Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dear New Employee

Welcome on your first day. Here is some information that will help you be a productive member of your new team.

You will be issued a security badge at some point in the future, but for now you need to sign in as a guest. You’ll be given a temporary badge that doesn’t do anything at all, so if you need to walk outside any of the electronically-locking doors on your floor, you’re not getting back in. Fortunately you have access to the bathrooms and kitchen, but if you need to use the stairs or elevators to go to any other floor, or if you want to go out of the building at lunchtime, you’re going to need an escort to get you back in. Sometime in the afternoon we may issue you a proper security badge. Don’t hold your breath.

If you’re lucky you’ll be on one of the floors which feature putty-colored 1990s industrial design reject desks and partitions. These are a step up from those horrifying fuzzy-walled cubicles in most offices, but let’s not let our imaginations get away from us and assume you’ll find the sort of quality furniture you expect to see in high tech firms at their pinnacle.

Notice how the fluorescent lighting and the putty furniture conspire to cast a lovely grayellow shade on everything around you? That is, of course, unless you are one of the few who is allowed to sit near a window, in which case the company cannot be held responsible for any negative reaction you may have to natural light. If you would like a lamp on your desk, please imagine how little we care.

When you arrive at your new desk you will observe that the top of of it is filthy, like it hasn’t been cleaned in years. This is because it hasn’t. The cleaning crew vacuums the hallways once a week (but not the floor of your workstation area), empties the garbage cans and recycling bins at every desk, and that’s about it. If you want your “new” desk to be clean, you have to go hunt for something to clean it with (it’s not like anybody’s going to supply you with cleaning equipment, or tell you where you might find some).

The phone on your desk might be plugged in. Might not. Just consider yourself lucky to have one. You can plug it in yourself, of course, but it might insist on telling you that it’s eight and-a-half hours ago and display nothing but a big red light and “Extension in use” at you. This is helpful, since you don’t know what your extension is anyway. At least you won’t have to touch the phone’s keypad, which has so much filthy scum on it, the once-gray buttons are now brown. You should probably just avoid looking too closely at the receiver, as the microscopic colony of beings that has been growing there for several months may not like being disturbed.

There will be no computer on your desk. Tough it out.

When the tech rolls his cart up to your desk sometime on your second day, you might feel a surge of hope. This emotion will be dashed to pieces when he informs you that the Mac Pro he’s bringing you has 3 GB of RAM, almost one quarter of what you’re used to working with, and a bare minimum to run crucial work apps in any useable way. The stock 19-inch monitor he’ll bring you is the default given to any employee, and they are required to bring it to you regardless of whether your manager’s hardware request specified a 24-inch monitor. It will require intervention from a higher authority — your manager or perhaps a lesser demigod — to persuade the tech to fulfill the original monitor request. Meantime, he will dutifully hook up your computer to the 19-inch, boot up, and walk away with a vague promise to “look for” another monitor.

A moment later, when the login screen appears, you’ll no doubt realize he didn’t actually give you a login or password yet, so there’s no way to actually use your computer. Should you wish to remedy this, please open a Help Desk ticket. What’s that? You can’t use your computer? Try calling IT. What? No phone? Send IT an email. What? No computer? Why did we hire you if you can’t do the most menial tasks?

By the morning of your third day you might get some software installed on your computer so you can actually do work. You’d better bring a laptop for a while, so you can actually get some things done.

Don’t expect to have access to any local servers or have an email account for a while. We’ll give you a company email address when we’re good and ready, pal. It might take two and a half days, but when it finally works, it’s glorious. You get to use Microsoft Entourage!

Once you are finally able to use your computer, you can do many fancy things with it (but not email yet). You can browse the internet. You can browse the employee intranets. You can look with awe and wonder at thousands of internal documents that are years out of date and totally and completely inaccurate.

When you look yourself up in the online employee directory, the workstation number listed for you will be at least one digit off, so no one will be able to locate you. This is handy should you be in the Witness Protection Program, but not very helpful if you are waiting for someone to, for example, come fix your phone. It would be easy enough if the workstations were laid out and numbered in a logical numeric order, because then one could assume that workstation #1163 would be next to workstation #1162, but if you squint very intently at the miniscule text on the floor map on the wall in the most darkened corridor, you’ll notice that the numbers were apportioned by a patient in a mental hospital.

