Starting a New Adventure

In December of 2011, I finished my bachelor’s degree and resolved to give myself a year before making any big changes in my life. I wanted to spend some time figuring out what I really enjoyed doing and where I wanted to go next. Along the way, I realized that the part of my job I enjoy most is project management, and I decided to start a master’s of science in project management in the fall of 2013. I had planned to finish that before making any other big changes, but circumstances have caught up with me, and in the best possible way.

My work at the university, as many of you know, is not easy. I’ll leave the understatement at that, and go on to say that after talking with my boss in both January and June of this year about how I needed to see some changes in both the number of hours I worked and the type of work I was doing, I decided to start looking in June for a new job. Last Monday, I was offered a position for which I have been interviewing for almost two months.

I’m crazy excited about this job. The company for which I’ll be working is Adaptavist, and I’ll be a remote-work consultant specializing in Atlassian’s Confluence and JIRA and combining my technical knowledge with project management and communication skills. It’s a small, agile company that looks to have a fantastic work culture, and their methods and priorities align with mine.

They’re based out of the UK, so I’ll travel there for a week-long orientation sometime in the next month or so, but most of my work will be from home. We’re not moving away from Springfield, and I’ll be continuing work on my master’s. I’ll still be on-campus at Missouri State regularly to go to the rec center or other events. It’s going to be strange being just a student, but I look forward to that experience.

I really appreciate all the people I met and all the experience I gained at MSU, but working for Adaptavist is just about my dream job. Three years ago, I started thinking, “What do I really want to do?” and now I’m going to start doing it. Between that and Meta-Manage (which has sadly languished while I’ve devoted more attention and energy to seeking a new job, but which will get going again very soon), everything is just great.

My last day at MSU is Friday, October 3rd, and I start working for Adaptavist on Monday, October 6th.

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.”

Winter in Missouri

I always wonder what people from other places think when they come to Missouri State University. They visit and have their orientation/registration over the summer, when the flower beds are all in bloom, our humidity is turned up to eleven, and the Ozarks is nothing but green oak trees and blue sky. They come here in the fall, when it’s even more hot and humid, but then the leaves start to turn and, let me tell you, this was one of the most beautiful autumns we’ve had in quite some time. And then they get through their first semester and winter hits.

When the students return this weekend, especially if they’re coming from the coasts, they may be in for a surprise. The temperature’s been hovering around zero the last few days, and the windchill was apparently around -20 Fahrenheit when I walked in from the parking garage today. If you’re an international student from the Caribbean, or from India, or just traveling here from Arizona or California… is this what you expected?

Business As Usual in Missouri is weather you can’t count on. Things can change in a matter of hours with fifty degree temperature swings, snow storms one day and tornadic thunderstorms the next, and an abundance of beautiful but deceptive sunshine. For those of us who grew up here, we’ve come to expect and even appreciate it.

I’ve only once heard someone from outside the Ozarks share their opinion on our manic depressive weather patterns. She was a student from South Africa, a place that Americans consider with awe and a bit of trepidation, mostly because it has the word “Africa” in it. We assume it’s all kinds of dangerous and challenging to live in, but she was perplexed at why anyone would live in America, let alone Missouri. “Back home we have to worry about crime and other things,” she said, “but here the very country tries to kill you! There are tornadoes and hurricanes and earthquakes and floods and droughts… every year! Why would anyone live here?!”

Why indeed. There are certainly places on the earth’s surface that are more peaceful and safe to live… but for the same reason we can’t imagine why someone would continue to live in Israel with all the strife there over the last… however many millennia, we can’t imagine living anywhere else. America is my home, and I really like Springfield. We get the occasional tornado, but compared to a lot of other places, it’s pretty OK.

At least, to me. I’m not sure our longer distance students agree.

Dropping Out

It may take me another 2+ years to graduate from college.

