starting-blast landlocked

Category: employment

In which my former employer loses its mind. Again.

Every once in a while, I actually miss working at Dell. Not necessarily because I could see myself still doing that exact same job 7 years later, but for what it was, the job was something useful. Besides, I got a ton of free software out of the deal, which never hurts. But I have a pretty good feeling if something like ended up on my desk, I probably wouldn’t be doing much in the way of, you know, working there for much longer.

There are times when big brands with “social media people” might want to teach those junior level employees to recognize that using one of the standard “scripted” answers might be inappropriate. Take, for example, if you’re Dell and a new report has come out suggesting that the NSA has pretty much compromised your servers at the BIOS level with spy bugs, then, when someone — especially a respected security guy like Martin Wismeijer — tweets at you, you don’t go with the standard scripted “sorry for the inconvenience” response. But, apparently, that’s not how Dell handled things this time (thanks to Mike Mozart for the pointer).

Nope, instead, a complaint that your server’s been bugged by the NSA before Dell handed it off to you nets you this response:

Thank you for reaching out and regret the inconvenience. Our colleagues at @dellcarespro will be able to help you out.

Okay, now, granted the only server I deal with is the one this site’s sitting on, but somehow, I’m pretty sure the guys getting paid to deal with servers for way more important reasons could probably do without the standard punt script to the Twitter version of India’s tech support queue–who very likely won’t actually be able to help anyway, and that’s if they’re even allowed to do anything other than deny the existence of any kind of NSA involvement whatsoever in the first place. But, on the bright side, no innocent customer pictures were publicised in this customer service manglement scheme…

In which truer words were never spoken.

And every once in a while, somebody drops by and leaves me a something I can relate to. This is the last 5 years or so, roughly summarized. And it needs to be said–I couldn’t do it any better myself.

Nov 26 12:10pm: nowhere is hiring

Truer words were never spoken, young googler. By the way, could you use a geek? I’m cheap…

Better late than never: TD Bank takes 4 months to tell me no.

I haven’t applied for a job since moving to where I’m living now. Mostly because I’ve been fighting with things of a school related nature, but also because it hasn’t gotten me very far. But at least on days wherein it hasn’t gotten me all that far, it’s usually taken maybe two weeks for someone to tell me to please play again. TD Bank apparently likes building up the suspense factor, I guess?

From: donotreply@td.com
Sent: January 16, 2013 3:40 PM
To: my@email.address (I’m alergic to spam)
Subject: Thank you for your application on TD Opportunities – Full-Time Customer Service Officer

Dear James,

Thank you for your interest in employment opportunities with TD Bank Group.

We received your application for the position of Full-Time Customer Service Officer at TD Bank Group. We wish to advise you that this position has been filled and as such, we will not be proceeding further with your application. Your online profile information will remain available for future reference.

Please continue to visit the Careers/Job Opportunities section of www.td.com to update your personal details, review current job listings and apply for new opportunities.

Thank you for your interest in TD Bank Group and we wish you success in future endeavors.

Human Resources
TD Bank Group

Dear TD Bank Group,

Thank you for letting me know you were at least still considering. I’m sorry to hear that it took you somewhere around 4 months to finally fill this position. I don’t suppose now is the correct time to point out that it would have taken you significantly less time to do so had you just elected to hire me. I won’t be offended, however, at the fact you instead took this long to say no.

Deciding what to pay someone with my level of geek can sometimes be a tiny bit tricky–especially if you’re also trying to figure out how best to avoid paying someone with my level of geek and not, at the same time, shoot yourself in the foot. It’s a bit of a balancing act, made even more so by the fact you must not have had a whole lot of actual, honest to goodness interest in the posting–either that or your automated “thanks for coming out” system is just really, really backlogged. Still, it’s nice to know you’re thinking of me. Perhaps I’ll check in in another 4 months. Here’s hoping you’ve found second gear by then.

Sincerely,
James Homuth

In which Klout gets to decide how valuable my skills are. Awesome. Now what the hell is Kloute?

this is an older post, but if it’s a trend, it’s a goofy one. Klout, which I so have never used–and will probably never use, is being used as a prerequisit for positions being filled by at least one company. While the ads the article references are filled, the point’s still extremely valid. Ask anyone what Klout is, and you’ll probably get a blank stare. Even Klout’s own website just calls it “the standard of influence”, but doesn’t quite answer the key question–who the hell’s standard of influence?

The company mentioned in that article, Salesforce, was looking for applicants with a Klout score of at least 35. which is awesome. Or, well, not. You see, no one actually knows–beyond how many people are following you and how many people retweet you–how the hell a score like that’s calculated. And yet, at least one company wants to use that as a determination of–and this is a guess, here–how qualified you are to fill a position. I’d explain more, but this paragraph from that article does a better job.

Just so you know, my Klout score is like 80 and I don’t know what it means. The hiring manager at Salesforce in that video above? 64. Does that make me smarter than him? More talented? Should I replace him? Should he be replaced by someone with a higher Klout score? NO! Of course not. Because it’s a worthless number.

But, at least as of the time I was staring at this article, it’s a worthless number that may or may not contribute to someone’s future career. And that’s, well, rather funky. In a thanks but no thanks kinda way.

Why I should probably give up on Simply Hired.

Shortly after I lost my job at Dell, I jumped on to every job advertising bandwagon going. Canada’s Job Bank. Indeed. Eluta. Hell, even Kijiji. They used to land me quite a few halfway decent interviews. In recent months, though, at least some of them have gone quite down-hill. Which leads to ads not unlike, well, this one, from Simply Hired.

Asdf at Gimpy (Ottawa, ON)

I’m thinking it may be time for me to toss Simply Hired off to one side. In other, related news, does anyone need a geek?

Wanted: employer. Must have: good grasp of English language.

