The day after I returned from the trip I got an unexpected job offer from a company [that will remain unnamed] which fills government construction contracts overseas and which suddenly felt an urgent need for a certified interior designer.
After a chaotic exchange of emails I agreed to come to their office in central part of neighboring state to start the work immediately. I can only explain my uncritical acceptance (despite the warning signs in form of the noted “chaotic communication”) by being still jetlagged and under influence of chatting with designers from across the country – and assessing the level of total devastation to the profession nationally.
Monday eve: final email instructed me to arrive to Co’s local train station at 11am on Tuesday to be picked up by one of the employees and delivered to their offices. I am supposed to bring my portfolio for an interview by a senior officer, even though the one who wanted to hire me was going to be in DC on a business trip – mind you, he already called me with a verbal offer after seeing just my resume and online-posted selection of work samples. I haven’t said “yes” to the compensation proposed, but agreed to come over.
The trip took me 2hrs 20 min from my door, clocked. At 10:30, 1/2hr before arriving to the station I made a call, out of courtesy to their time: if they send a car for me in advance the interview can commence immediately.
-Oh, they said – right, we need to send somebody(!) Sorry, we’re very busy – but if you call when you get to the station we’ll send someone – not the same person we mentioned before, but somebody from HR.
The person from HR – a girl of approximately my son’s age – arrived at 11:30. She congratulated me on a high quality of my resume(yeah) but expressed surprise that I was expecting an interview. Evidently, I was supposed to start working right away. “Did you fill out an online application?”, she asked. “Ah, nobody told you to? But without it we can not issue you a formal offer, and w/o a formal offer you can not be given a computer. I’ll have to spend some time with you, then, coaching”. (Coaching?)
I had been given a temporary visitor’s pass and ushered to a claustrophobic workstation among identical hundred, seated in front of an ancient screen and instructed (by a girl hovering behind my back) in tedious detail how to fill up a standard form online; the internet connection was incredibly slow, possibly a dial-up, and crushed on me three times until I finally succeeded to press “apply”. Time: 12:20pm.
Simultaneously two architects whose work I was supposed to share came over, told me I’m going to be working on a project in Khartoum – no, in Kenya, no, possibly yet another one too new to be certain “we” got it. But there appeared to be a slight problem: there was no computer for me to work on.
Oh, they do have computers, but not all the programs are installed on all the computers. So they have to switch workstations all the time as the need of working on AutoCAD or Revit arises – or if I liked I can download the Revit trial version – say, on this one. Or that one. Ah, yes, you are going to work on Revit – well, yes, we know you haven’t worked on it before, we all just recently started to use it but you see we have a deadline for 30% completion of a project we haven’t done even 10% – and it’s this Friday. So you should start right away. As soon as we find computer with Revit for you.
Oh, and there is no AutoCAD Architecture on any of our computers in architectural group, only CAD Land. Not all the menus I’m used to in CAD Architecture are available in CAD Land – but since they all manage, I’m presumed to be able to manage, too. A laptop for me has been hand-delivered from their NY office (they have a NY office? why was I sent to work here, then?) , but IT can not release it because they haven’t received security clearance on me – and they’ll receive a security clearance when HR issues it. And HR will issue it, once my online application (that I filled half-n-hr ago) will be approved. So for now I’m expected to be grateful that Victoria, a civil engineer, is willing to go to some other workstation and lend me her computer so I can start working on a project immediately. OK…thanks, I guess.
12:45: familiarizing myself with the drawing plan. None of my usual toolbars are present; I hesitate trying to get them on somebody else’s desktop and on unfamiliar program. I ask several technical questions that appear to have an irritating effect.
01:15: I’m explained, once, their folder structure – it appears to be as chaotic and illogical as everything else so far. 16-steps, and “Furniture” blocks are found under “Plants and furnishings”. Great. –You haven’t memorized where to find it yet? Gawwwwd. I thought you’re a professional! (from a girl 2 years after college).
01:30: – We are going to take you to lunch. We are so happy to have you here with us! We are so busy! Here’s Farida, she’s from Lahore, she’s our group leader. Our boss – the one that hired you – he’s from the same country. Farida is working so hard, she (and the girl 2 years from college) stay up in office late every day, to get the project on time. You are welcome to ask us any questions, we are nice people here. [ahem.] Driven to lunch to some chain restaurant in neighboring town; when I made an order it turns out all others are already seated at the table and make no attempt to pay for me. Hmm…maybe I misunderstood the term “we’ll take you to lunch”… In the car back: oh no, we’re not paid overtime, this is not in Company’s culture.
2:30: I’m taken to the IT personally by a 2-yr-out-of-college girl because my “visitor’s card” I’m given at the reception will not open the door to IT: it is a high security operation. Turns out, my computer is not ready and will not be until HR says so. This info is a duplicate of one already received before; what was the reason for this wasteful trip to IT?
