Sunday, March 28, 2010

On names

I never go by my full first name. It's not me. I have made a few attempts, post-high school to be known by my first name, but I have killed them all. I thought about trying it out in college but I couldn't do it. My full first name is what my third grade teacher who didn't bother to get to know her students called me. It's the name my mother called me as a kid when she was mad at me and needed me to come downstairs this minute.

Instead, I go by a diminutive of my name. Over the past few years, it has come to my attention that being a female that goes by a nickname ending in y has a few drawbacks. Professionally, I think it makes it easier for people not to respect me. It also makes it harder for clients and vendors to distinguish me from all the other women who work in my office and go by a name that ends in y. (Kimmy, Sammy, Emily etc.)

A coworker of mine once asked why I didn't go by my full first name. "It's a great power name." he said. "You could start calling yourself by that name and wearing short skirts and then you could refuse to crawl around under people's desks when you have to fix their computers-you could demand that you have a Lower Level Employee to do that for you." Aside from the fact that I enjoy crawling around under people's desks to fix their computers and don't enjoy wearing short skirts, he had a point although it took me a year or two to realize this.

I had a discussion about my name with my MBA team mates a few weeks ago. It started as "Should I introduce you to the people we are interviewing as your full formal name or your nickname?" I said nickname please. I hate the full name. One of my teammates suggested that I might feel better about my formal name once I had the MBA after my name. I let it slide (I was at the time busy trying not to have a panic attack-see last week's post for details.)

But, after that discussion, we had a presentation to do. The team mate who puts together our presentations decided to call me by my full first name. Both team mates were pro-full name-for me and for themselves. I had no reason to say no. For a change I decided that I could be this person who goes by my full given name for an evening. It wouldn't change who I was-it would just be a role I was putting on. It worked out okay.

But it made me think. Is my MBA self going to turn out to be a role I put on daily to go to work (the way other women put on makeup?) I'm okay if the answer is yes-so long as I still get to talk to people who call me by the name I prefer.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Well that wasn't so bad

I got up at eight this morning, dressed with care while listening to some of my favorite songs and took the 9:15 train into Boston. I knew this was going to get me to North Station at 9:50 and the train to Waltham didn't leave until 11:20, but I didn't trust the 10:30 train to get me there on time (this would be the morning that they discovered a switching problem in Lynn and I'd get to North Station too late) so I accepted that I was going to have to wait around for a bit. I didn't mind. I had a book.

I found myself thinking (not for the first time this week) of my friend Irving, who died at the end of this summer. To be fair, doing B school stuff or being near North Station (where Irving's store is located) both make me think of him and here I was, all dressed up in a suit on a Saturday hanging around North Station and waiting to go do a B school project. I walked to the Rose Kennedy Greenway (since it was a nice day and I'd probably go crazy sitting in North Station and listening to announcements for an hour and a half) and thought about coming to the North End last summer to visit Irving in the North End Rehab hospital. My ex and I spent a decent amount of time hanging out on the Greenway whether we were on our way to visit Irving or we were waiting to pick his lovely partner Joan up from the hairdresser.

There was even one evening (see here for details) when all the Hilton's Tent City kids went out, had drinks and then walked through the Greenway afterwords to go visit Irving in the hospital. That was a beautiful night and a good one in terms of us all letting our guard down enough to let Irving know we cared.

As mentioned in last night's post, I was wicked nervous about this part of the project. I was afraid that my bad people-skills would lead to me doing a bad job with the interviews. As I walked over to the Greenway in my professional attire on a Saturday morning I asked myself if it was okay to think about Irving or if it was just going to fuck up my head some more. I decided it was okay. I decided that on the way back it would be okay to walk by the store, since I hadn't been there in a while and it would cheer me up. They were open and so I got to walk in and talk to the staff for a few minutes. This should have cheered me up.

But then it was time to catch the train and I went back to North Station. One of my team members got on at Porter Square and we were due to meet the other one in Waltham (because the other one has a car and lives in Newton.) The two of us talked about what we had to do today. We had already discussed some of it over the phone last night (after I posted everything I had to say about the project to this blog) and he wanted to add a few questions.

