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42 Things I Noticed While Driving Around Texas

A few months ago, I started a field technician job which requires me to drive around the great state of Texas.  Of course, while on the highways, byways, and backways of the Lone Star State, I noticed a few things:

  1. My company car is a Chevy Equinox which is a boat compared to my Honda CR-V

    #7 My road! (sort of)

  2. I have dubbed my company car: “The Leviathan.”
  3. I do like that The Leviathan has a BRAAP horn as opposed to the CR-V’s meep.
  4. That moment when you’re happy to be back on a properly paved road
  5. …with a middle stripe.
  6. Whenever I see a Choke Canyon BBQ or gas station I’ll always think: “Hey it’s those guys who tried to rip off Buc-ees”
  7. I vaguely remembered a ‘Solis Road’ as a child and found it.  Of course, I had to take a selfie.
  8. Rio Grande Valley radio sucks.
  9. Rio Grande Valley drivers suck.
  10. “Next services 45 miles” means it’s time for a restroom break.
  11. It’s always funny to see the road literally change from one county to another.
  12. See also: county deputies waiting for speeders.
  13. Dear GPS: Unless there is a significant delay, clam up and let me stay on the route I’m on.
  14. Company-issued iPhone meant that I got to rediscover how lousy Apple Maps is.
  15. What is it with small towns and Y intersections just outside of them?
  16. Note to self: ALWAYS check how much range your gas tank has left before leaving a small town out in the middle of nowhere.
  17. I always think: “Warp speed, Mr Sulu!” whenever I see that first 55 MPH sign outside of a small town.
  18. This beats being in a crappy open plan office while the fluorescent lights suck the life out of me: I’m on my own, I get to listen to music, and the company pays for gas, room, and hotels.
  19. Gas plumes from oil drilling operations look eerie at night.
  20. If you need super-bright LED headlights, maybe your blind tail shouldn’t be driving at night
  21. See also: Fog lights the size of headlights.
  22. You know a town is really small when they don’t even have a Dairy Queen
  23. I’m not sure I want to go to a restaurant who’s slogan is: Put some South in your Mouth
  24. The road is a good place to charge your smartwatch.
  25. Fueling up in a small town makes one appreciate the city, especially given that the gas is 50 cents less expensive a gallon there.
  26. Granted I’m not paying, but still.
  27. Remote start is awesome, makes me feel all Knight Rider and stuff.
  28. It would be even more awesome if I didn’t always get inside the Leviathan just before the engine cuts out.
  29. Where’s the KITT personal assistant?
  30. Construction, just the thing to make I-10 north of San Antonio worse.
  31. Funny how in small towns there are nearly always signs directing you to the football stadium and cemetery.
  32. I kinda get the whole ‘put a cross on the top of a hill’ thing but I kinda don’t.
  33. Nothing like passing the Whataburger you had breakfast at 14 hours earlier on your way home.
  34. Getting on the road early means seeing some of the wildlife out and about, particularly deer.
  35. Saw a gas station that was converted into a computer repair shop. At least it wasn’t a liquor store.
  36. That moment when your GPS reads: “230 miles remaining.”
  37. Nothing like doing a hasty 180 because you passed the one gas station in a town out in the middle of nowhere.
  38. Sampling the local flavor can be a mite harder on Sunday.
  39. If you could display state lines more prominently, Google Maps, that would be greaaat.
  40. You know you’re in a small county when the county road names consist of single letters.
  41. My company and personal phones are on different providers. Few things make the hair on the back of my neck stand up like losing signal on BOTH of them.
  42. God Bless Dairy Queen!
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300 Seconds Episode #98: “Job Search Blues- Recruiters and Staffing Agencies”

Listen to the episode here!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 98, “Job Search Blues: Recruiters and Staffing Agencies,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

I will start off by saying that I’ve dealt with a bunch of recruiters over the course of my career.  Some good, some bad, and of course, a bunch in between.  Naturally, I consider the ones that got me a job “good ones” but at the same time there were a few that did a great job, even though ultimately, I didn’t end up getting the job.  Of course, I’ll be focusing on the more sucky ones because, well, that’s more entertaining, and after two months of being out of work, I’m starting to get just a little stir-crazy, so on with the show.

I’ve established that looking for a job online kinda sucks and job fairs kinda suck too.  Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone!  There are companies and people out there that will be more than happy to help you find a job…sort of.

