Skip to main content

High-Tech Homeless

Some companies are taking this outsourcing and mobile computing thing too far. I say that because I have joined a sub culture of which I was previously unaware. I am now one of the High-Tech Homeless. Oh, I have a house, and I even have a cubicle somewhere, but I don't go there. I wonder the streets and corridors of Seattle looking for an electric outlet and Wifi.

I started a contract as a program manager last fall. My employer handed me a laptop and assigned me a desk in a building where none of my co-workers sat. Also, I was not allowed to have a telephone. Contractors are not allowed to have a telephone. The company made $6 Billion last year, so it is not a money thing. I am just not allowed to have one. Recently they moved my desk to a building 9 miles away from my co-workers, plus my entire development team is 13 and a half timezones away in India. This isolation and lack of a phone has freed me from my desk. I just go to wherever my co-workers are, or wherever I feel like working. I find an empty office, an unused cube, or a cafeteria. Sometimes I book conference rooms just for a place to work. They are quite nice, you know. Very large and they often have windows. They even have telephones. I have found that some buildings have "Focus Rooms" which are really just very small or oddly shaped offices that are too small or oddly shaped to put a real employee in, so they put a sign on the door that says "Focus Room" and a person can use them on a first-come, first-served basis.

I have discovered that there are hundreds of high-tech homeless wondering the halls of this company. I have some contractors doing some work for me and they have no office, either. They just book conference room after conference room and shuffle from one to the other throughout the day. There are certain advantages. I have absolutely zero junk accumulating on a desk or in a file cabinet. Everything I do is electronic - no paper. I work wherever the mood suits me. Earlier today I spent a few hours in meetings, then I found a "contractor bay" that has very nice window views, and now I am sitting in a nice coffee shop in downtown Seattle. I can work on the bus, in the library, and at home. I don't get interrupted, either.

It is all very pleasant, except that nothing ever gets done. Everyone on the team and all of the business customers are so distributed, so outsourced, so empowered that it is almost impossible to make any progress. How can that be if the working conditions are so pleasant and there are so few interruptions? The reason is that no one can make a decision. No one can say, "We are doing this, and not that, and we are starting now." On the other hand, empowered managers make arbitrary rules for their fiefdoms that block your every move, or add another layer of red tape. Emails are traded, Live Meetings are held, documents are posted. All very nice, but nothing happens. At the end of the day I am a firm believer that there is no substitute for everyone getting together and working it all out together in person. There is this thing that old timers used to call "talking." I don't mean talking on the phone, either. In person-to-person conversation, only a fraction of the communication actually happens by voice, and everything else is what is dropped when we deal with each other virtually. Odd that a guy who has had email since 1986 would turn out to be in favor of talking, but there you go.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How To Make School Lunches More Nutritious: Re-Define Words

If you are a parent of a child who attends public school in Washington, and if you have even a vague recollection of the food pyramid , you probably will have noticed that the lunches that are served in school cafeterias are frequently at odds with the rules of good nutrition. The school is not wrong, however. They have just re-defined words and you are not keeping up. Pop quiz:  Cheese belongs to what food group? *bzzz* - wrong. You said that cheese was in the diary food group , right? No! Pbth! How boringly accurate of you. Cheese magically transforms into a protein when it is served on pizza or in a bread stick! I know that you may be dubious, but I contacted Wendy Barkley, RD,  who is the Acting Supervisor of School Nutrition Programs in the State of Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and she assured me that it is so. To quote her email to me: " Pizza remains an option for schools for their menus.  The cheese on pizza is counted as a protein in t

Global Entry - The TSA Trusted Traveler Program - or - How to Go In The Short Line At The Airport Security

Ever since September 11th, 2001, flying has been a hassle. With each failed attempt to smuggle explosives on an airplane, the TSA makes us get more undressed at airport security. In fact, for really early morning flights, we should probably all just show up in our jammies and then get dressed once we are through the scanner because currently we get up, get dressed, go to the airport, get half undressed, go through security, and then get dressed again. For quite some time, people have been asking the TSA so implement some kind of pre-screening program where travelers could have a background check in advance, and then be allowed to go in a shorter line. That day is finally here, and the TSA is now rolling out a Trusted Traveler Program known as Global Entry . In a nutshell, you pay $100, fill out some online forms, go in for an interview, present your proof of ID, and get fingerprinted and photographed. Yes, it sounds like some red tape, but then, every time you make an airline reser

Rooftop Playgrounds

This week I have had some meetings in a tall building in downtown Seattle, and when I took a moment to look around and enjoy the view I have noticed playgrounds on rooftops. I saw this daycare playground: and this playground on top of a school: I think that this is a really cool use of space. A friend that grew up in NYC said that her school had a rooftop playground, too. The delinquent in me wonders how many toys and balls go over the side, but I bet the teachers are pretty strict about that. Downtown Seattle has always seemed a little unfriendly towards kids and it is neat to see spaces being carved out.