I’ve been a bit frustrated for years now. Though doing things I enjoy, I feel like my life and passions have been on hold so I can do the responsible thing. I want to finish what I start, and I want to help people, and I want to do it right. I basically put college on hold for two years to co-lead FnC–I couldn’t take upper-level classes at the time because I didn’t have enough time for more intense study or research. Then I got a full time job so I could afford to get married and subsequently start a family. Throughout it all, I’ve tried to balance school with the goal of getting a degree, and all along the way my writing has been on the back burner. It was what I ultimately wanted to focus on, but these other necessities took precedence.

Now I’m trying to finish my degree so I can move on and do what I want. I thought I just had another semester and a half, another seven months, and then I’d be done. I’d have a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies with a minor in Creative Writing at the end of Spring 2010.

I was a double major (RS and CW), but today I dropped my second major down to a minor so I could graduate sooner. At the same time, I really examined my degree audit. For years, I’ve scheduled classes based on the general education and major/minor requirements, making sure I met each one. I took every night class I could that met those requirements because my work really doesn’t like me taking day classes. Since there are no night classes left to take, I began my last four courses before completing my degree, taking them during the day.

But it looks like I don’t just need four more courses. There’s a subsection on my degree audit I missed that states “40 hours upper-division credits required.” I have eighteen, with three more currently in progress. I need nineteen more.

I’ll get six next semester with my last 500-levels. That leaves me still needing thirteen. At six hours a semester, that’s three semesters. Conversely, I could try to take nine hours during one semester (on top of 40 hours of work), but most 300-levels that would satisfy this requirement aren’t offered at night at Missouri State and I don’t think my work would be quite that flexible.

What’s worse, I have no classes left to take that actually matter. They would have to be absolutely random, unrelated 300-level classes.

The thought of being in school for another two years is devastating, primarily because I just don’t think I can do it. I have been in school for so long, and I’ve been wanting to finish something for so long, that the thought of not finishing is heartbreaking. And yet, I can’t see myself putting my true desires on hold for another two years just to get a piece of paper that doesn’t matter.

I have three desires in my life.

  1. Be a father.
  2. Write.
  3. Serve God (which I think will involve learning about and teaching spiritual warfare).

Number 1 is waiting until April’s education is complete and we pay everything off–we can’t afford to have kids until then. I’ve put number 2 on hold for years because there was always something else to do first. And while I’m trying to do number 3 more, it’s hard when I have to work 9-10 hour days because of work+class and then do homework (reading and essays) in the evening.

What does getting a degree do to advance those priorities? After next semester, I will have already taken every class required to get a BA in Religious Studies, I just haven’t taken enough “upper division” classes. I won’t be furthering my education by taking another five classes, I’ll just be paying the University more money and time to give me a piece of paper that doesn’t go towards advancing my priorities.

I have been in school for twenty years at this point. And it has been inarguably valuable. But do I really need to do more?

I do not want to be defined by a college degree.I want to be defined by what I do with my life, and perhaps that’s where my desire for completion comes. I lack definition, and getting a degree would have given me something while also marking the transition to pursuing my passions. So I could spend another two years in college to get a degree that gives me a label, or I can actually do something. I could write the book of poetry I dreamed up in the shower this morning, and return to my scifi novel, and actually finish a fantasy fiction short story. I can start experimenting and learning how to live and write about it. I could take up photography.

In a sense, I don’t want the sense of accomplishment that comes from getting the BA, because I don’t feel it is justified. What does that piece of paper prove? That I stuck it out? That I delayed my life another 1.5 years?

How much longer do I have do walk on this treadmill?

I have been looking forward to the end of next semester for years. Looking forward to finally having time to write, to being more involved with the church, to starting attending a small group again, and to figuring out how to live.

What is there besides school? I’ve been in school since I was four years old–I have no experience outside of it–and I wonder what’s out there. What else could I be doing? What would life be like?

I could live, instead of just waiting to live.

I’m not doing anything. I go, I do enough to get the grade, and I wait for them to hand me a piece of paper. Is this what life is supposed to be?

I’m going to meet with my advisor tomorrow to see what she says, but I doubt there’s any way around this 40-hour rule. And if it comes to that, is there any point in pushing myself through another two years?

