Appraisal and Development Plan (ADP) – 2008

Last year, a new evaluation system was instituted at the University to help both managers and employees with the evaluation process. Some of the goals included:

  1. Creating a system that was more objective.
  2. Creating a system that rewarded people based on the work they did and its quality.
  3. Creating a system that helped both workers and managers agree on clearly defined objectives.

Now in its second year, the ADP is becoming a bit more refined, and thankfully we didn’t have to do a full self-evaluation like we did last year. We do, however, need to provide supporting documentation for our ADP. The goal of this is to let our evaluators know what we did this year; they might have a general idea, but they might also have forgotten some things. We all want to avoid a situation where our evaluation score is low and we are told that, “If only you had done X, you would have gotten a higher score!” This might happen in a situation where you didn’t know you needed to do X, but it might also be that you actually did do X, only your evaluator didn’t know… and now it’s too late to change the evaluation because it has moved up through the great bureaucracy and been dutifully stamped and filed.

So, we file supporting documentation regarding what we have done this year. Not everything we have done, by any means, but the notable high points that we want remembered and considered in our evaluation.

When I describe what I do for a living, I first have to say that I work in the Computer Services Help Desk at Missouri State University. Within the context of IT, a Help Desk is generally just a call center, or a repair shop: help people with software, answer questions, replace broken computers, etc. That’s certainly a part of what we do, but my job rarely involves that kind of work. My second statement is always something along the lines of:

I don’t do much of the repair work anymore. Instead, I spend a lot of time researching and writing, trying to find new solutions to help people work more efficiently (specializing in open source solutions) and I also do a lot of web development. I maintain our unit’s web servers, our wiki, and I do a lot of speaking at conferences or just sessions at our University about different topics.

Since I put the time in to outline my year’s activities, I thought I’d post them here to further clarify on this. It’s nothing special, and most of it probably won’t make sense to someone who doesn’t work here, but if you’ve ever wondered what I do, this is it. It’s over-simplified and doesn’t go into any detail, so a project that consumed more than three months of this year is condensed into “Experts wiki went live in June,” but you get the idea.

Our three objectives for Centralized User Support Specialist this year are:

  1. Participate and contribute to the successful implementation of the ERP system.
  2. Maintain competency and currency through professional development. (PDF)
  3. Provide accurate and appropriate training and documentation. (PDF)

At this time last year, I thought that 2008 was going to be a breeze. I’d had a really busy year, and I was looking forward to a nice, easy coast downhill to 2009. Instead, I ended up doing about twice the amount of work I did last year, and I did it more efficiently in less time.

Looking forward, I can’t begin to imagine what next year will hold. The training labs have been built and in use for some time. The wiki is up and stable. The Luminis portal went live last Wednesday. There’s obviously still work to do, but it’s maintenance, not new projects. What can they throw at me next year that could top this year’s challenges?

And yet, I was wrong before. I have a feeling that 2009 is going to be very interesting indeed.

The Joy of Being Volunteered

About five years ago, my niece Alizabeth came to Springfield with her church on a mission trip. While this blew my mind–Springfield has probably 700+ churches, rivaling our count of Chinese restaurants–it also meant that I could spend some time with her. Or, at least, it would have meant that, except I didn’t find out about the trip until about a week after her group returned to Kansas.

Now my niece Alicia, her younger sister, is traveling with their youth group to Springfield for a similar mission trip, and I have been warned in advance. I asked my sister if it would be possible for me to take Alicia out for dinner or something; spend some time with her while she was in town. The next thing I heard, my name had been given to the youth director and she was told to call me for assistance with her mission trip because I had extensive ministry experience.

Not that I mind helping of course, but it was quite a translation Sis made from, “Hey, can I take my niece out to dinner?” to her statement of, “My brother’s awesome and he can help run your trip!” Thankfully, the youth director isn’t expecting much, so when we talked earlier today on the phone, it turned out that my involvement will be fairly minimal.

Though the kids arrive in just a week, the director hasn’t yet planned hardly anything about the trip. We have nailed down that I’m going to lead a devotional some night, and I’ve begun mulling over topics, but nothing is really solid yet. She’s going to call me when they get into Springfield and we’ll go from there.

