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New Job Update
Old 11-30-2005, 07:10 PM   #1
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New Job Update

O.K., so I've been full time in my new job for about 10 working days. I'll come clean, it's been a humbling experience. Quick background, I've been evolving over the last 5 years, first as a desktop tech, then a system administrator, then a computer security guy, and now I'm in systems engineering on the security team.

What's that rule about being promoted to your level of incompetence? Every other time I've moved up, I've been able to immediately contribute, not now! I'm getting totally overwhelmed, I'm carrying half a dozen books with me to and from work, trying to learn 2 new operating systems, 4 versions of our software, our system architecture, and I keep going to these meetings where everyone is throwing around acronyms I have no idea what they mean, and everybody seems so freaking smart, way smarter than me-aack!

Everybody in my group says not to worry, it will take time, yadda yadda. But I swear, sometimes I find myself staring at the monitor and piles of data and realize I've been sitting there lost for 10 minutes! You engineers rock, I'm not worthy. I have my work cut out for me.

So what's my point, you ask? Well, basically, I'm looking at this board as my vast resource of numerous engineers/ex-engineers and general smart people for some advice on the best way to proceed from here. A plan of attack for a seemingly insurmountable task. My first couple of projects got rave reviews, so I have good will among my peers (I think), and I don't want to burn through it before I can stand on my own two feet.

...yeah, I'm just stress-venting, too.
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Re: New Job Update
Old 11-30-2005, 07:25 PM   #2
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Re: New Job Update

From one tech worker to another: I feel your pain! I'm doing the same thing with PeopleSoft 8.8. I'm printing out reams of PeopleBooks material and lugging my Oracle 9i book around.
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Re: New Job Update
Old 11-30-2005, 07:45 PM   #3
 
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Re: New Job Update

I'm not sure what your goals are.* Generally, don't sweat the acronyms.* They become apparent within a few weeks or months.* Also, the incompetent tend to bandy the acronyms around the most.* Everyone, competent and incompetent alike, soon learn that acronyms keep others meek, and at bay.* It is sometimes better to watch the interaction between individuals.* This is difficult to do when you are not in your comfort zone, but it often reaps bountiful rewards.* Good luck.

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Re: New Job Update
Old 11-30-2005, 07:46 PM   #4
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Re: New Job Update

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
So what's my point, you ask?* Well, basically, I'm looking at this board as my vast resource of numerous engineers/ex-engineers and general smart people for some advice on the best way to proceed from here.* A plan of attack for a seemingly insurmountable task.* My first couple of projects got rave reviews, so I have good will among my peers (I think), and I don't want to burn through it before I can stand on my own two feet.
Well, now that they've suitably intimidated impressed the new guy who they fear is going to take away their jobs after they train him you, can you develop a mentor from one of these other acronym-spewing geeks? *I'm assuming that's a good thing...

I had a computer prof who used to say that it was worthless to try to learn a language or an OS until you actually had a reason to use it. *Maybe the knowledge comes from one project at a time.
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Re: New Job Update
Old 11-30-2005, 08:16 PM   #5
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Re: New Job Update

Normally I would agree about the acronyms, but in this case it's not pseudo-speak, I promise. I guess I'm just concerned about my lack of a true engineering background.

I'm definitely trying to find a mentor, I have I.D.'ed the one I hope will fill that role, the problem, of course, is her competence and great personality puts her in very high demand. I have an official mentor, but he's wrapped up in so many other things, I barely see him.

Hanging over all of this is the fact that everything I do, every hour I spend at work, has to be "charged" to something. So whenever I get lost, or flounder, I'm thinking, "ah! I'm burning time!". I've never been "direct" before. Eh, I'm sure I'll adjust.
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Re: New Job Update
Old 11-30-2005, 08:21 PM   #6
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Re: New Job Update

I've always found that IT people often threw out acronyms to appear *smarter* than the vast population. I try not to do this, especially when dealing with our business partners. I've seen too many glazed looks from the business side when IT tries to communicate with them.
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Re: New Job Update
Old 11-30-2005, 08:39 PM   #7
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Re: New Job Update

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
I'm looking at this board as my vast resource of numerous engineers/ex-engineers and general smart people for some advice on the best way to proceed from here.
No problem. I invoice net 30. Can't speak for the others.... cube_rat?

