Tesla Girl Notes: Punishing Luxury*

Many things have happened since I restarted this blog and wrote the “Hidden Triggers” entry back in November 2017. The biggest of which is finally getting a job back in IT. It’s a contracting job but a job nontheless.

 

Taking Out Contracts:

It started out as a really low-level contract: upgrading monitor stands & docking stations for a large law firm. Hard work, boring but, hey, it brought in the much-needed finance. It also meant a bit of travel: Basingstoke, Reading, Oxford, London, Guildford, which gave me an insight into the vagaries of public transport, not having a car at that time (getting to & from the office in Oxford was a particular joy, especially as I had to be onsite at 9am, which necessitated leaving home at about 5am and usually not getting home till about 8pm).

Once that job was over I then went on to some cable-monkey work, installing switches, cabinets and mid-level cabling for a dental ceramics company near Sunbury then some floor-level networking for a artiste management company in London, giving credence to a comment I once made that:

“I seem to spend most of my time under other peoples desks”

Moving on, I then stepped up the ladder a little by being moved to a large accountancy firm near Tower Bridge, ostensibly to diagnose and repair Lenovo laptops, with a slight increase in pay that allowed me to finally buy a car. I chose a nice little 1999 VW Golf 1.9 GT TDI, which I named “Halo“, after one of my all-time favourite characters in 2000AD.

Fortunately, the organisation I was then working for were based just outside the Congestion Charge Zone and my route to and from work took me along the edge of the Neutral Zone (as I call it). Unfortuantely, due to Halo’s age and engine, I would have had to pay not only the congestion charge but also the T-charge, an extra payment for diesel vehicles that don’t have a registered emissions rating (introduced in 2000).

I eventually left the accountancy firm, (strangely, they were reluctant to let me go and wanted me full time) and moved onto my current contract in Mayfair which is a long-term contract providing IT support to 250+ users. The site I’m now working at is the HQ of one of the top 5 ad & media management companies in the world (to give you an idea of their size their total revenue last year (2017) was £15.2 billion).

 

Travelogue:

The working hours are good and the remuneration means I can live in a style I’ve not been accustomed to in many years but the travel can be harsh. I tend to miss out on standing and being squashed aboard a train for an hour from Aldershot to Waterloo by driving to Clapham Junction where I can park Halo in a secure underground car park and then get the train to Waterloo. This is where the ‘fun’ starts. Fortunately, I have several options and many trains to choose from but they all have one thing in common: severe overcrowding. Under good conditions I can arrive at Clapham at 0800 and be at my desk by 0840 but, there have been mornings where I’ve had to miss as many as five trains because I’m unable to get on them due to the sheer numbers of people trying to cram on them. It can often take me longer to get from Clapham to the office than from home to Clapham. Once at Waterloo (or Victoria, depending on the route), its time to negotiate the ‘crowd control’ measures in place most mornings: Ususally a single escalator down to the Underground ticket hall, closure of the link-door to the hall and forcing everyone outside and then back in via the outside door of the ticket hall. This can add nearly a half-hour to what is normally a ten to fifteen minute journey. (A good example is last Thursday: Left home at 0700, arrived Clapham at 0800, on platform at 0805, arrived at desk 0935!).

Going home can be even worse, especially when there are faults on the line, signalling problems or just plain bad management.

 

Epilogue:

So, contracting is great and having the money to live in a bit of luxury is wonderful but getting there and back can be punishing.

*My thanks to Andy & Paul (OMD) for inspiring the name of this blog and the many entries that may, or may not, be in it.

Sanguinem Non Habere Tempus

Sorry for appearing pretentious with the title, but I’m in one of those whimsical moods, characteristic of the end of a busy day, (so, more to come in future).

Its been a very busy day for all. To start with, Mark, unfortunately, was unavoidably out this morning which left me with the unenviable tasks of running the shop, effecting customer repairs and attending a Techstart board meeting at the same time. Couple this with being short-staffed and you can see where I’m coming from (and, if you’ve worked it out, the blog title). Fortunately, both Mark and I are used to this, (and particularly proud of the fact that we have never had to close due to staff shortage).

Apart from Mark, myself and Susie (our training manager), Techstart is wholly staffed by volunteers. This means that between the three of us, we have to create a working atmosphere and environment such that people want to come to us to work and then want to stay when they do. I think we have achieved that with some measure of success. Unfortunately there’s only so much one can do against illness and circumstance, which is what happened today. So, to start off the day, there was only myself and two volunteers to run the shop. Consequently, thanks to Susie and the very understanding members of the board, I was able to flit between the meeting and the shop floor when needed. Eventually, the meeting ended and this, closely followed by Mark’s arrival, eased things somewhat.

One of the increasingly more popular services that Techstart offers is our repair service. This is one of my primary area’s of responsibility. Having spent a large part of my career in IT customer service (most of it, actually), I tend to be a bit draconian when it comes to customer machines. I have a set of rules I’ve built up over the years that I try to stick to when it comes to customers and their machines:

  1. Never, ever lie to a customer about a fault. If it’s a simple fault that will take five minutes to fix then tell them.
  2. Along with No1, do not, under any circumstances, invent a fault to increase charges.
  3. Always treat customer machines with care and respect.They’re not your property.
  4. There is no such thing as “that will do”. Repairs must be complete and whole and the machine fully tested.
  5. If you damage a machine during repair, own up. Don’t try to hide it. Sometimes you’ve just got to take the hit.
  6. Never try to hide not knowing something in jargon. If you don’t know, admit it and say you can find out.
  7. Never belittle a customer by trying to sound superior. Even if you do know more than them, its just plain rude.

Following these rules is probably why I’m not driving an Audi R8 and holidaying in Tahiti but then, I get more pleasure out of seeing customer’s faces when they discover that their precious family photo’s, music and writings are safe within a working machine, or that the something they’ve been working on for years has not been lost. (I wouldn’t mind the R8 though).

To be fair, most of the repairs that come through our doors are the result of viral or malware infection and are easy fixes, albeit time-consuming ones. Sometimes, though, we do get hard ones, such as one where the customer was told by various parties that the hard drive had failed and all her data had been lost and she would have to replace it. None had offered to attempt recovery. It took me less than 24 hours to recover nearly all the data and, after replacing the drive and OS, the machine was back to almost new. I have to admit, we take tenacity to new heights but, so far, we haven’t had a customer machine that we’ve been unable to repair.

We just don’t give up.