My Job History, Part Two: Seven Years Ago Today

If you want to read the first part of my job history, click here.  I’ll summarize briefly before moving onto part two:

From 1996 to 2005, things were pretty good.  Everything moved forward as I was an IT professional, getting my feet wet on a help desk, moving toward day to day support and implementation working for a small company, and moving to the health care arena in 2002, where I made process improvements at several regional hospitals.

In short, things were awesome.  But, seven years ago today, my world got rocked.

On March 1, 2005, for the first time in my life, I got fired.

Canned.  Let go.  Axed.

I’ll move into a little more detail about the job where it occurred.

I was hired in 2002 to take over as a technical project manager for a regional hospital who had recently outsourced all IT functions to the larger company where I was hired.  The interview went well.  I interviewed with the director of the outsourcing division.  She was nice, but very professional and I could tell, very cut-throat, as I overheard a conversation she was finishing when I walked in talking about headcount reduction and such (which could have been for my benefit, but I’m guessing probably not). We hit it off and the offer came through a few days later, and while I never reported directly to her, she was always ‘up there’ a few levels above me.

For the first couple of years, things were great.  I worked at one hospital and set a lot of great things in motion.  I improved our satisfaction scores, which was a key objective, since that was tied to our outsourced contract.  I implemented a strategy to keep all the desktop computers at the hospital current, where before they had been replaced only as they broke.  I handled the switchover of the onsite operations team which was migrated to a central facility offsite.  All in all, it was great, and our hospital, which had once been seen as lagging behind, was seen as a model hospital in many ways, so much that they asked me to go to a couple of other hospitals under the outsourcing agreement and work with them.

I did and that was a lot of fun as well.  One of the other sites was in Florida and I got to travel every week for about nine months.  After a while, they said that the travel costs were too high so they said I had a choice: I could take the position down there permanently or take a different job in the main outsourcing center as a manager.  I loved it down there but I didn’t want to be away from my family, and I was also just starting the relationship with my girlfriend at the time (now Mrs. Beagle), so I decided to stay where I was and take the manager position.

This was a completely different position with all different politics and such. Right around the time I started that new role, my new boss was brought on board as well as a couple of workers that were assigned to work under me.  The first time I met my new boss, he bragged about how good he was at what he did.  I’ve never been one to toot my own horn so when he was doing that for himself, it didn’t impress me as much as he thought it probably should.

I found out later that he had been told when he was hired that he would be able to bring on his own manager.  One person told him that and another person told me that I had the job, and my person won that battle, but it apparently led to him never really being very happy with the fact that he had someone in a position that he didn’t want.  I never knew this until months after I was let go.

I also found out later that one of the people that had been hired right before me to work on my team was someone he had been sleeping with.  Nobody really knew this because he was married at the time.  They hired in together. If you can’t tell, this guy is pretty much a sleazebucket.  Again, I didn’t know any of this, and so when I assigned some of the higher visibility projects to team members that had been there for years instead of her, I guess she didn’t like that and went over my head, and since she was sleeping with the guy she was complaining to, well, again without my knowing, I was pretty much screwed.

One of the guys on my team was working an off shift and was implementing some updates, and he did so without having gone through the formal change control process.  Of course, this brought down the server and there was an outage.  At the time, the engineers were responsible for bringing their changes forward.  They just needed management (mine) signature.  Since he never disclosed his plans to me or anybody, I never had anything to sign, but when it came time for cleaning up after the incident, my boss decided that was a good time to make it my problem.

So he pinned it on me.  Even though I never had any knowledge that my engineer was planning on doing this change, I was apparently supposed to have approved it, and that I didn’t was his excuse to fire me. Even though just six weeks prior, I had just gotten a good performance review and a 7% raise for the work I’d done at the hospital as well in my new role.

Needless to say, I was stunned.  I had no idea going in that morning that this was even a possibility.  After finding everything out about him and his ‘affair’, it made sense, but none of that was apparent.

My team members were angry when they found out what happened.  I got calls from a few of them and one of them even went so far as to take that as his cue to start looking and get out.  He’s the one that did the quiet research to find out about how my boss had been promised that he could hire his own guy, that he was sleeping with the girl on my team.  Looking back, I wonder if the guy that did the unauthorized change was directly or indirectly told to do so as a way to set me up.