Seriously though... you know my PM door is open, although I can't promise you more than a blank stare and some drool.
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Re: New Job Update
Old 11-30-2005, 08:45 PM   #8
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Re: New Job Update

L -

Just could be the "newness" of the position. *Can you learn over time? *Not too many people I know could jump into something new without going through a learning phase, even people with experience. *

As for the smarter people theory, I learned long ago that there will always be smarter people out there. *But everyone has his/her strengths & that can go a long way. *Again --- extroverted IT guy --- can't beat that.

Beer is on me this week
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Re: New Job Update
Old 11-30-2005, 09:56 PM   #9
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Re: New Job Update

Hang in there. First everything seems like Chinese to you. Then you understand it and can apply it. Then you go through the phase where it is challenging and you can make a contribution. Next phase is boredom.

In my last job I was completely freaking out when they first dumped my new job on me. I did not even remotely understand the job description. In the beginning, I even worked weekends for months because I felt so bad that I did not have a clue (no training/mentor did not help either). Then it all came together and I was sooooo bored. By Tuesday I was usually done with the monkey stuff. Virtually nobody seemed to comprehend what I was doing, it remained a black box job for the outsiders.

Give yourself time. You will get there. At some point all the pieces come together at once. Just don't pretend that you know what you are doing and start messing things up. Let them know that you are learning. Most people are very understanding and are willing to help too.

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Re: New Job Update
Old 11-30-2005, 10:21 PM   #10
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Re: New Job Update

Thanks all, I appreciate it. I think I'm adding a lot of the pressure on myself. The stakes feel a lot higher than ever before.

Marshac, I lit up at the thought of bouncing ideas off of you, then thought about how much background I'd have to give you and got tired. :P Believe me, I won't hesitate if I find a way to keep it pithy!
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Re: New Job Update
Old 12-01-2005, 09:38 AM   #11
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Re: New Job Update

Just hang in there and don't be hard on yourself.* Any sufficiently advanced system entails a high learning curve.* Usually your manager and peers will understand that and be patient.* Don't be afraid to ask "stupid" questions.* Don't be afraid to ask for formal training if they are willing to send you to a class ( or several ).

In my previous position, I was the lead/senior software developer for our company.* My boss was looking to hire someone, and so I referred a former coworker of mine.* She got the job.* Not only did she not know the business or our applications, she was not familiar with the programming language we used or advanced programming concepts in general.* She was coming from a more administrative role to a programmer/analyst role.* Needless to say, about every 10 seconds she asked me over the cube wall - "Jason, how do I do this?", "Jason, where's that?", etc.* 2 years later and she's still there and doing fine.* She actually had a better review than I did last year ( which is a whole other story ).

Just hang in and keep putting in the effort ... you'll get where you need to be.
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Re: New Job Update
Old 12-01-2005, 10:18 AM   #12
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Re: New Job Update

When I changed jobs from a commercial semiconductor company to an avionics company I was initially overwhelmed by the onslaught of acronyms. Here's a few of things I did:

1) I shopped around till I found an avionics dictionary (not easy to find) and bought it.

2) During meetings/presentations, I scribbled down every acronym I didn't understand as it was spit out at me. I would guess at the spelling. Sometimes I could get acronyms from a memo too.

3) After the meeting, I would look up the acronyms. I would typically only be able to find about 25% of them. Many were not in the dictionary. And my guess at spelling would be wrong about many of them.

4) I picked out a couple of colleagues who were helpful and would approach one of them to explain the rest of the acronyms. Now here's an interesting secret. They could typically only explain another 25% or so. No one knows what they all mean.

5) Very quickly the number of acronyms I didn't understand decreased to one or two per meeting. When I got down to that level I began to ask what they meant during the meetings. Here's another interesting secret. Sometimes the person using the acronym had no idea what the letters stood for. They knew what system the acronym applied to, but not what it meant letter-by-letter.

6) I compiled my own acronym dictionary based on what I learned. This was something I was able to pass on to other new hires when they commented on the number of acronyms they were trying to learn. I used a spreadsheet so I could add to it and alphabetize it easily. The spreadsheet gained a life of it's own with each person who got it adding their own terms and passing it on.