I disagreed (we already agreed on these, I've printed up 20 copies of them we *need* to ask everyone some of the same questions so that we can have a large enough sample size on some data points) and then we got off the train and went to find a place to have lunch. It was a beautiful day. I took pictures of the swans swimming in the river. I'd never been to this part of Waltham-the only time I'd ever gone out there had been when the company I worked for needed to get a new photocopier so my vision of Waltham was all office parks and here we were walking down a sunny street full of restaurants and bars.

We chose a place to have lunch. And that was where I Lost My Shit. I was really hoping that having already had two or three anxiety attacks about this project would mean that I had gotten my panicking out of the way. I haven't really panicked this bad in front of work partners (or even by myself) since December of 2008. At the time I felt bad about pitching a fit and making them calm me down, but those were two people I had worked with for a few years. I feel less than stellar about displaying such weakness of character in front of people I've known for only a month or two, but on the other hand I knew 1) I panic. That's what I do. If you're going to work with me, you are going to see me panic. 2) The severity of the freakout will not actually impede performance. Once it's Showtime, I'm busy working and (hopefully) will not have the time or the brain-space to panic anymore. I tried to convey some of this to team member J, but didn't have time to convey it to team member A.

Team member J (to whom I had actually admitted I was freaked out) tried to calm me down. "What's your favorite color?" he asked. "have you registered for summer classes?" "how long did it take you to get into Boston from Beverly?" My reptile brain was having none of that. Which is unusual. Usually J can calm me down and stop me from climbing whatever wall I'm on just by being himself. He's a calming sort of guy.

Team member A was a bit more direct about things. I don't think I actually even mentioned how panicked I was but he said "You're in this program to learn to do this sort of thing. When you go to interview with some consulting group in Boston are you going to do this?"

"Is it that obvious?" I asked

"You're so stressed you can't even sit straight in the car." he replied. I really thought I was doing a better job at hiding it, but then again, these MBA types are apparently pretty observant. Also, I have been told before (repeatedly, and in many different ways) that I'm not very good at hiding what I'm feeling. But the interesting thing is that the people who have told me this have always been intimates (mostly long-term boyfriends) not people who I met for the first time a few months ago. It was perfectly okay for A to remark on how badly I was behaving (for lack of a better phrase) and I really wish I could get that kind of honesty from the people I've worked with for years. But at the same time, I was pretty sure (as stated above) that once we actually got down to work, it would all go away. It did.

We arrived at the restaurant that we would be observing. We got in and were told which of the people who we had wanted to interview would actually be available this afternoon. The took us to a room we could use to interview people. Because we were observing a restaurant that was owned by A's father in law, A couldn't interview people. We had discussed the possibility of him sitting in on interviews to take notes, but we hadn't come up with a clear answer as to whether or not this would be okay (Yes it would be great to have someone else observing and taking notes, but dude, since it's you isn't that going to be as much of a problem as you interviewing people in the first place?)

In the end, he ended up sitting in to take notes and assisting in the interviews. First we talked to the owner. J interviewed, A and I took notes. Both J and A speak Italian (the owner's native language) but I don't, so I felt a bit awkward and inadequate the few times that they slipped into Italian. (Not like I've never felt that way before-and aren't I supposed to be good with languages?)

But otherwise, J interviewed the owner and A and I took notes and after the interview we knew several things we hadn't know previously. Aside from the data we had gathered we knew that 1) Holy Shit! it takes a long time to ask all of these questions and get answers to them 2) We *need* a second person to take notes because one cannot ask questions and take good notes. Um, how are we going to do this?

Next I got to interview the Bookkeeper/Function Manager/Possibly the Other Part of a Management Team. A came along to take notes. I really have no idea how I did as an interviewer, but I was fascinated by this woman who was talking to us. She had very clear ideas and opinions as to What Was Going on and really, I could have just dispensed with all of my questions and asked her "So what do you think is going on here at this restaurant?" and I would have gotten the same data. The interview was long and a bit brutal on me-I was totally wiped out by the end, but throughout her whole discussion I wanted to say "yes-I know exactly what you mean!" But I didn't-because I didn't want to put words in her mouth-I was there to hear what she had to say not to tell her what she was thinking.

