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Old 11-08-2011, 08:10 AM   #21
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Prior to my last 4 years at NASA I was the financial manager for the Hubble Space Telescope Flight Systems and Servicing Project. This was not sustainable for me at that age (51). It was not so much the hours (I'm pretty good at getting things done efficiently) but the stress of sustaining a project going through a substantial budget cut.

I was able to transfer to a project that was designing and implementing a common accounting system for the 10 NASA centers. I spent 4 years prior to retirement on that project. Much lower stress, fairly regular hours except for the travel (one week a month at another NASA center.
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Old 11-08-2011, 08:13 AM   #22
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I put in a 40 hour week, but not a real solid 40 hour week. I mean I work for the government after all. Nobody seems to care when we come and go, as hardly anyone is ever in the office. I have my android phone and spend a lot of time on it or on outlook being an email junky to keep up with everything.
Just to be clear - the bolded part was referring to using my phone and outlook for work related emails, which require a lot of attention. I use my personal email for personal emails of course.
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Old 11-08-2011, 08:16 AM   #23
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Just to be clear - the bolded part was referring to using my phone and outlook for work related emails, which require a lot of attention. I use my personal email for personal emails of course.
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Old 11-08-2011, 08:18 AM   #24
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I am also a government worker, a teacher. I wish I could work anywhere near a 40 or 48 hour week.
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Old 11-08-2011, 08:24 AM   #25
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Fuego, please be completely clear and open - - are you a direct federal employee? Or even a direct state employee? I thought you worked for a company that contracts with the government and were NOT a direct federal employee at all.
I don't care to share who is my current employer. I have switched careers and employers since the post you quoted. Let's just say that I receive my paycheck directly from a government entity that employees me but I have different employment rules as compared to 99% of my coworkers within the org. And I wish I could land a sweet fed job - that would probably be more lucrative and gravy-trainish than what I have now, but with a lot less autonomy and awesomeness I suppose (from the way you described it). From my dealings with one particular fed agency that I have my eye on, it is apparent that they are awash with money. Not saying they waste a bunch of money, but they certainly don't look like careful stewards of the federal taxpayers limited resources...

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Your post really makes government work sound like a scam, and IME it was not in any way, shape, or form. People did care when we (PhD's and engineers, along with everybody else) came and went, and for example we (PhD's and engineers, plus everybody else) had to leave signs on our cubicles if we were gone more than 5 minutes even to go to the bathroom. If we left 3 minutes early at the end of the day, we were docked for 15 minutes of vacation time. Even reading a newspaper at our desk was grounds for disciplinary actions and possibly dismissal. I feel like after putting up with all that for years and years, posts like yours give us an undeservedly bad reputation.
This sounds like a seriously depressing working environment. Did they not measure your performance based on what you accomplished, your output, on time under budget project completion, etc? Only AIST (butt in seat time)? I don't think I could work somewhere like that.
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Old 11-08-2011, 08:44 AM   #26
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Fuego, it you found the gravy train and are coasting, you probably want to start looking over your shoulder. This is a type of cognitive dissonance for me, because I hear others say things like this but the people I know that are (or were) public employees work long hours, are not well paid and deal with as much stress as anyone else. Many family members (parents, siblings) and very close friends, so I cannot reconcile one with the other, and feel they are not the outliers.
We aren't well paid here compared to market salaries in the private sector. Trust me - I am familiar with comparable direct salary rates given my position. A small minority are in government for the pension (the proverbial 30 years and out). Most are using it as a stepping stone to something bigger (consulting, industry, etc). All of us enjoy the one fringe benefit of working for the government: knowing we can put in 40 hours or so and go home. No clocks to punch, lots of time off.

But in the broader organization outside my little group, I really don't get the feeling that a majority of people are particularly stressed or care about their jobs (for anything besides the paycheck). There are clearly a few that do, and they rise to the top pretty quickly.

Luckily that general malaise hasn't hit my group (yet). We still do a very good job (given the constraints). But our performance is judged by outcomes and results, not whether we punched the clock for 8 hours and maybe worked, maybe stared at a blank wall or played solitaire (oops - apparently we don't have solitaire on these computers lol).

I'm not trying to color all govt employees as lazy good for nothings. Just saying from what I see, it is a bunch of people that show up, get paid and go home. Not a lot of urgency compared to the private sector.

