Career choices of children

Another (potentially) controversial article, although not touching at all on religion.  I like to explore issues by writing, but my aim is never to offend anyone.  If anything, I welcome people to provide me alternative points of view!

It’s a long time before I’ll have to worry about the career choices my children will make.  But then again, high school education is often the start of the path to (hopefully) teritary education that might lead to a qualification for a career.  And high school… well you get the picture.

My child WILL have a blue mortar board too! source: lovinthealien.blogspot.com
My child WILL have a blue mortar board too!
source: lovinthealien.blogspot.com

I am definitely part of the generation that ‘expects’ my children will receive a tertiary education.  At the same time, I internally criticise the quantity of degree qualified people in countries like the US who remain unemployed despite their qualifications, or require a second degree, such as a Masters or PhD to feel they are competitive in the job market.  I also readily agree that 100% tertiary education is probably both unrealistic, but not ideal for a society.  A high level of education isn’t needed for a great many jobs, and the investment (of time to start with but also financially) in tertiary education can also develop higher salary expectations.

source: www.arttherapyblog.com
source: www.arttherapyblog.com

I honestly find it difficult to imagine if my child was to ‘grow up’ to become an artist.  I’d worry they’d lack the work to maintain their lifestyle, at no matter what level, and would be dependent on either others (such as their parents) or the government.  Interestingly, I know more than one career artist who graduated from my private (and expensive) school.  I don’t know them well enough to be as coarse as to ask about finances, but I gather they make ends meet to some degree.

It’s entirely unrealistic and unfair to think I might force my child into certain career paths or courses solely based on the projected earning capacity.  That being said, is the love and passion for something that they’ll call a ‘job’ sufficient to overlook the realities of not being able to house, feed and clothe oneself?  I have no problems should there be some assurance that financial self sufficiency is possible and not just a dream.  I don’t discount doing what you love, but I’m enough of a pragmatist to also look at doing what you can do, that ALSO supports you!

Oh, and the BF, he’s on board too… So at least we agree with some things!

What are your thoughts – especially all you parents?

Review of my six weeks in management

When I first started this management gig, I was drowning, and if it wasn’t for the comments in this post I’m not sure I would have come to enjoy it!  Then I came back a week later all jazzed up about acting as a manger.  Well, today is the last day in the corner office, with windows on two sides, a door to close and a team to ‘survey’ from my perch.  I’m a pleb’ from next week!

Overall, it’s been a great experience if not frustrating!

Totally not a possibility :( source: http://beatingcowdens.com/tag/frustration/
Totally not a possibility 🙁
source: http://beatingcowdens.com/tag/frustration/

I feel great when I achieve results – sign off work my staff have completed, go in to bat for them with other managers.  When I resolve the tangle of timing between minimising a bill for a customer against the company’s costs to work overtime, and the safety issues of that overtime being in the dark whilst working on overhead assets.  In the end, in can feel like win/win/win!

I set a target of getting 75 jobs that were more than 3 months since they were completed, financially ‘closed out’ – complete with close out paperwork.  Of the 75, we had a total of 47 close outs submitted, and another handful had the status changed from ‘completed’ to ‘incomplete, in effect bringing the target down from 75.  Whilst we didn’t get it all done, we still shouted the team 17 pizzas.  It really helped develop some peer pressure (in a good way!) to achieve results, and rewarded the hard work.  In the current climate, the carrot was the talk of the town!

It is annoying in some regards to pass the baton on.  I know that the next guy will have to pick up things from halfway, just as I did, and neither of us are enjoying the disjointedness.  Say nothing of all the outside world who has to keep up with the constant shifts in management!

What have I learnt?

