Returning to the Library

Did you know that people I work with read my blog? Hi work people!

Subsequently, complaining too much in an incredibly public location would be unwise, and I shall refrain from doing so. Let us just say this much:

Last week I was asked to return to the Help Desk (call center) for a week to help out. They’re understaffed at the moment and the two people left over there have been scrambling to get end-of-year things done, so I covered the phones and email while they focused on those other things. The work was frenetic and I was back in the thick of things–when something went wrong or there was some bit of news, I was one of the first to know. Moving and Shaking occurred.

Today I returned to my office in the Library, where instead of playing with tech and talking with customers (which, to be honest, I don’t enjoy a whole lot), I worked on schedules and management related stuff. It was equally busy, especially since I wasn’t here last week, but also different. There is far less communication between my peers on this side of the house, and since I’m away from the heart of Computer Services, I’m a bit out of the loop on things.

My job, despite a grueling six months (or perhaps because of it), is getting better. Another way to phrase that is that it’s getting easier, which is helping me cope with it and subsequently feel better. Do I miss working in the Help Desk, and/or would I want to go back? I certainly miss the staff there, with whom I interact far less now, and I enjoyed the work a fair amount (though call center stuff was always 50/50). But I also recognize that the work I do now is important and really helping people. I’m striving to improve our customer relations and how we interact with and train our staff, and I expect 2010 to be a year of great developments for us. I was glad to be back in the Library, but I’ll admit, I do miss the Desk a bit.

No idea what 2010 will hold. This will be my fourth year in Computer Services User Support as a full time staff person, and every year I have no idea what’s going to happen. At the end of every year, I look back and marvel at everything we’ve done and am rather surprised. It seems that there’s a good chance that 2010 will be awesome, though, and I look forward to finding out what crazy stuff we’re going to do so when I look back in 2011 I once again think, “Wow, I can’t believe we did all that.”

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.