I was all about changes in the last two years. About the only thing in my life that could have changed but didn't, was my job. I didn't really have a reason to change jobs. I mean, they actually gave me money to write programs (something I did on my own for fun before that job), and they were very accomodating when I transitioned. About the only thing that I didn't like was that I would have to do after hours support. This meant I was given a cell phone and had to answer any phone call between the hours of 5:00pm and 8:30 the next morning. They promised me it was only temporary so, confident that my days on support were numbered, I dutifully carried out my responsibilities. Apart from solving computer issues, I soon found that I was also in store for:
- Getting woken up at 1:00 am
- Getting woken up at 5:00 am
- Getting woken up at 7:00 am
- Pretty much getting woken up whenever I went to sleep.
- Having to stay near a computer even on my "days off" in case I had a call that required me to remote into a client's machine.
- Talking to irate customers.
- Constantly explaining how to type the percent sign (%). A percent sign appears in some of the default passwords we give customers. Trust me, a lot of people cannot figure out how to type it in.
- Taking calls while freshly out of the shower, still naked and dripping. (See previous post)
- Support calls taking priority over my own life in my free time.
"...press Shift 5," Sarah says and she hears a bunch of key-clacking sounds, "I hear a lot of typing, what are you doing?"
In an irritated and impatient tone the customer says, "I am typing out 'shift five'! But I can't find the 'v'."
I kept telling myself this would eventually end, but three years later I found that I was still on support. It seemed that people would always quit as soon as we had some new guys trained up. This meant we actually never had enough people on to take me off. I'd comfort myself by thinking that at least I was still getting paid to program!
In recent months, again due to staff turnover, I ended up getting more and more phone calls during my actual shift. I started to get frustrated when I had projects to finish, but I'd spend my days saying, "no... don't type the words 'percent sign', type the actual percent sign symbol!" Stress was starting to build up, but I managed to hang on for a while until a few months ago when everything started taking a turn for the worse.
I would find that when I was getting woken up from a deep sleep that I'd get startled so much that my heart would race. Adrenaline would give it a good kick start, but anger and frustration were what really fueled it. Even hours after I had hung up the phone I'd find that I was laying in bed with my heart beating so fast I couldn't sleep. I went to work and said I couldn't do support anymore. I was told that taking programmers off the phones was something that was in the works... but I had been hearing that for years so it was little consolation.
It wasn't long before a support call didn't need to startle me out of a deep sleep for my heart to pound. Any call at any time of the day would get me so mad I wanted to smash things, (and trust me, feeling like that is no small feat when you have medication that takes away all your testosterone). It took a huge effort to get calmed down, and just as often as not as soon as I did calm down the damn phone would start ringing all over again. I went to work and said I couldn't do support anymore. I was reminded that pretty soon I wouldn't have to, maybe.
One day in the beginning of October I decided enough was enough and I was going to go in to work and state in no uncertain terms that I could NOT do support anymore. I felt that this time I was listened to... but not nearly as much as I wanted. I was taken off half of my support shifts, but unfortunately the only promise I got was that maybe by January 31st I'd be off support entirely. I walked away thinking that was still 2½ months away, and it wasn't even a promise! I had nothing to look forward to, and my thoughts drifted towards new employment opportunities.
Halfway through October my boss asked when I could have a project done. I said it could be done in two weeks - if I had no support calls during my shift. To my surprise I was told I'd have an uninterrupted two weeks beginning November 1st to work on my project. When the day arrived I was told I had to do three different things first. These jobs took me 3 days, but there was a weekend in there too, so I started to work on the project on the 6th. I figured that the other jobs were no fault of mine and since I had no choice in doing them I'd have two weeks beginning the 6th. About halfway through the day I was asked, "Are you still going to be done by the 9th?" Well, I was upset. Not only did I not get my deadline pushed back, but they didn't even give me the full two weeks!! Nov 1 to Nov 9 does not equal two weeks! I said that I would work on Remembrance Day and that I'd work on the weekend in order to get it done. All I could think about though was that the only reason I am in this bind is because support calls during my programming time were too much of an interruption.
On Friday the 10th I woke up and got ready for work - even though it was supposed to be a holiday. I started thinking about a phone call I had received earlier in the week. It was from someone interested in hiring me to do a project for him. The guy offering me the opportunity didn't have an office or anything, he just needed some software written. After the initial part of the software was written he said there'd be more to add to it, making this a full time job. I told him I would have to think about it. I was tempted, but I decided to say no because I didn't want to give up working in an office environment. Friday morning though as I was getting ready to leave, suddenly the idea of not having to deal with support calls and their aftermath started to seem very appealing. I decided I'd stay home and give the guy a call to see what else he had to say.
I didn't get hold of him until Sunday. I asked a few questions about the project and it sounded fun. He said he'd buy me VS.Net 2005 (something I wanted to write in - I used 2003 at work). He painted a pretty picture of me just programming - no support. Then he asked the dreaded question, "How much would you want to get paid?"
I hate that question! I didn't know what to say, I wasn't prepared for it! I calculated roughly what I made in a year at 2020 and added six thousand dollars to the sum and offered that. The reply was that the job pays over $11,000 more than that! I was momentarily stunned at the thought of an extra 17Gs and then I said, "When do I start?"
Today was my second day at the new job. Even though I just sit in my room programming, I have to say it is great. Programming is a wonderfully stimulating, creative job. I love starting the day with a blank page in the developer and making up everything needed to get the job done, I love not having constant interruptions, and I love that none of the passwords I type have a percent sign in them. I was worried that taking this job might be the wrong choice, but after two days I can tell you that my heart is soaring, and definitely not pounding.
Stay tuned for Changes Part 2: The Roommate.