Let’s assume you’re in the market for a job. Let’s also assume you have the qualifications to fill pretty much any position you could lay your hands on. Now let’s also assume an ad like this one rolled across your desk.

.Net Devleopers at Zylog Systems Canada (Ottawa, ON)

Given the above assumptions, would you, a clear thinking, educated, presumedly decently written individual, jump head first into a position overseen by the creator of this ad? If you answered yes to that question, please move to Ottawa and call this company immediately. clearly they need you. If you answered no to that very same question, please immediately move to Ottawa and call this company. Clearly, they need a replacement for the creator of this ad. Things to note, in other ads I’ve seen from this and similar companies:

  • It’s “I’m”, not “Im”. You’re a professional employer, not a 16-year-old texting addict. Similarly, “you” is how the educated say it, not “U”.
  • Do not spend the first 3/4 of the ad asking me if I can answer yes to your 50 questions that feel more like a personality survey than a job ad. Who are you, what do you need, and how can the skills I have help you get there? Two of those questions, you should be answering. That third one? that’s my department.
  • And for the love of cheese, I’ve said this before, do not, as in ever, tell me to send my resume to a hotmail address. That is, unless you’d like me to instead send your job ad to /dev/null–which I’ll gladly do, if you really really would like me to.

I may not possess a university level education, but I’m qualified enough for most things–just as soon as I can put most of those things on paper. Still, if I were qualified for a job like the above, you’d have just turned me off of it. But, thanks for trying. Now, let’s talk bilingualism.

the job market’s flirting with me again.

Occasionally I go through these little once-in-a-while meetup type things. I kind of compare them to a sort of first date type deal, only for employment reasons rather than familial/whatever the hell else is out there. Company catches your eye from across the way, you try not to let them catch you looking until you think you’ve got the nerve. then you go up and introduce yourself. You get to talking, find out you’ve got a few things in common, decide hey, let’s give the dinner thing a try. Pick you up at 3? Awesome. so you go, you do the thing, you say the stuff, and it hopefully doesn’t blow up in your face. From here, it goes one of a few ways. You stick to casual dating–nothing exclusive, you see, you decide eventually that maybe you wanna get a little more on the serious side, or you decide hey, that was fun, but what else ya got? Then you do it all over again with the next one, or multiple ones. and on their end, they’re doing the exact same thing–playing the field, if you will, with a whole bunch of other shmucks probably not too unlike you. It’s the business equivalent to the bar scene, if you’re into that kinda thing. and that’s where this post kind of grows a point of its own.

I’ve stepped back into the dating scene again, at least from an employment viewpoint. Had the dinner date (read: interview) and everything. It looks like it could be promising, right up until she says “I’ll call you”. well crap. and it was going so well. So now, I get to sit around and see if my most recent date wants to see me again. either she’ll call me, or I’ll see her at the same damn bar in a couple days with another guy on her arm and thank caffeine I’ve got a plan B–more on that in another entry. Meanwhile, I learn something I probably should have learned by now. If the job market’s a bar scene, then your average employer’s a freakin’ tease. All the fun and flirting you can handle, but the ride stops real quick when it gets to “your place or mine?”. And, of course, the minute I walk through the door, some dreamy lookin’ thing wants to flirt. Thank christ I’ve got nothing but time. and that plan B.

In which the job market tries my patience. New catch word: trilingual.

For at least the last few years, even in the private sector Ottawa’s favourite word has been bilingual. And no, sadly, they don’t mean *our* bilingual (*), as much as myself and Shane would really, really love it if they did. Escentially, it means two things.

By law, it means you must be fully fluent in English and that other, Quebec-centric language. Yeah, that one. Occasionally, it means English and some other language, like for instance, Spannish–who the hell offers official services in Spannish, in Canada? It also means positions I’m otherwise fully qualified for–hello, jobs so damn similar to the one I was booted from in 2008 it’s not funny–become so far above my pay grade it’s almost embarrassing to say so. Yes, I can fix your computer. Yes, I can even take your static HTML-based website (yes, some companies still use those) and turn it into a dynamic, blow your socks off accessible, website in any language and on any platform of your freaking dreams–and probably customize the thing to boot, without knowing a damn thing about the specific ins and outs of that language (go open source technology go). But I can only speak one, much more widely used, language. Yeah, sure I’ll wait for you to call me. What, no call? Oh–you hired the French-speaking guy who has no idea what WordPress or even PHP is. Gotcha. But at least I got this nifty little thanks for coming out letter. I’ll add it to the pile. See, employment insurance folks? I *am* looking for work. Here’s all my “thanks for applying but we don’t want you” emails.

Folks have stepped up their game in this area now. Where you could get buy if you only survived on two languages, in the last couple weeks I’ve seen a growing number of trilingual positions. Usually, again, the first two are obvious–the legally required ones. But that third, who the hell uses it officially in Canada language–again, usually Spannish–makes itself known. And again, positions I could nail in, say, 2008 or earlier? Yeah, those ones? Thanks for coming, but can you please leave? It’s what lead me to apply for a position completely out of my field, with a company who’s interviewing/hiring practices give me cause for concern–that’s an entry for later.

Guys. You’ve got a ton of qualified people hanging about. Most of them probably more qualified than me. A few of them even used to work with me–and, at last report, were still looking. Only problem? I can count on one hand how many of them speak two languages, nevermind three. And you’re not even asking for folks who can speak the secondary language some of these people can. That’s just asking for a tool with decent linguistic skills is all that is. And half of them probably still don’t speak *our* second language.

(*): I speak English, and Clue. Sadly, as far as employable folks go, I’m probably in the minority–at least by legal standards. As far as folks who’re actually employed? That second language is endangered–I’m looking directly at you, Rogers.

My first ever employment related psych?

