First month on the job

The orientation Bible.

Coming to the corporate scene from academia is a surprising shift. Surprising though I knew it was coming. The 20-past rush between classes is now the 8 am, 12 noon, and 4 pm rush to get to work, eat lunch, and go home. It’s so routine. I’m a cog in the machine (cue Pink Floyd). Welcome to the machine. Maybe I don’t dream of guitarists driving a Jaguar eating at a steak bar… but I do have aspirations for my career and a dream of making a difference – somewhere, somehow. Congratulations me! I’m now a Marketing and Communications Specialist at a big company. My life is now complete! Just kidding, I’m only 24 and I’ve still got a long way to go.

The people

It’s exciting to be somewhere new, to meet new people, make new friends, eat new food, learn new processes, and participate in a new work culture. After a month of working at said company, I do feel like I’m becoming part of the club… what I think we in The Biz should call “indoctrination,” but that sounds a bit too much like hazing. That’s not at all what it’s been like!

From day one, everybody has been super helpful in answering my questions. My colleagues helpful but don’t assume that I know nothing. It’s a tough realization that, yes, I’m probably the least experienced person on the team. But I also know that I have a lot to offer – a lot of ideas, a fresh/critical perspective, and a visual mind. I’m finding it difficult to pace my feedback on company culture and practices. There is always room for improvement. Every family company has its flaws.

I’m curious by nature. It drives me. I like to ask a lot of questions and don’t feel guilty about it. My new manager imparted some useful wisdom during my first week: avoid using the word “why” in your questions. Every “why” question can tactfully be re-worded to be less offensive. So far it’s gone over quite well. It may save me from a few bullets down the road. I need to be careful not to be too curious. I’m happy about this opportunity to contribute to such a well-established company, to grow my career, to learn new skills, to introduce myself to a new market, and to sink in some roots. Despite this, I’m always thinking about my prospects: where I can go next, who I should meet and network with, what I should learn to get where I want to be, and how to support the people around me.

It’s interesting here how our managers are called leaders. TBH it reminds me of when I was in Girl Guides, camping with our leaders in tents, eating marshmallows, then throwing them up. Super in-tents. That’s a story for another time! I like the term leader, and that the organization puts onus on managers to really lead their teams, not just manage. McMaster was only beginning to delve into differentiating leaders from managers, but I think this place is well on its way. That being said, McMaster emphasized that everyone is a leader, not just management.

Now that I’m more than a month in, it’s pleasant to once again know names and faces in the hallways, for familiar people to say hello. Just a simple wave, hello, and a smile can make a world of difference to a newb like me. I’ve also made a couple of friends! Wow, imagine that. Ariel making friends in a month. It’s almost unheard of. People have things in common with me? Psh.

The culture

Adjusting to the culture of a different company feels (to me) like what it’d be like to immerse myself into a geographical culture (or even religious). Things happen at different times, people speak differently, they dress differently, different things are polite or impolite, and expectations are different.

Since the organization is so large, it’s tough to meet people in other departments across the organization. Thankfully we have quite a few department meetings to meet folks in my own area, but it would be nice as a new employee to know what everyone else does. Heck, sometimes I don’t even know what I do. The role was really unclear to me at first. It was a “learn as you go” experience. The marketing department has two informal half-day orientation sessions, but the timing didn’t work out until four weeks in. By then I had struggled to learn things on my own. Yes, the sessions were helpful to confirm what I assumed was correct (or to correct what I was doing wrong). But they were really too late in the game to be useful. I wish they had happened in the first two weeks.

It seems to be “the norm” to only know people in your immediate area unless you’re in upper management. The pure mass of the marketing department, and the company, is overwhelming.

When tasks started coming my way, it was really confusing and I felt flustered a lot. Having to refer to your notes and orientation manual every step of the way is embarrassing and a waste of time. It’s tough to go from knowing exactly what’s what, where’s where, and who’s who to fumbling your way through the simplest tasks.

I arrive way too early to meetings. Usually I sit in the room five to 10 minutes early. People like to arrive precisely when the meeting begins, or five minutes later.

Food is related to culture, right? So we have a cafeteria in the building which features different soups, entrees, sandwiches, and stir fries every day. Of course, caf food is never the best quality. I gained 35 pounds in first year of university from a strictly caf food diet. And I didn’t work it off until 2015. I’d like to get down another 10… but I like cinnamon rolls too much. That’s a lifestyle change that I want to do, but I’m not quite ready for it yet.

So to avoid eating at the cafeteria I like to pack my own lunch. The problem is, there is only one room in the 6 storey building for over 3000 employees to microwave their lunches between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sure, I could eat lunch at 11 or 2:30 to avoid the 15-minute line up to use a microwave, but that’s usually too early or too late in the day. I don’t know about you but I always get hungry at precisely 12 noon. I often end up eating cold food: cold hamburgers, cold spaghetti, cold rice. And it doesn’t taste nearly as good. Not only is the line-up deterring but the microwaves are on a different floor. Wouldn’t it just be easier to have a microwave room on each floor to shorten line ups and decrease commute time from our desks to warm up our food? And increase productivity? It’s all about efficiency…

Then there’s the hot water tap. So for the entire building, there’s one hot water tap for tea, hot chocolate, oatmeal, or whatever. ONE TAP! I usually arrive at the office for 7:45 a.m., then run to the tap to get some water while it’s still warm. By 8:05 a.m. the tap is so “tapped out” that the water is room temperature. The alternative is to buy a cup of hot water. You’re probably thinking “why don’t you just bring in a kettle or microwave some water.” Well we’re not allowed to have kettles at our desks, because they’re a fire hazard. If there’s a fire, I could just dump the water on it, couldn’t I? Maybe not if it’s an electrical fire… but it’s not like I’d be using power bars and extension cords. And I can’t microwave water because my travel mug is half ceramic, half aluminum for insulation. I love my mug, and shouldn’t need to sacrifice it on a ritual altar to have decently hot water for my tea. I still have yet to optimize my times for morning and afternoon tea for the hottest water. #britishproblems #teatime

The environment

This is the colour of my office. The floor. The walls. The desks. The cubicles. The chairs. The filing cabinets. Everything. Does beige increase productivity? If I wear beige pants and a beige shirt (God forbid!) you wouldn’t be able to find me. This office would be perfect for a mean game of hide-and-seek or Man Hunt. Once I’m more organized at home, I need to bring some things into work to spruce up my desk area to add some splashes of colour. It’s so blah. Not even 70’s. Just blah. Between the beige and the fluorescent light, no wonder I feel like falling asleep by 3.

We actually have a napping room. My McMaster dreams have come true. Somewhat. I had envisioned sleeping pods like in The Internship with Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson. It’s not really promoted. A colleague actually told me in a coffee meet-up that she likes to go there to meditate sometimes on lunch. It weirds me out to be between sheets that someone else has used. I wandered up to Health Services one day on my break to seek out this special room. I awkwardly asked the receptionist about the napping room, and she said “Oh, the quiet room? Do you want to sit or lie down?” After insisting that I was just scouting out my new digs, we walked down the hall and awkwardly opened the door on someone who was already lying down under the sheets. The room was tiny with two single beds and one window with the curtains drawn. It was dark and quiet. Perfect for some relaxation or a nap. #score #introversionFTW #maybenot

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