And for those who are inevitably going to post, “Get your degree! It’s so worth it!” please, tell me why. Why is it worth it? Note that I already have a secure, full time job paying a good amount more than average for Springfield, and I’ve already learned everything the degree is intended to confer. Note that a degree in religious studies has no direct application to anything I want to do. I don’t intend, nor do I foresee, going on to graduate level studies, and if I did enroll for a graduate degree then I think it would have to be as a full-time student, not someone trying to do it while working full time (and if that were the case, I could finish up my undergrad in a semester or two). Note the above priorities.

I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I were really engaged with what I feel God is calling me to. I can’t see any reason to delay any longer.

What is happiness, peace, and fulfillment worth? Would a degree make me happy? Would I be happy if I let that goal go? I don’t know… I really don’t. Like I said, the thought of not finishing the degree–my thoughts going round and round for the last five hours–are stunning. It’s hard for me to accept the thought of not finishing. But the thought of going for another two years, for having been in college for nine years to get a degree to hang on the wall, and for no other purpose, is even harder to accept.

I’m going to brush my teeth and go to bed. God, be with me. Help this all make sense.

Criticisms of Class

Our first essay in my religion class this semester is to write some sort of response to the reading so far. We’ve gone through almost 200 pages about theories of religion and our class format is for the teacher/presenter (students are actually teaching each class, one chapter a day from a different student each day) to walk through an outline of the chapter, summarizing its key points.

The paper, however, is not supposed to be a summary. Recognizing I’ve missed 2.5+ weeks of class, I asked somewhat timidly what the professor was looking for in this paper. It’s not supposed to be a summary, but summarize is all we seem to do.

The professor screwed up his face, seeming flabbergasted that I would ask such a question. As my peers responded in kind (looking as if I’d asked what only an ignoramus would), he asked in a somewhat condescending tone, “Didn’t I put the assignment on Blackboard? Isn’t it all out there already?”

I didn’t know it was, and apologized and said I’d take a look. Opening Blackboard, I went to the assignment and read it.

In this essay, discuss the 19th century theories of Müller, Tylor, Smith, Frazer and Marx. Begin by spending about three pages summarizing the theories of each thinker concerning religion. The challenge here is to identify the essential ideas and concepts of each theory and express them accurately and concisely. Conclude your essay with a critical analysis of each theory. What do you consider to be the major strengths and weaknesses of each? Be sure that you make clear why a strength is a strength and a weakness a weakness.

Be aware that each chapter concludes with an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of a theory.

So… how is this not summarizing?

I hate being made to feel stupid without valid justification.

This 500-level religion class, though infinitely better, is frustratingly similar to the 100-level history class I’m dealing with this semester. In that class, the Asian instructor essentially covers nothing but names and dates. These names are occasionally given the barest context, but that context is sadly lacking. The purpose of studying history, to me, is to analyze the events, the inspirations, the motives, the whys and the hows. We’re not even getting a good timeline because he jumps around the globe and back and forth across centuries so we can’t even do a comparative analysis.

I don’t know how many thousands of dollars I’ve given this university for what essentially amounts to book recommendations. If not for reading the books, I’d have gotten no real education at all.

Browsing in the Basement

There’s a tornado warning in Springfield, so we’re down in the basement. This is my first tornado here [Missouri State University – Cheek Hall – Computer Services] with the MacBook, and it makes the whole experience a lot more pleasant. Instead of sitting down here just cooling my heels, I can obsessively refresh Twitter, check the weather, and bring up videos on YouTube.

In addition, it’s the first serious storm since we moved into our home, so April’s in the basement with the kittens. That makes me feel way better than I have in previous storms because I know that she’s safe. Unfortunately, I also know that the storm is dropping 3+ inches of rain, and our basement has a small leak in one corner.

At any rate, the tornado warning is in place until 9 this morning, and we’ve been down here since 8:10 a.m. or so. Without coffee. There are worse things, but not many.

