30 March 2007

Trainees, ISPs and Promotions

I'm training a new operator at work at the moment. Well, not right at the moment as I'm sitting in an armchair at home with a laptop on my lap writing this. What I mean is, we have a new operator at work and it's my job to train him.

In the seven years since our department first formed I've trained quite a few new operators, so I can usually tell quite early on whether or not the newbie is going to do ok, which I'm happy to say is the case here.

It's amazing how much it wears you out when you are training someone. I usually spend the first couple of days just taking calls, with the newbie listening in on another headset and I point out different things and answer their questions. By the end of the day I've got a sore throat and dry mouth because I've been pretty much talking non-stop all day.

After a couple of days, they're usually feeling confident enough to start taking calls themselves. That's when it really gets tiring. They think they know what to do from watching me for two days, but as soon as they get in front of the computer and take the first call they're lost. They don't know where to click on the screen and aren't sure what to ask the caller. To make things even harder no two calls are the same, so it's rarely straight forward. By about the middle of the afternoon they're generally getting into the flow of it and might even get through a whole call with only a couple of prompts from me.

The most important ability you need when you train someone is the ability to just sit on your hands, so to speak. You have to be able to sit back and let your trainee find their own way around the computer screen and only prompt them when they're really getting lost.

This is the tiring bit. You sit there watching the cursor drift around the screen (and we have two of them, as you can see from the pic at the top of this page) and you find you're using all of your willpower to try and get that cursor to go to the right spot. It doesn't of course, so by the end of the day you've developed a stiff neck and shoulders.

I know from experience that by the end of next week, my new trainee will be taking calls by himself and only calling for help occasionally when he comes across something that he hasn't yet had to deal with.

He won't be asking me though, because I'll be on leave starting at easter and won't be back for four weeks. I've got another residential in Armidale to go to.


We were discussing ISPs at work last week. Most of us get our internet access from the ISP owned by our employer. My boss is with a different company and mentioned that it was cheaper there, even taking into account our staff discount. He'd never had any problems with the other mob.

I signed up with them that night and am now getting the same level of service as I was before, but for twenty dollars a month less.

Now all I have to do is let everyone know that our e-mail address has changed and that the old ones (one of which only ever gets spam) will soon cease to exist.

I'm in the process of creating a new website with the new provider. It'll mainly be galleries for some of my photography, similar to this. If that seems to be taking a while to load, just hit your refresh button and it should work.


Donna (my wife) works in the office of a large supermarket not far from where we live. She's worked in that store for eighteen years, starting off as a shelf filler, moving on to service (checkout chick) and then into the office.

Well all that ends in two weeks.

The regional manager rang her on Tuesday and asked her if she wanted the job of "Office in Charge" at another store. That basically means she'll be running the admin side of things there. Naturally she jumped at the chance. It means she'll have to drive an extra ten minutes to work, but by all accounts it's a nice store she's moving to and a lot smaller than the one she's been working in, so hopefully less stress.

It means her pay will go up too.

They say good luck comes in threes. Well, Mum and Dad's house is under contract, hopefully the sale will go through this time. Donna got the promotion. I wonder what the third thing will be.

19 March 2007

Big jobbies

Big jobbies need big flushes.

There's no point doing a half flush then leaving the remains for the next poor bugger to find. You need a big flush to make sure every last nugget is going all the way to Luggage Point.

Why do I mention this?

We had brand new toilets installed in our building at work a couple of weeks ago. They're dual flush cisterns and the bowls are steeper than the old ones so they're more efficient. Only 4.5 litres for a full flush and 3 litres for a half flush. All very environmentally friendly, showing that our employer cares about its obligations to the environment.

About two days after they were installed we had to get a plumber in urgently because one of them wasn't draining properly. It turns out that 4.5 litres (that's a gallon in the old money, or a gallon and a bit if you come from the land of alternative spelling).

...where was I? Oh yes, it turns out that 4.5 litres isn't quite enough to send last night's high fibre dinner to Luggage Point. It'll get it maybe to the first floor, then it gives up and backs up.

So, an e-mail was circulated to staff today informing us that next time you do a big jobbie, a number two, you build a log cabin, you take the kids to the pool, you sink a battle ship (these are all in the thesaurus, trust me), you must hold the button down when you flush so that enough water is behind that blind mullet to send it to where it can be recycled into drinking water. Not that I have a problem with drinking recycled water.

All that money spent on new cisterns and bowls, the half flush will never be used (at least not in the gents) because that's meant for number ones that generally get done in the urinal, unless you are shy or suffer the occasional bought of stage fright like me. The full flush is using just as much water as the old cisterns if we're having to hold the button down.

Oh well, at least we're being seen to do the right thing. I wonder what happened to the old toilets, probably became landfill.