I guess I’ll never know.

So that was seven years ago today.  I went in not having any idea what was going to happen.  He called me on my phone into his office and I figured we’d be talking about what had happened or some other project.  When I saw the HR person sitting in there, I knew immediately I was screwed.  Within a half hour time frame I went from sitting at my desk planning some upcoming work to driving at home with a box of my stuff next to me.

Telling my parents and my girlfriend was no small task. Talking to now-former co-workers and trying to make sense of it was just awful.  I think I panicked and started sending out job applications that afternoon, instead of actually taking time to process the situation.  Luckily, within a few days I did start getting better sense of things.

Does that one day sound bad?  It was.  Unfortunately, this was only the first day of what became a fifteen month dark period in my career.

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Don’t Yell At Telemarketers

I love telemarketing calls.   Few things make me happier than picking up the phone, hearing a few seconds of silence, only to get pitched some product or service that I don’t want.  It just makes my day.  It all makes me so happy that instead of the ‘DO NOT CALL’ list, I wish they would invent the ‘PLEASE CALL’ list.  I’d be the first one to sign up.

OK, absolutely none of that is true. 

Truth be told, I hate telemarketing calls just as much as well…everybody else.

But I won’t yell at them.  Or be mean to them.

Why is that?

Because a job experience many years ago taught me a few things about telemarketers.

I worked for a small IT company, and one day I was sent out to a new client that had come from a referral.  They needed us to help set up their network, a couple servers, about 25 desktops, and a few printers printers, stuff that was pretty routine.  I got the name of the company and the location, made an appointment, and headed out the day of the appointment.

The name of the company didn’t clue me in at all to what they did.  It’s not like they were named ‘TELEMARKETING CENTRAL’.  It’s been so long that the name escapes me, but it could have been any type of business.  So, when I got there and started finding out the details about the job, and that telemarketing was key, I was surprised and didn’t know what to expect.

From a systems perspective, it was a pretty routine install.  There were a few extra cards that got plugged into the server to handle the phone lines, and there was an extra card in each desktop machine that allowed the person to talk and type all from the PC.  Besides that, it was pretty straightforward.

After things went live, we went back now and then for general support issues or changes that came up.  By that time, the call center was in full effect. And, as I watched them work, I learned even more:

  1. The people making the calls did not make the decisions.  They did not sign the contracts on what products or services to represent.
  2. The people who made those decisions were nowhere to be found.  The call centers are kept separate from the corporate offices, so while there are floor managers, you don’t find the people that made the deals mixing with the people that had to do the deals.
  3. There’s a reason for the pause.  There’s a background system that auto-dials numbers and it will only transfer to a live agent if it hears a voice.  That explains why you will often pick up, say hello, and have a few seconds of silence before someone comes in to make their pitch.
  4. The script was right there.  People had to follow the script.  This included following up and making a second attempt even after the customer initially declines.
  5. If they don’t follow the script, they could get fired.  Part of the job of the floor manager was to spend a portion of his or her day listening into calls and ensuring that the script was being followed.
  6. The people making the calls got no pleasure out of it.  They knew what they were doing.  They knew that the people they were calling most likely didn’t want to hear from them.  But, they needed the work and were happy for the paycheck.  In talking with them, most were barely scraping by and needed the check.  Many had kids that the paycheck was providing food and clothing to.
  7. They got paid minimum wage.
  8. Turnover was high.  Nobody went into that field as a career goal.  The people in the corporate offices?  Maybe.  But, the people making the calls got out the second that they could.
  9. They let it roll off.  Mostly.  They get hung up on and yelled at a lot so much that they pretty much just let it slide off and move to the next call.  But, I can’t imagine that it doesn’t still get to them.

Essentially what I learned is that the people that made the calls are real people, and in all honesty, they hate making the calls just as much as you hate receiving them.  If you get mad at them or threaten them or belittle them, you’re accomplishing absolutely nothing.

The best strategy is to be polite but firm.  You might have to say “No thank you” (and you should say thank you at least once) more than once, but if you think you’re going to make a point by yelling at them, I can pretty much assure you that you’re barking up the wrong tree.  If nothing else, make sure you are actively participating on the ‘Do Not Call registry’.

Have you ever lost it with a telemarketer?  I’m sure there are some horror stories out there.

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