I worked a few temp jobs as I was trying to ease my way out of the mortgage industry. I even temped at the bus company that runs all the buses for Phoenix (that’ll be another story). I finally settled into an Internet Technical Support position at the University of Phoenix Online, for Apollo Group, Inc. The Online campus was building full of Enrollment Advisers (sales drones) and support personnel – no students.
Working for Apollo was nice, they had great education benefits, and the people I worked with were great folks. I’m still friends with a handful of them - a decade later. I was eventually promoted to the Campus System Administrator (CSA) position. This position allowed me to deal with people instead of voices over the phone. For me, it was easier to work with people I can see. Internet Technical Support was my start, and I appreciate the beginnings it gave me, but this was my tract to getting to the point where I can work with the Cisco routers and switches.
The Chairman and founder of Apollo, John Sperling, a creepy old man whose biggest goal was to clone his dead dog Missy, and legalize marijuana. He would come around, walking in looking like a bum off the street smelling like stale Aqua Velva.
Tech Support involved long hours tethered to phones in tiny three-sided non-cubes. We referred to them as toilet stalls. Day shifts could be insanely busy, and we could be required to spend a minimum of 7 hours a day in the queue on the phone with people. Nights were a tad slower, and with less supervision so we could screw around a little. That might involve playing online golf. Weekends were even slower, and we filled that time with small pranks.
We had all-employee meetings each quarter, and there was typically some sort of moral boosting component to these meetings. One meeting each department was asked to put together a quick presentation of the department. They could be funny or introspective, but they were boring, save a few. The CSA department was last to go. So far everyone had done some sort of PowerPoint presentation - we came up with this.
My first CSA supervisor assigned me a duty to input a bunch of data into a database for all the new hires that would use this database (Campus Tracking). It was all about getting the correct permission assigned to people. I had a few templates to copy, but when managers needed special permissions assigned I found corporate would take too long. I played with the system and learned a lot, like adding special permissions.
One trick with Campus Tracking was getting a unique 3-character code for each employee. It started fine, but after a while (and 5,000 employees) some of the employee combinations were already in use. Managers would refuse my setup because I didn't always use the employee's initials. Instead of JFK (example), I would use JK5. The system would not allow a duplicate 3-character code, and manager needed to know the codes. Thus was born the spreadsheet I started to send managers letting them know their employee's 3-character code.
Campus Tracking was taking over my whole day, I was putting in 8 hours doing nothing but Campus Tracking assignments. Our director assigned us all to manually run an update on each computer in out section within 3 days. I never got to it, because Campus Tracking data was needed by the same date. Overtime was not permitted without prior approval. A few of us were singled out for not completing those updates. I started asking my managers what takes priority Campus Tracking deadlines or CSA duties.
It was around this time that I started referring to myself as The Campus Tracking Monkey. After while I would only talk about myself in the 3rd. After a couple months of this and acting OCD and Bi-Polar I was finally relieved to my Campus Tracking duties.
It was Apollo Group's educational product I wasn't interested in. I had a student on the phone one day who was a Chief Information Officer of some corporation, possibly ATMI. He was in the last few classes to finish a master’s degree in Information Technology; he still needed help from his secretary to send a simple email. Doing internet technical support, I learned students would get out as much out of their education program as they put into it. By putting forth the effort the student could garner as much knowledge as they wanted, or as little as they could. The students that were lazy, or had their secretary do all the work, would render them to be the same idiot prior to enrollment, only with a degree from the accredited University of Phoenix and a few thousand dollars less in net worth.
About six months into tech support, I got called up to the Campus Systems Administration (CSA) department, a promotion. Now my job was to support all the people in our building with hands on rather than pure internet support. Most of the people we supported were nice people. However, there were a few people that made our naughty list.
Steven Colucci was a smarmy marketing guy who smelled like day-old date-rape. He was the type of guy who found a way to get every possible cell phone feature AT&T had turned on, creating an $800/month cell bill. Management found out. Every department had their cellular service audited. In IT we had our phones stripped in favor of pagers, all due to Colucci . Some of the features he enabled were not even available for his cell phone, but AT&T was still happy to charge for it. This was typical marketing department behavior. They had the most important people in the company doing the most important jobs – just ask ‘em, they’ll tell you all about their importance.
While on a business trip Colucci admitted to spilling beer on his laptop. The laptop stopped working. So, he called the laptop support person in wee hours of the night. He told the one gal that we put in charge of all of our mobile people that she needed to get his laptop fixed as soon as he gets to town, and he was due in, in a few hours. She had some sort of family thing planned, but he forced her to cancel her plans to repair his laptop. During the process he had her in tears about providing support and threatening to call a vice president or director on Monday.
He had claims of important business stuff and deadlines. He bragged to a coworker that he wanted to get a bid in on eBay on time. It got back to our department, and we swore we'd make him pay... If our manager lodged a complaint about his behavior, and how it was over an eBay auction, and spilling beer on his laptop, it would have been buried and nothing would have been done. Marketing was above the rules and regulations in Apollo. Besides, in IT we took care of our own problems.