  1. A lot of ‘my’ staff try to seem busy, but struggle to complete time sensitive tasks, and then ask for overtime (answer: no)
  2. Whilst a lot of staff’s actions might make them appear ‘dumb’, one on one, every single one of them has the skills.  I know why they were recruited
  3. Make decisions! (so many people ask so many opinions, which just ends up delaying and confusing things).  Know why you made the decision, and be willing to defend it to a point, and concede when better logic/ideas come around.
  4. Write things down.  I’m pretty good at forgetting.  Most days I had a sheet of paper, with phone call notes and a ‘list’ of some sort, either from the day before, or the email inbox I’m trying to resolve.  I date it, and when it’s no longer serving me well enough, it gets added to the stack.  Meetings’ handouts were also dated and put in the pile.  It ended up working well.
  5. File emails in the inbox that don’t require my action.  Create files that make sense (some ended up with 4-8 emails, others many more… not all were worth it, but hey?)
  6. Sort email files by sender or subject (as needed) or date.  Really, before being a manager, I wasn’t getting enough emails for this advice to be relevant or obvious.  I had enough files, and they works, and everything was default sorted by date.
  7. Use the office – shut the door for privacy.  Those who really need you will interrupt (ie above you) or urgent enough to bother you.  Get your head down and power through whatever.  Or make those 10 phone calls and not annoy those who sit nearby.  Ignore what you think they might think!
  8. Offer to help, to do something that will make the roadblock easier/gone.  Amazing the goodwill it can build (and the skepticism and confusion!)
  9. Verbalise each team members goals, but don’t expect them to align with their own motivations.  There’s no harm in sharing the targets, but don’t get worked up when they aren’t met.  Just keep following up (pester power will work eventually)
  10. And when there’s nothing else: there’s chocolate.  With a special thanks to one (female) staff member who whipped it out for me at just the right time.
The only home in the case of madness source: theheartbeatatmyfeet-ca
The only home in the case of madness
source: theheartbeatatmyfeet-ca

 

Management update

After my stream on consciousness last week about acting in a management role, I thought I would update you all.

This week, three weeks into six, I’ve settled into the routine of the role.  With help from my wonderful commenters, I’ve started to see my role as ‘helper’ rather than ‘productivity master’ (though that still features!).

I’ve taken to inviting my staff into my office for a one on one to work through their hardest work – which is closing out overspent projects.  It’s a pain to do (I know, as I have five to do this month, hanging over from July when I was managing projects rather than maintenance).  Together, less experienced staff have learnt how I justify over expenditures.  Not surprisingly, my staff are also teaching me a thing or two, too!  I’ve learnt that the less than stellar ‘reputation’ of some staff have isn’t 100% accurate, and when properly supported, can quickly generate good quality work!

source: arrowheadgamestudios.com
Might be worth reading?source: arrowheadgamestudios.com

 

Yesterday was the ultimate in ‘the day in the life of a manager’.  I had some back to back meetings, interrupted by a phone call to let me know about a cable fault on a main arterial road, cutting supply to a restaurant.  To safely complete the fault repair we’d need to isolate (ie switch off) other services to a bakery, an abandoned shop and a gambling chain (the TAB for Australians).  No mean feat – on a main road!  The most challenging was gaining access to the vacant property, with no way to contact the owners.  In the end, the initiative of staff resulted in one of them going to local council, completing a declaration to get the owner’s details and visiting the elderly owner to collect keys to the commercial property.  I hadn’t even known this was an option.  See, they are teaching me!

I drove home yesterday proud of my staff – for their initiative, and responsiveness in a time sensitive issue; for working together, despite indications that a certain pair tried to keep their work separate without assisting one another.  I was proud of another person for staying with me until we’d resolved more than a 200% overspend on a project *started* in 2010, and passed through five (rotational) staff to reach him!  Then I found another staff member had independently completed three overspend justifications.  Anyone would think this is the bread and butter of our work – it’s not! It’s the side project, but with more than 75 projects with outstanding financial overspend justifications and close outs on our books, the other manager and I have dangled a carrot free pizza lunch as a lure to get as many completed by the end of the month.  It’s incredible to see generosity being rewarded by positive outcomes.  The climate in our organisation is more stick than carrot lately, so it’s a pleasure to be able to offer a positive incentive.

source: seattletimes.com
source: seattletimes.com

I’m honoured to have been asked to attempt this challenging role.  I’m learning how to adapt my approach to different people and their styles.  I’m learning how to trust – offering different lengths of leashes to different staff!  I’m also learning to balance my bad cop against my good cop.  I’m sure there’s many more stumbles, and the associated learnings, but after such a great day, I wanted to share.  And who better than with my readers?

