I hate being a consultant

Well, no, not really. Most of the time I find it interesting and rewarding to work with all kinds of people in different environments during different circumstances. But let's put that perky attitude aside for now, and instead describe what's going on for the moment. I'm doing consultancy work for a fairly big company that makes a lot of money, and for the moment we're in a very intensive state. I think, partly because of that, these things really trigger my nerves:

The environment

It's a Windows 2000 environment, where everything is controlled from a central location. I'm the only one using Windows XP, since I need to see how buttons, scrollbars etc will look and behave. If I need a program, they push-install it on my machine. I have an Active Desktop theme forced that I can't change in any way; the only option to alter is the resolution. While I understand that this approach might be necessary for people in the company who aren't very computer savvy, it really stifles creativity for a web developer.

Program usage

I constantly use TopStyle for handling my CSS, it's especially handy for managing large files, and when I got here I asked for it. They couldn't really see any need for it, and I had to fight for over a month to finally get it. The program costs $79.95. Imagine the extra time it took me to develop and nag before I got it, compared to the program's low price and what I cost per hour...

The Mac

In September, I explained that I needed a Mac to test on too. Now it's two weeks to release, and no Mac in sight. The last thing I heard was that no one in their 50 people big IT department dared to install OS X on the old Mac they had managed to dig up, so they outsourced it to some consultantcy firm. They, in turn, apparently have lost the CDs with OS X...

The mouse

When I started working, I thought it was really hard to move the mouse around and to get the pointer to shift place on the screen accurately. I turned it over, and lo and behold: a ball. I can't even remember when I last had a mouse that wasn't infra-red, when I had to open it up and clean it from dust (however, at least I'm one of the lucky ones that have a scroll wheel).

The chair

Don't get me started on my chair. It's the worst kind you can think of; it hisses when it hears the word ergonomics. And the seat seems to be loose in some way, so every time I sit down on it, the seat kind of falls down and slants forward, so I have to pull a lever while pushing back to get it level. I imagine that pilots go through less hassle when they sit down in their chairs in the plane.

The construction workers

During my whole time here, they have been performing construction work on the building we sit in. Try to picture big men drilling in the walls and floors around you just for the fun of it. Pretty hard to concentrate when it sounds like they're in the middle of your head!

The power outage

A couple of weeks ago, this part of the town had a power outage. In the middle of work, everything turned pitch black and people scurried around. Luckily, no information got lost. It's also one of those moments when you realize that one of the project managers is MacGyver: he was sporting several flashlights on him in different colors...

MP3s

A while ago, the company decided that MP3 files weren't allowed on the employees' computers; it would only take focus off from work and they believe most MP3 files are illegal anyway. The effect, of course, is that everyone has bought MP3 players and is bringing them here...

 

So, that's my situation. How's your working day? :-)
Posted in General |

22 Comments

  • Michael Odden says:

    Hehe. Nice isn't it?

    Well.. Right behind my back at my current workplace (starting approximatly 10 meters away) they are building a new stadium! They started a few months ago by destroying the old shipyard here, then they started pounding concrete-pillars (about 40cm*40cm*10m I guess) into the ground (because of muddy ground), cm by cm, and by now I guess they have punded about 100 of those (and counting). The stadium is supposed to be finished the fall of 2007.

    Have a nice day =)

  • markus says:

    I guess you miss the old MILF-server with music we had at our previous employer? Quit that nazi-job and get a real one.

  • Peter says:

    How about doing something about your situation instead of just feel miserable about it? You could easily get a new job in your area of profession in Sthlm these days. Go for it!

  • Mats says:

    Well I hope you have a fair salary.

    How hard is it to BUY a Mac? Seriusly, i'm getting a Mac Mini soon to do my testing on, ~6000kr and no-one is arguing about it.

    My chair is comfortable, my harddrive contains about 12 GB of MP3:s AND a subwoofer, my mouse has infrared, scroll wheel and a ergonomic grip as well as my keyboard and they have stopped drilling into the walls … finally.

