Career Stories: Horror or otherwise -- add your own!
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03-12-2011, 09:42 AM
Career Stories: Horror or otherwise -- add your own!
Thinking about my recent posts on career decisions, I remembered the horror file I compiled, many decades ago, about my work-related experiences.

I think it could be instructional to young members (still in school, still trying to decide on a career) if a few of us painted a realistic picture about the scene out there, waiting for them.

I will start with one of my own and, hopefully, we will end up with a good collection here.

R&D in Canada

I am hired by the Canadian Subsidiary of a big US computer manufacturer. It is an R&D job, almost unheard of in Canada.

I can hardly wait to start. I am the first of a group of 5 or 6 developers. While waiting for the others to arrive, I study the computers, Operating System, environment.

My first assignment is to develop a test program (in Assembler language) for a newly developed computer. I have to test my program on an untested piece of hardware - a very exciting challenge. I am also told it is extremely urgent. So I put in eighty-hour weeks and spend the next three weekends working on it. No overtime, of course: we are professionals.

Finally I am done - and done for. I hand it over to my boss, then sleep forty-eight hours. A week later I venture into his office and find my package - which was supposed to have been rushed to the client the second I finished - sitting on his desk, untouched. I cannot speak; I point with a shaking finger.

When he catches my meaning, he says: "The client cancelled the contract."


"Oh, about two weeks ago." He forgot to tell me.

The group is together at last; now we can start our real work, communication research. We have our assignments, our machine-time schedule: we are ready to roll. On the third day, while we are trying out some techniques, a salesman rushes in, mutters something about an emergency and pulls a card from the computer. Later, my boss explains that salesmen have priority over R&D. They bring in the bucks; therefore, anything they need, they get. R&D is the lowest priority. Actually, R&D is a luxury we can hardly afford.

I am a luxury item.

The project turns into a farce. We are down half the time, waiting for the computer, waiting for funding, waiting for spring. Finally, they put us out of our misery. Head Office has decided that an R&D group in Canada is redundant. We are given a few weeks to find another job.

PS. If someone is tempted to think that this is an isolated example -- I have about two dozen more in my horror file to entertain you with. When you are an independent consultant, you move around a lot, see a lot. This one I chose was among the least insane in the file. Big Grin
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03-12-2011, 09:45 AM
RE: Career Horror Stories -- add your own!
My horror story lasted 15 years: I was an ordained minister. <shudder>

But thank you for starting this thread, Zat. It's not just the youngsters in school. Some of us older dudes are starting over and trying to figure out what to do when we grow up, just like when I was coming out of college, only with a whole lot less idealism and enthusiasm.

It was just a fucking apple man, we're sorry okay? Please stop the madness Laugh out load
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03-12-2011, 10:35 AM
RE: Career Horror Stories -- add your own!
I'll share one from the archives. I call it "The Cost of Education".

From a very young age I had decided that I'd like to live in the country. Exactly what I would do there was an ever evolving thing as I grew up and became a little more realistic, but the core dream of escaping the city was always there. I've always worked at hard jobs, mostly labor, with the goal of saving enough money for my paradise in the country. For a long time, the idea was to buy some land and board horses, train horses, and enjoy my weekends frolicking in the woods on day long trail rides. Seeing as how I've always learned best through experience, when the chance to drop everything, move onto a boarding ranch, and learn how to take care of horses arose, I did just that. I quit my job as a roofer, packed up my few belongings and moved into a small ranch house located less than 100 feet from the stable. It was bliss. I would spend every day with these beautiful beasts. I would ride everywhere. I would eat my meals, and visit my friends on horseback. Oh joy.

Then came reality. My day always started about an hour before sun up (which means 4 am in mid summer). I would head out to the barn and feed the horses their morning rations. These were horses owned by doting city folk, so they all had different "diets", so preparing these meals that were absolutely unnessecary was a long, painful process. While the horses ate their oats, treats, and various vitamin suppliments, I went into the paddocks and put out the daily hay. 45 horses eat a whole lotta hay, so this was not a terribly fun task either, since the owners felt that their horse was ALWAYS the one that got driven away from the pile by all those other mean horses. Therefore, the hay had to be carefully spread into little piles throughout each paddock to keep the horses from "fighting." Back into the barn to let all the horses out (one by one mind you, no fighting allowed) into the paddocks. By this time the horses were wide awake, and ready to run off all the excess energy those morning oats gave them. They were nuts. Every morning at turnout time, I felt like a daredevil in an old west movie, dodging a one horse stampede, 45 times over. And of course, being the ranch hand, it was also my job to teach these spoiled horses "barn manners" which was no easy task, since they were hopped up on oats like a 6 year old on halloween night.