After that, A and I slipped into J's interview of the guy they had hired to actually be a professional manager. He was not at all what I expected (I expected something blond in a blue oxford shirt and chinos-and I expected to hate him. Instead we got a giant bald guy with a beard who resembled Frank Black and wore blue jeans. He admitted to having a past as the "crazy chef.") He was also articulate and intelligent and honest. I found myself liking him and I tried to take notes, but my hand was cramped. I type. I don't write longhand so much anymore.

After that interview, we discovered that we couldn't talk to anyone else today, because they all had a staff meeting and then they all had to go to work. So we agreed that we would have to go back. J and I had discussed this last night and agreed that there was no way on God's green earth that we were going to manage to interview everyone on the list in the time allotted, so I wasn't shocked. I had kind of hoped to get a little further than we had gotten but that's how it always is. We agreed that the interviews took a bit longer than expected and that we should see if we can cut some of the questions from the staff interviews and then we went down to the restaurant to have a snack and observe what went on around us.

Not much went on. We were too early for customers. So we ordered a vegetarian pizza with no cheese (since I am a lactose intolerant vegetarian) and we tried to talk about further interview questions that needed to be edited but we were too wiped out. Instead we talked a bit about European Football and noted whether the staff member who had been sent home for not wearing a uniform was 1)there tonight and 2) wearing a uniform. A drove J and I to the commuter rail station. While waiting for the train we started redacting some of the staff questions. Since we were discussing them anyways, and since they needed discussing and since my train home wasn't for another hour and a half, J agreed to come to North Station and continue discussing things with me (instead of getting off at Porter Square and going home.) This is a bit of an issue for us. J and I work well together and don't mind putting in the time, but we're trying our best not to cut A out of all of the project work. We're attempting to avoid a two-on-one scenario as much as possible. It doesn't always work. And frankly, from my point of view, sometimes I just want to get stuff done. Would I feel bad if the two of them had gone and done this work without me? Absolutely, but then again, unlike A, I don't always have one foot out the door during the last ten minutes of any meeting.

We ended up at The Grand Canal, sitting on the deck (this incidentally, is where the Hilton's kids all sat the night we visited Irving and this is also the place we all went to have a drink in the day we buried him. Going there was not my idea but I was okay with it. It felt like home.)

So we sat on the porch in an evening in March that felt like June on a Saturday night, having a drink and discussing...interview questions. Dear God, I thought. Everyone else is here to have fun and I'm at a meeting. At least it's a meeting with drinks and nice weather.

Really, although we got some work done on the questions I think we both wanted to just talk about all the stuff we'd learned today (somewhere other that the restaurant in which we'd learned it.) The same way you'd want to talk about a movie you just saw with some of the people who had just seen it or an important meeting you'd just had with some of the people who also sat through the same meeting. It was interesting. It was an enjoyable discussion-as much fun as discussing a movie or a book. These literary and film discussions form a great deal of my social interaction with my friends, so it was interesting to discover that I could have the same sort of conversation about an Organizational Analysis.

And hey, if I felt weird or dorky there were the people sitting behind us. According to my teammate they were talking about the way Kevin Millar left the Red Sox for the Orioles in 2006. At least we were discussing stuff that happened today.

It was comforting to have this discussion at the Grand Canal on the terrace (I have had dinner at the Grand Canal a few times since it's close to North Station, but I haven't been on the terrace since the night we Hilton's kids all went out for drinks and then went to go visit Irving in the hospital.) I felt like I was on home turf. It was a nice way to end a day that involved a panic attack.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Scarier than Server Migrations

Tomorrow I have to go to Waltham and interview people for the major project that my Organizational Design group is doing. And I am terrified. I knew that getting a degree in managing people was going to involve dealing with actual people (something I'm not very good at) but I had no idea how quickly it was going to push me out of my comfort zone.

The giant project that all of the teams for this class have to do is to find a local organization that has made some change, go interview people about the change and write a 30 page paper about what you observed. We have all term to complete the project and it represents a decent chunk of our grade. So far, we've written up a project plan (that part was actually a lot of fun) started doing some research, gotten into an argument, written up interview questions for all the interested parties and categorized and prioritized these questions. Tomorrow we get to go out to Waltham and ask them and as I said, this prospect terrifies me.

