Native Tongue

One day not so long ago and not so long after I bought both my two new computers I had a problem, not a small problem either. Indeed no, it wasn’t a tiny problem that I could simply reboot and solve, were that it I would have done so. This was an ugly and profound problem, a problem none of us wants to see and especially with a brand spanking new and very expensive computer.

What the hell!

I had built this lovely from the ground up. Extra everything, it was turbo charged, built for speed.

What the hell!

I had also paid a pretty penny to have all my software loaded, the latest and greatest from Bill Gates, not just the basics but also all those business applications I need for my work. Things most people don’t need and perhaps hadn’t even heard of, pre-loaded and send me the CD’s just in case.

What the hell!

There I was though on a Friday morning, in a panic. I wasn’t sweating bullets yet; all my work was backed up. I hadn’t lost my work. Nevertheless, there I am on hold, waiting for Customer Service to come on the line to tell me what I need to do to recover my brand spanking new computer.

Did I mention I had dual hard drives? Oh, well I had dual hard drives yet still there I was, with;

What the hell!

Finally, Prem came on the line. He was very helpful he told me I had two hard drives and could I please boot my system so he could remotely log on.

Really? I explained I was unable to do so but would be happy to try if he would explain to me how I could do this.

Prem got very frustrated at my stupidity. Clearly the failed hard drive was my fault.

I asked to speak to his supervisor. Prem hung up on me instead.

What the hell?

I called back, when I finally got another customer service person on the line I explained the problem and asked to speak to a supervisor. This person was reluctant to pass me to a supervisor, but after a five-minute conversation did so.

Fasid, was very polite and explained to me he could not find Prem’s notes thus could not find any record of my previous conversation. I would have to start from the beginning, would I mind very much if he took control of my computer to discover the problem?

“No of course not, except my main Hard Drive has failed and I cannot boot up. The hard drive needs to be replaced. The computer is under warranty and I want you to send out the part with a technician to fix it. That is what I pay for.”

Fasid explained to me that he wasn’t authorized to do that, but he would send the request to another group who would call me back when they were in the office in two hours.

So I waited. What the Hell!

David Chen called me back late that afternoon; he was from the ‘Customer Care’ department. He wanted to know why I had lodged a complaint. Really?

  1. I have a business account with your company
  2. I bought two computers from you less than 6 weeks ago for a total of $4,900 including hardware, software and warranty
  3. One of those computers has failed, it is my primary computer for work
  4. I spent the better part of 4 hours on the phone this morning with people who would not resolve the problem, who hung up on me, who were not authorized to fix the problem or who did not speak the language well enough to understand the problem
  5. I have waited more than 6 hours for someone to call me back, meanwhile my computer still does not work

David was very conciliatory. Well I guess he had to be he was in customer care. He confirmed my hard drive had failed and he ordered the part and the service. Initially he tried to tell me this would take at least a week, but I reminded him I had paid the extra warranty. I also reminded him I lived less than 15 miles from one of their plants, I could walk there faster than he was proposing to have the part. He also proposed I could replace the hard drive myself, again I read the warranty to him. Not only would he send the technician to replace the part, they were responsible for making certain my hard drive was operational.

Then we talked about my unhappiness with the customer service experience. I obviously was unhappy with that morning. I was especially unhappy with Prem, who had hung up on me. Prem had another problem though, he could not speak English very well and he spoke very softly. I was continually asking him to repeat himself so I could understand what he was saying. I get it, organizations have outsourced and off-shored their tech support. There is no turning back from this and all the complaints in the world are not going to change this trend, it is here to stay. But can we at least set the standard, please. Can we at least say if you are servicing English speakers you must have conversational English, servicing French speakers you must have conversational French, and so on. Is this too much to ask?

Apparently, this particular computer company has found another source of revenue based on the complaints and feedback on this issue. David suggested I sign up for the added benefit of Native Tongue Customer Service at the low cost of $35 per year.

What the Hell !

Slide to Perdition Part 2

It didn’t use to be this way. I stand by this statement, this view of the world as I continue down my exploration of our Slide to Perdition or the Red Hat Series.

I am an independent consultant and I work out of my home much of the time, this means I have an office in my home. My office has two desks so I can work effectively on either my laptop or at my desktop computers. I have bookshelves full of books focused on what I do for a living. My office is a true working office, this is where the phone system for the house is hardwired and where the internet is hardwired, my server is here along with other backup. My office is the hub, if something goes wrong in my office we are in deep doodoo.

I love my office, I picked this space because it is in the front of the house and I have a big picture window. I can see when UPS drives up and when the neighbor’s dogs are running the streets (again). I can watch the Magnolia tree up the street bloom, it is beautiful and the teenager next door make-out with her boyfriend. All this being said, it is still my office. I spend a significant portion of my time in this one single room of the house when I am not with clients at their offices. This means my office must function, telephones and cable must work all the time and for this, I pay a very pretty penny.

Now, I don’t know about where you live but where I live there isn’t a competitive market for phone and internet services. Sure, you can get your television on Satellite or Dish, and there are a few different ways to get internet services each less reliable than the next. There are also several ways to buy land line services, but if you spend any amount of time on international calls, again these services become less reliable and more costly (always read the fine print).

When we moved to the Dallas area, we hunted for the best service group we could find at the best price. We had purchased a brand spanking new house so could add connections where we wanted and needed them. We settled

All the stuff you need?

on a bundled package from the only game in town, shocking I know but at the end of the day, they were the best price and the only one who provided all the services we needed. Only one problem, they failed to do the job they were paid for properly…..did you see that coming. Of, course you did.

