General Introduction to The Geek
I'll just dump out a brief summary of each day, then give my general take afterward.
Day 1, Tuesday, Oct. 21
Met up with Laurel for initial check-in and to go over the basics. Felt that she prepped me pretty well for what was ahead, especially the overwhelming nature of getting acclimated at FG. Discussion of all the comm systems (RT, db, lists, double-wiki) was most intimidating aspect, both in understanding what they were and how they worked together. Seemed like the use of all these technologies was both highly tech, and cultural...hard to grasp. She made it clear that the answer to a good chunk of my questions in the first two weeks would be "It's on the wiki." I saw the value of having a high degree of documentation as far as saving time training new hires. But I was dreading hearing that answer in the weeks ahead instead of getting an answer directly from a human.
Committees were easier to grasp. Luiz recommended I shop around and attend each committee at least once before choosing. Richard soon after said this had never been done before by a new hire. It's funny that all the contradictory advice I got over the day--the fact that it was so contradictory--was strangely reassuring. It was tiring to process and sort out, but once I realized everyone here had a different way of plugging in a and functioning, it felt a little more freeing to find my own way.
Luiz laid out his general plan that I spend a couple days in pre-build and receiving before he gave me his "brain dump" in the store.
Spending time in pre-build seemed like a good place to start in general. Working alongside newer volunteers allowed me to soak in the atmosphere without feeling completely out of the loop. It's basic training, by design. Card sorting taught me a lot, and also made me feel like I kind of new what I was doing. I was worried the computer side would be entirely new, but I recognized most stuff.
I am not a flowchart kinda guy. You should know this about me. I can't really use them, and I have never made one. It is not the way I am wired, but it seems to be a large part of the culture here. Luckily I had Blaine there to show me the ropes, so I didn't have to use the charts too much.
By the time I left, I was fully overloaded, and stayed that way all night, getting about one hour sleep (not an exaggeration). I think this is a physical response to learning so much at once; the energy required to form that many synapses in so little time is more than the system can handle. I think my brain got at least an oz. heavier. I laid there in bed and retraced the layout of the space, and saw people's faces, heard voices, saw the wiki. For the hour I actually slept, I dreamed about the frikkin' wiki! Disturbing. I think the full tour for closing procedure right at the end was what did me in.
Day 2, Wed.
Did not sleep the night before. Went home in the afternoon. started off in prebuild, then working on cable sort. Toward end of day, felt sudden need to flee. Luiz and Laurel, my two main contacts, were in a review (which I didn't know at the time).
Day 3, Thurs.
Attended action comm meeting. Luiz pulled me off the walk after we'd taken the field trip. met with laurel for a brief check in. will type up notes from this day later.
Day 4, Fri.
Attended PR meeting. will type up notes from this day later.
Day 5, Sat.
Holy Shit. In the store from 10:30-7:30. Once customer interaction stood out above all others. will link to rt ticket on this one soon. "Learned" the till count-out. Finding discrepencies seems much more complicated than I'm used to, but having the db available looks insanely valuable. Just mind-numbingly complicated on first glance.
Week 2, Tues. attended propagation meeting and was instantly lost. wasn't clear whether my role in the first week was simply to observe or to participate. mainly this was an issue becuase it was a work meeting, where a specific project was worked on by each person individually, and I had no context for this work, and didn't want to disrupt the work going on. I should have asked for clarification early on whether I would be better off jumping in and trying to stumble through, or just nestle up to watch someone work as a way to learn more tricks on the wiki. Should have been more proactive there, but I was just caught off guard as far as my expectations of a meeting...agenda, big issues, discussion. It was essentially five people typing on laptops with little talk, and it felt that my raising a bunch of questions would have been a major disruption. I think solution is to come early to meetings and ask for background info before they start, then observe once it's started.
Good talk with Kevin regarding PR/Media. Think this is going to be a place I can offer the most. Mainly we talked about ways to think like a journalist, to provide easy access to our org history via a media kit, a special wiki page to provide easy navigation for journalists, but also to try to provide fresh angles based on what's currently going on, to spot news hooks and pitchable angles early, then try to interest specific journalists/pubs with more concrete ideas, rather than general coverage. Also talked about developing a style guide on the wiki, setting up a procedure for fact/copy checking official releases such as mailings, the web, grants...Offered to serve as "second set of eyes" for things he writes, and we're hoping to sit down to talk more before next pr meeting.
Check in with Laurel. I like hearing other people's stories about their first weeks here. Makes me feel like I'm not going insane. Sounds like having a record of first weeks for new hires (like this one) can provide that, but emphasizing this to staff as a good thing to bring up to new hires. "I felt like that for a few weeks too, and I don't envy you! But it will calm down."