We had a constant workload of moving people between buildings and/or departments. Apollo would hire a consulting or efficiency group to come in a few times a year. Guess how many times they didn't suggest a wholesale move or reorganizing of all the staff? NEVER! These big reorganizations recommended by the consultants were large, and involved our whole staff and a dozen or so temps.
Because of the complexity of these large moves Helen, the facility manager, would send emails to managers and employees with expectations that each department would be accountable held to. Helen would walk each building and label each isle and cube, so the location would be easy to be found by the temps. She would distribute large easy to read labels for everybody scheduled to move. It was up to the employee to fill out their own labels. The labels needed the name of the employee, what their current cube location was, and where they were supposed to move to. Managers would take time to have meetings with their people; about the move, and help the slower ones label their stuff. Sales drones (liars) tended to need more hand holding.
We did not have time to deal with people’s personal stuff. We urged people to take personal crap home – Our moves involved hundreds of people between 5 buildings and we didn't have the time, space, patience, or inclination to take care of personal crap. Helen would send detailed lists of what is personal and what is work related. It really needed to be spelled out for these people. Smart people would cart their personal belongings home in boxes provided, or place it in their new cube and label it to not be touched. They knew the easier they made our job, the faster they could get back to selling (lying).
Helen provided these giant bags, to be labeled by the employee, so we can place the mouse, keyboard, and cords into. We’d find them stuffed full of office supplies and other crap. Whatever we asked of employees, somebody would find a way to circumvent it or muck it up.
Writing information on a label, and placing the labels on equipment to be moved, was way too much effort for sales drones. A few individuals placed all their books in large boxes. We ended up with 300 pound boxes. We got orders from our bosses to not move those giant boxes (it was a safety issue because of the weight), and our managers didn't want to get stuck with the Workers Comp. Helen created a new moving rule - “If YOU can’t lift it, IT doesn't move”.
Back to Colucci, this guy would do nothing correctl. He expected the IT department to do all his housekeeping. We would have to do his move including packing up all of his personal items. We’d still get calls the next morning because he’d want us to clean his dusty cube. We did not clean cubes, he would have to arrange that on his own. It just never ended with this arrogant self-entitled tool. He was about as much a marketing guru as Capt'n Crunch is a sea captain, we learned a few weeks later. His big asset was that he was very slippery when blame was coming around, everyone around him would be blamed for bad marketing or poor sales, and he would always come out looking like a saint
We were pushed over the edge by this guy and his antics. The next move was large, so again, we had a bunch of temps contracted. Our crew and the temps were given orders prior to the move, and one item was to have everything that wasn't labeled placed in piles against a wall. The temps had piled all the computer equipment along the wall, and properly left all of his personal crap in his old cube. After a while with a large move, we couldn't determine who's stuff belonged to which person as it piled along the unlabeled wall.
When we checked everything over as we performed a walk-through we noticed, as expected, Colucci left all of his personal cube-stuff behind. A select few of us carefully moved his books and papers around, so they would be lugged off with other people’s equipment and be scattered through the campus's 5 buildings. When people found his stuff, only half of them bothered to call him, or alert anybody (sales drones are too busy lying, and just wanted to get back on the phone). As for his personal items: it was handed out as gifts to the temps, some of the stuff was misplaced, and other stuff was thrown away.
The rest of the weekend was spent hooking up all the computers back up, make sure everything worked, and run Windows Updates (this was prior to Automatic Updates). Monday morning the IT Department had Helen send an email to managers of people who could not follow directions; so they would know where to find their stuff. Colucci called and was told where his stuff would “probably” be. That wasn't good enough for him, we were supposed to find it for him and haul it over to him. We would get to his computer when we could, but his personal stuff was all up to him. We were scheduled to be on other duties to finish the post-move project. His order was placed at the back of the list, and when he called over-and-over my manager would keep telling him his request was at the top of the list.
He declared emergency powers with Helen, and she called us to have all of his computer needs and personal stuff transported and set up just the way he wished, just to shut him up. I think she was sick of babysitting him as well. IT had all of us paged, and all 15 of us participated in doing his emergency move. We made a spectacle of moving his stuff, making sure as many people as possible knew this jackass couldn't follow directions and required a high maintenance.
Colucci complained the whole day, as expected, and after the emergency move he wanted to know where all of his personal stuff was. His books and paperwork were missing. At that point all we could do was again tell him where the pile was. He spent the next couple of days searching for his crap, finding only a few bits and pieces. He resorted to sending a company-wide email asking if anyone had seen a few items of his that were lost during the move. Helen sent a company-wide reply reminding him of the directions explicitly telling everyone to take personal items home prior to the move, and how IT was not responsible for personal items during moves.
After his true colors were shown to everyone, it was open season on this douche.
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