take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Feet-finding mission 

Being a new starter in an organisation is never easy.

Firstly, you need to suss out the office etiquette.

Can I hang my coat here? How do I turn the lights on? For how many people am I expected to get coffee? How often? What is the vending machine code for a white tea with sugar? To whom do those biscuits belong? Can I have one? What is the biscuit replenishment procedure? How many is it reasonable to take in any one visit to the biscuit tin? Who is that peculiar man? How come some people have flat screens and ergonomic keyboards? How do I get one? I wonder what excuse he used to get internet access... And so on.

Having resolved the important issues, there’s the nasty business of the work itself.

The software I work with is not an off-the-shelf package, it’s in-house written, bespoke business applications. This means that every time I change jobs, I have to learn a whole new tangled web of applications, all written in the same language, but based on different databases with differing standards and conventions and interacting with other unknown applications on other platforms. It always takes a while to acquire an appreciation for the system as a whole and in the meantime, one can feel rather useless, groping around in the dark at detail level without any notion of the so-called "bigger picture".

But what I find the hardest in a new job is the requirement, at least at first, to maintain the façade of being both normal and sensible – neither of which come naturally to me. The rather sincere and heartfelt content of this blog belies the somewhat unconventional behaviour of which I am capable in real life.

In my last job, I’d been there long enough to have reached a point where I felt completely comfortable in my role of "office idiot": making up songs, whistling, impersonating machinery, adopting ridiculous accents, talking to myself, prancing around the office, yawning and stretching in an over-elaborate fashion and generally gibbering. The department was small enough and populated with enough eccentrics to handle my ways and, in some cases, give me a run for my money.

The decline into the surreal must necessarily be a gradual process, so as not to arouse suspicion. First, I must prove that I can do the work – preferably making myself seem indispensable. Then the progressive increase in strange behaviour will be tolerated and, if I’m lucky, eventually considered to be both charming and adorable, which is what happened in my last job.

But for now, I must maintain the façade of dull, corporate automaton, programmed to program.

  1. The photo on this post has not been retouched in any way, simply uploaded from my phone-camera-phone. It must have been infiltrated by an alien. It's the only explanation I can come up with.

  2. The exam seemed fine, but I know from last year not to read anything into this. If I'm still blogging in May, you'll find out how poor my instincts were on this occasion.

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