Sour Apples – Part V
I was growing increasingly miserable at my job. The project I was given turned out to be much harder than expected. The more I progressed, the more things seemed to move further out of reach. It was like unlocking one door and finding three new locked doors behind it. I still had no one to help me, and now my ability to research was limited as I figured my computer screen was probably being monitored.
One of the most difficult aspects of the project was the handling of data. One early problem was that the data I got on our end was incomplete. I’d asked our computer programmer to create a data file for me, and he did, but for some reason two or three cells of every line of data were cut off – missing information. I asked him to remake the file, and he did, but the same problem arose. The computer programmer guy was plenty busy with work of his own, and I didn’t really feel like asking again – even if he did remake the file it probably would have had the same error again. So I set out to fix the file myself – which involved looking for the translation file, finding the particular line of data, and then fixing the cells that got cut off. I had to do this one by one, and considering I had to handle hundreds of product information data lines…well, it was a time-consuming task to say the least.
There was also the issue that I’d never really worked with processing data like this before. It took me a little while just to understand how it worked on our end. And then I had to figure out how it worked on eBay’s end. I’d never done this type of thing before, and suddenly I had to familiarize myself with two different formats of doing it.
But the biggest problem was that our data format, and the data format eBay wanted, just didn’t match up. At all. Even when I finally did figure out how eBay’s system worked, it was going to take a lot of work by hand just to make our data into something I could upload into eBay’s systems.
As my supervisor was always continually barking to me about reporting to and consulting with her, I decided to do just that. I wrote down some visual examples, translated it in Japanese, and took it to her desk one day to describe the difficulties I was having. After I illustrated my problems, her response was “Hey, that’s easy!” …It was anything but easy. I tried to re-explain my dilemma, but again, her response was, “You know, our data team does this everyday, so it’s not some impossible task. Hang in there.” It’s only in hindsight that I realize the utter ridiculousness of that reply. Our data team – team – implying more than one person, did this job everyday. As the data team, that was their job – they’d been trained to do it, and that was the primary thing they did. This was merely only one aspect of many that I had to do single-handedly. And that’s only for this project, let’s not forget that I couldn’t abandon some of my other English division duties lest I be seen as dumping my work off on my subordinates.
Curly sat next to me, and could see for himself the volume of work I had. It frustrated him that neither the president nor the supervisor could understand. Having some proficiency in coding, he created a few Excel functions which helped to automate and reduce some of the work I had to do. That was definitely a big help, but even with that there was still much to be done that just couldn’t be automated. Once, a group of new hires to the company were going around and observing everyone’s post, seeing what they were doing. When they came to my desk, I showed them one aspect of the project – cleaning up our data before I could process it. They all pretty much agreed that it seemed like a massive volume of work and wished me good luck. After they moved on, Curly and I both noted the significance of the brand new hires acknowledging that I had a whole lot of work to do, yet my bosses could not. And this was only one small aspect of the project!
Meanwhile, my supervisor continued to bulldog me whatever chance she got. If no chances were readily available, she went looking for them. During the weekly meeting I had to give reports about the status of the project. I’d say what I was working on and how much more had to be done. It was enough to satisfy the president’s curiousity, but from here without fail, the supervisor would start digging. She’d start asking me questions about various aspects of the projects, and continue to ask questions until she could find something she could criticize me about. If she asked me 10 questions, and I answered 9 of them in perfect detail, but didn’t know the answer to 1 of them, she immediately jumped down my throat. “Why don’t you know the answer to this? What are you doing? You need to work harder.” I’d love to say that I was over exaggerating her attempts to bulldog me, but if anything I’m afraid its being understated. At least once the president had to tell her “enough already” as she continued to try and find ways to come down on me. Other people who witnessed it would also ask me in private if I’d done something to piss her off on an extremely personal level.
After a while, I finally reached a point where I could get the project off the ground. I’d made some basic pages in HTML, and emailed the president, the supervisor, and all relevant parties about them and asked for advice and input. None ever came. Feeling continually pressured to show progress, when I came to the point where I could get the thing running I reported that it was possible. The president finally seemed pleased, so I launched the project. I knew it was far from perfect, but if I could at least get the damn thing running, maybe it would get some of the monkeys off my back and I could focus on improvement as I went along.
However, only a few days after the project had started, another meeting was held. The point of the meeting was basically to show me how I’d fucked the whole thing up. The quality of the HTML pages was far from adequate, I’d forgotten to include a lot of important information, I’d broken a few policy rules that I had no idea even existed, and a lot of other things I’ve long since forgotten. Although the meeting was basically a “This is what you did wrong” exhibition, most people there, including the president, were sympathetic, realizing that I’d never done this before and didn’t have any training or help. Except for, of course, the supervisor, who I figure must have wet her panties over so many opportunities to derail me, which she did so almost gleefully. After the meeting, I was now able to go to the computer programmer guy and the web design guy and the data team and ask for help, and actually get it. So that made my life easier, although I couldn’t help but to wonder why it took a “this is what you did wrong” meeting to get to this point. Especially since that wasn’t the first time they’d seen what I had been working on – I expect it wasn’t, unless they were just flat-out ignoring my emails.
Now with help, I was able to re-launch the project successfully – somewhat. It still wasn’t perfect, but it was at satisfactory operational levels. And there were still many, many things to be fixed, added, and improved on, but at least it was up and running. However, getting the project running would not signal the end of my problems at work. The worst was still yet to come.