I’ll update this post later with more updates, like when we get out of the basement. The latest I’ve heard is quarter-size hail, lots of rain, and 60-70 MPH winds. There’s a tornado in Republic (about 30 minutes drive from here) and it’s headed towards Springfield, was supposed to be here about 10 minutes ago.

If God wills, I’ll update again shortly.

Update:: Of course, by virtue of Murphy’s Law, as soon as I published this the warning was cleared and we were allowed to go back upstairs. I don’t trust it though. Springfield tends to blow the sirens at the slightest provocation, so I grabbed coffee as quick as I could and got things done so I’m ready to go back to the basement if need be.

Cell reception is terrible, so I could barely get a hold of April. Things appear to be fine at the house.

Update 2:: Yep, back down in the basement at 8:48. Wind’s blowing so hard that we can’t hear the sirens.

Update 3:: 8:56 a.m. and we’re back upstairs, and supposedly it’s done now. Whee.

Update 4:: 9:01 a.m., back in the basement. Tornado on I-44 at the 83 mile marker, wherever that is. Lots of damage in Republic. April called and said something got torn off the neighbour’s house, maybe the rear siding. It’s in their back yard now. Hope it’s not our siding…

Update 5:: 9:09 a.m. Pat, the building coordinator, tells us that Springfield is just recycling the sirens and the threat is pretty much gone. He’ll come by and tell us if we need to go back to the basement again. Back upstairs for now.

Update 6:: 11:50 a.m. and I hadn’t really planned on updating this further. The storm has passed and now we’re just surveying the damage, so I didn’t think there was any need for me to go on. However, they just taped off the front entry way to Cheek Hall on the Missouri State University campus, where I work, because a tree “shifted” during the storm and they fear it might fall over.

Our Help Desk Call Center is right next to that tree, so we’ve taken what precautions we can to keep people safe. The tree looks solid to us–no damage visible on the ground, so the roots haven’t pulled up or anything and the trunk appears un-cracked–but we’re going to take as few chances as possible.

April sent me some pictures of our neighbour’s back lawn and our front porch. It looks like the neighbours lost some siding, which really sucks. On the bright side, they rent, so the landlord has to deal with it, but they just moved in a couple of weeks ago.

img_5978 img_5984 img_5985

Update 7:: It’s 1:50 p.m., two hours later, and the tree out front of Cheek Hall is still standing strong. I had a very pleasant walk outside during my lunch break with the sun shining and the birds singing–it is amazing to me how easily nature rebounds from these things that frighten humans so much.

I’m anxious to go home in three short hours. I’ll try and take some pictures around the neighbourhood and the park and post them.

Update 8:: I went across the atrium to visit Brenda and noticed they were cutting a tree down. Apparently, they were referring to a different tree than we thought–the one we thought they were saying had “shifted” is just fine, but one just a bit further east is now being excised. I’m really hopeful they’ll plant new trees there to replace it.

Too bad I don’t have a camera here.

Twitter

About 8:11 a.m. | Tornado spotted in Republic. Missouri State University is in basements and such. Tornado estimated to be in #SGF by 8:25 a.m.

About 8:15 a.m. | April and the kittens are in the basement at home, which makes me feel a lot better. As for me, I’m 15 feet underground; can’t hear sirens.

About 9:10 a.m. | Apparently, the least safe place to be in a storm is Fairgrove Elementary. http://tinyurl.com/ou8k59 #sgf

About 9:13 a.m. | According to our building coordinator, #SGF is just recycling the sirens. We’ve been allowed back upstairs indefinitely; ignoring sirens.

About 9:30 a.m. | Fair amount of limbs down on the Missouri State campus :- Always makes me sad. Not going outside to inspect the damage yet, though. #SGF

About 10:30 a.m. | RT @donwyatt #sgf Storm was serious. Pls use caution when you inspect damage. Downed power lines can’t always be seen.

About 11:32 a.m. | RT @donwyatt: #SGF Wal-mart on N Kansas/I-44 has closed. No power. Lots of debris in parking lot. http://bit.ly/Lbkkf

About 10:45 a.m. | Did a power outage at Drury knock out their web servers? Can’t get to their website right now to confirm class cancellation. #SGF

About 10:50 a.m. | Internet appears to be down at Drury University #SGF . People on campus can’t connect out, and I can’t connect in.