18 March 2007

One eyed trouser snake

Okay, it's not really a trouser snake, but it would fit in your pocket and it does only have one eye.

The snake Brett is holding in this picture is a young carpet python that he and Jess are caring for. It's been attacked by a bird and lost an eye in the process. Brett reckons the vet put in a glass eye, but I didn't get close enough for a good look. Not that I was afraid you understand. It's just that I was looking at the LCD to see how the photos had come out an Brett put the snake away before I had a chance to handle it myself. Honest!

This little feller will eventually grow to about 2 metres long and may be able to get its own back on the birds then.

It's funny, they don't seem at all frightening when you see them that size.

10 March 2007


I've been doing a lot of studying just lately.

I mentioned recently about the subjects I'm studying at uni. Well, I've come to the conclusion that maths is easier than chemistry. All I have to do is keep plugging along with maths and I'll get there. Matrix algebra is very tedious, but it's certainly not hard once you get your head around it.

Chemistry on the other hand is getting me really frustrated. My main problem is I let it slip in favour of maths for the first week and then I had a mad rush to catch up with it so I could complete an assignment this week. You know how it is when you don't understand something, but you have to get an understanding of it quickly, so you get frustrated. The more frustrated you get, the harder it is to find the information you need to get that understanding.

Going by the online forum we have for that subject, I'm certainly not the only one in that boat. Someone in my class mentioned that big breaths and alcohol were helping her get through. All I could think of was the scene in a Carry On film where a doctor, stethoscope in hand says to his young female patient, "big breath". To which she replies, "yeth and I'm only thikthteen".


When Donna and I got married about two and a half years ago, one of my colleagues and her boyfriend were about to leave at the end of the reception and I said to the boyfriend, "you'll be next".

He disagreed, saying it would be another couple that were at the wedding, one of which also worked with me.

I reminded him of this last Saturday as they emerged from the church, newly married. Some people you can just tell they're meant for each other as soon as you see them together.

It's funny, I wore the same clothes to that wedding as I wore to my own and I couldn't get the top button done up on the shirt. It would have literally choked me if I had. Married life has obviously been good to me.


I was going to change the title of this entry so that it reflected both topics, but I thought "Stress and Married Life" would be a bit misleading.

01 March 2007


I passed two thousand hits on my blog the other day.

I've just been going through the stats and counting back to see where the 2000th visitor came from and it's the same person that was my 1000th visitor. I at first thought the 1000th visitor was Matt, but it turned out not to be him. I also thought it may have been just a regular anonymous visitor, but the time of the visit coincided with the time a comment was left. So it wasn't hard to figure out who it was.

It's nice to know that people are continuing to read my blog. It might get a bit boring sometimes and there may be big gaps between entries, but the regular readers still come back.

I wonder if my 2000th visitor will get the hat-trick and be the 3000th as well. I think there should be a prize if they do. I'll deliver it personally next time I'm in their area.


We're understaffed at work at the moment. A couple of our operators in Melbourne have cut back their hours to one day a week. They're contractors, so they aren't obliged to work a full week like the permanent staff.

They're both good operators, both have held the record for the most number of calls taken in a day, but if they're both cutting back to one day a week I don't know why they don't just go and work for MacDonalds or Coles. It just makes it harder on our team leader down there to organise staff.

All the calls that come into our department first go through Melbourne. If all the operators are busy down there they come through to Brisbane, which is kind of the head office for the department. If we're all busy the calls go to messagebank and that's where the performance of the team is rated. Calls through to messagebank are supposed to be below 5% of the total number of calls. Of course, not all calls that reach an operator are logged as they may only be an inquiry. Only calls where we do something in the database show up in the stats.

Up here in Brisbane we have a team member that's retiring soon, so the rest of us are taking over her duties. It saves the company money if they don't replace her. Heaven forbid that we cut into those billion dollar profits.

What this means is that between phone calls we're getting more and more work to do and that work frequently gets interrupted by the next phone call. We're getting heaps more calls now because of the shortage of operators down south (we've had one of sick for a couple of days as well). We can't dial out of the loop (to stop calls coming through) while we're doing the other work otherwise the number of calls to messagebank will go up.

As you can imagine, we don't get much time to relax.

What with the extra stress at work and studying three uni subjects at home (and in my lunch break and on the bus) I've been finding it harder and harder to sleep over the past couple of weeks. So this morning at 5:30 when the alarm went off I thought, stuff it, I'm staying in bed.

I was already awake before my alarm went off. I lay there trying to decide whether or not to go to work or to stay home. It's my RDO tomorrow anyway, and I was going to try and hang on until then, but I think I would have nodded off at my desk if I'd gone to work.