My reason for posting my first post in this thread was that I wanted to answer the OP's question - "is this job sustainable"? And the answer in my case is "yes". Good work/life balance, good coworkers that aren't a$$es. A large amount of autonomy and within my small group at least, we are all focused on executing our projects successfully. I was just thinking the other day that I could do this job for another 5 years or so, and that I am actually looking forward to what we can do within those 5 years. Unless the mothership's pervasive malaise kills the spirit...
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Old 11-08-2011, 08:48 AM   #27
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This almost sounds too ridiculous to be a serious post. Are you joking?
No not joking. Just my own experiences. Maybe I'm completely off in my observations, as others have suggested. I recall from statistics you can't draw conclusions about a whole population from a sample size of one, so treat my observations as merely anecdotal if you like.
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Old 11-08-2011, 08:57 AM   #28
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I've always worked in astronomy and optics research and do it because I love it so extra hours are just more fun time. However, excessive hours at work have caused me problems. I worked at NASA for 7 years and eveyone just put in the hours required and I spent lots of time at remote sites, so much so that it was one of the reasons for my divorce.
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Old 11-08-2011, 09:08 AM   #29
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This almost sounds too ridiculous to be a serious post. Are you joking?
I think FUEGO is about my age. His comments may sound flippant because everything is relative. If you have been in an environment of high stress, high hours and intense presssure to perform, virtually any job outside the pressure cooker seems like a cake walk.

My job is now sustainable except for all the travel. If this does not subside within a year I will probably get to the 5 year mark, vest in some retirement benefits and reconsider my options.
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Old 11-08-2011, 09:18 AM   #30
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I think FUEGO is about my age. His comments may sound flippant because everything is relative. If you have been in an environment of high stress, high hours and intense presssure to perform, virtually any job outside the pressure cooker seems like a cake walk.

My job is now sustainable except for all the travel. If this does not subside within a year I will probably get to the 5 year mark, vest in some retirement benefits and reconsider my options.
Yep, that is pretty much it. Not that I was in a pressure cooker before exactly, but there is clearly a different attitude and set of expectations when you cross from private to public in my little industry. Again, one of the (only) fringe benefits of government work. To put it in perspective, I have an option to jump to the private side for about a 40-50% increase in overall comp after I get a year or so of additional experience at the current gig. Is the added stress worth it? Wish I had the answer to that question!

I think my current job is about to have a lot more travel in the next year or two (mostly driving and/or riding on the train and 1 night overnight), but we get comp time for all hours worked including driving time. Not sure how that will impact job enjoyment. Tough with kids I guess.
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Old 11-08-2011, 09:38 AM   #31
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I get the comparative thing that both Fuego and Brewer are talking about. I've worked in absolute sweatshops where everyone put in crazy hours, drank the koolaid, and were all gung-ho about doing so.

I'll never go back to that if I can manage it. Putting in time at a low stress, low hours, decent place to work with people who don't suck completely, even if it is for lower pay, is where I'm sticking.

And I could never, and I mean NEVER stand working in the kind of place that W2R described. No way. I can't even fathom booking your time in the bathroom. Seriously? I'd sell plasma first. I'm very sorry that you had to live like that, my friend. It would have colored my life unimaginably.

And I'm just a shade older than you wee lads Brewer and Fuego, so that's something.
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Old 11-08-2011, 09:43 AM   #32
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I get the comparative thing that both Fuego and Brewer are talking about. I've worked in absolute sweatshops where everyone put in crazy hours, drank the koolaid, and were all gung-ho about doing so.
I lived in Silicon Valley in the late 1990s and yes, this was a very common thing. But the difference was that back then, it was often a make-or-break for a smaller startup... and often involved potentially lucrative stock options that could make millionaires out of ordinary people. So in this environment, these people were driven to exhaustion by carrots -- bust your assets and help us succeed and you may become a "dotcom millionaire".

Now we're being driven to exhaustion by sticks, not carrots, as in "if you don't work an extra 20 hours a week for no extra pay, someone else will."
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Old 11-08-2011, 09:43 AM   #33
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I can't even fathom booking your time in the bathroom. Seriously?
I would have started pissing in my cube trash can as a form of protest.
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Old 11-08-2011, 09:51 AM   #34
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When I first started working after getting a degree (I 'worked' off and on since I was 5 with various business my father had) I was in a Big 8 accounting firm doing taxes... during tax season I did not get a single day off... so, from Jan 15 to Apr 15 I worked every day... the average chargeable time was about 80 hours and would get to 120 hours just before the due date... NOT SUSTAINABLE....

One day when I was doing my laundry at 3 AM, I said I have to get out of this place...

Got a job that was good for a long time... then moved to another place that was OK, but they moved me internally and that was a fast growing business... so long hours and weekends started coming... left that (another internal transfer)...

Off and on with good and bad times.... but in the end of Mega was in a good position that was sustainable.... got let go for political reasons....