Overstimulation By about 3 hrs into the first day, I felt like someone had slipped me something, or actually more like I had a concussion.
Ideas Biggest challenge for me so far is swallowing ideas, as opposed to throwing them around. It makes sense and I don't disagree with it, but it's strangely painful. I think this has a lot to do with the fact most of my prior experience involves being involved in nascent projects, not well established ones with a history and culture to learn. I'm used to figuring things out from scratch. Will set up a page just to dump these out, then laugh at them months later, I'm sure.
Jumping into the communication systems without fully understanding the culture that dictates their use is another rough spot. The Netiquette page is a handy place to start, but it's hard to dive in until I learn more of the nuance to how it's used. I need to get used to frequent and thorough checking of various places, signing up to watch pages, etc.
Also, a talk early on about security, as in what info should go on what wiki, a reminder about using public terminals, would be useful. Mainly a debrief about rt and lists. This info came to me fairly soon, but here and there. Seems easy for a new hire to make a slip up in the first week, posting to the wrong place. Seems like a once paragraph summary of which places are considered "secure" and emphasizing that everyplace else is considered public.
Finding the time to document things is difficult. By the time I'm out of the store, or away from FG, the last thing I want to do is sit at a computer. I know I'm losing valuable info by not writing more in the moment, but I think this has to be done in time set aside each day. Trying to keep notes on paper as they come up. Should be able to use these to flesh out this page accurately, but would have been better in moment.
Leaving the work when I leave FG seems impossible, and I need to come up with specific strategies for doing this asap. Right now I don't feel I have the ability to relax or think of anything else.
Ubuntu/Linux Playing with my laptop has reinforced the fact that I am not a command line kinda guy. If I walked in the store as a customer, I would hope someone would talk me out of buying one of our systems. It makes me insane. I'm sure I will learn it over time, but I just don't have the patience right now. Best way for me to learn it is to ask for specific tips, over time. Using it every day at work will force me to do this, but I don't feel I have the capacity to take it on head-on.
Feedback on the process
May have been easier to start midweek, having only three days of overstimulation station before a couple days to decompress.
It was good to have a bit of a roadmap to know what was coming over the first week. Would have been helpful to expand on this idea. For instance, "on Thursday so and so is going to spend a half hour showing you how we use RT). Knowing there is an opportunity to ask area-specific questions on the horizon would ease the anxiety of being introduced to so much at once. Again, most of this anxiety came from all the overlapping communication systems. But this could be different for each new hire. A kind of diagnostic check-in early on might be a good way to tailor the first week.
Let's say the first thing a new hire would do would be to come in and have the initial meeting with their buddy. Part of that is to give an overview of what's ahead, but also to find out specific things about that person's needs coming in: computer literacy, linux literacy, past experience with db/wiki/etc ("how comfortable are you with computers, on a scale from Ted Kaczynski to Steve Jobs?"). After this meeting, the person could have their initial accounts set up, get some introductions and then go home. The buddy could take the info from this meeting into account in figuring out what the next week is going to look like--a command line class? Time in pre-build? more info on consensus process? learning to work a mouse? Everyone is going to have different needs, depending on their background and in what capacity they are coming into FG, so flexibility will be needed, but so will presenting the individ with a clearly articulated plan. Probably on day 2.
"It's on the Wiki" is going to be the most common answer, and that's good. That's what it's there for, to answer questions. But coming into it from scratch it can be hard to find things. Articles have titles that are inside jokes or esoteric. It may be a good idea to set up a wiki page specifically built to function as a "home" for new hires, basically a page of links that are going to be of interest to anyone coming in. This dashboard kind of page would make it less daunting to seek out the answer for yourself, giving a simple map the the most necessary places around the FG infoweb. This page could live as a basic template, but be tweaked to create a page specific to each person. For ex: Luiz could have added links to all the important store info somewhere on it.
This page could also serve as a centralized version of whatever "checklist" exists. The hire and his/her buddy can chart progress and spot gaps/oversights.
I really wish there had been one place that had everyone's names, positions, contact info most embarrassing moments, and most importantly, a photo. Not as a way to learn people's names so much as a tool for burning them in. On my first day I probably was introduced to over thirty people by name. Needless to say, they didn't all stick immediately, but I was frequently nervous I was going to screw someone's name up.
Adding one's own file to this directory could be the first interaction the new hire has to the wiki. Gives them something to edit, makes them feel they are "on the team" and gives the whole staff a chance to put a face to a name so when they see the person in the halls, they can approach them without needing an introduction. This directory could live on the secure wiki, and if all staff watched the page, they would be sure to recognize the newbie.