I am now convinced the job market’s just playing games with me. I found a job earlier this afternoon that fit my very loose requirements nearly exactly. I could do it pretty well in my sleep, it didn’t require I already be as fluent in French as I am in English, it didn’t require a college degree, and it didn’t require 80 years’ experience. Yeah, you could probably guess I was on it like a heat seakin’ missile. Fired that application off in 5 minutes or less, and had to stop myself from grinning like an idiot in spite of the fact the only other person in here with me couldn’t see it anyway. Yeah, enthused would probably be an understatement. It didn’t pay much, but at this point, I’d flip burgers if I felt reasonably confident the act of doing so wouldn’t put half of them at least on the bloody floor. So I did the thing with the thing, sent it in, then sat back with full expectation that I’d not get much back but a form letter. Well, I got the form letter. Then maybe half an hour later, I got an actual, living, breathing human being. Or at least something that pretended to be one. Hot damn, I thought. Application’s not even an hour old yet and the folks over there are bouncing things off me. So yeah, I’m all over the email. It’s a skills assessment they want me to fill out. Wicked nifty cool. This usually takes folks a week or so to get around to sending me. And that’s if they’re going to send the thing at all. Progress indeed, right? Hell, I thought so. I wasn’t sure if I’d had the battery left on this laptop to do it right then, and me not being at home until much later than, well, now, I wouldn’t be able to just randomly switch machines. So I let the battery get pretty much dead on this thing, which subsequently takes out the battery in the phone shortly afterwards–at the moment, it’s my connection to the internet. So I get both plugged in and charging, and now have all the time in the world to do this assessment. Awesome. I pull up their page type thing, go through their “this is who I am, this is why I’m here” screen, hit start test… and get dumped into an inaccessible flash object of absolutely no real use whatsoever. Well. That was highly anticlimactic, not to mention generally not recommended. Mister quick responder got a very polite, “Hey uh, thanks for this, but she no worky with my stuff” type email from me. That he’s not as of yet been as quick to respond to, but you’ll have that. So now, the job market makes me wait, again. In the meantime, anyone have use for a slightly out of practice geek? Will work for coffee.

Job application fail.

You are a manufacturer of computers. Most if not all of those computers will be running Microsoft software. Yes, up to and including Internet Explorer. There are techy type folks who still use Internet Explorer–mostly because what they do doesn’t yet fully support those other browsers (damn you, industry standards). You need techy type people. Or, at least, the job advertisement that just bounced off my head says you do. The application is straightforward enough–pretty basic, for a tech company. Supporting Windows and Internet Explorer and other such M$ software is pretty much a requirement of the position. I got that in about 10 seconds. So when your application does some kind of funkyness I don’t have time to figure out that makes IE choke on it? Yeah, I get concerned. I should not have had to demonstrate my ability to stop the broken pre-hiring–particularly in a forum you wouldn’t have been able to actually see until I smacked submit. Good job. I promise, if you hire me, I’ll fix you. But you’re providing the vodka.

No love,
The techy who just had to finish your application in Firefox.

I has an oh my god busy.

Things that happen when you go 3 weeks without updating, episode number I’m not sure how many. House hunting, of a sort, didn’t turn out to be a complete and total flop–hence the, well, nearly a month without updating this thing. Which, yes, means I’m once again nearly a month late with April’s highlights–that’s on the list. In between all the other insanity. Sandwitched between trips to see family, an entire life shift kicked me in the face. Not only has the job market actually at least done a relatively average job of not sucking, but as of 3 days ago officially, I have a location that will for the foreseeable future pretend to be a new place to live. And, surprise, it’s back in Ottawa–roughly across the street more or less from where I used to be. The apartment’s laid out pretty well like the old one was. And, to boot, it’s in the same building as–and, in fact, is directly below–the rental office that used to manage the building I moved out of.

Shane and I have had a running joke amongst ourselves since before he moved in here that I’d eventually be evicting him from my living room. So, when we first got wind we’d be landing this apartment, I wrote him an informal eviction notice–which, naturally, got blogged. It generally wasn’t received all that well by many, in spite of references to it for the majority of the 5 or 6 months he’s been living here. Still, it was mildly entertaining to those who actually had some involvement with it. And, officially official now, on the 15th of this month–yes, that’s in 2 days–I sign the papers for the new apartment, and officially evict him from my living room. Larger apartment, more space, major city, and in a decent area for getting to potential places of employment–not much could be better. Well, except for having something to do at one of those potential places of employment–but we’re working on that.

Speaking of potential places of employment, I’m encountering indications things might actually be trying very hard to return to some kind of pre-2010 level as far as job market activity goes in Ottawa. What lead me to that theory? For the first time in just about ever, Rogers, who I’ve gone rounds with before for other reasons on the customer side, has once again at least temporarily started posting openings–and I’ve applied for just about all of them. And if that wasn’t a vague attempt to possibly lull me into a false sense of getting somewhere, another potential employer I hadn’t heard from in nearly a year threw out a few positions of its own. Alcatel-Lucent, who I’ve had an interview with in the past–and who’s building is actually laid out very similar to the one Dell used to own–is, also at least temporarily, back in the hiring business–and likewise got poked with an application or two. I’m not sure what all will come from any of that, or the few job postings I responded to by more conventional means from companies I haven’t seen much of in the 3 years I’ve been looking, but hey, I can’t exactly do much worse off on the job front.

what all of this means is I’ll potentially have plenty more in-person things to comment on and/or mock rather than the occasional dumping of links that also hasn’t actually been happening in quite a while–I need to fix that–or the seemingly lacking actual coherent thought that happens to have more to it than 140 characters. Such thoughts may or may not involve version 3.0 of the pot-smelling basement. Or, they may be extremely disjointed list-type stream of consciousness “I’m sick, so have an entry” type posts–not entirely unlike this one. Or they may be little more than 140 character thoughts in blog format–at least, if Twitter keeps doing what it was doing for most of today, anyway. Still, things are trying real hard to calm down now–and will do a whole lot more of that after this weekend. Which, you guessed it, means the mockworthy comes right back to where it started. Hey, on second thought, I should go 3 weeks without updating more often. No, wait–next time something important might actually happen.