Now, have a great job that I put in my time... have made it a lot more efficient than the previous person and actually do not have enough to do to fill 40 hours... So, very sustainable right now...
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Old 11-08-2011, 10:12 AM   #35
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(Edited to add: this statement from a year ago should clear things up.... )

Fuego, please be completely clear and open - - are you a direct federal employee? Or even a direct state employee? I thought you worked for a company that contracts with the government and were NOT a direct federal employee at all.

Your post really makes government work sound like a scam, and IME it was not in any way, shape, or form. People did care when we (PhD's and engineers, along with everybody else) came and went, and for example we (PhD's and engineers, plus everybody else) had to leave signs on our cubicles if we were gone more than 5 minutes even to go to the bathroom. If we left 3 minutes early at the end of the day, we were docked for 15 minutes of vacation time. Even reading a newspaper at our desk was grounds for disciplinary actions and possibly dismissal. I feel like after putting up with all that for years and years, posts like yours give us an undeservedly bad reputation.
That's pretty amazing - you were treated like children W2R! My last job was okay until they let 10% of the IT department go and I was doing 2 people's work and getting no acknowledgement of it. I refused to work overtime unless it was a crisis, however. I worked very hard and probably made myself sick but I left after 8 hours. However, no one said anything if I read my own email or whatever, as long as the work was getting done. This was in a non-profit in the private sector.
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Old 11-08-2011, 10:17 AM   #36
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This was in a non-profit in the private sector.
Ouch -- financially speaking, this is probably the worst of both worlds, the crappy pay of a non-profit but without the security found in the public sector. Guess you'd have to be pretty passionate about the mission of the non-profit to have satisfaction in a job like that.
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Old 11-08-2011, 10:20 AM   #37
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Yes, very sustainable. I was a programmer when I retired in 2006 and worked a low stress ,flat 40 hr/wk
You really did it well. Both my kids are software developers, one now a manager, the other still mainly a code writer and designer.

Ship dates control their lives. My younger son has been working long days, 7 days a week, for many weeks now, and it is not clear when it will end.

Ha
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Old 11-08-2011, 10:22 AM   #38
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I am an engineer working in an engineering firm with a lot of other engineers who have kids.
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I don't care to share who is my current employer. I have switched careers and employers since the post you quoted.
OK, so you've had your present job for less than a year (since that post was just a year ago). That says a lot.
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Let's just say that I receive my paycheck directly from a government entity that employees me
Interesting choice of words - - apparently you cannot say simply that you work directly for a nonspecific federal, state, or local government, but that you are paid by "a government entity". Thank you. That confirms what I originally thought and expressed - - you do not work for the government directly as a direct government employee.

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but I have different employment rules as compared to 99% of my coworkers within the org.
Sounds logical. The private sector works like that.

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Originally Posted by FUEGO
And I wish I could land a sweet fed job - that would probably be more lucrative and gravy-trainish than what I have now, but with a lot less autonomy and awesomeness I suppose
Working directly for government might open your eyes, that's for sure.

Yes, the private sector has a lot more freedom than do most government jobs, as Ed_The_Gypsy pointed out below. I think his summary of the differences was very accurate, probably due to his many life experiences.

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I am a contractor and have been for years. It changes the way one looks at work and stress. I do not feel exploited now. When I was staff, I had much more stress. I look forward to overtime...because I get paid well for it. It is also not as common as unpaid overtime when working as staff. So, Yes, my job is sustainable.

Please, no one dis government employees. I suspect that their stress levels are higher than outsiders might appreciate. The original social contract was trading lower income for a secure future--steady job and good retirement benefits. Except now, the job security and the good bennies are evaporating. There are duds, of course, but they add to the stress levels of the conscientious ones. Besides, think of all the damned meetings they have to go to.
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Old 11-08-2011, 10:39 AM   #39
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I put longer hours in when I was younger. When in my 50's I pretty much worked 40 hr weeks but I made every hour count. I never realized the stress I was creating. Looking back I don't think it was healthy or sustainable. I ER'd at 55. I don't think I could have survived another 10 yrs working like that.
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Old 11-08-2011, 10:39 AM   #40
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OK, so you've had your present job for less than a year (since that post was just a year ago). That says a lot.

Interesting choice of words - - apparently you cannot say simply that you work directly for a nonspecific federal, state, or local government, but that you are paid by "a government entity". Thank you. That confirms what I originally thought and expressed - - you do not work for the government directly as a direct government employee.

Working directly for government might open your eyes, that's for sure.
I work directly for a nonspecific federal, state, or local government, government agency, or political subdivision. I do work for the government directly as a direct government employee. I just don't care to get into specifics or details of the terms of my employment, but I am not a consultant or contractor if that is what you are hinting at. The terms of my employment (and all of my small group) is different than what most would consider traditional government employment but it is a full time permanent w-2 job as a direct government employee.

As such, my eyes are open.
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