Training in the store
Day 1, Thursday
Day 2, Friday
Day 3, Saturday
Day 4, Tues Learned of the Ombudsman today, and the policy of referring people who ask to talk to the "boss" to them. The one time this happened, the person eventually found this month's ombuds after I sent them to the front desk, but knowing such a position existed may have kept the situation from getting as charged as it did. I was almost sad to hear of this policy, because I had thought of printing this one really good picture of Bruce Sprinstein and mounting it to a board with a little bubble, "I'm listenin'" so I could pull it out in such situations and say, "Okay, here he is. Knock yourself out. Next!" (Just a fantasy, nothing I'd actually do).
Having the situation come up a lot where I know how to do something, like transfer a call, run a card, enter a sale, but for some reason it doesn't work. When I ask, the explanation is exactly what I thought I had just did, then there is the doubting look and raised eyebrow from whomever is helping me....When something doesn't work and I learn something it feels much better then when something doesn't work and I just can't understand why.
Shelves Make Metro shelves currently interlocked into stand-alone, movable units. Vertical blinds to close at night--vertical and broad to make them less likely to get messed up. Able to be retraced by a pulley on one side, easy to operate. LED reader: blinds would mean LED reader would need to come down. What's the story with this? This would be an excellent way to make our store policies abundantly clear. Hang on back wall and program it to provide FAQs, especially with regard to return policy.
Policy signage and handouts. having a clear, large sign explaining policies in plain english will make it clear to customers, and more easily available to volunteers. any question about the policy, the cust. and volunteer could look at the sign together. fun!
Cable ID single most daunting thing, most common mistakes in shelving, most common questions to illicit a blank stare from either party. Clear physical examples on boxes, as well as a categorized board displaying the connectors. Many ways to make such a board more intuitive as well. Physically, this board could be a piece of painted plywood with holes drilled out, then cut cables would be tied into a stopper knot behind board, leaving only a small tag of cable and the connector in question visible, just long enough someone could check to see if it fit their gizmo (or retracting! how cool would that be?!) The board could then be clearly labeled with common names for each item. Physical examples much more intuitive to grasp than drawings or photos. Quicker to learn.
This board would live in the store. It would be a tool for training, but equally a tool to make our communications with customers clearer. We would be speaking the same language. Having it in the store would lead to more positive interactions as well..."why don't you show me...let's look together." If done well, this could make the whole area less daunting for everyone. I could envision on board simply for IDing cables...just the piece, and a name, grouped into broad categories: audio/computer--internal/peripheral/etc. Another board could be build around IDing uses: from on single USB connector, a diagram could be made to the most common things you might find on the end of a USB cable, USB mini, extension, mini A, printer...the line between each would include the preferred name: "USB-to-mini." The customer's thought process could go from "I need a thing that has one of these things on one and and some other thing on the other," directly to asking a volunteer for a "USB-to-mini," or directly to seeing that name of the front of a box.
Also physical examples on boxes will lead to fewer misplaced items, and easier learning curve for shelving cables.
Any place else this model of physical example could be brought in will streamline training and make the experience of shopping easier and more inviting.
update category list. currently not intuitive or complete. Make more intuitive for training (CRT and LCD become "Monitor--CRT" and "Monitor--LCD." Some categories missing, such as "motherboard," especially on expensive items having detailed receipts is going to make returns easier to handle and more difficult to abuse. Or changing "card" to "card, card--sound, card--video, card--misc., etc." For small items, or as-is items, "card" would suffice, but the option would be there to use arrow keys to instantly add more info for things over a few bucks. Also can help us spot trends more easily and accurately by having more detail in categories. The less we use misc., the better.
Notes Make easier to add notes. Notes field could always be visible, but tab order would skip over it, from gizmo to qnty to price. to add a note, click with mouse. Once you've opened the notes window, it throws of the rhythm of tabbing through the form for items that follow.
check boxes or drop down menu next to each item displaying "As-Is" "Tested--7days" and "System--30days." After items are entered, proper category assigned to each. Report could lump items into groups to better explain and communicate policies. RIght now it is so easy to peel off an as-is sticker. Many items are marked as "misc." or other unclear categories. Eliminating time-consuming and unpleasant exchanges with questionable returns. The receipt would still ahve the tiny print, but we could include plain english, clear and unmistakable language, so the receipt would appear:
"The following items are sold as-is and are inelligable for return: 2 cables 1 card
The following items are eligable for...blah blah 1 card-video
then the small print"
login cashier add small box at top of sale entry screen for a cashier to inital each xaction (or use any two digit code) this will make it clear from a paper receipt, and in the database who entered every single transaction. Truly logging into the database each time is not feasible, but requiring inits on each sale would provide better tracking and problem. It would also avoid the "so and so told me I could return it" conundrum. We know who helped who. this would be relatively simple thing to implement, I think. (We tried opening db with different log ins in different tabs, but it was not possible).