Fourth time’s a charm? Second career thinks so.

For the better part of the last two years, I’ve been dealing with the second career program up here in the name of trying to find a non-retail job in a town of primarily retail jobs. After going a round or two with the local college–note to self: round 3 should probably happen soon, we’ve sort of refocused our attention on the one call center in the area, Online Support. Ignoring the fact I’ve had more than one interview with these folks and haven’t exactly gotten anywhere with them, it’s not even what I’d call conducive to getting me back where I want to be–not directly, at least. Still, it’s a step up from where I’m at, and the folks over at second career seem convinced that this time I’ll get in, so on Friday, I took another run at an interview with the company. I’d been given the impression it was going to be a second interview, since I’d already gone through the initial process and they had my stuff on file, but apparently they’d switched HR folks since last time and my info ended up tucked away in storage somewhere. So, it was back to square 1. I went through their 20 questions, and pretty much recited all of their information back to them before the interviewer did–you’d think I’d done this before. It was pretty well the same old song and dance from interviews past, with one potentially noteable exception–I had brought the laptop I recently purchased with me, which prompted the interviewer to go see if she could track down their IT personnel to play their own version of 20 questions. We talked tech for a few minutes, then after some creative use of the said laptop and an iPhone for the purposes of network connectivity–note to Online Support: tell your HR people your wireless password already–I was able to simultaneously show off and complete their required assessments at the same time. we played another round of 20 questions, then I got the standard “we’ll call you” response on the way out the door–again, you’d think I’d heard that before.

It’s no secret this isn’t exactly where I planned on being, but then, it’s even less of a secret that I didn’t plan on being nearly 3 years without work either–thanks, Dell. Love ya. Really. And right around the start of a recession too. Strike 3–you’re fired. But, hey, if this slight change in interview tactics works, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. And somewhat gainfully employed–at least until such time as something more promising shows up, or these jobs go overseas. which, yeah, would be a hell of an improvement. So, I’ll just go on about my day, occasionally poke the second career folks so they don’t think I’ve fled to Mexico to join the drug trade or something, and busy myself with not holding my breath. Hey, I haven’t taken out a loan just to buy groceries–I’m good. Now, let’s see if I can perhaps possibly get a little better. Anyone want a techy? I charge reasonably.

A first in a long time, and a first… ever?

It’s been at least 3 months, but probably longer, since I’ve actually been able to say I’ve successfully found at least a job to apply for, even if I don’t end up landing it. It’s been longer since I’ve found one that on paper actually varifies I did, in fact, apply for work–useful when dealing with second career folks. I got one of these last night.

James,

This email is to confirm that we have received the application that you recently submitted on our website for the CUSTOMER INTERACTION REPRESENTATIVE position. Your information has been entered in our system and we will review it at the next earliest opportunity.

Yay for automated form letter confirmation thinggies. Yay for actually receiving one for the first time since, I think, the last time I applied for a job at Rogers–who, by the way, still hasn’t called me back more than once since I started applying there. Oh, yeah, and yay for this.

You also might want to bookmark our website or subscribe to our RSS feed, as positions we add in the near future may also be of interest to you.

Hang on. An employer who actually offers RSS feeds of job postings? For serious? Bonus. Now, let’s talk pay and benefits and we’ll go from there. Hey, I may not actually land this job, but considering how long it’s been since I actually found one to apply for–and the fact this is the only company that’s actually using current-ish technology to advertise jobs (selectively using Twitter doesn’t count, Rogers), I’ll take it. Now let’s see if they offer it.

Roommates, apartment hunting, and inching forward with employment. Sort of.

The job market’s been doing a very good impression of a miserable failure the last year or two, at least up here. Very slowly, the interviews I was involved in began to slow to a trickle, then eventually stop. Then the same happened with jobs I didn’t have to have lived in a university for the past 10 years to apply to. Now, jobs in the Ottawa and valley area are kind of at a premium. I’ve been doing the disability income thing for the last year out of desperation, so I’m not forced to go back to living at home–not that I don’t like my parents, but from over here, please. This after being on employment insurance since the job I did have went to India in 2008. That has, naturally, required some financial creativity to keep myself ahead of the curve. My latest attempt at financial creativity consists of turning my one-bedroom apartment into a somewhat improvized two-bedroom, and taking in a roommate. It kind of works, seeing as he’s needing to get just about as financially creative as I am. I love my own space, but sometimes, sharing is caring. Or in this case, sharing is not ending up in the poor house. So on December first, shane will be borrowing my living room. Bright side: there will be much geeking. Not so bright side: some of our debates, when we start having actually meaningful ones, may or may not end up bloody. But hell, that’s half the fun, no?

The roommate situation has kind of pushed forward the necessity of looking for a new apartment. Because, really, while this works, I’m not quite so mean as to restrict him to the coutch for the foreseeable future. Particularly given he’s probably just about as likely to have a significant guest show up over here as I am. The coutch, while folding out and quite comfortable, is probably not conducive to, well, much of anything beyond sleeping. I’ve been looking for a bigger place the last week or so as a result, and have come to a very not quite surprising realization. Finding an apartment that doesn’t generally suck, have craptastic heating, or fit rather easily into this one is pretty near to impossible–at least in Pembroke. Which may mean our financial creativity will probably end up taking us back to Ottawa. Good, ish. Except for that part where the rent in Ottawa was what sent me all the way over here in the first place. Fortunately, the only deadlines we have are how long we can keep this whole creativity thing going. And the only restrictions we have location-wise really depends on whether or not, and where, one or both of us may end up working when we decide to move. In the meantime, hey, I like this kind of adventure.

