With a great sense of relief and even a tickle of excitement, I'm finding after four months (and relatively suddenly) that things are starting to work out for me at my new job. I would not have said this after the first week, or the first month, or maybe even the third month. I went through some periods of absolute fury and resentment over things about my current company as a company, even as the work itself showed more and more promise. A good deal of this had to do with leaving the position of privilege I had worked up to after 18 years at my previous company, and all that entailed. I knew I'd be starting over, of course, but some things were more difficult to give up and/or get used to than I had anticipated. A former co-worker at SGI, having none of it when I complained about some things, responded with "no place is perfect" which is a kind way of saying "get over it". Strangely enough, I did, or at least I'm starting to.
The specifics of the difficulties are not important, or at least not politic to write about. But what has happened to make me feel better about things?
First of all, my work is getting more interesting with time and technical familiarity. My days fill with what feels productive. I get to play around on a system. I learn more all the time about where to find information I need. It took longer than it probably should have for it to become clear what it was I needed to do, but I've been defining that for myself and that's good. My hope was that the work here would be engaging, and the biggest relief of all is that this may in fact be true. What's definitely true, and this is the exciting part, is that as soon as the documents I'm working on are out the door a significant number of people around the world will be using them.
Equally important, on a personal level: It turns out that the folks in the office like me and my work. I guess the sense of being respected (ok, and liked) really is of paramount importance to me. That they're happy with me here took a while to become clear. We had our holiday party last Friday, and I got introduced to all the wives, often with "this is the guy who arranges cheese Tuesdays". But it wasn't just the description, it was the general attitude conveyed. One of the oldtime serious developers who was the biggest stickler for a certain sort of pedantry in the documentation (the sort that can be confusing to the user) has quietly and privately told me some very flattering things about the major document I'm putting together on his project. My own boss muttered something the other week during a conference call, appropros of almost nothing, something like "I can't believe we were lucky enough to get you". I found a mistake in a man page yesterday while I was researching some documentation, and it got escalated into a major discussion topic at a meeting today and took on release-blocker status (with explicit thanks to me for finding it); this is not as common for a tech. writer as you might think. The days fill, people are starting to treat me very nicely -- not that they were ever mean or difficult, these are nice guys, but I'm definitely part of the team now.
The cheese tastings have turned out to be very important in terms of my getting settled here. We just had our weekly gathering, and every person in the office showed up this week more enthusiastic than ever. A locally based trainer who is rarely in the office was here today, and we had a great talk about company matters. It's just a happy time for me, the cheese-eating time, and that I spend a happy 40 minutes every week in my workplace is more than many people have. And guess what: It makes people much easier to work with, much more willing to give me their time and to keep a good attitude when they do.
There are 19 people associated with this office, although three of them don't even have cubicles here and one is rarely in his office. This is a small group, so it's important that we all get on. But being a small group, it's possible to feel a sense of groupness that I have had in the past with specific departments but not in the sense of physical isolation from the rest of the company that we have here. This was quite clear at the very pleasant holiday dinner last Friday, which was more a dinner party than an "office party". The woman sitting next to me said, as she left, "I've never enjoyed myself before at an office party!" The guy across the table said, "Didn't people burst into song at the other office parties you've been to?" I wonder who he meant.
So I'm happy at the moment and things are (finally) going well for me here. I want to write this down so I can remind myself of this when things get frustrating again.
Yesterday's note to the department:
I braved the snow and ice and picked up some cheeses for tomorrow.
Bucheron -- A French Chevre. When I get a good batch of this, this is one of my favorite cheeses. It's a spreadable goat cheese that can be complex and delicious. When it's not a good batch it can be chalky. It has a rind (like Brie or Camembert) which I like but not everybody does. We'll see how this fares.
Spanish Mahon -- this one is new to me. The cheesemonger said it's a little bit like cheddar. I tasted it, and it's got a cheddar consistency but there's an interesting back flavor that cries out for wine to tame it. This one will be a small-slice on the tongue to experience sort of cheese.
Brillat Savarin -- I haven't had this one in a long time (it's a bit pricey). It's a strange cheese in that it seems to change a good deal depending on which stage of ripeness you find it. What we have for tomorrow is still pretty young (which makes it not a stinky cheese -- I've had some that was riper that was stinky and oh-so-good). It looks like a firm Brie. Whatever stage of ripeness you find it, it's 75% butterfat, so even if you don't like the taste you can just put some on your tongue and think about heavy cream. When I said to the cheesemonger on tasting it, "Oh, this is *creamy*" he said it isn't always, which makes no sense to me.
So tomorrow is about small complex tastes on the tongue rather than big quantities to assuage hunger (so Russ's claim that he rarely joins us because he's not yet hungry at 2:30 shouldn't be an issue).