Posts Tagged ‘training’

Fourteenth Night

14 February 2011

Dear J-

I’m in training this week all week. It coincides with shifting hours back to normal — well, as normal as it gets — from 0700 to 1530, so I have the unexpected double pleasure of sleeping in and keeping my brain in a low gear. Ambition and energy are both at low ebb and that’s okay after the weeks we’ve had and the weeks ahead. We plan the evening around dinner and where and how to get it, the day is spent marking time and after the rush rush rush of a typical weekend we’re ready to relax, strange choice for the work week but you take the victories where you can.

It is Valentine’s Day and I hope that yours was as enjoyable as ours. We stole an early jump and (knowing that we had no hope of arranging a sitter/dinner for tonight) ate out last night (steak). Tonight we made a snap decision to dine out at Costco and reap the dubious rewards of having a sick sleepy kid in tow (net result: two asleep in a cart together, my shirt laid down to provide a bed of sorts — we probably should have “borrowed” a dog bed for the shopping trip instead). Best date night ever.



Toilet Humor

2 August 2010

Dear J-

Poop in the toilet isn’t such a big deal except when it’s coming at the end of what I see as the end of toilet training:  she’s been saying the right things, but acting on a limited scope (apparently up until now, only the toilets at home and daycare are okay to sit on — which I think gave them a skewed view of how far along she was).  So.  Poop in the toilet; big deal tonight and over the weekend.

Today we had a visit from a vendor trying to push double-paned windows to us; the disadvantage of having salesmen in the house is that you can’t pitch them out on their ear without seeming unneighborly.  Even if they were promoting a good product and were generally nice guys, any kind of pushy pressure is likely to have me dig in even harder to keep my ground.  One interesting tactic they offered:  commit today and get twenty percent off the total (meaning the total is inflated by twenty-five percent before I even say anything) and let them put up a yard sign and get thirty percent off — this, after a long, nonsensical rambling phone call to the ostensible manager.

There is a lot of me in her, after all; I should recognize those traits as if looking in a mirror.  When it’s right, there’s nothing that will stop her, but only on her own schedule.  We learned this when crawling, walking, talking, and now, pooping.  Knowing yourself is an amazing gift at any age.


Retirement Force

7 June 2010

Dear J-

I’ve now gone to two classes that draw from all across the site — these are very smartly designed to bring folks from different areas together, but they’re not particularly well-mixed (usually, it seems as though some supervisor will make a requirement for their folks to come and then you end up with only two or three really represented). I suppose it’s unavoidable with open enrollment, and who wants to go to a class where they know nobody, but if the powers that be really want to encourage mixing the enrollment, they’d figure out some way to have everyone put in choices and then mix accordingly. There are a lot of interesting people out there when you’ve got a couple thousand on-site.

I’m not sure why I’m writing this critique here where it’s falling on deaf ears, but the temptation exists for folks to abuse the privilege of having an open forum by turning it into a complaint session — one person gets the ball rolling, and the next thing you know, everyone’s sharing their own personal takes on what’s wrong and how to fix it. I wonder how many other classes have devolved like ours, and whether that’s something that’s been identified to the facilitator. Really, five weeks of class have done nothing but turn me into an unrepentant shrew, haven’t they?

At some point everyone will have heard about Davis-Besse and the consequences it could have had for the nuclear industry; I like to believe that we’re all operating with the public interest in mind, but they’ve only just shifted over from a production-mindset to safety-first in the past five or six years, and old habits die hard; ever since Three Mile Island, there have been no new reactors in the US, and worse yet, little fresh blood, so you’re always facing a twenty-thirty year gap in employee ages, and my role model shouldn’t be the guy facing imminent retirement, should it?


Numbers Game

5 May 2010

Dear J-

I had to make up some training that I’d skipped out on because of the five-week absence — this was training that is mandatory for all people on site, and thus I’m nearly number five thousand (between the late date and the number of contractors we’ve processed, I was surprised to hear that figure myself). Yet the numbers that were most interesting today were one, three, and one. One: one person from our class of the Leadership Academy got sent to the hospital last night, and a week and a half out of Dana Point, we’re hearteningly still together: first that we were notified, second that we all thought about it, third that we kept digging to find answers. And one — one other grad who walked up during lunch to let me know that she was okay.

Three: it turned out that I wasn’t the only one from class to show up today (three of us from LA got caught in the same trap). I didn’t realize it at the time, but I must have let out a sigh of relief once I spotted my fellow graduates sitting there in the parking lot as I walked up — recounting it later, I realized how much more interesting the class was, how much easier it was to get up and talk knowing what I need to work on. I keep thinking the empowering thought: the fear of speaking comes from being afraid you won’t be liked (this makes me think about traveling with kids, honestly — how many dirty looks have you shot at parents of noisy kids, right?).