I’m not ready for management

My manager, of the section I’ve been in since August, is transitioning to retirement.  In the past six months, he’s been not at work more than he’s been at work – mainly using up his holiday and long service leave.  A number of people have stepped into his role and run the section during this time – my equals, and other ‘higher’ staff moving from one role to another.

The time had come for my six weeks in the chair/office.

My former manager, whom I worked under for 2.5 years, put my name forward to act in this management role for the six weeks. This former boss, in recent restructures, has moved a peg up the hierarchy, so what he says goes!  I know that he wouldn’t have suggested me if he didn’t think I had some of the skills required to do the job.  On the other hand, without some practice at a role, it would be hard for me to know if I was suited to it too.  And of course, in our company, career progression rests a lot on your ‘dress rehearsal’ in a role, and they see what you’re really made of!

Today marks the 6th day as the manager of a team of about 8 staff.  Since Monday, I’ve even moved into the office, and had ‘closed door’ meetings – something our company never did until recently.  Sign of the times I suppose.

I don’t think I realised how many emails I’d be copied into.  How do you file messages you get as a FYI that ping around between people?  How often should I bombard my team with the messages I’ve been asked to pass on?  I have a pretty good email filing system for my ‘normal’ role, and for my previous role, but for six weeks, I wonder if I should be structuring things or just letting it be a box of ’email clutter’ for the six weeks.

Besides emails, people call.  And I take notes: of calls; of chats; of meetings.  If I don’t, I can’t recall the facts.  What do I do with these bits of paper?  How do I arrange them?  When are they obsolete?  I can’t file them under projects (as I did in my first role here) and I can’t file them under dates (in my usual role).  They just seem to spawn and spread any logical boundary!

The biggest thing that I’m struggling with is learning just how little work is being delivered by my some of colleagues, and how I can change that, even by 5%, so the company can deliver of it’s end of financial year goals.  There’s next to no risk of being fired in my company, and despite being in the critical infrastructure industry, there’s often little urgency in day to day work!  I just want to ‘get back in the trenches’ and get stuff done – within my own patch, and help wherever I can.  I’ve been told, point blank, to give the management role a good go, and therefore ignore all my usual responsibilities in the trenches.  It feels really uncomfortable to feel like I’m not working, but just managing (just asking people where things are at, when they’ll be done, what the problems etc etc etc).

It’s clear I can’t be rank and file from 29 to retirement.  I know this.  However, I’m definitely not prepared or adjusted to some of the logistics, and the ideas of ‘work’ that come from being part of middle management.  Any advice would be welcome – practical or philosophical.

A day on the job (as an electrical engineer)

Following the trend of some of my favourite blogs (Declutterer by Fiona and An Exacting Life by Dar), I’m posting a day in the life of an electrical engineer at a big power company in Sydney.  This is a hybridised version of how I think today should go based on other days!

5.38am – 6am: wake up to my alarm that’s progressively one minute earlier every day.  Get on my sports gear and head out for a run/walk of about 2kms

6am – 6.40am: shower, dress, eat breakfast, tidy the kitchen, read some of the bible, snuggle with BF and talk about day ahead

6.40am-6.55am: drive to work – the best part of this time of day is it’s not too busy, and we all know what we’re doing, there’s few ‘silly drivers’ and never crashes or breakdowns 😀

6.55am-7am: stop at the local cafe for a mocha (since the work coffee machine broke).  Love they know me and my order, and now have a bowl with change for us regulars to deposit our payments.