As for taking Alicia out to dinner, I couldn’t get a committment on that score, but it looks like I might join them an evening or two for their activities. Thankfully, I happen to be on vacation next week, so that will work out well.

In the meantime, I spent all of yesterday in meetings at work to discuss Luminis as we kick this project off, and it looks like similar discussions will fill… oh, about the next six to seven months of my life. Therefore, I’m definitely going to be pressed when it comes to getting stories and the like written… especially when the semester begins and I have to start taking real classes again.

Regardless, I did manage to reframe an old story and get that posted, and I’ve also decided to finally follow through and begin updating some of my poetry so I can post it to the new site. I think my new organization on the site is going to create a lot more motivation for me in the poetry category, so my goal is going to be posting at least two pieces a week. I think two is reasonable.

Speaking of the new site, what do you think? Both the story and the poetry blogs have themes that I think lend themselves better to those mediums, and while I’m fairly happy with the result, I’d be curious about your thoughts. Comments, criticisms, and suggestions are always welcome here.

After Hours

At the university, and within the field in general it seems, there are three primary shifts we work. First shift is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., second shift begins around 3 p.m. and goes until midnight, and third shift begins around 12 a.m. and ends at 8 a.m. We have some flexibility with those within Computer Services, and in particular our lab supervisors flex their hours a bit to ensure the best coverage, but within Microcomputer Support we’re strictly first shift. The business hours for the university are officially during the day, and we primarily support faculty and staff, so we need to be here during the same hours.

Unfortunately, there is always some sort of work that needs to be done during off-hours. Production servers that can’t be taken down during the regular day, or labs that need to be rebuilt but are in use during business hours. Our second shift lab supervisors are able to shoulder some of that burden, but occasionally we, as in Microcomputer Support, just have to work late.

As Banner go-live approaches, it seems we’re all picking up some extra hours. On the plus side, I suppose, our group (User Support) is “non-exempt,” which means the university pays us overtime. This is compared with pretty much all the rest of Computer Services who are overtime exempt, which means the university can ask them to work fifty hours a week and their pay doesn’t change. Overtime exempt employees, however, start off with twice as much vacation time and generally higher pay, though, so their compensation is built-in.

My primary project right now is setting up the documentation repository for Banner, which I’ve been able to do during normal business hours (when I’ve managed to find time for it, which isn’t always available). Banner training began yesterday, however, so the server is officially being used during the day and I can no longer tinker with it during my regular shift. As such, I was here late last night and will likely be late at least one other night this week. It is something I try to avoid, but it is becoming increasingly inevitable.

We have to be here during our shift, but if there’s work to do that takes additional or different times, you just have to suck it up and do it. What’s important is completing the work with the least impact on the end-user, and if that means working while the end-user is sleeping, then that’s what we’ll do. It’s what makes us User Support Specialists.


Upon arriving home earlier this week, I commented to April that it felt like I had only begun my work day about 15 minutes prior. That’s how busy I have been this week.

On the plus side, I’ve gotten some solid overtime in, enough to pay for the pair of pants I shredded when an errant net (the one by the softball field which marks the pitch-practicing area) was blown into my handlebars as I rode by, causing me to fall/fly/roll off my bike onto the rocky ground.

April and I are going camping today, and intend to return tomorrow, should the Lord tarry. I know I haven’t done hardly any writing this week, because I’ve been busy every day and busy/exhausted every evening. Two nights ago, I had time to write, but I crashed on the couch with a book and a glass of scotch and didn’t move for several hours. I fell asleep at 8, April woke me up sometime later and I read some more, then slept until 5:30 a.m., like I’ve done all this week. I don’t know what’s waking me up at 5:30 everyday, but I shake my fist at it.

I’m taking some really good books, and my notepad/pen as well. I won’t have my laptop, so no longer pieces will be completed, but maybe I’ll get a poem or two written. Hopefully, I’ll also get rested, because I’ve been exhausted. Truly. exhausted.

By the grace of God, I will carry on.