In some ways, the way I feel now is a bit like the way I felt right before the Server Migration Project a few months ago. But I am much more plain old anxious now than I was then, because while at the time I was concerned that we succeed in moving everything over to the knew environment, I was working with two guys I had known for years and we'd already played a round or two of "what could possibly go wrong" with the project (we'd done a dress rehearsal in a test environment-turns out that didn't make everything work smoothly, but we did the best we could.) Now, I'm working with two relative strangers who I'm afraid of letting down doing something for which I have no background. Reinstalling all of our applications in a new environment is daunting, but not unfamiliar. Interviewing strangers about their place of business is so far out of my comfort zone that I can't even see it with binoculars.

I'm an anxious kind of person and this is a big deal, so I can understand a few "pre-game" jitters, but I've already had an anxiety attack or two about this. A good friend of mine has encouraged me to embrace my anxious and obsessive side. "It probably makes you better at your job" he said. While that's true, that doesn't help when I'm standing at Park Street waiting for the green line and telling myself not to panic.

One of my team-mates had suggested that someone take all of our interview questions and put them in separate packets so that we could give different interviewees copies of their questions without letting them see what we were asking other people and so that we could have sheets with questions printed on them and room for notes. I volunteered to do this. Since I was feeling kind of anxious, I thought it might make me feel better. I also thought it would make me feel better to have a binder in which to put the packets of questions with dividers to separate out different packages.

Perhaps it's the time I spent as an administrative assistant, or perhaps it's the work I've done on our document management system, but I was sure that putting together several separately stapled groups of printed questions would calm me down and that having them to work from would be helpful and calming on the day of the interviews. So I went to Staples to buy myself a three ring binder (I could have stolen one from work, but the only ones we had were maroon or gigantic and I wanted a slim, black binder with no reference to FPA or NAPFA or Fidelity printed on it) and some nice dividers.

I took the T to Park Street to visit the Staples there, only to discover it wasn't a Staples anymore-it was a CVS and they didn't have a nice black binder. But it was a nice day, so I walked to the Staples at Government Center and bought my binder there. somehow, when I got back on the T at Park Street I started losing it. My team mates were going to think I was a freak for bringing so much printed material, I thought. How were my paper-goods going to help me when I sat down to interview a tough subject and he or she just shrugged at me and sucked his or her teeth? I would still shrivel up into a pile of fail and I would get no good data from my interviews. I don't even remember what else I thought, but pretty soon I was standing there on the Green Line platform clutching my bag of office supplies and trying not to look like I was having a heart attack.

That was anxiety attack number one. The problem with this sort of thing is that it feeds on itself. "Look at you!" I found myself thinking on the way to the commuter rail the next morning "You're not ready for business school-what you really need is treatment for anxiety-you should be in therapy, not grad school. Maybe you're not cut out to get an MBA-maybe you should just keep hiding in your server room" and many other self-affirming and helpful thoughts.

Today I printed out my interview question packets, I checked the commuter rail time table-for both heading out to Waltham and heading back to North Station (I'm awfully glad I did-we're due to interview people until 6:30 and after the 6:40 PM commuter rail the next train back to Boston doesn't leave until after the last train to Beverly leaves North Station-maybe that obsessiveness comes in handy after all) I bought a new shirt and new shoes (which I'm not sure I'll wear) and I've packed my bag for tomorrow with all of my interview packets, two packs of gum, 2 Odwalla bars and Advil. Hopefully that will be enough.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's Not Easy, Wearing Green

Today is Saint Patrick's day and this means that I once again reluctantly picked out a green shirt , along with some Celtic-themed jewelry to wear. It's not that I have anything against green (in fact even if I forgot that it was Saint Patrick's Day, the odds are pretty good that I would be wearing a green shirt anyways) or that I'm tired of my Irish silver jewelry (although as most of it came from my ex-boyfriend I have been uninterested in wearing it lately.) It's just that Saint Patrick's day is Amateur Day and that bothers me.

