Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Big Sleep

I received word today from The School that they gave the Help Desk position to someone else. I’ve been kind of down all day because I thought my interview had gone extremely well and my chances were good. I wanted so much to get out of my current situation that the word that I still cannot escape has me emotionally exausted.

Out of India

After yesterday’s debacle over the hardware support outsourcing their call center to India, they have reverted to their Ohio location. The word is it will be that way for a week or two. I wonder how much money that mistake has already cost them. Maybe with an additional two weeks of training the call center people in India will be able do the job they were hired to do. The job that I could train 6th Graders to do in an afternoon.

Monday, April 25, 2005


Sometime over the weekend, The Bank’s contracted supplier of hardware support outsourced their call center to somewhere in India. What that means is, aside from the language barriers, the time it takes to place a hardware call jumped from 3 minutes or so to over 20 minutes. Sometimes as long as an hour.

This is not a difficult job. The Help Desk calls the call center, provides customer name, address, phone number, model type, serial number, issue description and tracking number. The Call Center enters this information into a database and provides another tracking number in return. I could take nearly any person off the street here and have them doing this job in an hour. It’s trained chimpanzee stuff. I don’t know who they hired in India, but the people they got aren’t capable of doing the job.

For high severity issues, the hardware supplier is contractually obligated to respond to the user within one hour. If it takes nearly that long to get through to the call center and place the call, they are going to be constantly in violation of the contract. It won’t be long before The Bank begins reconsidering their contract.

It doesn’t mean much to me personally. I don’t call in hardware issues. But when users begin calling back to complain that their level of service has dropped, the Help Desk bears the brunt of their ire. I’ll simply blame the hardware supplier.

In a more philosophical sense, I both cheer and loathe this decision. I hate the idea that my job could be outsourced to India. But in the nightmare of outsourcing this extremely simple call center task, the likelihood of my more technically intensive job going overseas has plummeted.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Two-wheeled Paradise

I just got back from a long weekend visiting my Brother-in-Law in Madison, Wisconsin. I could go on about the trip, what we did, where we went and all the gory details but what struck me the most was the biking environment.

Everywhere I went, there were bike trails, bike lanes, bike routes, bike shops and bike racks. My Brother-in-Law lived in a new housing development in the middle of a series of shopping plazas, light commercial and restaurants but there were bike lanes available to access the whole area. All the restaurants had bike racks. In Madison proper, there was a two block section that had three bike shops.

It’s a big difference from Pittsburgh where bike routes exist only on maps and as signs on some of the most dangerous streets in town. Advocates at Bike Pittsburgh have convinced the city to allow them to install bike racks throughout the downtown area but the city didn’t drop a dime in support. There are only a handful of bike shops that are small and don’t have a broad selection of either bikes or accessories. Shopping malls and centers are designed for cars and bicyclists and pedestrians would be risking their lives to attempt an approach.

Of course, there are environmental differences between Pittsburgh and Madison that make one more conducive to bicycles than the other. First, Madison has flat, wide open spaces. Being flat is simply more friendly to biking. When the city was growing, there was plenty of space so streets were wide. When it came time for streets to be rebuilt, the availability of space made it easier for city planners to sacrifice some of that space for the use of bicycles.

Since Pittsburgh is so hilly and penned in with rivers and was born a century earlier than Madison, there isn’t a lot of space available. Bicyclists have no choice but to share the space with automobiles, trucks and busses who, because they “own the road” are not willing to share this limited commodity. And even out in the newer developments like Cranberry, the planners are still stuck in the car mentality, building exclusively for those who drive.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I fear I shall die in Casablanca.

I am reminded of the opening of "Casablanca" where the narrator details the plight of those poor souls attempting to flee Europe finding themselves trapped. “Here the fortunate ones, through money, or influence, or luck, might obtain exit visas and security to Lisbon, and from Lisbon to the New World. But the others wait in Casablanca. -- and wait -- and wait -- and wait."

It's been three weeks since my interview with The School and I still
haven't heard anything. I've left a few messages and sent an e-mail or two with no response. I would normally expect things to take quite some time but when the person who I interviewed with said that she would contact me "next week", I assumed that she actually did mean "next week." If she hadn't said that, I could well imagine a dozen reasons for it to take longer than that.

Instead, I wait. And wait. And wait. The Help Desk is my own Occupied Europe and my escape is prevented, not by evil Corporate Overlords but by what I suspect to be simple bureaucratic delay.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The check is in the mail

The Corporate Overlords didn't fix the shorted paycheck issue yesterday but this morning UPS delivered a check for the other three days I worked last week. There was no explanation as to what happened to have people receiving random hours on their paychecks.