One: I wrapped up the day with another academy grad, taking a tour of the impressive ASME fab shop — large machines, flawless welds, buckets of chips and shavings — and I think I’m starting to get it. It’s less about getting things done some times; it’s investing time in people and relationships when you can. Well, that makes it sound fairly clinical; you don’t do it because you want people to like you, you do it because you care about people. Our bull sniffers are pretty refined by now; we’re smarter than we think, and we ought to trust our instincts.


Day 23: The Ringer

21 April 2010

Dear J-

When I interviewed for my first job at the plant, I was applying to a cost engineering firm. I knew nothing about cost engineering aside from the engineering in the title and thinking that anything would be better than sitting at home watching my hair grow, jobless. The interview was pretty much bog-standard — your standard question-and-answer session — until they whipped out the scheduling test; I was supposed to take some events, instructions, and a few rules and then tell them what the total float was on the critical path, and the overall project duration. At least it was a pretty simple schedule, but for someone whose notion of schedule has to do with train tables, it was an eye-opening introduction to the world of project management.

Had I continued on that path, I might now be sporting a few extra initials after my name; as it was today’s presentation on project management was more familiar for me than most of my classmates, I suspect. There’s no magic arrows in this quiver, ready for quick-draw and application; any time you have industry certifications and endorsements, watch out for lots of hard work. At some point you might begin to suspect that all the planning might be more work than actually doing the project, but that’s a dangerous road to tread — know the tools, use the tools, stand by the tools.

I’m not sure that I’d take these skills into my real life; there are no huge projects that would require me to make up a plan (although perhaps I’d be better off if I did). If I was seeing the end of five weeks at the mid-way point, it was written in giant neon letters today with every passing boat outside the windows, making it hard to focus on task. Every fiber screams outside; every mote pulls me back to the plant lately. I keep watching the tide rise and ebb in the harbor (low tide has been right around 0700, with high tide around 1400) while words flow through me without leaving deposits.


Day 16: Old Reunion

12 April 2010

Dear J-

The schedule has been shuffled a little and we’re doing the job familiarization guide week this week; if the first day is any indication, the difficulty of coordinating speakers scales exponentially with the number — today we had six different divisions scattered throughout the day. The schedule was in shambles after the first couple, and we ended up taking multiple extended breaks as a result. If there’s one thing I’ve leared today, the one segment you don’t want to fall asleep in is Fitness for Duty, which deals with substance abuse, criminal arrests, and the euphemistically-named inattention — fatigue.

Because my background at the plant is in budgets and procurement, I’ve already managed to meet a pretty good slice of the plant management. It doesn’t necessarily help out, though; I know what a Survivor nut the one manager is so our discussion of course centered not on the work he does, but how patently transparent Russell’s antics are on the latest season (we both concluded that he won’t be able to get anyone to trust him should he choose to return to yet another season; this one works only because of the short hiatus between seasons, where no one was able to catch his Act I). Yet that’s part of the art; if we relate to each other across silos, that makes those walls feel even more artificial.

Plant royalty is coming to us this week; the important lesson I’ve already learned is that they’re not royalty after all, but just regular folks. We’ve lifted the curtain on the work of our leaders and it’s starting to make sense. Of course it does. If we didn’t have rules to follow and common-sense logic to lead our fellow humans, no one would willingly follow. I’ve got the time to find my voice and raise it beyond the limits I chose for myself.


Day 15: Personal Touch

9 April 2010

Dear J-

We’re now preciselly 60% complete, if you’re into that kind of math; three of five weeks done and this one was capped off with a visit from folks so high up the corporate ladder that I might as well have a conversation with the pope — my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss. And his boss. The quick sobering story that our facilitator related was about another class he’d taught — they were slated to go out drinking the night before, so he expected them to be pretty quiet, but the deathly silence that settled on the room in the morning was quite unexpected. Turned out that the afternoon before, the CEO had paid them a visit, and one of the questions asked was when they’d be able to return to the good old days — after a long, uncomfortable pause, he snapped that people looking looking for the past didn’t need to work for him.

So we approached the session with a bit of trepidation — well, I did, at least. The real point was in impressing the troops; after the session the two of them got mobbed by our class like rockstars or politicians, or, well, visiting heads of state. The questions weren’t necessarily the most probing, but I did hear at the end that our rebellion of Day 7 had reached their ears. Good. Sometimes the lessons aren’t on the PowerPoint slides, after all, even if it was an inadvertent teaching moment. And the MARC training goes into impressive, recipe-like detail on how to deal with just about every employee possibility under the sun, but the lessons for me were already done by 7:30.