    On the downside I have 14% less salary then the average employee at work … 20% less than the average male employee. Just found out last week.

    And I have to install Mac OS9 on the mini …

    How is your situation again? ;)

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for your comments!

    Things got kind of distorted here… :-)

    First, let me say that the consultancy firm that I'm employed at treats me just fine. So does the customer. There are positive bits, but I had a momentarily lapse of being overly tired of working too much, so I needed to rant a little about the small things that bother me. :-)

    However, I just have to say that Peter is dead on. If one's truly miserable about everything, you either do something about it or shut up. No more closet-whining…

  • Everything here is locked-down too much by the Muppets and that's why I spool Firefox off CD.

    So I can feel for your plight.

  • Tommy Olsson says:

    I'm a government employee nowadays, after 7 years as a consultant. It wasn't my previous employer that made me switch, though; I just wanted more continuity. I worked for two smallish consultant firms, and both of them were very good when it came to their employees' needs.

    My current employer is good in that respect as well, although I'm still waiting for a replacement for the Mac that was stolen from my office some weeks ago.

  • will says:

    At least you aren't working with a gun pointed at you for a bowl of rice a day.

  • Dennis says:

    Wow it sounds like you are at my place of employment. You are not alone!

  • some guy says:

    Robert, very funny post. we're laughing with you, not at you. i'm included to agree with Will, but then again i know about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. just because we don't work in sweatshops doesn't mean that everything is going to be ok. once you get past the sweatshop, there are other things to worry about. hey, even CEOs have crap to deal with – plush office, great salary, etc, but imagine the psychological stress of slipping up, and the finesse that you have to put into each deal and detail. anyway, funny post. i also second your comments about CSS and Internet Explorer – yeah, i spend 25% – 33% of of my time working around their bugs too. and then my Dad says, "son, you wouldn't even be in this field if it wasn't for Bill Gates," and i say, "but Dad, what about Maslow's hierarchy of needs?" etc etc etc.

  • Rowan Lewis says:

    Robert, I'm the guy holding that big hammer drill… trust me we hate them too :P

  • Robert de Mildt says:

    You can tell the IT-departement not to fear installing an OS X version on an old mac. To be able to test my designs with Safari I recently bought an old '98 iMac (233mhz, 160MB ram and 4gb harddrive) and installed OS X panther on it with no trouble what so ever, hasn't let me down yet.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Everyone,

    Thanks for sharing.

    Will is of course right, this is not really a problem being in a safe part of the world. Therefore, the post was written with a (mostly) humorous tone.

    But yes, definitely, Maslow was on to something… :-)

  • Ahh, I love a good work rant. Well written.

  • Remi Prevost says:

    Do not give too much informations about the company, or you might get dooced ;-)

  • John B says:

    Holy mackerel, you've made my office seem like paradise. Even WITH WindowsXP and no macs to test on. How about office politics? I'm not a consultant, I'm a staff member, so office politics are a constant concern (and pursuit). Seems to me as a consultant you could distance yourself a little from that stuff.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    John,

    Well, yes, I try to distance myself…

    But sometimes it's just kind of overwhelming. :-)

  • Ken Liu says:

    Ah yes, consultant war stories. I've been a contractor (aka "consultant") for many years now, and have put up with all kinds of stuff. Comes with the territory, and to me it's a worthwhile tradeoff for avoiding office politics, performance reviews, TPS reports, etc.

    At least you have a desk and a chair. I have a consultant friend who had to work at an old terminal propped up on a huge spool of network cable and had a cardboard box instead of a chair.

    I bring my own ergonomic keyboard and wireless mouse to every gig. If anyone complains, I explain that I have wrist problems and they leave me be.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Ken,

    Ha ha! :-)

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Kyle says:

    I always spent my half an hour to read this weblog’s articles everyday along with a mug of coffee.

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