7am: Arrive at work, archive all the ‘blog’ emails, but click on a few favourites, and load one or two favourite blogs in the browser (that I don’t get via email).  Open work emails and read the latest.

7am -8.30am: Review spreadsheet of 12,000 notifications for tasks, focusing on the urgent (5) and priority categories (455 with 34 overdue).  Make phone calls with field supervisors to discuss the requirements of the oldest jobs – outage requirements, times of day, what their site visits established, what I can do to help resolve the notifications.  Draft a letter to customers advising them that the previously planned outage has been cancelled and work can now be completed without an outage.  Write paperwork for other switchings, reviewing the loading on the substation (low voltage: 240V/415V), looking at the isolation (low and high voltage (11kV) as the job requires), printing applicable maps, and attaching forms to be completed, before emailing them to all the required people. I must check if there’s any key customers, or medical customers if I’m planning an electricity outage, and ensure I meet them face to face, or speak to them on the phone, to be sure they understand the power outage and the impact on them.

8.30am-9am: Commute to another depot for a bi monthly meeting of the safety equipment and uniform committee, as I’m the female representative.

9am-11am: Review decisions on clothing and safety equipment (wonder about my post, if it went live automatically at 10am… if anyone is reading it yet ;))

11am-12pm: Drive to suburb to deliver the amended letters to the industrial customers that will no longer have an outage.  Drop by another depot to drop off old uniforms (from before the rebranding – the company assures us they are being recycled.  We’re not allowed to donate our clothing to charity without removing the logo, which effectively renders them useless).

12pm -12.15pm: Heat my lunch and chat to staff at this depot.  Discuss recent restructuring briefing, and bemoan the changes to the overall culture.

Photos of an asset impeded by the growth of vegetation
Photos of an asset impeded by the growth of vegetation

12.15pm – 1pm: Return to my usual office, via a site that I was emailed about in the morning.  There are concerns that foliage around the handle of the pole mounted equipment are impedding effective operation.  I take some photos of the issue to email to contract tree trimming.

1pm – 3.30pm: Forward email about tree trimming.  Read new work emails, forwarding and responding as necessary.  Review shared calendar to see if more work has been booked.  Review works planned for exactly two weeks time, and check another email inbox to check switching paperwork has been submitted.  Follow up with staff at another site about issues with submitting paperwork, and work through any issues.

3.30pm-4pm: I usually finish work at 3.30pm, however I don’t have anywhere to be straight after work, so I take the time to tidy my desk, and review my career episode reports (required to gain certification in my profession). This is required by my employer, but I feel it’s more appropriate to complete it after hours.

4pm-4.30pm: Commute to my parents house

5pm-5.45pm: Get physio on my right shoulder from a break two years ago, and on going niggles in my neck that are causing headaches.

5.45pm-9pm: Return to my parents home, for dinner with my family. Each of us kids takes turns when we get home (at various times) to follow our mother around and ‘download’ our day to her.  Don’t worry, she downloads in between too!  My brother leaves for South America on Saturday, so it’s the last time together as a family for 10 months.  Leave a pair of shorts with mum, to get new fabric for and have copied by her tailor.

9pm-9.30pm: Drive from my parents back to my house, and meet the BF whose enjoyed (?) another night alone on the couch, as I’ve already been out two nights in the week for water polo.

9.30pm: Attempt to be in bed, reading, after a quick shower.  The BF will either come to bed with me (if this time ‘creeps’), or lay with me before I start reading to have a chat about the day asking ‘what was good that happened in your day today?’ (Such a great way to focus the daily debrief in the positive!).  Change my morning alarm for 1min earlier.

How does this compare to your day?  Feel free to post about a day in your life!  And, I bet you’re wondering where I get all my blog reading and commenting in – well so do I! I’m lucky to have the smart phone in gaps of time, to catch up on posts.