When I was a sophomore or a junior in high school I came home from school one Saint Patrick's Day and declared to my mother that I had had enough of celebrating a holiday that seemed to have more to do with with selling beer than with being Irish. Mom ripped me a new one. What would my grandfather say if he could hear me, she asked. She said that she wore green on Saint Patty's day (and that I should to) because it was not too terribly long ago that there were signs up that said "Irish need not apply."She said I should do it out of pride and out of respect for the first several waves of immigrants who got to experience good old fashioned American racism. I don't remember what else she said, but it was enough to cut through my teenage arrogance and convince me to wear green on Saint Patrick's day. Hey, it's not as if I dislike green or don't have enough green clothing.

But over the past few years I've started to feel less enthusiastic about the whole thing. My friends and I had started to refer to Saint Patrick's day as "Amateur Night" because we are old enough to be cranky about the way that our favorite bars would fill up on March 17th and it would not be fun to go out. And I work with people who celebrate Saint Patrick's day as if it was Valentine's Day--except they cook green cookies and wear green instead of baking red cookies and wearing red things. Lately I've been feeling more and more ambivalent about wearing green on Saint Patrick's Day because I'm afraid of being mistaken for one of them.

It's not that I have anything against green cookies, and holidays that celebrate beer are okay by me too. It's just that I grew up seeing Saint Patrick's day as a political holiday-I felt morally obligated to wear green to honor those that had come before--so watching my office mates and the kids in the bars celebrate it as if it was International Talk Like a Pirate Day (with beer) leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

But it also makes me think a bit. Am I proud of my Irish heritage? Not really. I'm not ashamed of it, but it's not like it's something I've earned. It's just there. I like the Clancy Brothers and the Wolfe Tones and the Pogues and I'm fond of green, Guinness, potatoes and my Irish silver collection, but I don't necessarily think that these things are the result of my genetics.

I grew up in New York City-there certainly were plenty of descendants of Irish immigrants around me, but the population density of Irish Americans to anything else is nothing like it is in Boston. Since moving to Massachusetts I have encountered people who share my mother's birth-name (which is Irish) and who are not actually related to me for the first time in my life. Amusingly, I have also encountered people who couldn't spell or pronounce my last name (which is German, but only one syllable long) for the first time in my life as well. I've felt, since moving here that I am surrounded by people who take their Irish heritage seriously-much more seriously than I ever took mine. This doesn't bother me, but it just make me feel more likely to be mistaken for a poseur for wearing green on March 17th.

But after talking to my sister about all of this I feel a bit better. My sister (bless her heart) made her son wear green to school today. She said to me "He's not old enough that I can explain why to him, but I made him wear green today anyways." Good enough for me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mom and I have an interesting discussion about Grad School

I love my mother. She loves me, but we are very different women. Sometime when I was in high school my maternal grandmother (whom my sister and I adored) was ill and my Mom (who lived closer to Gramma than any of the other siblings) went up to help her out. I didn't understand why the two of them weren't getting along and my dad explained "Well, it's like you and Mom-you love each other, but you are very different."

Although the context of the conversation was Gramma and Mom, I felt validation for my relationship with my Mother and I was surprised because I was only a teenager and hadn't quite managed to put it all into words myself yet.

That was when I was in high school. My mother and I continue to be very different women. I can't wear makeup or scarves, hate shopping for clothing and am still terrified of the idea of speaking in public. My mother is a teacher (and a consultant to other teachers.) She takes her dress and accessories seriously (I think it's partly because many New York High School teachers *don't* and she feels some need to make up for it. Perhaps because the she feels that their inability to dress properly indicates a lack of seriousness/commitment to doing a good job as teachers.) She shops the way a lioness hunts for prey-which is to say constantly-and she is always happy to bring home a good bargain.

She, on the other hand, doesn't read Science Fiction and Fantasy (not even the Master and Margarita for her) which is my genre fiction of choice, and doesn't feel the need to own an iphone or join facebook. She did start a blog-I believe it has one entry from several years ago before she gave it up. I on the other hand, keep a blog and feel the same way about my iphone as Sweeney Todd does about his razors ("At last my arm is complete again!")