As for where one or both of us may be working, it’s pretty much certain I’m probably not going to be working at Online Support after all. You may or may not recall I was waiting for questions to be answered, and paperwork to be processed before I could start over there. And oh yeah, Freedom Scientific‘s JAWS for Windows program so I could actually, you know, use their computer and know what it’s yelling at me. It took a little longer than I expected, but the ball’s finally rolling on the purchase of the screenreader–give or take the time it takes me to drop kick certain answers from certain individuals, I should have a copy that runs on windows 7 professional by the end of the month. Problem being now, though? Online Support hasn’t responded to me since a day or two after I wrote that last entry. The guy I’m dealing with from Ontario’s second career program has been trying to get a shot at them as well and hasn’t gotten anywhere. I’m leaning very much in the direction of just writing off the company. except for the fact they’re pretty much the only thread that hasn’t snapped off completely over here–yet. I’ve always suspected if I did end up employed again, it would probably be somewhere that isn’t Pembroke. This is kind of lending a bit more support to that suspicion.

Things are definitely happening, and in a quickly kind of way. But they’re definitely happening. And in a couple weeks, it’ll be nearly four years since the last time I developed a roommate–no better time to snap that streak. Or something. And just in time for that, we’re lining things up for a goodly portion of insanity. In other words, just another day in the life of me. I think I need a new one.

Things to keep in mind if you’re a politician: accessible does not mean blame the other guys.

When it’s brought to your attention that your office is somewhat less than accessible, particularly when you happen to be the member of parliament in charge of things to do with people with disabilities, the appropriate response would be to:
A: Appologise and work towards fixing it where possible, such as possibly looking for a more accessible location to have your riding office moved to.
B: Propose alternative locations to meet with people who have difficulty actually getting to the offending riding office.
C: Issue a fluff press release about how much your government’s doing for people with disabilities, then move on.
D: Blame the liberals.

Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, decided to pick option D.

“Bob Speller is simply trying to distract from the dismal Liberal record on helping person with disabilities,” said a statement from Finley’s office. “In fact, Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals are constantly voting against support for persons with disabilities such as when they voted against the creation of the historic Registered Disabilities Saving Plan and the Enabling Accessibility Fund.”

That’s cold comfort to her constituents who must make an appointment with Finley and meet her off-site, perhaps at Tim Horton’s.

I’m not sure what to be more irritated with. The fact this chick’s got a visual impairment and should therefore know better than to make a statement like that, or that statements like that are the norm when folks get called out for crap like this–at just about all levels of government. Or both, in equal proportions.

Small note to Minister Finley. You’re in charge of things to do with people finding employment. You’re also in charge of things to do with people with disabilities. You are, therefore, in charge of things to do with people with disabilities finding employment. Please stop being a tool and actually try removing a barrier that keeps certain individuals in your constituency away from you. And please, for God’s sake, stop with the making it all about the liberals. I’m sure they didn’t put you in an inaccessible office. Nor, I’m sure, are they making it difficult for you to move, should you decide to do so.

Note to Stephen Harper. I think you need a new minister.

Fun, family and festivities, oh my!

Okay, so escentially since Friday life’s been kind of non-stop. But I’ve been meaning to start this update before then, so we’ll get to that in a minute. I had a meeting with the ODSP person who’s heading up the purchasing of a copy of the screenreader I’ll be using at whichever job I end up landing in the foreseeable future. The meeting only lasted an hour or two, and pretty much just confirmed what I already knew–I’d be having no problem getting the dollars for it, and they’d just be going right ahead with the wiring that to me ASAP. Wicked nifty cool–things in that sector actually doing what they’re supposed to without me needing to apply a liberal amount of drop kick. That can’t be anything but good. So I left a couple messages with the employment opportunity here in Pembroke that I’ve been chasing for the last few weeks. They’ve yet to get back to me, naturally, and will promptly be hearing from me again tomorrow. The job I’d applied for in Ottawa, I’ve pretty much decided, has run off a cliff. Calls to them resulted in them saying they’d be looking into why it is the screenreading technology wouldn’t work with their chosen software, and how best to get it to play nice. They said they’d forward my contact info on to the person(s) responsible for testing such things, but poking them on that hasn’t gotten me very far yet. Another thing to attempt to do tomorrow.

In more positive and non-employment-related news, after the near fail that was Greyhound’s website and an epic fail that had surprisingly absolutely nothing to do with Greyhound at all–I’m looking straight at you, Canadian customs–Jessica got in safely and in one piece on Friday. We left early for Ottawa to pick her up, hence my running out of time to throw together an update before hand. We finally, after the afore mentioned Canadian customs failure, got her off the bus and in the car with us at about 10:00, and it was pretty much right back here after where she promptly recovered from not having slept since wednesday night. Friday was the lazy day of lazy as a result; we took it fairly easy at that point and just stuck around here.

Most of the next three days were spent with the family–we hung out with them Saturday evening, did all manner of shooting the shit and watching a little TV, and generally kept it low-key. Sunday we went back over there for dinner again, and received a sound ass kicking in a game of Rummoli–I still think certain members of my family cheat, but whatcha gonna do? that was only Jessica’s second time playing that game–she played once before with us last Christmas–and she pretty much did better than me for the majority of the game. I’m blaming beginner’s luck on that one.

Today being thanksgiving, we took off late this morning to go for our usual round of visiting, then headed back to the parents’ for a dinner who’s overall quality and quantity resulted in at least two food comas. There was more sitting around and shooting the shit, with a M*A*S*H marathon in the background on the history channel–my father’s always had a fondness for that show; it’s a military thing. When food comas started to set in, we decided to shuffle on back home and let life kind of slow itself down for a while. Now, I think I’ve managed to regain some of my balance here, so taking the rest of the week at full tilt will be fun.

