Saturday, June 15, 2013

Someday, I'd like to dream about something other than my job.

Last Saturday marked the one year anniversary of my last day at my previous job.  What a long way I've come since then, and how much I've changed.

I used to spend a lot of the time just monitoring incoming phone lines and the agents taking calls; I'd switch agents from one line to another if necessary, track down agents who were missing, and try to make sure that calls weren't holding too long waiting to be answered.  While I was doing that, I'd have plenty of time to do other things if everything was working okay - I mainly just had to keep a close eye and react quickly when anything started to be a problem.  But I was good at it, and could head off most problems, so I had time to write blog entries and read message boards and blogs.  I tried to do it discreetly, and unless I am in complete denial, I looked busy while switching back and forth between screens.  You know, as opposed to my coworkers trying to hide the fact that they were reading magazines or playing games on their phones.

I did a good job, I really did.  But it certainly wasn't challenging.  And this new job that I've been in since the beginning of August last year has been nothing but challenging.

I've learned to speak up.  Now when I have meetings with directors and senior directors and vice presidents I can keep my head enough to talk, answer questions, and even ask them questions.  I've also learned to speak up for myself, both when defending my work or ideas and also about HR related issues when they refused to honor the verbal agreement about PTO time/paid holidays.

I've learned to do a buttload of things I'd never done before in NICE IEX TotalView, the program I use to forecast future call volume and schedule ~200 agents.  I had no idea how little I knew, but within the first few months of working here I'd read the entire manual and most of the program's help screens.

I have a much different perspective on the industry in which I work.  I can see how this company is structured on a level I didn't have access to at my previous job, and going to that convention in April gave me a whole different view of how everything fits together and what other companies do.

I've learned to train people: I've trained dozens of managers, supervisors and team leads on the program we all use to see schedules and watch agents.  I've learned to lead meetings and take control if it gets off track or loses focus.

I've had to learn to be less intimidated by people, or at the very least to hide it from them.  I've struggled with taking things personally, and have hopefully gotten better about having the perspective to know it's almost never personal.

But here's the other part:  I know that I have made a massive difference in the way this call center works.  Before I came they forecast future call volume on a spreadsheet, guessed at how many people they needed to staff the call center, and did schedules for the agents on a spreadsheet.  They had no way of knowing if the agents were actually working the right schedule, if they were missing for any part of their shift, and whenever anything came up for the agents to attend (like meetings or training) they just pulled agents off the phone at random.  They couldn't see how call volume was likely to go later in the day, or whether they were under- or overstaffed.

But... here's the other other part.  I don't think they, in particular my boss or the VP that he reports to, really have any idea what I do, how well I do it, or how much of a difference it's making.  The managers know how much of a difference it's making, because it's directly affecting them.  But the call center director has only been there for 2 months, so he didn't see what it was like before.

(I was very entertained to discover that, upon his first tour of the call center when he had his final interview, the new director guy asked where the "workforce department" was, and was visibly shocked to hear that it was in fact just a "workforce person".  But this person does the forecasting, and all the scheduling?  Yes, he was told.  She sets staffing levels?  She approves time off requests?  What about scheduling training and meetings?  She does that, she does that too, she does that too, he was told repeatedly.)

I suppose part of it is me, I could have done more to explain what I was doing and how it all worked.  Honestly, it took a few months for it to really sink in that they had no clear idea of what the whole concept of workforce management really was.  I was going merrily along, fixing things and setting policies and figuring stuff out, and kind of assuming that someone was keeping track of me.  But now I really don't think that was the case.

The final straw was when I found out that the three managers, the director and the senior director (my boss) all got big bonuses based on the extremely low abandon rate, which is low because of my ability to manage the call volume and workforce.  I mean, that's what they hired me to do, isn't it?  And maybe they thought I wouldn't find out about that huge bonus that they all got, or maybe they just don't give a fuck.  

So, I got mad, and then I started working on a plan to go to my boss and ask... for what?  A raise, a promotion, a bonus, some sort of acknowledgement of the degree to which I rock?    I'm still thinking about it, and I'm still not sure.  And I also updated my LinkedIn profile and my resume and applied for a couple of jobs.

On Wednesday I had a phone interview for a job that sounds SO perfect.  It sounds challenging, but without the massive stress of my current job.  I'd be replacing someone who is relocating, and be part of a team.  I haven't heard back yet about an in-person interview, but I'm cautiously hopeful.

I suppose if I could hang in for another year or two things might change completely.  The new director guy is backing me up with my pleas for help, to hire at least a couple of others who would do workforce stuff too, but my boss keeps saying it isn't in the budget.  The truth is that they are all sales people who don't see value in a non-revenue-producing role.  It's possible that they may do it next year, and it's possible that in a couple of years I could be heading up a whole workforce department.  But do I even want to do that?  

This job is challenging, but in a way that is exhausting me.  I am so wiped out when I get home from work I barely have any energy to be creative, or to get things done around the house.  I hate that.

And truly, the thought of leaving just makes me so happy.  I am really grateful for the various things I've learned while at my current job, and the opportunities for growth, and the experience.  But I am ready to go somewhere else.