2:50: I’m given Victoria’s computer with a “student”, trial version of Revit (and missing half of the library of furniture blocks), and told my task for today will be to furnish a building’s floor with office furniture. In remaining 3 hrs of workday. Hard as I try with Revit I still have questions “where to go and how to find” – questions that are normal for any normal person’s 1st day in a new office. Normal office, that is.
3:00. Uh-oh. I’m told “we need to talk” and taken, in threatening silence, to a corridor outside, where I’m sternly told that I was not expected to be asking so many questions and distracting people who will rely on my expertize – “how they are supposed to respect your knowledge if you appear not to know where to find things?” Also, “we all are new to this program, so we just pick and poke and see how it works, and find tutorials online if we don’t know something – but we never say anything out loud, because people around us can hear (!) and can tell the boss (the one from Pakistan), and that is not going to reflect on us very well.” So how am I supposed to learn things? “Silently. And don’t expect someone explain things to you, that shows you have an attitude”(!).
3:15-6:00. With great difficulty and frantically browsing pages from my class notes on Revit, I succeed in “populating” an open area on the 1st floor of the project’ plan. Instead of worksurface blocks (which are absent from my version of Revit’ block library) I’m told to “just use freestanding tables”. To my objection that this is obviously wrong and would result in Client’s ordering wrong furniture and wasting a lot of money I’m replied that “furniture is not in our contract”, and at this point the goal is to finish the drawings asap, not to do it right. Er…Also, this work I do is apparently very easy and instead of me a student should be employed, for much less money. Mmmm O’key…
6:15: HR girl brings me a packet with forms to sign (you’ll read it on your way back on the train!), an intermediary supervisor (who I thought is going to interview me in the morning) steps by the workstation I’m seating at, gives me his card and exclaims”ah, they have made you work already! Good! Good!”- shakes my hand and disappears. Suddenly I’m told if I want to make a train back, I better hurry, because it’s leaving in 20 min. – OK, the 2-yr-after-college-girl will give me a ride in her Volkswagen.
6:30: At the station, seating in the car, I’m trying to understand the arrangement for tomorrow. Am I to come to work? At what time? Is there a bus going from the station to the office park? No? Then how will I get there -maybe she’ll wait for me at the station when she herself will arrive from a neighboring town on the train? (she parks her car at the station) OK, she’ll confirm by calling my cell at 7am, fine. I say goodbye and hop on a train that at this moment opens the doors on the platform.
6:40-8:50: ride home, in ever-increasing frustration mulling over heavy thoughts. Quick grocery shopping, then opening my email to find a message from HR girl, requesting to bring tomorrow originals of all my diplomas, notarized translations of all my diplomas, proof of citizenship and – possible – being ready to sign an agreement-for-drug-testing form. Hmmm..o’key. Where is my engineering diploma from 20 years ago? 30 min. of frantic searching. Never in 15 years of professional work I was presented with such a requirement. Diploma: found. Translation: nope.
9:40-11:00: Supper, getting ready for tomorrow’, shower, going to bed.
12:20am: shrill phone call to my cellphone: 2 architects from the Co. -Are you sleeping? Really? Ah, we were just finishing work of the day at the office(!) ; sorry to disturb you: but as we know the computer will not be ready tomorrow at 9am, don’t bother coming until we call you it’s ready. Approximately? After 11am. We don’t know, is it going to be 12pm or 1pm, but be ready to leave for office once we call you. Who’ll pick you up at the station? Call us from the station, then maybe something will be arranged.
[a lot of dots here. fill in the blank my thoughts at that moment] Couldn’t fall asleep after this call till 3am.
Morning. I got to read my emails from Tuesday and notice one from a previous interview with another Co: they offer me a job. Not as well-paid, and it’s not exactly my specialization, but they need me to answer right away. I call. “You didn’t respond yesterday, so the job is taken…but there might be a possibility of another. Hold on”.
But I can’t hold on anymore. I compose a resignation email to the Co#1; while I’m writing, there is a call from one of the architects who called me so unceremoniously at midnight: OK, we got the computer for you, you can come now. Be prepared – today you have to work hard since yesterday you only completed 1 floor in 8(!) hrs. That’s it, that seals it. I tell her I’m not coming back, and they should probably employ that student. “Oh, this is so sad, we so liked you, and so hoped to work together! Thank you for helping us! Don’t forget to supply your banking info to our HR for compensation of yesterday day of work!” I press “send” on my email.
I just got an email from them, a formal letter from their VP and and head of HR: the offer.
2 days and 50 ruined neurons too late, guys…
Update Just got off the phone with hiring manager (the one who was in DC on Tuesday). He called to apologize for the bad impression I got of the Co and for the wrong interpretation of my duties his subordinates relayed to me. Oh well.