Life’s been spinning pretty chaotically the last few days, but it’s been a hell of a lot of fun. Now with the holiday coming to a close, though, we can start to at least pretend like there’s some kind of a routine here. Which means it’s back to my usual being pulled in a few different directions–including taking considerable chunks of my day just to hang out and do absolutely nothing with Jess. And really, if I could have it any other way, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even think about it. There’s no better way to spend any holiday weekend. And hey, if it ends up being back to the usual routine tomorrow, it’ll all have been worth it. Now, I think I’ll just go do that holiday thing a little more.

Strike 1: Ottawa goes on the back burner. But, I get an accessibility thing to sort.

And we all know I like tormenting things until they agree to be accessible. Or developers until they agree to make things that way. I wrote a while back I was trying to get my foot in the door with Davis and Henderson, a financial services company by the looks of it with an office in Ottawa. After going last week without much in the way of an actual response, I finally got one this morning. Or rather, I called and pried one out of the HR contact I’ve been trying to deal with. What it boils down to from where I sit is blindness technology doesn’t play nice with their choice of phone technology. This, naturally, from supposedly the mouth of the guy or guys who’re supposedly trying to convince the two to play nice together. And filtered through at least two people I’m aware of, so something probably got lost in translation.

HR chicky wasn’t exactly very forthcoming with the details, even on a non-technical level, except to say the phone system they use is a Cisco one–I’m assuming that includes whatever softphone application(s) they’re using, but that’s a guess on my part. The only thing I pulled out of her was the screenreader won’t work with it–which, yeah, I got when she told me they were having problems with it. I nudged her in the direction of putting me in touch with the person or persons behind the attempt to get things to play nice with each other, and I get the impression she’s going to at least make the attempt to filter my contact info up the chain to where it needs to go. I’m not holding my breath on it getting anywhere, naturally, but if it doesn’t I’m not entirely sure I can justifiably be pissed at her. Which, at end of day, means for the immediate future any plans I had on a return to Ottawa are kind of going in that other direction. But, I now have what I might call a halfway attempt at an accessibility project to work on. Assuming the phone rings between now and before I forget I ever had any dealing with the company in question. Now to wait until later this week, when I can give a few friendly shoves in the right direction to the other employment project I’ve got cooking. And maybe, barring complications, apply a liberal amount of education to an Ottawa company. I should hang out and not do much more often–productivity happens that way.

Update: That didn’t take long. My HR contact’s supervisor just called and seems not quite opposed to the idea of me working with them on this. Thus slightly increasing the chances I’ll actually get to speak with someone who’s involved in the process. This should be wicked interesting, if nothing else. Small progress is, after all, still small progress. Particularly considering I’m apparently not the first person to try and apply there in my current situation. We shall see what happens.

What happens when you slam one foot on the gas, the other on the break?

You go precisely where my current employment situation’s going. In the Online Support department, I’m waiting on papers to be pushed, things to be signed, and heads to be kicked in before HR people call me back with a potential start date. On the job possibility in Ottawa, I’m waiting for HR lady to get back to me. I spoke with her last week. She said she was looking into something. I called her the last two or three days this week, got her voicemail and no returned phone call. My mission, and I will choose to accept it, is to continue haunting her voicemail until such time as she either calls me back or suffers a small mental breakdown. In the meantime, I have an appointment this coming week to iron out a few more details re: the position here in Pembroke. Once that appointment happens, I should have a better idea who’s doing what and for how many cookies. Which means Ottawa’d better start haulling ass if they want me that badly. My bank account can’t take much more of this being unemployed thing–it may be first come, first served. Yes, even if the first that comes rates only slightly above jabbing me in the eye with a pitchfork. I can always move up from here; I can’t go much further down. I can, however, go back to this hockey game. So that’s what I’ll do.

PS: I said it before, and I’ll say it again. Job market, die in a goddamn grease fire. Thank you.

And just like that, I’m marketable again, apparently.

So, I may or may not have mentioned about an interview I was scheduled to have with Online Support yesterday. It was only supposed to be an interview. By noon yesterday, though, it had become an interview here with OLS, and a potential interview in Ottawa with Davis and Henderson. And by 4:00 yesterday afternoon, shocking the everloving hell out of me, it had morphed again–into a tentative job offer from OLS, and a potential interview with Davis and Henderson. Keep in mind until recently, it had been very nearly a year since a potential employer had even returned a phone call, much less had me in for an interview. And now I’ve got two possibles on their way into my hands. I’d call that a marked improvement. I should know at some point in the near future whether or not I’ll be actually working for either of these companies–OLS is waiting for a few minor logistical things to be sorted out, as is the other company. But, even if it is what I’d call a less than ideal environment, it’s still a tentative job offer. Now let’s see what happens.

PS: Hey, Rogers? You’ve still got my resume on file. I’m still employable, albeit not for much longer in all likelyhood. Call me.

And just like that, possibilities drop into my lap. Or something.

Just when you think good things don’t come from a simple trip to the grocery store, along comes a conversation like the one I had this morning. For background’s sake, a little primer. A family friend works for the Renfrew County Board of Education, apparently out of their Pembroke office. She knows someone who’s working with a kid who’s well on his way to going blind–he apparently doesn’t have much vision left and will have none before too long. This kid, on top of pretty much learning how to be blind, is also having to learn how to use the various adaptive pieces of equipment that are out there–like, for example, a screenreader so he’s not stuck recruiting a pair of working eyes to read things to him over his shoulder while he’s cruising the intertubes.