Oh, recruiting agencies and their recruiters.  If you’re online, you have have a pulse, and your work history is longer than five days, you’ve likely been e-mailed or called by a recruiter at some point in your career.  These overly enthusiastic people will talk to you like they’re your best friend.  Many are genuinely friendly, but at the same time, a lot them sound like car salesmen.

After introducing themselves, the recruiter will then ask if you are looking for a job.  If you answer yes, then they’ll tell you about position and requirements, and where it’s at, how much it pays and all that wonderful stuff.  Often, they’ll also send you an email with job details, and ask you to send back a current resume in response, and then you never ever, hear from them again, which kinda sucks.

It’s a lousy thing to do, it’s unprofessional, as well as a bunch of other mean things that I’d rather not say.  I need to say that I don’t know how these people work.  For all I know they’re calling fifty people a day and don’t have the time to call all them back to say ‘sorry, we don’t need you right now.’  I get that.  At the same time, I’m pretty sure there is some kind of computerized system keeping track of all this stuff.  If that computer would just send me an email saying : “Sorry, it didn’t work out,” that would be great.  On the rare occasion when a recruiter DOES keep in touch after the fact, I make sure to let them know that I appreciate their professionalism.  Sadly, that’s more the exception rather than the rule.

One thing that always throws me off is when I get multiple calls from different people at the same staffing agency within the same week.  Once again, I don’t know how things work at those places.  I don’t know if potential hires are assigned to a specific recruiter, but when that second guy or gal calls from the same recruiting agency, in my head I’m thinking: “Waitaminute, isn’t the first person already working with me?”  The conversation usually gets a little bit awkward after that.

It’s also fun when they don’t bother to check if you aren’t already in their system.  Had a fun talk with one of those lately.  What made that situation even more maddeing was that I had actually WORKED for that agency years ago.

Equally annoying is when the recruiter does not read your online profile and tries to submit you for a job that you are clearly not qualified for.  I have some interest in being a technical writer, so if an entry-level opportunity were to come about, or if someone was willing to give me a shot…HINT HINT…I’d take it.  I have to wonder, though, about a recruiter that submits me for a tech writer role that requires years of experience, even after I send them my resume that indicates very little actual tech writing experience.  Again, I don’t know how these people or these agencies work, so I wonder if they’re just trying to meet some quota when we go through those motions.

Lately, I’ve been getting a bunch of calls from recruiters that are from, to put it politely: “out of town.”  I’ve been contacted by so many of them, at this point that I could set my watch to the routine:  First, a phone call comes in from some random state.  I tend to not answer out-of-state calls, so after about a minute or so, I find a voicemail waiting for me.  Upon listening to the voicemail, I can very easily tell that the caller, to put it politely again, does not speak the language.  I will confess to taking particular delight at how these people stumble over and completely mangle my name.  I’ve gotten used to the gringo pronunciation of ‘Edwardo’ by now, but folks from a certain part of the world have no idea what to do with it.  By the time I have listened to the voice mail, and deleted it, an email will have popped into one of my accounts from that same person featuring poor grammar and a position I have absolutely no interest in.

I then block the phone number, report that email address as spam, and wait for the process to repeat itself.  Sorry guys, but no thanks, and I’d rather you not come again.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I add another phone number to the block list.  I am Eduardo Soliz, check out Eduardo Soliz dot com for more podcasts and short fiction, and I thank you for listening!

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Super-Short Storytime: “The Pit of Success”


Welcome to Super-Short Storytime, lovers of literature and fans of fiction!  I am Eduardo Soliz, the author and narrator of the fantastically frank tale that you are about to hear.

Like other folks who fashion fiction, inspiration for my stories often comes from real life. This particular tale was inspired my time spent in the corporate jungle. This story is part of “Nine to Five Lives,” a free e-book which can be downloaded from eduardosoliz.com, this big business brief bears the title of: “The Pit of Success”

Alan was particularly glad to be at work today. After months of working overtime, finishing projects ahead of schedule, and just a little bit of schmoozing, he had been deemed worthy to be promoted to work in “The Pit.” The Pit was a special area where the best of the best worked on secret projects that represented the future of the company.

As he struggled to hold up a cardboard box that held his personal items, Alan held his badge above the doorknob to the entrance to the Pit as he had been told. It was a nondescript door that he had walked by every day without ever thinking about what was inside. A click sounded as the lock released. Alan balanced the box on one hand and used his other one to quickly open the door.

