Thursday, February 13, 2014

Days of Our Work Lives: An unvarnished look at work today: Part II: Susan's Saga. Episode 6: Excel

Part II: Susan's Saga  
Episode 6: Excel

In the previous episode, Susan left her job as a clerk in a fertilizer store after just two hours. Even a $12 an hour job required a lot, including knowing how to use Excel, which she didn't. She was embarrassed and decided to take an Excel class.

"Should I take it online? No, I probably wouldn't finish. I like students around, the teacher there. One of those Microsoft-approved private classes? Maybe. Expensive. They offer one at North Central Washington State U. $450, not too terrible. If the instructor gets good ratings on, I'll sign up." Alas, the instructor was listed as TBA but Susan decided to take a chance. 

After the half-hour drive, ten minutes to find parking, and a five-minute walk in the rain, she arrived at class, thinking, "God, I'll have to do this in reverse after class is over. Maybe the online course would have been a better idea."

She felt even more that way after class started. The professor, while unquestionably brilliant, just couldn't explain things well. For him, how to use Excel was natural, so intuitive that although he tried, he just was unable to explain it clearly enough to mere mortals who need to learn it cookbook-style.

And it wasn't just Susan. When almost half the class failed the midterm, she dropped out. 

Now what? She still wanted to learn Excel. "Maybe a tutor?" She looked in Craigslist and an ad jumped out at her: 
  • Kind, patient person loves tutoring beginners in Microsoft Office applications: Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access. I live in Moscow, ID but we can work by Skype. Don't know how to use Skype? I'll show you. It's cool. Call me. My name is Ben: 206-730-3958.
Susan called him right up. And the tutoring went very well. 

While Ben was always friendly, he never really said much about himself. So one day, she took the first step: "Why do you tutor?" 

"I'm one of those software engineers who's good but not great so I can now only get project work. So every few months I have to spend a couple of months looking for my next project. Tutoring helps pay the bills"

"Do you like project work?"

"Sort of. You're always working on something new and the adrenaline rush of deadlines can be exciting. But I always feel that, hanging over my head, if I'm not good, fast, and willing to work 14 hour days, they'll hire an H1-B immigrant or offshore my job to Bangalore...Tell me about you?"

Susan couldn't believe the next words that came out of her mouth: "Maybe we can talk about it over dinner. Would you like to come here for dinner?"

"Susan, I could make the excuse that I live four hours away but it's really that I'm still involved with someone." 

She noted the word "still."

The next episode is HERE.

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