Apparently, from what I’ve been told, a conversation was had at some point yesterday and my name came up as a possible resource for this kid; specificly in the computerwise education department. It involved talk of potentially contracting me with the school board in order to give this kid a second education on top of the mandatory one he’s getting from his school. It’s a good enough fit, I think–blind dude doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing with the computer plus screenreading technology. Blind geek practically knows computers plus screenreading technology like the back of his hand. Even if it’s just a temporary thing, I don’t think I could dream up a better situation–at least until something comes along that looks better on paper.

I have absolutely no idea what a thing like this would involve, or for how long, or even what something like that pays–it’s the Renfrew County school board, though, so it may end up only paying minimum wage. Which is still better than what ODSP’s expecting me to live on until something else drops into my lap. Since this is a family friend we’re talking about though who’s apparently got the details, it won’t be hard to pull answers out of her. Which is what tonight’s plan will very likely consist of.

With this new thing and the OLS thing I’ve got in the fire already, something I’m doing has to stick you’d think. I’d like to think before Christmas I’ll end up working somewhere; it’s just a matter of where, when and for how long. And where I’ll eventually be moving to in order to put myself closer to the potential job site. If either of these things gets off the ground and leads to something else, I’ll be very happy. In the meantime, think I’ll go see what other potential projects of the money making variety I can scare up. And have as much fun as I possibly can in the meantime. See? Geekyness tends to have its positive sides after all. Potentially. But we’ll just not pay any attention to that minor detail.

I need a work from home apartment. Then, a work from home job.

Okay, so maybe I may or may not actually need it. But I’ve gotten to the point where that’s one of those things I’ve been contemplating. Almost seriously, actually. If only because the idea of deciding exactly how much I work on a given day is way, way too appealing to me. And considering the fact that your usual type jobs aren’t doing a whole lot of hiring lately, this might just turn out to be the next best thing.

I’ve given thought to temping, and have even applied with several agencies to that end–not that they’ve gotten me anywhere, but who’s counting? The income would probably be just as steady, only I’m not doing it in -40 degree temperatures after spending nearly as much time getting to/from work as I do at work. There’s just one very minor little problem. Work from home opportunities in Canada aren’t exactly overly well advertised.

I did come across one or two companies who pretty much just serve as the bridge between contractors and clients, which is probably kind of what I’m looking for–unfortunately, in one case they’re primarily US-focused for both clients and contractors, and in the other their method of actually getting contractors into the system escentially requires that you forget Windows and boot into their own operating system–not cool for someone who kind of needs to hear what he’s doing. thankfully I’ll probably never be so desperate for work that I’ll just grab hold of the first thing to pop up, so this is mostly just all manner of research at the moment. It’s an interesting prospect which, if I do it right, will escentially allow me to work a halfway decent schedule and still have time to do the important things–like spend time with the fiance, and plan for the eventual wedding on top of finding a so-called real job.

If I can find a company with the flexibility I like and technology I can actually work with, something kind of like ContractXchange minus the need to use their own OS, it’s a definite possibility for me to consider–if for no other reason than I’ll already have most of what I need handy, and situations like this one may not be as frequent an issue.

It’s things like this that the research I’ve been sort of doing tonight comes in quite handy for. That, on top of the added fact that if I’m seriously thinking of actually doing this, I’m probably going to need a bigger apartment. A lot of these arangements I’m noticing strongly recommend you have your own dedicated office space, plus phone line, for this kind of thing–or at least a dedicated digital phone if nothing else. Which pretty much means the current setup I’ve got going on–the computer’s in the living room, and the only phone line I’ve got here is my personal one (Is my apartment even big enough for two landlines?), plus at the moment it’s a one-bedroom–is probably not about to make the cut. Neverminding the fact actually doing the work, particularly during the hours I’d prefer to be doing the work, would not be conducive to anyone I happen to have staying over–like, say, the afore mentioned fiance–actually sleeping if it was done in this apartment. I could probably, in a huge pinch, invest in something like Skype or Vonage if I had to and solve at least one problem. If I wanted to take all this ultraseriously, I could go even further and invest the money in an entirely separate computer strictly for all my work-related crap–but that just might be pushing it a little tiny bit. Since the initial setup’s probably going to cost me anyway if I’m actually considering this, it’s kind of worth throwing out there. Particularly if I have to start making modifications to the setup on this machine in order to get it to play nice with what they want me to do.

Like I said, this is pretty much mostly just research and random contemplating at this point. I’m throwing it up here mostly because I can, and because if I do decide to dive in with all this, I’ll probably need to look this up to figure out what I don’t want in a potential employer of this variety. And, well, because there may be an idea or three floating around I haven’t yet run across. I don’t even know if this is something I’ll seriously give chase to, but if I do, at least now I have a pretty good idea what I’ll need, what I’m looking for, and what both will cost me. Now, let’s see if I can pull a random job out of my hat. That’s always helpful.

The college thing bursts into flames, but I’m not done yet.

So you may or may not remember I extended my stay in Rochester for a little over two weeks extra. This a direct result of the fact the conversation I ended up having with Algonquin College’s disability department virtually undid everything I was trying to get all comfortably tied up when I wrote this entry. With pretty much three weeks before the course was supposed to start, and escentially a week past the deadline with second career, disability chick decided completely at random that the course was not going to be accessible. She was even nice enough to tell me she confirmed that with two of the individuals who were directly involved in that program–including mister questionable availability, who I’d already spoken to and got a rather different story from.

Since I only had less than 3 weeks to actually do anything with all this–classes would actually be starting this morning, I pretty much effectively declared that ship sunk after hanging up the phone with her and jumped off it. Not all that long after doing that, I got wind of another way to get me the hell off government paychecks. It involves first getting a hold of ODSP people and figuring out who’s palms need to be greased in order to get them to put up the cash for software that will actually let me do something vaguely resembling work. As luck would have it, person I’m dealing with at second career told me he got wind via someone at the college that the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) might cough up the money to purchase my screenreader of choice for purposes of employment. Handy, considering the company they’re trying to aim me at has absolutely no intention of purchasing it themselves.