After all this was accomplished, my main job began. 6 hours of shoveling shit. Every last turd was to be evacuated, lest the city slickers come in and see a dime sized piece of shit in their horses stall. In the event that they did, the inevitable question was posed, "well what if my horse lays down in that turd? Then I'll have to groom him all over again!" The fact that the first thing a horse does when it enters it's stall in the evening is drop the 10 pounds of shit it's been saving up for the last 8 hours always seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Once the barn was clean, it was back outside to do miscellanious chores. I had to do these, lest I would not eat. You see, turning the horses out and cleaning the barn was what paid for my accomidations. The little ranch house. That's it. No groceries, save the dozen eggs we got every week (to be shared between me and the other worker), no gas for the car (which wasn't that big of a deal, since I could only afford to insure it every second month anyways) and DEFINITELY no social life. So I mended fences, cut down fallen trees, excercised horses, cleaned neighboring ranches barns......whatever it took to make some cash.

The ranch was located directly adjacent to a beautiful provincial park. I could ride down the driveway, and there I was on miles and miles of horse trails through beautiful woods. During the 13 months I worked there, I went trail riding maybe a dozen times. The last thing I wanted to do was see a horse at the end of the day, let alone get on one. Especially since the owners rarely rode more than once a week, yet insisted that their horse be fed like it was working 15 hours a day. Poorly trained and overly energetic, these horses were not the leisurely ride through the woods one would want at the end of a back breaking day at work.

Once I had "earned my wings", the owner started giving me even more responsibility. Assisting the vet, de-worming, helping to float teeth, holding for the farrier, and on a couple occasions, euthanizing sick animals (colic was common since the horses were basically fed a diet of candy, which wreaked havock with their digestive systems). All this, and little to no extra pay.

I learned how to care for horses. I learned how to NOT care for horses. I learned to ride. I learned to train (somewhat). I learned how to run a ranch. It was a hard earned education. But the most important thing I learned was that these graceful, kind beautiful animals were actually clumsy, ornery, filthy and stupid. I learned that I did NOT want to run a boarding stable, nor did I even want to keep a horse or two for myself. I learned they are expensive to keep, and that owners who didn't actually care for their animals are stupid and potentially dangerous.

Now that's one hard won education!

Now in the end, It was also one of the best times of my life. It's always been the way I learn, and it's what shaped me into what I am today. I cherish my time at the ranch, and will always look back without regret. But let me tell ya, it's definitely not the easiest trail to ride through life!

So many cats, so few good recipes.
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03-12-2011, 11:34 AM
RE: Career Horror Stories -- add your own!
My one was just bad timing…
That snowballed into a nightmare…
You could say it was an interesting time…
And it’s still a little raw.

Worked in a little workshop for five years, good place to work with an easy going boss and no stress.
But I wanted to do something different after 15+ years of overalls and boots.
Job came up with a guy I did the odd weekend stint with selling motorbike gear.
I was going to be selling bikes!
Big Italian bikes and all the gear!
More money too!
As a bonus I would be working with my wife, we had worked together in the past and can pull it off without the usual dramas.

More money = buying a house.
Dropped every cent we had as a deposit and took the plunge.
Our own home!

One week to the day after moving in the bike shop folded as the creditors panicked as the economic crises hit.
Both now unemployed, zero income and all our savings in our new house.
Our social security wouldn’t/couldn’t/didn’t help us.
I’d love to say why but they where vague about the reasons…

Jax found work quite fast, it took me a month of 12 hour days to land a badly paid bloody awful job in a local workshop.
Handed down from father to son and family run, with generation No3 on the floor.
With a staff of about six on our department floor we had the owner, his son and the owners’ sister with a foreman.
Four people giving orders to six and threatening anyone with the sack if you didn’t follow the often contradicting orders.
The only times you saw the staff smile is when they left.

It got worse, a lot worse, before it got better…

It took me way too long to land the position I have now, money is what I was on four years ago but I’m happy and have no desire to look any further.

We managed to keep the house, just.
Lucky too, it would have been start again from scratch attempt #4 if we had lost it!

“May you live in interesting times” Old Chinese curse

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. Friedrich Nietzsche
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03-12-2011, 11:50 AM
RE: Career Stories: Horror or otherwise -- add your own!
Heads up: I just changed the title, slightly, to invite all kinds of stories (not just horror stories) to give a balanced and realistic cross section about the life "out there" to our young members, still in school, trying to decide on a career.

