason my department head has chosen this juncture to escape.

The third, a program manager with responsibilities toward our web conferencing product area, among many very large ones, a tremendously competent person who worked closely with me even before I joined the department, put in her 29 years, and happily retired last summer.

And now, our department head leaves forlornly, leaving yours truly surrounded effectively by strangers.

Typical corporate turbulence. And a stark illustration of corporate success. All these talented people have been around for so long, obviously long since having figured out how to weather the regular cycles of bureaucrats fixing what needn’t be fixed, because how else do they justify their staff positions. And MUDGE’s golden four all worked the system for all it’s worth, and have taken the money, all while still in their 50s, and run. I’m envious, I guess.

And your correspondent, having kicked around through thin and thinner, finally experiencing what amounts to the most successful years of his career, feels once again that he’s teetering on the brink, once again fiddling on the roof, with nary a centime to fall back on.

Everybody knows me. Nobody understands what I do.

Hardly a recipe for corporate longevity.

It was ever thus. I come from a very, very long line of rooftop musicians.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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2 Responses to WcW011: A week in the (professional) life

  1. […] we produce new editions of Web Conferencing Week, we post them in both places; you might have seen this one last […]

  2. […] again, this occasional series has failed in its nominal attempt to appear on any kind of regular basis. Not so much a lack of […]

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