Employment specialist’s goal now, what with the college thing going down river without me, is to get me hooked up with a job working for Online Support. I’ve had more than a few dealings with them before, which usually ended in either being outright ignored, or a somewhat appologetic rejection based on they don’t have the kind of financial room necessary to purchase the technology that would make me able to do the job–oh, did I mention they’re a semi-national, multimillion dollar corporation? Yeah, didn’t think so. His current theory is, if we can convince them I’ve got the cost of the screenreader covered, we might be able to squeeze me through the door and into something vaguely resembling a minimum wage job. Which would still be a huge improvement over what I’m getting now. Now we just need to get someone from ODSP to say yes sir and fork over the dollars, then we’ll have something to walk into a room with.

I’ve already put a bug in folks’ ear about it, who according to their voicemail are supposed to be in the office today, so we’ll see exactly what kind of strangely diplomatic 5-page answer I get from them about it. In the meantime, that whole college thing? Stick a fork in it. At least for this year, it’s done. If this employment thing falls through, or if I can find out the second career program will be around next year, I’ll at least have the flexibility to start drop kicking the necessary people to get that ball rolling a lot sooner and with a lot more maneuvering room than this time. ‘Til then, it’s off to find some answers. And maybe possibly beat a few heads together in the process. Hey, that’s always fun, no? And they say I don’t do much during daylight hours.

This is decidedly not the job I left 2 years ago.

I worked for Dell until mid-2008. They decided around then my job would be much better done from a call center in India. Flash forward to last week or so. One such Indian technical support agent had apparently been called up to help her find and view pictures a customer had on her hard drive, but couldn’t remember where she’d put them–I used to get calls like that all the time. They used to take maybe an hour, if you happened to have a customer who was particularly clueless when it comes to something as simple as “Now don’t touch anything for a few minutes or I won’t be able to control your computer from here.”. They used to be so simple I could do them in my sleep. And they used to still pay me at least $100 for the assistance–hey, I didn’t make the policies or force them to call me. They used to not end like this.

A woman calls Dell tech support to ask for help in locating pictures of herself on her computer. The pictures end up on a newly created Web site. She accuses the support representative of creating the site.

Would it be too cynical of me to figure the agent in question didn’t actually end up fired from the outsourcing center he works for? It’s articles like this that kind of make me very glad I don’t actually ever really have to pick up the phone for something unless they’ve already screwed it up.

Apparently, according to the article, Dell’s in the midst of a lawsuit over it. I can see this going full circle in the near future–lawsuits in New York among other places were, after all, what lead to them opening up more call centers in North America after all, for all the good it did. What was that they said about hindsight?

The job market’s broken. I actually found one.

Well, okay, so it was just one that I could actually apply to and not have me be severely underqualified, but still. This marks the first job application I actually submitted since–now, let me think–March of this year. Yep, in Ottawa, of all places, the market for people with my admittedly somewhat specialised skillset was actually dead for about 3 months. Technically, it’s still dead–the job’s a sales by phone gig at Home Depot, but still. It was more than I was staring at a week ago.

Now, I’ll be very surprised indeed if it actually results in employment prospects. If it does, Jessica will have officially become my good luck charm–the last potential interview I landed, I was hanging out at her place. If I land an interview here, she’ll be up here when I find out. But, more importantly, it will be the first actual interview I’ve had since late 2009. If we are, indeed, heading for that potential labour shortage that’s been talked about before, this could be an amazingly good sign. Or maybe I’m just hoping like hell I can get off ODSP soonishly before it makes me go broke. either’s not entirely invalid and both would be good for me. Either way, this is a start. I’ll take it.

Employment resource centers plus small town living equals not much help.

So, as I hinted at in my last post, I dropped by an employment resource center today. Mostly out of general curiosity–they couldn’t do much worse for me than I have so far, but also because, well, I could. Turns out I might have been smart to keep looking outside of Pembroke–there really, as the guy who worked with me rather bluntly agreed, isn’t much here beyond fast food and/or retail which, while they may be make-work jobs for folks who like that kinda thing, isn’t my idea of a career choice. He did suggest I try yet again to apply to work at Online Support, a local call center in the west end of Pembroke, but seeing as my previous two attempts to get hired there ended up a rather impressive-sounding flop, I told him I wasn’t going to hold my breath on this one. Fortunately, he’s not the type that requires I constantly have my foot in his ass for results–at least, he doesn’t immediately appear to be. So, failing that, he said he’d try and get me into Ontario’s second career program–escentially, a government-sponsored program to fund going back to school to either gain more skills or enhance existing ones in order to make me a little more hireable. Or, in my case, in order to put the extent of my geekyness on paper. I’ll know how that goes within a few days, most likely. Beyond that, I only gained these from my experience this afternoon.

    Further proof that I rock at resume-building–it’s not going to involve a major rewrite of the thing, thank god. I’ve already done that dance too often.
  • My skills, were I not living in a technically dead place like Pembroke/Petawawa, or were Ottawa’s tech sector not currently on life support, would land me just about any kind of entry or second-level position–if they were on paper. Hence, trying to get into second career training.
  • I got a free thumb drive out of the deal. I already had one, but hey, I’ll take a second. It’s got the logo of the Canadian armed forces on it, and it was free, so how could I say no? I have no idea on capacity, but again, it was free.

So, we’ll roll the dice and see what the hell happens. Worst case, I keep applying for jobs outside Pembroke. Which I’ll probably keep doing anyway. Best case? It’s back to school for the geek in training. And if someone else is paying for it, there’s an increasing likelyhood of me actually focusing more on the learning and less on how I’m going to pay for next semester. Works out to win win for me. In the meantime, anyone have an opening for a techy? Let me know.

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