I hope we hear a lot more of them, good and bad. Big Grin
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03-12-2011, 11:54 AM (This post was last modified: 03-12-2011 12:02 PM by houseofcantor.)
RE: Career Horror Stories -- add your own!
My career is naive philosophy. That's like a horror story in five words, ain't it? Big Grin

I pretty much had one regular employment in 43 years of life, that was the five years between 3 and 8 where the official designation was general laborer; lifetime accomplishment, day laborer. A paragon, I am. Big Grin

That ain't the horror story. For the most part, I was an assistant general contractor for four years. We did tenant improvements in commercial office space. If you don't understand this jargon, think of it this way: the difference between an office tower and a parking garage is a crew like ours. Wink

Anywhoo, we're doing an office space for a lawyer (yeah, prepare for nightmare) where the blueprints call for a pair of glass doors 8'4" tall for the entrance, and a decorative soffet to distend 16" from the ceiling; meaning that when you looked up upon entering, there would appear to be a hemispherical raised ceiling in the foyer. It's an entryway enhancement; you know how image is everything with some peeps...

This kind of operation is framing/ drywall/ suspended ceiling/ doors and about a month for a five k square footer like this. So it's like day two when me and the drywall foreman are looking at the prints, looking at the outline for the framing of the soffet in the ceiling; and we go, WTF? Because the prints are wrong. Because the prints are always wrong about something.

A set of blueprints, know how much that costs? I don't know, I don't wanna know... there's an architect, an electrical engineer, a plumbing engineer, an HVAC engineer; each needing to make and sign off on their own page, where there is zero tolerance for getting their shit wrong, all of which is dependent upon the architect who designs the overall office space.

Now, one might think an architect; a career professional, might be a guy who designs "office" to fit "space;" I mean, ya gotta have a degree for this shit, right? Well, "one might think;" the reality is always might... what is inevitable, like 85% of the time, without fail, is the architect sends out the office stooge to the building engineer of the office tower to get a copy of the original layout of the space in question. Which is to say, a fifteen year old proposal of the original cookie-cutter "spec suite" built by the owners just so their office tower doesn't look like a parking garage to the first tenants...

Yeah, if you're able to follow along with the jargon, you should be on the verge of predicting critical mass of horror story. Smile

We'll return to that. Our problem on day two was two inches; doors were two inches too tall, soffet was two inches too low, either/or. What you don't fuck with is custom ordered 8'4" doors, because to look at them twice is to see fifteen grand disappear. Obviously, 14" inch soffet. I tell Chels, Chels tells the lawyer, the lawyer tells the architect - see this chain reaction? - and we wait, because the architect has to sign off on the change order, and our order of operations begins with drywall and goes exactly nowhere until drywall is up. So the painters wait. The carpet guys wait, ceiling tile crew, hvac unit - there's five crews, got this kind of regular job based on scheduling projects and availability to keep regular crews working regular hours and thus maintain the facade that there is order in the universe.

No. There is the superintendent shuffle - every crew has a superintendent and a foreman - where the super runs the scheduling and the foreman runs the actual work - foreman don't care, he's getting paid by the hour - the super is going into stress overload. So they keep calling Chels, who keeps telling the lawyer... a week and a half goes by, Ches gets a call from the architect. Move the soffet.

And Chels goes, "Move? The? Soffet?" Because out of yes/no kind of choice, the architect just spent a week and half to decide, orange juice. It takes half the day, back and forth, to realize the architect is assuming that we're talking about the soffet over the reception area; that the right hand door will be prevented from a full swing. No, Chels tells him, we're talking about a no-swing kind of option; we need to rise the soffet two inches.

Impossible, goes the architect, I measured those doors myself. I'm on the other line. I need to check the prints. I'll call you...

Three weeks after day two, me and Chels are watching the lawyer give the architect a guided tour and the visual clue to the mystery. Because, of course, the architect never actually visited the physical site; but because he's an elite, and the lawyer's an elite, and the rest of us are blue collar wanks, no error was actually committed by the architect, and the lawyer only counts truth in billable hours...

Remember how I guesstimated 85% likelihood of non-direct architect intervention? Deviation from blueprint to reality is usually a two-day traffic jam spread out over the length of the project, a month or two; the cost of doing business. But me and Chels were running five to fifteen of these projects at at time. So if I'm guesstimating a thousand or so man-hours of lost productivity per week at a minimum solely because of class and status of architect, what I am actually telling you is a story of a world I never wanted any part of.

A world that values money, because money has no value. I was making eight bucks an hour to witness eight hundred bucks a hour evaporate due to the self-importance of the elite. Because I worked construction in commercial office space, i witnessed the same thing happen over and over. Doesn't matter if it is AIG (which you probably heard of) or K&I (which you'll probably never hear of again) they're all run by self-important businessmen...