We were asked to help each other out — just as we did that first week after the “clock reset” that caused us to lose all the points, just as we did in Day 7 when we asked to stay together as a group. Even though we’ve turned the corner and are headed back to the site now, we’ve got nothing but opportunities to practice our skills on each other. It’s incredibly exciting. The responsibilities aren’t light, but they’re also not unwelcome either, especially for me — in an unofficial leader capacity, there’s that much less burden.


Day 11: Back Down

5 April 2010

Dear J-

The day was filled with practical matters: ethics and diversity, facilitiated by a couple of corporate folks; although I’ve been through the courses before (the content isn’t a huge surprise) this was spun from a management point of view, and like everything else I’ve been learning, it’s not the easiest approach to it. At one point the facilitator had to stop our role-play pointing out just how overwhelmed I was acting in the capacity of manager/supervisor trying to calm down an employee with performance issues and resentment.

After the weekend and the attendant concentrated craziness (the theraputic powers of a bounce house in burning off energy and keeping us all sane can not be stated too strongly), it was actually somewhat relaxing to head back out on the road (only one stall this morning) and head off to training. Although I’m still not convinced that I’m the sane one in the family, it’s still curious that only after what seems like a million hours (really, nothing more than four) are we able to relax a bit.

Of the thousand reasons to go to work the last reason should be escaping the house. And after Friday I was looking forward to today in terms of finding out more about the future; I keep thinking that I’m growing up and assuming more responsibilitis (at home or work) but those are nothing but frightening. Yet I keep saying that I love a challenge; if I back down now, what will I turn out to be?


Late Bloomer

4 April 2010

Dear J-

Since I got my car back from the clutch repair (it’s only been one real day of driving) I’ve managed to stall it multiple times; the clutch has gone from working like a truck (high pressure, long throw, gradual engagement) to being, well, a real clutch (light, short engagement, but still a fairly long throw) and my car’s mileage will hopefully continue to improve. Of course it gives me even less incentive to get rid of the car at this point, so dreams of that shiny sports car (in blue, an RX-8 has four doors and four seats and is therefore a family car, right?) keep going away.

In a standard-shift car, the clutch disengages the engine from the drivetrain of the car — clutch in, change gears, clutch out with a little gas at the same time and you’ll get along just fine in the world. Getting smooth is the secret, though, and that’s worth practicing. Likewise parenting, I think — there are times it seems as natural as getting out of bed and remembering to respond instead of react. Eventually though something happens to recalibrate me and I realize the difficult art once again.

Dealing with people doesn’t always make sense, as we’re finding out in this five-week training (now two weeks down, and I’m still looking forward to and dreading, in equal parts, the infliction of the new me on the rest of the work environment). You may scoff at the impact of 2 weeks compared to 1826 (just a touch over 0.1 percent) but it’s just like the clutch repair — I drove that car for 100,000 miles with the clutch just the way it was and didn’t know any better. The last hundred miles, the last two weeks — better to start now, and never too late.


Priority Pressure

19 March 2010

Dear J-

In my first year of procurement engineering one of my coworkers was drafted and sent off to Texas in the course of a morning; the managers had decided to send someone to oversee production of some parts, and the decision was prompt and immediate. In much the same way I find myself having to head off to the mountains Sunday night the same week we’re starting to discover that poop goes in the toiiii-let and finding ways to keep her abed without leather straps and cuffs. Real life keeps moving forward as work keeps dragging me in. The thumps coming from her corner of the house tell us we’re not done with this new and exciting phase.

I also keep dredging up the ghosts of work past: when they rolled out an new system at my old workplace, we all got converted to hourly employees at sixty plus hours a week. For me it worked out perfectly — I got extra trips to pick up Dreamcast and Neo Geo Pocket Color (I told you I was the patron saint of lost causes) without guilt, and theVet got me out of her hair while she was studying. There were other folks, though, with kids and commitments, and I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t spend as much time at work. The one who did try confessed that he’d have to stop as his four-year-old was acting up at home to try to get some attention. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

What does the next five weeks hold for me? I’m heading off to training outside my peer group, but to be honest I’m not terribly worried about it. It’s class, it’s camp, it’s a break from work that we could all sorely need, and I’m looking forward to it as much as I can; it’s a different corner of the county, and it looks like it’s a honor, but one that’s pulling folks off the line (we’re thin on the ground lately). I worry about the folks at work but that presupposes my arrogance: how will they get along without me? Life goes on; we juggle and balance but it boils down to priorities and pressures, goals and grasps.