About 10:55 a.m. | RT @ChrisBrewerNL: Photo of damage from Fair Grove school: http://twitpic.com/4s7yp #SGF

About 11:26 a.m. | RT @donwyatt: #SGF Glendale HS update – SW corner roof of N wing damaged. No injuries. No damage inside bldg. http://bit.ly/Ipvet

About 11:37 a.m. | RT @AshleyReynolds: My grandparent’s farm was hit by a tornado this a.m. broken bones and barns down. I ask for your thoughts and prayers.

About 11:41 a.m. | Front entry of Cheek Hall closed b/c a tree “shifted” and they fear it might fall. Looks fine to us, but we’re taking precautions. #sgf #msu

About 1:47 p.m. | The birds are singing and the sun’s out. Almost couldn’t tell we had a storm this morning, except for all the downed limbs. #SGF

About 2:06 p.m. | Correction: Tree is totally being cut down. We thought it was a diff. tree that had shifted. Hope they plant new trees there. #SGF #MSU

For continued updates on this subject, I suggest searching Twitter for SGF. I’ve been following it all morning to keep up with what’s going on and it has been an excellent resource. For direct news, @donwyatt has been very informative and on top of things.

On Adventure and Job Security

He had spent years in search of boredom, but had never achieved it. Just when he thought he had it in his grasp his life would suddenly become full of near-terminal interest. The thought that someone could voluntarily give up the prospect of being bored for fifty years made him feel quite weak. With fifty years ahead of him, he thought, he could elevate tedium to the status of an art form. There would be no end to the things he wouldn’t do.

– On Rincewind from Sourcery

“Matt, would you walk me to my next class?” Erin asked me breathlessly, her eyes wide with fear behind her slightly oval-shaped glasses. We had sat next to each other most of my freshman year of high school in geometry, but hadn’t begun speaking to each other until relatively recently. To be honest, I hadn’t even noticed her until last week.

Despite having been in close proximity to this girl for over a semester and a half, she always avoided notice by wearing big flannel shirts, keeping her hair over her face, and never saying a word. But when she walked into the dance the previous Friday night, it was like beholding an angel. I swear she shone with a pure white light, and her laughter swept me from my feet. She was enchanting, and when she told me that we had a class together, I was flabbergasted.

Today she was hiding again, though. Boots instead of high heels and flannel rather than lace, the only distinguishing mark about her the fear that was plain on her face. Of course, I agreed to walk her, and gently cajoled the story from her as we crossed the campus.

A band of pagans (not true satan worshippers, nor actually powerful witches) had forced her to a shrine they had built with the intent of harming her. Whether it would have come to rape or murder is hard to say, but Erin was terrified (she had escaped by kicking one in the groin and bull rushing past the one with the knife), and being the gallant witch I was, I vowed to protect her. For the next several days, I ditched out of classes early so I could walk her from place to place, and cast guardian wards wherever and whenever I could to keep her from harm.

I served as Erin’s bodyguard for only a week before she disappeared. Finally tracking her to Texas, I learned that she had fled the state out of fear, but was thankful for my help. Helluva reward.

***

Over the last couple of days, I have had a somewhat sobering and comforting realization. Despite my frustration at being unable to write due to the muddled nature of my mind on pain medication and the constant throbbing of my jaw, I have found myself uniquely blessed. It has occurred to me how truly wonderful it is to have a real job.

Not that writing isn’t a real job, for those who make an income from it, but in this moment, I’m kind of glad it isn’t my real job. I have a secure position at a major university which provides me with sick leave, vacation time, retirement benefits, and a steady paycheck based on the work, services, and knowledge I provide.

Writing is, to my mind, kind of like adventuring. You put yourself out there, go out on a limb, and pour yourself into something. You do it out of love and excitement and perhaps a certain amount of naivete. Sometimes this pans out and you make a paycheck here and there, but it’s not steady or secure.