So, yeah; naive philosopher. Damn proud of it. Wink

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03-12-2011, 12:46 PM
RE: Career Stories: Horror or otherwise -- add your own!

That was a great story! Man, you can write.

I love the part about "the two day traffic jam". I worked road construction as an operator (read-boss) for most of my adult life, and we used to always say, "when the engineers get involved it's like a one lane highway with two way traffic!"

Great story about the real world man!

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03-12-2011, 01:03 PM
RE: Career Stories: Horror or otherwise -- add your own!
Happy-ending relief on the way!

I blew off my gr 13 History final - for no good reason, except teen perversity - and having been tossed out of Trig earlier in the year, was two credits short of a diploma. Higher education was not an option at this time. Went looking for work, along with a couple of friends. Filled out application at Bell, did the hour-long IQ test in 20 minutes, and was told that disqualified me right off the bat: "They won't take a chance on training somebody who'll probably go back to school in the fall." Dropped forms at a shirt factory, a carpet installer and a landscaping firm; was called to only one interview, along with four other applicants, all better qualified than i.

Went to Canada Manpower, did their questionnaire (You get so familiar, you can fill out these things on the way down from a three-day party.) Told the nice lady that i'd like to work outdoors or with animals. She said there was an opening in the research department of a downtown hospital, looking after rodents... but that i had the brains to try for something better, like the junior tech position in Histology. I said, sure; she sent me right over for interviews.

Got a subway transfer and stopped off at Eaton's book department to look up histology in a dictionary. The study of organic tissues - sounds cool! The mouse-boy job was not for me (of-bloody-course! How could you not have guessed?) but my interview with the chief pathologist went well. I started the next Monday on the best job i had never imagined. Doing good, valuable, interesting work; learning a range of skills; being part of the health-care team in a convivial environment; not too shabby pay, and decent enough social status.
I had to take night courses, though, to make up the high school credits and then a bunch more to qualify for certification. Worth every mind-pounding hour!

That was my first career. It lasted 15 years and branched into a couple of unexpected sidelines, leaving no regrets.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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03-12-2011, 01:11 PM
RE: Career Stories: Horror or otherwise -- add your own!

This story begins in October, when an agent calls me at IBM. "Francis, how would you like to work on a big OS/2 project?"

"I'm interested,"

"It's in Winnipeg..."

"I just lost interest."

"They pay a lot."

"I'm interested again."

The Los Angeles Fire Department wants to upgrade the computer system used in their emergency 911 operation. It is a project of major social impact, affecting fifteen million people, some of whom could die as a result of even the smallest mistake by the designers and builders. It is also huge. Fifty-five developers, plus managers, project and team leaders, is a considerable team in this era of down-sizing.

The main contractor is a company, based in Los Angeles. Their Winnipeg branch is to develop part of the system; that's where they need me. Of course, the project is in trouble: there isn't much connection between salesmanship and technical skill, between the ability to promise and the ability to deliver. Over the last five years, project managers have come and gone and the entire budget has been spent, with little to show the increasingly frustrated client.

This time, they believe they have the right man, and he is putting together the right team, recruiting experts from all over North America. The money is staggering. My agent collects $110 per hour of my time (Had I known this, I might not have settled for a measly $70) on top of which they offer air-fare home every three weeks, medium-quality hotel accommodation and $25 a day food allowance - in writing, at my insistence.

Winnipeg is all right. My wife's brother lives on a farm near it. A clean, friendly city, and one can find rural places at reasonable rent. This is important, with three dogs and two cats. True, it's cold in winter; the snow gets pretty deep; the roads get pretty bad... I buy a truck equal to such conditions.

Three days before I am to leave, I get a phone call. The Winnipeg team is fully staffed - how would I like to work in LA instead? I ask if I have a choice. "None whatever," he says cheerfully.

Vera doesn't actually choke at the news, but it's a near thing. We hate cities. We particularly hate big cities. Big, ugly, polluted, violent cities are right off our Richter scale of hate. But I have already quit IBM, so we try to look on the bright side.

"We'll make a lot of money," I venture.

She says, "You'll work on an interesting project."

"It will be warm and sunny all winter,"

"It'll be an adventure..."

"Everybody will turn green with envy."

We burst out laughing. What people think is our last consideration.

On Monday, I fly to LA for orientation.

To cut a very long story short: it didn't work out. Sad
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03-12-2011, 01:37 PM
RE: Career Stories: Horror or otherwise -- add your own!
I'll keep it short because I don't like going into detail.

I was fired by my uncle for not wanting to go to work on my days off. How messed up is that?
"Why aren't you dressed yet?"
"It's my day off. Why would I be going to work?" Then he walks out without saying anything. How the fuck does that make sense?

Twice the anger, Half the space!
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