Monday, October 5, 2015

Damn it I liked that Job.

It looks almost but not quite like work

This is the first regular work day since December where I have not made the trip to Annacis island.
My contract with Preflight has ended. It was no fault of my own, the simple truth was I could look down the aisles of the warehouse and see they were clean and empty of new orders. The work dried up.

Since it has been nine months of constant work a sudden day off is largely welcome.  I have been stretching my resources thin with the doing of many things.  It has been a busy summer and fall. In the last three weeks I have been camping twice and ran an obstacle coarse in Whistler.  The doing of the camping involved much running around to find the food things, or in more than one case running around to not find the food thing.  For the first trip a evening was spent making noodles for the camp meal.  All of this was good fun but it left me tired and my cat stressed and lonely.  That is why a day off is needed.  Now I have to make sure they do not become common. 

So back to the job I did not hate.   My life has shown that it is easy for me to hate a job.  When it was geology the hate grew from the being away from home, and I just cannot live a healthy life when I am sequestered in a work camp.  My later experiment with office work proved I simply do not have the patience to sit still at a desk all day.  So why did I like that warehouse.  Lots of good reasons.

In contrast to my time making maps where I struggled trying to match my output with a variable and poorly explained set of parameters, I had a crystal clear set of outcomes.  When my job was assembly, the outcome was clear, the parts go out of their boxes get screwed and wired in, if the machine fires up and no error codes come up I did my job right.  So I could be confident I was doing the right job by the simple fact that there was a simple binary, the thing I built worked, or it did not.  And sometimes it did not, but that was never a huge problem because I worked with good people. 

I worked with good people both in the sense that they were friendly, polite, and easy going, and in that they were good at there job.  The crew in that shop had been there a long time,  properly experts in field of photocopiers. Preflight's job was to make absolutely sure the machine on the order would work when it was delivered. This demand created an atmosphere that I enjoyed, it was more important to do the work correctly than to do it fast.  This is in sharp contrast to many places where haste has dominated the work flow.  This changed how errors were handled. 

Mistakes get made at jobs, doubly so as a temp where you have to learn new versions of jobs and new sites regularly.  At many places errors are met with chastisement, and the surprised anger that you did not know the thing that was obvious to the experienced crew.  There is a correlation with the supervisor being near the upper bounds of their abilities and wrangling a temp is an unwelcome stressor. At Preflight I was faced with a suite of technologies I could not be expected to know anything about, and working with experts. Work is better when your supervisor has time to teach.

I learned things.  Often my work was repetitive, in fact it was often so.  For many days at a time I would install the same common accessories on the same common models, but inside of this routine I still learned things.  Some things learned are useless beyond that office, I don't know when I will need to know how a colour copier works. I just don't, but learning about that dance of lasers on photo conductors, and brushes made of iron filings and electrostatic charge made things interesting. Other things learned, or refreshed have more direct value.  What I can take away is time spent learning the language of machines. 

 It was the first time mechanical things were the core of my work.  When I was first handed the 5.5mm hex driver I was intimidated.   I believed mechanical things were not my thing.  It was a slow start, initially painstakingly following the printed instructions, carefully checking all the things, and occasionally getting a little lost.   After literally hundreds of parts installs and many removals things became easy.  At some level it became rote learning, but not exclusively.  I learn things be because I get bored. I start to look at how things are connected, because what else am I going to do when turning a screw driver.  So I started to read how things were put together, learning what would move and stay put if I removed any given set of screws and wires.  Perhaps it should come as less of a surprise that I could learn to see mechanical things, it is not unlike geology. Geology demands that you practice the art of seeing below the surface, and seeing the third and fourth dimensions from the second.  

That the work was repetitive could have been held against it, and in some weeks it was too much, but it was also comfortable.  It varied comfortably with a theme, and that kept me confident and happy.  What also kept me happy was I was trusted.  I had a small collection of borrowed tools, a workspace for the tools, manuals and checklists.  By and large I was left alone, but I was not isolated, the shop was shared with the four full time techs, most of whom largely kept to themselves.  So I was trusted to read the orders, build things in the order that best met the deadlines.  The work I did worked, and on the odd occasions it did not, the worst that happened was I went back and fixed it.  

Ok I’m getting tired and bridging paragraphs together is too much work so I will end this soon. I have a take way from this.  One of the better incites into what makes me happy at work.  The short list. Work with a clear and obvious outcome, access to competent people in the same field, comfortably repetitive, but not fixed tasks, the chances to solve problems and to be trusted to do some of my own thinking.  I am good at repetitive tasks that require mindfulness. This ironic because I also bad at those things, but I know how I am bad at them and build my workflows around cancelling out my known errors.  My biggest frustration at the end of these 9 months was, I was only ever allowed to learn and do a narrow slice of things because I was a temp.  I wanted to learn more, damn it I was good at was I was doing.  


Ien in the Kootenays said...

Damn! Too bad it did not turn more permanent and with some prospects. Nine months is barely temp anymore. Well, at least within that exploitative context you are getting a golden reputation.

Alexander van Houten said...

I met a temp today, who was angry at the system in the right ways.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Treating people like disposable things is NOT a sustainable proposition in the long run, even for the exploiters. Unfortunately individuals get massively screwed while waiting for history to dispense justice. And then it often doesn't.