Friday, September 14, 2012

My Skillset, Part Deux

Yes, you saw a little bit of my French background. Also enjoyed "Hot Shots: Part Deux" as well!

So we left off in the last blog with me working for Radio Shack as a SALES rep, and me acquainting myself with the Tandy line of computers. This was in 1990 or so, and Tandy was making 80386 and 80486 computers (The predecessors to Pentium processors). They used MS-DOS and something relatively new to the market, something called "Windows." I spent my free time playing with those computers and learning the ins and outs of Windows.

The PC fascinated me and soon I had a hankering for more information. I learned how to BUILD my own x86 system, INSTALL DOS and Windows, and other programs as well. I also learned how to DIAGNOSE problems with my own systems.

Radio Shack went by the wayside and I moved on to a Baby Bell, US West. I started there working PHONES in OUTBOUND SALES of telephone services. I found that line of work challenging, but I also had issues with one of the employees insisting on wearing perfume, which I am highly allergic to. I had my first migraines during this time. I moved from that department to a DATA ENTRY department, which also incurred a transfer to another city.

During this data entry point in my life I was content to enter the data. I was fast and competent. Some part of me liked the lack of challenge, because I could let my mind wander, and soon a story started to form in my head and dreams, and for the first time, I began to WRITE, on an old-style typewriter, no less. Reams of pages and rewrites later, I entered the data on an actual computer, and started to get some feedback from other writers. I also taught myself HTML and JAVASCRIPT to create a web site that highlighted that writing.

Also during this time I began taking classes at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I wanted a change in my life, and the story I was writing seemed to be something that would fit well on television. UNO had no 'television' courses per se, but they did have a Broadcast Journalism program. I took classes in writing for newspapers, and classes on writing for news. I took classes on how to produce a news show and that was really what I wanted out of it, to get behind the camera.

The job with US West moved along well enough for me to get a promotion. I took a six week training program on how to PROGRAM their computers in COBOL, MVS and JES3. I'd like to say I was challenged by the training and the job itself, but my previous education (though not complete) allowed me to breeze through the training and land squarely on my feet.

Unfortunately, I landed on my feet, but also stepped on the toes of the existing staff. The work I was required to do was tedious, since it was updating existing programs to prepare for Y2K. I had to add lines of code for every reference to a date. It was a stop-gap fix at best, since the 'real' work of creating new programs that did not rely on COBOL was left to others.

I have to say, that in all the lines of code that I corrected, I made one mistake. But it was a doozy! I left out the conversion code on one important segment of code. People were getting high bills and it was all my fault. It left our team scrambling to make changes and to make corrections. I really felt down about that.

But I tried to make amends. I updated the DOCUMENTATION of each program we were responsible for and printed out fresh copies of code. Reams of code. But it wasn't enough, and soon I was let go.

But I had a backup! I was now trained in  broadcast journalism. I took a part time job as a PRODUCTION ASSISTANT for a local station. But I had to leave UNO before I graduated because of the lack of money.

As a production assistant, I had many duties, such as CAMERA OPERATION during live news casts; CHYRON operation, which for those that don't know, is the graphics you see at the bottom and on the side of the newscaster; AUDIO OPERATOR, which means when the newscaster talks, I opened his or her microphone.

Last and not least, I edited footage from news feeds for the 'voice over' part of the newscast.

In the end, I liked the job better than most jobs. I liked it to the point where I wanted to direct newscasts. That was a bit of mistake for me because I was offered two jobs almost simultaneously. One was a 30 hour a week job at a station managed by one of my instructors, who was doing me a tremendous favor. It was  a video editor job. The other was as an ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR at a station in Lynchburg, VA. It was full-time, and obviously had more clout to it.

I made the decision to go to Lynchburg. I should have stayed in Omaha, but hindsight is always 20-20.

The Lynchburg job started okay. The problem was that I was the new guy and a bit of a yankee in the middle of a bunch of southerners who were set in their ways. I tried my best to fit in. They trained me in all their stations, the same ones I already had experience on at the other station. But the director who hired me apparently didn't want to give up the secrets of his position very quickly. I had to learned the director's board on my own time, usually between newscasts.

After doing a little training on the board for six months, I went to the boss, and asked him for more training. He moved me to the morning show, and then began a crash course (literally) on directing. Because I had little experience with live directing before then, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the pace I was subjected to.

I was thrown in as a live director before I was ready, and made a number of small errors. But I was improving show after show. Then one day I made a big mistake in front of a producer who completely freaked out, and the next thing I know, I'm gone.

Anyone in the news field knows that mistakes happen, especially with new directors. I don't feel that I was given a chance on that job.

But that led to another career choice, the one I'm most experienced with at the moment: CUSTOMER SERVICE.

It started with a company that provided customer service for a number of religious organizations, doing things like TAKING ORDERS over the phone, updating customer information, and generally being pleasant over the phone. I can do pleasant.

During that job I was promoted to what they called BUSINESS ANALYST, which in this case meant that I monitored call flow and called for people to get on the phones when needed.

After that I took a job as a TECHNICAL SUPPORT agent for Echostar, where I figured out why people's satellite service wasn't working and dispatched technicians when needed. For a time during my stay with Echostar I was also a SATELLITE INSTALLER, but I didn't have the stamina to do the job correctly and I also had a fear of heights. I went back to being a TSR.

While at Echostar I saw a need for certain services, and I attempted to go into business for myself as a TRAINER in how to install and diagnose satellite systems for the everyday user. Unfortunately, that business was underfunded and failed.

But I moved on and found more customer service work in Raleigh, NC. I worked for a company that provided customer service for a variety of accounts. I used ONLINE CHATS, EMAILS and phones to help the customers. I even had a stint as a MENTOR to one group, which meant I took supervisor calls.

Later, I worked from home as a SMARTPHONE TECH, diagnosing issues with BLACKBERRIES and PALM devices. That ended when I lost my home.

But I rebounded and landed a job as an APPLE ADVISOR, which meant I got to learn all about iMACS, MACBOOKS, and OS X 10.5, 10.6, and 10.7. I handled support calls for those machines.

Yet, despite all that experience, I've always known I'm a writer. I wrote three PUBLISHED BOOKS, SCRIPTS based on some of those books, and even looked into forming my own VIDEO PRODUCTION company to produce those scripts.

But though right now I am unemployed, I have not lost hope, and I still have dreams that I want to come true. In April of this year I formed Mike's News Hangout, where I used skills in VIDEOGRAPHY, EDITING, WEB SITE DESIGN. I spent two months on the road recording video and I have a youtube page with my videos.

My computer skills haven't diminished, but I am primarily self-taught on all things Windows, HTML and Javascript. Though I don't have the funds to get certified, I am confident I could get A+ certified in a number of areas.

I read a lot on the Internet. I watch how other people do things and I try to emulate them. I learn fast and work as fast as I can even when others tell me to take it slower. I am eager to impress, and I just need a chance.