He entered the room and closed the door behind him. But for a single light that was above him, the room was completely dark except for some blinking LED lights scattered about. A voice suddenly came from the ceiling. Alan recognized it as belonging to the supervisor that he had conducted a phone interview with the week before: “Leave that box by the door, Mister Johnson. You will not need those things here.”  It said.

Alan did as he was instructed. He nervously looked around for somebody, but the office appeared to be unoccupied. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw rows upon rows of cubicles, just like in his previous office.

“Please proceed to your new cubicle, Mister Johnson.” The supervisor’s voice said. A small light turned on in the room. Alan started to make his way towards the light. As he passed by the other cubicles, he noticed that each one contained an egg-shaped pod just large enough to hold a person. Alan recognized a few of the names on the name tags as former coworkers that had been promoted before him, much to his chagrin.

“You have gone above and beyond your peers in your devotion to this company, Mister Johnson. You will now become a part of the company as you had desired. Take your seat and join us.” The voice said. Alan peered into the interior pod and hesitated.

“This isn’t what I had in mind. Does everyone have to sit in these…things, here?” Alan asked, looking up at the ceiling.

“It is necessary to make you part of the company. You are free to return to your previous position if you wish. We can always find somebody else to fill this position.” The voice answered.

Hell, no. I worked too hard for this. Alan thought. He climbed into the pod. The leather seat within was surprisingly comfortable; he relaxed as he settled into it. Without warning, the pod closed above him. A screen built into the pod’s wall lit up and a keyboard and trak-ball slid in front of him from the side. Well, this is kinda neat, Alan thought as he logged into his terminal and started to work.

Alan noticed an odd flicker occasionally coming from the screen. It annoyed him at first, but it eventually became oddly comforting. He continued working and quickly discovered that he could do everything inside the pod, even attend meetings. He only left the pod to go to the bathroom and eat lunch.

Hours later, the clock on Alan’s computer screen indicated that it was time for the workday to end, but he had no desire to leave. Alan barely overheard his former coworkers leaving through the hallway and thought about his home and family for a moment, but the thought was quickly squelched by the messages that had been delivered to him by the hypnotic series of flashes that he had been subjected to on the screen.

YOU ARE PART OF THE COMPANY.
THERE IS NOTHING ELSE.
THERE IS WORK TO DO.

“There is work to do.” Alan softly said to nobody as he typed away. A message flashed on his screen: technicians would be coming in an hour to make him one with the pod so that he would never have to leave at all.

Alan smiled.

THE END.

This company definitely brings new meaning to the term ‘human resource,’ and this is one future that I hope never comes to pass. This has been Super-Short Storytime! Visit eduardo soliz dot com for more stories and free e-book downloads, and remember listeners, always keep that work-life balance!

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300 Seconds Episode #97 – “Job Search Blues: Job Fairs”

Listen to the episode here!

Leave the real world behind for a few minutes by listening to “Super-Short Storytime” at EduardoSoliz.com/podcasts or find it on your favorite podcast app.  And now, on with the show…

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 97, “Job Search Blues: Job Fairs,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

I spent the last episode talking about what a big pain in the posterior looking for and applying for a job online can be.  Fortunately, there is a place where you can go to shake hands, speak to a real person, and get that personal touch.  The job fair, which is in itself a different level of hell.

I should start out by saying that my experiences are colored by the fact that I am looking for a job in Information Technology, and in general, job fairs tend to suck for IT jobs.  At a small job fair, I’ll consider myself lucky if just ONE of the businesses is looking for any sort of IT position.  If more than one company at a job fair is looking for a technical support guy or a programmer, I’m thinking that I need to buy a lottery ticket because it’s my lucky day.

Unfortunately, when companies do drag their IT guys out of the basement and put them in front of people, they get to experience how socially inept they can be.  I’ve had multiple awkward moments at job fairs with IT people, possibly because I’ve been told by people I’ve worked with that I sometimes come off as intimidating.

One person refused to look me in the eye after I let him know what I thought of their pay rates.  Another one froze up after I handed my resume to him and introduced myself.  So yeah, my people skills might use a little fine-tuning.

And then there are those instances when the IT guys can’t be dragged out of the basement and so I get to spend a few minutes trying to talk shop to a HR gal or a supervisor that has no earthly idea what I’m saying.  Those conversations often end with the company representative telling me to go to their website and apply there…which completely defeats the point of the job fair.

