January 03, 2005

Changing positions internally: does your company encourage it?

I've been at my job for nearly four months now. My impression of Vocollect as a solid place that actually cares about people remains intact. We have a company meeting every month where everyone who wants to shows up -- and since there's free pizza and soda most people do. (IMO this is no small feat for a company that's around 250 people.) At this meeting we go over general goings on and do a 10 minute review of macro sales/revenue/profit figures for the company and compare them with our goals to date. I can't tell you how refreshing this openness and commitment to communication is.

There's more. When a company talks about commitment to their people, most of the time I roll my eyes in skepticism. Because when push comes to shove most companies take the attitude that if you don't like it there you can go somewhere else. Want better coffee? Want to work from home a day a week? Want to get faster development machines or bigger monitors? Want to get yearly (at least!) reviews? "Don't like it? Go somewhere else!" Talk about a motivation-killer -- you might as well start posting signs: "Beatings will continue until morale improves."

But when someone at Vocollect is interested in a position elsewhere in the company, everyone takes it seriously: managers and directors included. People will ask if there's any way to integrate what you want to do with what you're currently doing (because they don't want to lose the institutional memory), but if that can't be arranged then people generally try to make the employee's wishes happen.

And when they do so a surprising number of people bring up the vision statement -- one of those things you figure that people bring up in interviews because they're told to do so. But here's it's not! Because all levels of the company respect the vision, even when things get tough, everyone seems to keep it in mind. (This was actually a little creepy to me at first because I figured maybe there was some weird cult activity going on to explain what to me were abnormal business practicies. Kind of like the city dweller smelling untainted air for the first time: "What smells so funny?")

Anyway, onto the part about me. I wasn't given a lot of specific direction when I started, just kind of "make things better." (This happens to me a lot.) So I built what I think is a pretty nifty scenario testing framework and rewrote a... hairy web boundary testing framework as well. Generally, I worked to automate as much of our testing as possible at as many levels as possible. I like building tools so this came naturally.

Lo and behold, we're creating an automation team within the QA department. And it partially involves maintaining and extending a Perl framework as well -- excellent! But it also requires C++ and I've got no experience with that. So while I talked with the director about the position I didn't apply because the team is new and I didn't want to hold it back. (If it were just learning Jython/Python/Ruby I would have applied, but jumping to a language where you need to manage your own memory is a different ballgame.) But then I talked to some of the folks I'd be working with about the position and they encouraged me to apply, even knowing my lack of C++ skills.

So I threw my hat in the ring on the last Thursday of 2004. We'll see what happens -- I doubt anything will happen immediately just because we have an internal release that needs to get hammered with tests coming just around the corner.

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