On the other hand, while our interests, dressing norms and tech skills are different, we share certain personality traits. We are both high-strung. When we find something about which we are enthusiastic we are both *very* enthusiastic. This has probably worked out well professionally for my mom since as a teacher/consultant she was essentially selling ideas-or at least trying to generate interest in them. It's a bit odd for me. Because of the way my home and work lives were a bit damaged (until recently) I tended to try to dampen my enthusiasm (it was not well received in either case) and revert to full-on introvert ("I am a Rock" and if I can't talk to anyone-at least I can watch Firefly while drinking an IPA and feel better.) But lately, the change in my environment has allowed me to let out some of my enthusiasm. I have more confidence in myself professionally, I'm no longer in a bad relationship and I'm an MBA candidate. I have friends (and MBA team-mates) that I see during the daytime on the beach or having breakfast instead of having friends that I only see at night, when I'm wiped out, and often in a crowded and noisy bar. It's easier to express my opinions (and in the case of class or team meetings it is *required* of me that I express my opinions) so my in-spite of my tendency to be introverted I occasionally get enthusiastic. I mention this for a reason.

For example, a few weeks ago, after a very productive team meeting I took the shuttle bus to the Red Line with one of my team members. We were discussing work and we started discussing the document management system my office has. This is my baby. I had advocated for one for a long time and the implementation was the first project that I had managed. So when we started discussing this I went all wide and crazy eyed and explained everything in great detail. I didn't even realize, until I mentioned the incident to a good friend of mine that when I got all enthusiastic about my lovely DMS that I was channeling my mom. But she hit the nail on the head when I started explaining my explanation and she said "And then you became your mother's daughter for a few minutes."

Anyways, so tonight I called home and talked to my Aged P's. While I was on the phone with my Mom I discussed how the whole MBA program thing was going (well, but a butt-load of work-see previous post for details.) Mom said a few things to me that I thought were significant. For one, I'm the team editor and my mom said "of course you are the editor par excellence" (although I don't know if that statement is based on recent data-like reading this blog, old data or just an assumption that anyone who grew up under her tutelage can write.)

She also talked about her own grad school experience (and this was the part I actually intended to write up.) My mom was/is a New York City high school English teacher and a consultant for the New York City Writing Project. Her master's degree is in education and reading disabilities. I'd never asked why she'd gone and gotten an advanced degree. I had however made a few assumptions- 1) The NYC Board of Ed started requiring Masters Degrees from all of it's teachers 2) After I was born, the chance to get out for an evening or two and take a class (and think, instead of amusing a baby) must have been heavenly to my mother.

And, I'm getting an MBA. This is in kind of a different category from my friends' MFAs or my Dad's PhD. This is, for lack of a better phrase, a vocational degree. I see it as being in the same category as the CFP designation a good portion of my colleagues have or a Microsoft Certification.

Tonight Mom mentioned to me that she had intentionally decided to get a Master's Degree in teaching reading comprehension instead of getting one in plain old brit lit because she was a teacher and wanted to study something that would make her a better teacher. She chose a vocational Masters Degree (as I have) as opposed to a just plain fun/interesting Master's Degree because she genuinely wanted to know more about what she was doing and do a better job at it.

She formulated this idea to express it to me. This makes me feel that she respects and supports my choice/path. And this, to me, is a prize beyond valuation.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another Awesome Day at UMB

I got up at 8 this morning and left my house by 9 so that I could walk on the beach and eat breakfast before heading out to UMB for a meeting with my Organizational Design Team. I mention this because a year ago, when I still lived in Cambridge, this would have been unthinkable-getting up at 8 on a Saturday? To make a 12:30 meeting?

But Circumstances have Changed Since Then, and while I was not crazy about them changing at the time, I'm really much better off now-even if I spend more of my life on public transportation than I did previously.

So, I caught a 10:30 commuter rail train to be at UMB at 12:30. I got there at 12 and met up with my team-mate J-who actually works there-in his office. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to find his office (even though I'd been there before-UMB is like a giant gerbil farm-I can't even find the nearest womens rest room most of the time that I'm there.) Our teammate A had class until 12:30 so he called and came up to meet us in J's office. We printed stuff out and found snacks and our favorite class room. I was a bit nervous because we'd gotten into an argument on Monday night. One of my team mates was really angry when he left. We'd all showed up at class on Tuesday and gotten along through the group exercise we had to perform (taking a bunch of office supplies and paper goods and turning them into a device that you could use to drop a raw egg from one story without the egg cracking) but that was a Structured Environment-this was just the three of us again. We did discuss the Incident after class on Tuesday and agree on ways to avoid it in the future, but I was still nervous. We had lots to do and we needed to spend several hours together getting it done.