Being unable to write for the last few days, I’ve felt a bit like a failure. I haven’t been producing, and subsequently my self-worth has faltered. But now it occurs to me that, at least at this stage in my life, that’s OK. My job isn’t writing; writing is a hobby I enjoy, but it’s not what pays for our house or our food. I have no obligation to a muse or a mission, I’m just (supposedly) doing this for fun.

***

I met a lot of people when I started college who wanted to go on a big adventure. They wanted to get out and see the world, to “start their life,” and to see what it all had to offer. I thought they were fools.

Adventure always found me whether I wanted it to or not, and it was never truly pleasant. Rather, I sought boredom, because boredom meant nobody was trying to kill me or mine.

I didn’t find boredom until I became Christian, and even then, not until after my first year or so of college. Once I placed myself under Jesus’s banner, I found that I no longer had to fight everything on my own. God takes care of me.

This was kind of a depressing realization at first. Part of me still thirsts for adventure, for the thrill of cheating death, for striding where so few go and daring everything for the next great leap. There was no point in keeping myself in good physical shape anymore, in pushing myself in certain academic pursuits, or in preparing for the great battles. There were no more great battles, and there was no more adventure of the sort I knew.

But there is certainly joy, and the last few days has highlighted that most dramatically. April has been truly wonderful, taking care of everything for me with love and gentleness. She has done the dishes and cleaned, cooked for me, catered to my every need, and somehow not resented my listless and constant napping.

All-in-all, I’m fine to be rid of the adventures of my youth. I could fill a book someday with them, and I probably will, but I’m not anxious to repeat them. I’d rather have this comfortable bed and our kittens, my beautiful wife and our home, and a secure job where I am valued and sheltered in the warm bosom of the university’s bureaucracy. I know from experience that there’s simply no end to the things I wouldn’t do.

Processing the day’s memories

I had a pretty good week, all-in-all. Compared to the last month, it was downright relaxing, and I got caught up on a lot of work. However, we’ve had a couple of emails from our university’s president about the economy, and drastic measures are being taken to address the issue before it becomes terribly negative for us. They’re preparing potential budgets in case our state allocation is slashed, and most travel, non-necessary maintenance, and other general expenses have been halted.

I guess this all culminates for me in fear of losing my job, because that was the nightmare I had last night. It’s a reasonable fear in today’s economic climate, especially since I know two people who were recently laid off, but during the day I feel pretty confident in my place at the university. My annual evaluation scores are high, my work is valuable to the institution, and I’ve been placed in some pretty instrumental roles. I feel like I do good work there, so I should be secure.

But you never know. They could always decide that it’s cheaper to do away with the computer labs and outsource computer support (which it is). That’s why I try to do a lot of things that aren’t traditional computer support, because if that’s all we did (the traditional turning-of-screw-drivers and replacing-of-hardware), we wouldn’t be worth what they pay us. I’m told that people up above recognize this, like us a great deal, and value what we do. And I know that the students want to keep the labs going and strong, because we put them first and make sure they get the best service we can provide. But despite knowing all that, I’m apparently still afraid of losing my job.

If I did get terminated, I’m not quite sure what I would do. Ryan has quickly shifted gears into freelance web design/development, and for the moment at least, that seems to be going well for him. I suppose I could set myself up as a computer technician and go to people’s houses to fix their computer problems. I’d also try and get a part-time job temporarily, and really step up my writing so I could get some things out for publishing and selling. I’ll be the first to admit that giving my work away for free is pretty easy when I have a good salary, a home I can pay for, plenty of food, etc. But when it comes right down to it, a guy’s got to get paid.

Hopefully, though, it’ll never come to that. I really like my job and the University, and I want to work and serve there for a very long time. I’m behind on my Reflections on Blogging series, but some of the things I’ll be writing about with that are academia and my committment to it. It’s something I really believe in, and want to continue supporting.

I think I’m good, but it does make me nervous.

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.
    (PDF)
  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.