Thursday, June 16, 2011

Today, For Example

I knew it was going to be a long day. How did I know that? Well, as I have mentioned a few times my employer is in the process of going through a merger. They’ve hired a woman with a CFP® and an MBA to help them integrate the two firms—I’ll call her Marie. She works out of both offices (Massachusetts and New Jersey). I enjoy working with her, but the weeks that she is in Boston are always busy, full weeks for me. This week this was doubly true because some of the integration projects have moved beyond planning and into implementation*.

As is often the case, when I find I have 5 things to do in a day I’m probably lucky to accomplish 2 or 3. At the beginning of the week Marie and I had 15 things we needed to get done together. As the week progressed I started to feel nervous about there still being 6 or 7 things left on the list. Yesterday at about 5 we made a list of stuff that still needed to get done (not just because it’s easier for us to do it when we’re in the same office but because it needed to get done, but because if we didn’t get them done other things would be delayed.) In addition to these 5 things that we needed to do, she had 5 meetings today and I had 3. One of these meetings was a kick-off meeting for a project I was supposed to lead—which is its own special kind of Hell. That’s how I knew today was going to be a long day.

I prepared for my long day. Last night I went to Harvard Bookstore to replenish my supply of mystery books. When I got home I picked out clothes to wear—a shirt with a collar and smart skirt and heeled sandals. Some days it’s important to dress comfortably and some days it’s important to dress well. People do take you more seriously when you’re dressed well, but more importantly you take yourself more seriously when you are well dressed (my colleagues in New Jersey would not be able to see how I was dressed over the telephone, but that didn’t matter).

I got up early and took an earlier train into Boston. I was both tired and wide-awake at the same time, with my stomach tied in knots. This is not a pleasant combination, but as I walked from Back Bay Station I reminded myself that while this was going to be a long day I am very, very good at managing to get multiple things done while feeling stressed out (as my coworkers and B school colleagues could attest, I do some of my best work while well dressed and jumpy) so while it wouldn’t be fun to be me today I’d still get through it all. This is not a small point.

Unfortunately for me, my Super Power is working very well in a pressure cooker. I didn’t have time to obsess over how I was going to deal with the kick-off meeting for my first inter-office project. I had to overnight the hard drive with our data on it to the outsourced IT partner, discuss the 7 things I and Marie needed to get done, call a vendor and have a difficult conversation, and papermail signed contracts to another vendor. The meeting went badly (as I knew it would—I was presenting something that I expected to be unpopular) but hey—on to the next meeting (with some of the same people—equally unfruitful).

The final meeting that Marie and I had today was with our new phone service provider. I work in a jargon heavy industry. We write IPSs (Investment Policy Statements) for our clients. We do RMDs/MRDs (Required Minimum Distributions ) from IRAs. We have a DMS (Document Management System) a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and a PMS (Portfolio Management System) and I work in the IT department so I have a copy of 201 CMR 17 (Massachusetts data privacy law) tacked to my cubicle wall and talk to my vendors about our DNS (Domain Name Server) and our VPN (Virtual Private Network) so when I say that telecom providers are the most acronym-happy people I’ve ever dealt with, I think that statement has some weight. Worse, they pronounce their acronyms. POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) is “pots” and FOC “Firm Order Commitment” is fock. This confuses things even more—I don’t tell my IT vendor that our “dennis” (DNS) is messed up and we don’t advise our clients to set up “Iras.”

So, after a long day of meetings, when Marie and I joined our last meeting of the day and the telecom happy people kept talking about the FOC date (fock date) what were we to do but giggle into our hands? It didn’t help that their participants on the conference call kept dropping the call and having to come back in (aren’t these guys the Telephone Company? Why did we hire them, exactly?)

I left work feeling like most of my brain had been replaced with tofu, but that I’d still had a productive day. FSM help me, I’ve got to have another such day tomorrow.

*I’m being vague about this because I’m feeling paranoid about what I can and can’t say about work on the inter-webs.

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