I also love it when I walk up to a company’s table and the representative just starts blabbing away about their wonderful company and how wonderful it would be to work for them and how much they love it there and blah blah blah.  After their delightful speech, when I’m finally able to get a word in, I let them know that I’m looking for a computer job.  At that point, the air gets completely sucked out of the room when they sheepishly say: “Oh. We aren’t hiring for computer people.”  So maybe you should ask me what kind of job I’m looking for   before you give me the sales pitch, guys, I’m just saying.

Job fairs are a good idea in general, but for folks looking to hire computer professionals, they don’t seem to work as well as they should.  Or maybe it’s just me.  It definitely wouldn’t be the first time!

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I register for the next job fair.  I am Eduardo Soliz.  For more podcasts, and short fiction, and my blog, visit EduardoSoliz.com and thank you for listening!

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300 Seconds Episode #96 – “Job Search Blues: The Internet”

Listen to the episode here!

A quick note before I begin: This episode was written prior to my being hired at my current job. And now, on with the show:

This is ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 96, “Job Search Blues: Job Hunting on the Internet,” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

Complaining about one’s job is practically an American tradition, and I am certainly more than happy to let anyone within earshot know how I feel about my nine-to-five. I am currently in between jobs, and since I don’t have a job to complain about at the moment, I am going to spend the next few episodes complaining instead, about the delightful process of finding a job in this here 21st Century.

On the surface, looking for a job should be a breeze these days. Instead of flipping through want ads in the newspaper, we now have an overabundance of job websites out there that will be more than happy to take your resume and shoot it away to the four corners of the Earth. Instead of driving to an office and leaving a resume at the HR department, each company now has their own website that is more than likely is run by someone like Taleo or workday. Hooray for progress.

Monster.com, indeed.com, careerbuilder.com, dice.com…to see their advertisements, you would think that they all have the job of your dreams waiting for you. Just set up your account, upload your resume, and the job of your dreams will soon be yours!

As someone once famously said: Don’t believe the hype.

On paper, a job board is a Good Thing: It’s a place where, thanks to the Power Of The Internet, you can now search for an exact job title with an exact salary, within an exact number of miles from our home and find exactly what you’re looking for…maybe. I’ve done some programming, so I do know how dicey sorting through a database can be, but there’s gotta be SOMETHING in these algorithms that says: “Hey, this person has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and over a decade of IT experience: Maybe they aren’t terribly interested in construction jobs.” Or how when I look for ‘technical support’ jobs, I get job listings for pharmacy technicians and veterinary technicians. Forget “artificial intelligence,” we need “artificial common sense.”

Since the job boards kinda suck, instead you decide to skip the middleman and visit the website of a company that you would like to work for. If you’re lucky, there will be a link that says “Careers” on the home page that takes you directly to a page with a link that takes you to the job listings. If you aren’t lucky, you to see get a webpage full of stock photos of happy people that probably don’t work at the company at all. This page will list all of the departments, the cities, the benefits, the descriptions of jobs and maybe one or two testimonials from real employees. Also: Real attractive employees, companies don’t want you to think they hire ugly people. You will then spend at least a minute trying to a link to the actual jobs.

Once you find the specific job that you are looking for, the fun part begins: The Application. Step one is always straightforward: Your personal information. Cool. Step two: Upload your resume. Okay. Now type in your work history, that is, all the information that is on your resume. Yeah. Even though you’ve just sent them an electronic copy of your resume, they want to you hand-type all of that same information into their system. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that larger employers don’t have their own job sites, instead they use a third party like Taleo or Workday, and they both SUCK. They suck because if you apply to multiple companies that use one of those third party sites, you get to re-type in the same information FOR EACH FUCKING COMPANY. At this point in my career I have probabl about a dozen Taleo profiles and a half-dozen for Workday. How hard would it be for those guys to let me enter my profile ONCE and just re-submit it to different companies? I’m just sayin.

Of course, after you have checked every box, selected every option, filled out every field, and clicked ‘Submit,’ then there’s the waiting. And along those lines, this is the end of the epsode

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after I type in eighteen years of job experience into an application website…again . I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to hear more 300 seconds subscribe via your favorite podcatcher and check out my website at Eduardo Soliz dot com for more. Thank you for listening!

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The Shelf

Author’s note: This was posted to LinkedIn a few years ago. 