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Re: New Job Update
Old 12-01-2005, 11:19 AM   #13
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Re: New Job Update

Thanks SG, I'm on it!
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Re: New Job Update
Old 12-01-2005, 11:31 AM   #14
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Re: New Job Update

During my NASA career I moved from one project to another approximately every 3 years. Each project had its own set of acronyms. It was very confusing because the same acronym could represent something completely different on two projects. So even though I thought I understood what was being referred to, I would find out later that the "HST" (Hubble Space Telescope) "PGT" (Pistol Grip Tool) wasn't even part of the same subsystem as the "PGT" (Polar Ground Test) on the "GGS" (Global Geospace Science) project. A further complication was that my wife's teaching job used some of the same acronyms to refer to educational concepts! Our dinner conversations on what was going on at work could involve a lot of misunderstanding. NASA tried to maintain acronym lists but new acronyms seemed to be created faster than the list could be updated. I'm sure the situation was similar at other agencies. I have no advice to offer other than to ask the user of any acronym you're not sure of to define it for you.

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Re: New Job Update
Old 12-01-2005, 02:06 PM   #15
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Re: New Job Update

LOL! So I just found out we have a web site set up internally for acronyms - with 15870 entries! I just left a meeting where I scribbled down 13 I didn't know, only two weren't in the web site! The only problem is several acronyms have multiple definitions.

I made it clear in the meeting I was lost and I'm getting a lot of guidance, feeling better, and as a piece of dumb luck my former boss is now in charge of east coast operations, so we'll be working together again, his ringing endorsement of me on the conference call can only help, right? I'll quit complaining now.
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Re: New Job Update
Old 12-01-2005, 02:20 PM   #16
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Re: New Job Update

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
LOL! So I just found out we have a web site set up internally for acronyms - with 15870 entries!* I just left a meeting where I scribbled down 13 I didn't know, only two weren't in the web site!* The only problem is several acronyms have multiple definitions.
I made it clear in the meeting I was lost and I'm getting a lot of guidance, feeling better
There's also AbbreviationZ.com. But your company's database is probably better than their 10-gage shotgun.

Way back in 1983 the Navy's Nuclear Power School decreed that acronyms were forbidden because they obscured the student's familiarity with the terms & concepts. Thus handy terms like "SSBP" had to be pronounced in classroom discussions as "self-saturable burnable poisons". Of course this measurably lengthened the day's learning as we all struggled to pronounce these terms, let alone understand them. I won't claim that the lieutenants went around smacking the ensign's knuckles with wooden rulers, but entire classes reported to the submarine fleet only to be greeted by their new wardrooms with "What the hell's wrong with saying 'SSBP'?"

To this day I mentally cringe when I use a nuclear acronym. But somehow spouse and I can talk paragraphs of other military acronyms to the point where we can hold a complete conversation without our kid (or parents) understanding the subject. That shorthand comes in handy, but it's too easy to use for intimidation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
and as a piece of dumb luck my former boss is now in charge of east coast operations, so we'll be working together again, his ringing endorsement of me on the conference call can only help, right? I'll quit complaining now.
Aha, no wonder he wanted you to stay in the old division to hold down the fort! Anyway it sounds like you're mentoring yourself, which leaves you beholden to no one...
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Re: New Job Update
Old 12-01-2005, 02:31 PM   #17
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Re: New Job Update

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
LOL! So I just found out we have a web site set up internally for acronyms - with 15870 entries!* I just left a meeting where I scribbled down 13 I didn't know, only two weren't in the web site!* The only problem is several acronyms have multiple definitions.*

I made it clear in the meeting I was lost and I'm getting* a lot of guidance, feeling better, and as a piece of dumb luck my former boss is now in charge of east coast operations, so we'll be working together again, his ringing endorsement of me on the conference call can only help, right?* I'll quit complaining now.
Sounds like good news, Laurence. Hope things just keep getting better and better for you.
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Re: New Job Update
Old 12-01-2005, 05:52 PM   #18
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Re: New Job Update

Laurence,

I work in biomedical engineering so have to speak doctor/nurse speak, IT speak and biomedical speak.* I've come to a conclusion, however.* If someone cannot simply explain to you the functions of a system and diagram them easily, then I would worry about their understanding of the system.* What does this mean to you?* I'd find the person who seems to be the most competent, sit down with them and have them draw you a good overall system picture.* From that picture, start filling in the acronym details/etc of the boxes and interfaces.* You'll find that if you understand the functions of the system, you'll be on your way to being an expert.*

I learned this when doing electrical to mechanical analog diagrams and agonizing over the math.* Both 'perspectives' used very similar functions, they just named them differently.* Plus, when I did the biomedical stuff, we started looking at the human body as mechanical, chemical and electrical systems - analogs again......helps me a lot and also helps me explain things to people who aren't engineers.

Good luck - I know you'll figure it out* - Bridget

edited to change from SG to Laurence - sorry about that! Sometimes the threads get long.....
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