Trying to see if you can fix the workstation number yourself, you’ll notice that the intranet lets you log in with your name and password, but then welcomes you with the message “Hello (none) (none),” and half the pages complain you must be logged in to view them, even if it indicates you are already logged in.

Opening a help desk ticket for this will be an interesting intelligence test, as the help desk tool appears to have no way to actually create a ticket. You’ll puzzle over this for several minutes, reading and re-reading everything on the screen, before giving up and asking your manager what you’re missing, and hoping it’s not your sanity. They’ll log in to the help desk on their own computer, wondering if they made a terrible mistake hiring you, and you’ll see a menu on the left side that you’re certain did not appear on your own screen. Back at your desk, you’ll confirm that the necessary menu isn’t there, and that your sanity is indeed intact. Several minutes later it will dawn on you that the problem is a simple one that should have occurred to you: The help desk tool doesn’t work properly in Firefox.

Getting your computer to recognize one of the nearby printers is a mysterious black art that has been lost to the mists of time. Should you need to print something on paper, you might want to weigh the efficiency of drawing it in full color by hand versus the time you will spend figuring out the Mac’s printing dialogs and walking back and forth to various printers on your floor to see if anything is happening. It’s best to look at it as good physical exercise. To connect your computer to a printer, you are expected to know the difference between Line Printer Daemon, IP printing, IPP printing, Windows, AppleTalk, Bluetooth and Bonjour printing, plus you’re expected to know how to find the IP address of the printer you want to connect to, as well as various other obscure settings. If you actually are able to print a document you will be branded a witch and may be burned at the stake.

On the afternoon of your fourth day a new phone will be delivered to you. Following the instructions that were emailed to you earlier will allow you to activate the phone. Good thing you can finally access your email account.

By the end of the week, if you’re particularly industrious, you may have:

• Scrounged a chair from an empty desk somewhere else in the building.
• Played with the phone long enough to realize it’s pointless (wasting an hour or so).
• Poked through cabinets in dark conference rooms until you found a stray network cable, so you could actually plug your laptop in and get a little work started.
• Figured out how to log in to your finally-delievered desktop computer.
• Liberated a decent mouse from another empty desk.
• Downloaded Firefox and customized it with proper settings and a bare minimum of add-ons to get some professional work started.
• Set up your Photoshop workspace, keyboard shortcuts, and preferences twice (doing it the first time surely caused the computer gods to notice that you were likely to get some actual work done soon, so they sent your computer into a kernal panic that promptly wiped out half your customizations).
• Scrounged a desk lamp from someone who wasn’t using theirs anymore and said you could have it.
Downloaded and installed enough applications to remedially customize your computer enough to actually be productive.
• Spent some time trying to comprehend some of the absurdities of corporate logic.
• Completed about five hours of actual work.


• The coffee’s better than it used to be.
• Biking to and from work is the best part of the day.
• It was nice to see a few people again who I really like here.
• Learned the nice Security lady’s name is Lucia.

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Blogger Jenny said...

Wiggida-wha? Mark got a job? And redesigned his blog? Damn.

Marky, reading your rant made me feel so farmghetto. (My new word. Spread it around.) I still bring my own laptop to work every day, my desk came from a dump, and the bossman recently refused to get the farm manager and me our own phone line.

Sorry week one back at work was painful. Hope it gets better before you kill everybody.

Pretty soon it will have been a year since we saw each other (or maybe it already has...?) and that just doesn't sit right with me. I'm sure you're busy, but there's an awesome event at the farm next weekend and you guys should come.


2/14/2010 06:14:00 AM

Blogger Maintenance Man said...

If you are up and running within the week, I consider you lucky.

2/22/2010 10:04:00 PM

Anonymous Sandy said...

This is all too familiar. I hoped your rant was building up to The Answer to this problem. Alas, no.

2/23/2010 05:23:00 AM


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