I was attending a movie one hot summer afternoon in Phoenix. Some days it was the easiest and cheapest way to get and stay cool for a couple hours. Just as the movie finished I checked my phone for messages, and I got a live call. I got the call from the Natural Data telling me I got the job at the University of Phoenix - Online.
I would be working at the online college as temporary staff working for Natural Data, with the goal of having University of Phoenix hire me on full-time. I would fill out my own timesheet, and have the manager or supervisor at University of Phoenix sign it, then fax it in on Fridays.
I started on later shifts working from about 3:00 through 11:00pm. That didn’t leave much time to see my busy fiancé, but I knew I could work hard and earn the earlier shifts as they became available.
We provided telephone Internet technical support to all students and staff of the school. The primary means for most students and staff to reach the learning environment was via Internet Explorer (IE) and Outlook Express (OE). I KNOW there are better alternatives, but those were the officially supported programs (probably because they come built in right into Windows). I ended up learning OE/IE inside out, and even passed a few certification exams on those programs.
I was ideological when I started and thought I had a bunch of grand ideas to make a good company an even better company. I thought we should try to build our own PC’s to save money. One of the guys there explained the benefit of stable common component computers and warrantees. Ever since then I’ve been a Dell fan.
Natural Data wasn’t the only temp company providing staff to technical support personal to University of Phoenix. That vast majority of us were from either Natural Data, or the other service. We soon learned the other outfit paid their staff a whole $1 more than Natural Data paid us. They also treated their staff well.
Natural Data required us to fax our signed time sheet in each week. We’d usually elect somebody from our group to gather up all the timesheets, get them signed, and fax them over. It was more efficient, and the guys would cover my time in the phone queue. However, that fax machine was typically nonfunctional when we needed to fax timesheets in. I would try to run the time-sheets a few times before giving up. The problem was we usually worked later than the Natural Data office was open, and the University of Phoenix supervisor didn’t like to sign the timesheets at the very beginning of our shift.
Sometimes one of us would stop in on Saturday, and try to fax again, or we’d wait until Monday and go to work early to fax them all in. Once instance, I had to make a copy of all of them, and drive them across town to walk them in. By Monday we’d all already have messages complained about the tardiness of our timesheets. The final straw was presented the week Natural Data thought it would be fun to hold everybody’s paycheck because time-sheets weren't in soon enough for check processing.
I called to talk to our Account Executive (AE) at Natural Data, I left unanswered messages. I called a few more times until I finally reached the AE. He quickly stated he was too busy to speak with me and someone more important that just walked in.
So, I’m working for a company that puts roadblocks up to getting our timesheets in on time, punishes us for getting them in late, and doesn’t like to speak to us. So, I left a message for Natural Data’s president.
Dennis Myer was the manager we reported to at University of Phoenix. He pulled me off to the side to tell me I had an important phone call in his office. I took the call, and it was the president of Natural Data – and he was mad as hell that his AE said he had someone more important and would not speak with me. I explained the situation with their fax machine – he thought it was running out of paper, and promised to make sure it was filled on Fridays before the office was vacated. I explained the other company, the one that pays their people better, stopped by and picked up timesheets. Our work location was right on HWY 60 and everyone went by on the way to work in Phoenix. The other company, the one that pays their people better also has pizza parties for employees – and even allow the Natural Data people to eat.
I told him maybe his AE was right, we are less important to them. They show that in the way they treat us every day. The president apologized profusely, and explained the things he would do to make everything run smoother and better, because it’s us working that makes them [a whole shitload of] money.
Later Dennis had me explain the call. I told him the nature of the call, and he was pleased that I took it upon myself to make the call, since we technically work for Natural Data – not him. He could and would intervene if we needed though.
My coworkers were all very happy with me, because Natural Data improved for a short time. They did provide a pizza party the very next week, but no staff from the other company, the one that pays their people better, were allowed to partake in any of the pizza. The fax machine worked for two weeks then it went back the same old situation. Natural Data actually stopped by to pick up timesheets one time.
Soon after that I was hired on full-time at University of Phoenix. Shortly after that I was even promoted to a different position. One day I was assigned a project to set-up server software on a high end PC. I built the system to specifications and turned it in. They had ordered and got a new T1 installed. I had unknowingly just built a spam server that would be hooked up to the new T1, so in case IP address was blacklisted, and wouldn’t affect our student systems. I might very well be responsible for a billion or so spam emails?
Eventually my wife’s work led me to move away from that job, and later we moved to Minnesota. I was a consultant working a little here and a little there. Occasionally I would pick up work through an agency. Rick Stob of Natural Data contacted me and offered some work. I was to go to an American Sterling Bank that was being decommissioned in Minnesota and collect computer equipment listed on my work order, and deliver the equipment to a UPS Store. When complete, the bank in Minnesota would only function as a mortgage office. Natural Data had a UPS Store handling all the shipping, so I only needed to move the equipment a few miles, in my own car, and keep track of all the serial numbers of the equipment I moved.
Everything was completed, I did have some difficulty getting somebody at American Sterling Bank to want to sign off on my time-sheet. Nobody wanted the liability of signing, but I did manage to find a signer. The UPS store had all the equipment; they wrapped and boxed everything, then shipped it to Colorado.
The only problem was Natural Data doesn’t like to pay their employees, or return calls. That was in 2008, and I'm still waiting for a call back - AND A CHECK!!!