We have shelves in our bathrooms at the office above the sinks. Crazy it sounds, those shelves are a great analogy for what is wrong at the company I work for.

Our office bathrooms didn’t always have shelves, mind you. Some manager or facilities person a few years ago decided: ‘It would be nice if we had shelves in the bathroom so people can place things there while they take care of their business.’ It’s a good idea, so a shelf was installed. Huzzah!

Things went well for a few months, then one day I noticed the shelf was starting to lean forward slightly, as if it were coming off from the wall. Uh-oh. I stopped using it because I didn’t want my coffee mug to fall into the sink when the shelf finally gave way.

It eventually did break, and for about a week we were once again shelf-less. It was re-installed and life was good again, but after a few more months, it started to lean forward and fell off the wall again.

While I have managed some minor home repairs myself, I’m not going to claim to be Tim the Tool-Man. If I shelf I installed gave way, then okay, fine, maybe I did something wrong or overlooked something that a professional would know to do from experience. How was it that our professional facilities people couldn’t install a simple shelf? A few months later, after we remodeled our building, I got my answer…

There are three brackets holding the shelf in place. Each bracket should have two screws, but for whatever bone-headed reason, only one gets put in. Why? Was the facilities guy in a hurry? Are screws that expensive? My best guess is that the guy figured one screw is ‘good enough.’

Whatever the reason, the job wasn’t done right the first time, and the shelf inevitably has to be repaired. Surely the guy learns that ‘gee, maybe I should do the job right this time and use two screws so this doesn’t happen again.’

Nope! He makes the same mistake again, and as you can see by the picture above (different shelf but you get the idea) he’ll be eventually repairing it again. Even then, the damage has been done and he’ll likely continue ad infinitum.

This is a perfect analogy for how my company does things:

  1. Get a good idea and implement it.
  2. Don’t make the product the right way the first time, but make it ‘good enough.’
  3. Attempt to fix problems after customers complain of issues.
  4. The fixes are also ‘good enough.’
  5. Everything is fine for a while, but the problems inevitably return and the damage has been done in loss of customer confidence and goodwill.
  6. Go back to step 3 and repeat.

So yeah, that’s the way things work (or rather, don’t work) at my office.

I’m just wondering what the facilities guy is going to do when he runs out of wall space. He should have plenty of screws, at least.

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BUSINESS, TECH, TECH SUPPORT, WORK

Contract-to-Fire

workI recently started a new position; my first-ever contract job.  At the beginning, I was enthusiastic about coming in and doing a good job.  I noticed a few deficiencies off the bat and made some recommendations for improvements in a group e-mail to everyone in the department.  My intention was to avoid some of the large issues that had plagued previous workplaces and improve our processes, because to be frank, there were none.

My recommendations were shrugged off with a big fat ‘MEH’ by everyone.  I don’t know if it was due to my relative inexperience at the workplace, or the arrogance of leadership, but for whatever the reason, the end result was that nothing happened, and the glaring issues remained.

I was miffed (but not completely surprised) by the lack of response.  I imagined that the thought process went something along the lines of:  “Why should we listen to this new guy?  He doesn’t know how we do things here.

My first thought was that I needed to change my approach and need address my manager directly instead of broadcasting to the group in the hope that we could come to a consensus.  My second thought became a lot more compelling the more it bounced around in my head:

“Why should I care?”

I should begin by mentioning that the position I was hired into has a nearly zero chance of becoming permanent.  Folks come here, they work for a year or two, and then they’re gone.  Because of that, I have nearly zero investment in this company.  Indeed, one of the issues that I wanted to address was knowledge management; if you’re going to have a revolving door of people coming in and out of a department, you might want to have a good documentation process in place so that not all of a person’s expertise walks out the door when their time inevitably comes.

Ultimately, I let it go.  I had said my peace, and if the Powers That Be decided to ignore it, then why should I make a fuss?  Obviously they know what they’re doing.  There’s also no sense in wasting my time with people that have no intention of listening to me.

The unfortunate truth is that a contract worker will never be completely engaged in the future of the company they work at, especially if they have no visible road to bigger and better things.

I’ve since kept my mouth shut about any new issues that I’ve noticed and given up any hope of things improving.  It doesn’t make any sense to fight the current, instead I’ll just keep surfing the wave of incompetence until my contract is up.

Besides, why should I be fully invested in the company’s problems when the company isn’t fully invested in me?

 

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