Fast forward, three years after the original cable was laid I called them to mark the cable so we could add a walkway without cutting the cable. They marked it, no they didn’t. Their mark was 7 inches off and we found out they hadn’t buried the cable deep enough. Needless to say, my contractor cut the cable and I was suddenly without Internet or a landline. I called the cable company, here is the conversation:

Me: My cable has been cut and I don’t have service, when can you be out to fix it?

Cable Representative: Next week, our next appointment is Tuesday between noon and 6pm

Me: That is 6 days from now; I cannot be without Internet or phone service for 6 days. I run a business from my home and this will shut me down.

Cable Representative: We don’t show this as a business account. This is a residential account. There is nothing else we can do.

Caustic and Mean
With a Script

Me: Are you kidding me? If this were a business account when would you be out here?

Cable Representative: Tomorrow

Me: And how much more would it cost me to convert my account to a business account?

Cable Representative: $78 per month + taxes

Me: So, despite that it is your fault the cable was cut the only way I get service from your company is to pay $78 + taxes per month extra. If I convert today, will you be out tomorrow?

Cable Representative: Yes

Me: Fine, convert the account to a business account, immediately.

I take full advantage of my status as a business account holder. That day though, that next day when they came out to lay new cable I had my contractor there to watch them. He made certain they buried it to the correct 6 inch depth rather than what they had done before which was barely under the surface. He made certain they stayed right there while we tested every connection in the house, wouldn’t sign off the work order until we did.

The fascinating and twisted part of this entire situation was the complete lack of concern shown by this company for their customer. There are a few reasons there was no services to the house, they are:

  1. Their contractor had originally not buried the cable to the required 6 inch depth.
  2. Their contractor had not correctly identified the location of the cable.
  3. Frankly, they contract these services and do not hold their contractors to any standard.

I stand by my view of us as a nation. We are meaner and so driven by the bottom line we fail to value people. What if I had been a housebound person,

Where in Hades is the Fire Extinguisher?

someone with a health condition whose only access to the outside world was television, internet and the phone; I would have no access for 6 days because this company did not see me as important of valuable?

Is this what we are coming to; is this who we are? Worse, is this truly who we want to be?

Career Trajectory at Fifty-Five

Let’s talk about some of old adages we use to accept as truth, but not so much any longer.

  Age before beauty
  Practice makes perfect
  Experience is the mother of wisdom

What has changed you ask? Better, what exactly am I referring to when I say these are no longer truths within our culture?

These I think are more apropos for today:

  Hype and arrogance trumps experience
  Blame the other guy or circumstances beyond your control for your failure
  Two in the bush for half as much makes perfect cents

Why do I think this, it is a fair question. Honestly, this is about career progression and how those of us who have not been fortunate in our bonus checks, must navigate the ever-increasing rough waters we find ourselves in as we age up and out of our career relevancy.

My career and educational path was not a straight line, by the time that sheepskin was in my hand, the shine was slightly tarnished and I had a few years of work behind me. What that first degree gave me was the burnish I needed to move up the ladder, be taken more seriously and yes, be paid a little more for the work I was already doing.

As a woman in the world of business, you may move up, usually more slowly than men; this will depend on your willingness to throw others under the bus in your climb to the top, including your friends and family. My rise

The difference truly men are willing to go to great lengths

through the managerial ranks was impeded only by lack of corporate / political sophistication; encumbered by my failure to identify my enemies and my belief that ethics and quality outweighed arrogance and a penis. It didn’t, not even once.

In my thirties I was handed a gift, a career opportunity that would change my trajectory and open doors that might not have opened otherwise. I walked through those doors; I also walked through University doors once again and pursued a Masters to polish my credentials, one more time. This gift didn’t come without sacrifice, including playing in an entirely new sandbox with much different, bigger and more aggressive dogs. There were pros and cons to this career gift such as:

PROS

  • Challenging work
  • Fascinating, always new experiences
  • Travel, national and international
  • Education, lots of it
  • Decent income and decent opportunity for women, myself included, initially

CONS

  • Long hours, 70 hour weeks were the norm
  • Long weeks away from home, it wasn’t unknown to be away two to three weeks at a time
  • Dog-eat-dog mentality within the industry
  • Ten years ago the industry was outsourced badly

Career Relevance and Age

I don’t think of myself as old, irrelevant or outdated. Truth be told, I think of myself as damned near in my prime. I am experienced, knowledgeable and unencumbered by many of the outside influences others might still have. I no longer want to move up the career ladder, been there done that and found I didn’t all that much enjoy some of the jobs I landed in. Now I know the jobs I enjoy and am happy when I am doing them. I love challenging work and love to produce quality results, whether for an employer or a client.

I have worked as both an employee of consulting firms and as an Independent Consultant. There are clearly pros and cons of both. The problem with independence is the market is no longer geared toward individuals and their

How it feels, stop and all

capabilities or past references. In fact it is rare to find an opportunity that isn’t through one or many off-shore farms that advertise on the boards, set the rates (low) and nine times out of ten will rarely talk to you if you are (1) a woman; (2) American.

Does the above statement sound bitter? It is not bitter; it is simply the truth of what has happened in our market today.

What is happening?

I did not think at fifty-five my future would be no-future or at least as frightening as it is. I didn’t think that all my work my 70 hour weeks, my time away from hearth and home, my investment in certifications and additional

degrees would result in nothing. Just a career that came to a screeching halt in my prime. What I thought was I would do my consulting time, I would learn my craft and prove myself (I did this in some of the most difficult

environments there are) and then I would go to work for the last fifteen or twenty years of my career in some capacity as a full-time employee. I would earn a decent living, with benefits no less. I would mentor younger members of an enthusiastic team. I would write books about my experiences. I would be a visiting lecturer at local universities about quality, ethics in business and values, how to do things right.

What I didn’t realize is at fifty-five I am old and perhaps the best I can hope for is Wal-Mart Greeter.

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