An aside-part of why I'm so interested and fascinated by this group dynamic-we met each other a few weeks ago. I still don't know either of these guys' middle names or even why they applied to the UMB MBA program. They don't know *my* middle name either. But at the same time, I can tell you what snack foods they both like and something about how both of them work and they can tell you the same about me. We've passed a computer back and forth between us (I started rearranging the files on it-even though it is not my computer) and we have different "personal space" rules than I have with people I've worked with for 5 years. We occasionally touch each other (we had to to build the egg-dropping device) and we can swear in front of each other. We have a few of our own little jokes (or cultural artifacts as the textbook would say.) So in spite of the fact that I've only known these guys a few weeks, conflict with them *hurts* the same way that conflict with your friends hurts.

I'm pretty sure all of this is intended to happen by design by the course.

So we sat down and worked our way through stuff that needed to be done (editing interview questions we need to ask at the company we'll be researching, trying to figure out WTF we need to write for our "Team Dynamics" paper-we all agreed this was unclear, etc.) One guy left at four. The other guy and I stuck around til 7:30 working on revising a few things we had to resubmit.

When we changed modes from voting over material we had all previously reviewed and reciting updates on assigned tasks my brain turned on it's water cooled system and started over-clocking. And while all three of us can work well together, for whatever reason (lack of other commitments, enjoyment of brainstorming/process) J and I are really good at this part- where as A kind of hangs out on the side and watches. But then he makes up for it by doing things like designing us a really good logo.

I'm not really sure what exactly is going on, or why. Perhaps some of this is that J and I are working through things that A thinks he already understands (his grasp of the concepts is really good) or if the two of us just like process, refinement and finding *exactly* the right phrase. And, to be fair, since I'm the Editor for the group, I may be getting a bit of a free ride working out wording with J, but it's not just cosmetic editing we're doing. We're playing with the ideas. We've spent up to 45 minutes refining a single sentence (but damn were they good sentences-and only for important ones like "hypothesis").

So we worked through the re-write of a couple of key project documents. One of the things I've discovered about no longer being 21 and an undergrad is that it's a very good idea, if one of you is talking to have the other one writing things down. Otherwise you forget things. We've got that sorted now. J has the blackboard and I have the keyboard and someone is always taking the notes. At 6:30, the power for the LCD projector went out. With some exploration we discovered that this was systemic (At 6:30 PM on Saturday UMB shuts off power to the LCD systems in it's "smart" classrooms. apparently.) We left at 7:15. Apparently the shuttle to the T stops running at 7, so we walked. We talked about nothing but the project the entire time.

In some ways I find this a bit scary, because this is The First Course for the MBA program and it has already taken over my life. (Mon Dieu-what happens when we get further in to the thicket-away from the "entry level" stuff.) In other ways it's comforting and, dare I say it, fun. I have been *pining* for useful work-partners for years. (My ex and I didn't have a relationship that involved creating anything together and my work environment is too damaged to allow for good partnerships-even with my friends.)I now have two. We accomplish cool things together.

While the three of us were editing something today in Word I hit "Save" and the computer froze. At first I figured I could sort this out myself (after all, recovering temp files when the computerbox freezes is what I do for a living.) After five minutes of no joy, I handed it back to J (the owner of said computer) he screwed with it for a few minutes while telling A and I to keep on working our way through what we needed to edit (which we had printed out) after a few minutes A decided to weigh in on the MS Word issue. I got frustrated-because I wasn't able to help and because we weren't moving along in spite of technical difficulties so I left and went to the bathroom. When I came back they had sorted it out. I don't know exactly how but I'm pretty sure it was creative and that it was a group effort. While I was annoyed that I hadn't been able to help,I was pleased that the two of them had managed to sort this one out and make it work. In the end that matters more than my pride (or my geek cred, which took a bit of a beating as a result.)

So in spite of the fact that I spent all Saturday at UMB, had to walk to the T in the rain, barely made my 8:30 commuter whale train (the next one was at 10:15-ick) it was a Saturday well spent and I'd have no problem doing it again.

And hey, I get to go to Sugar Mags for brunch tomorrow.