During the past couple of months, I’ve alluded to a new job function I’ve managed to acquire at work, but I haven’t gone into detail. Now that I’ve been doing it for nine weeks, though, I think I’m good to let the cat out of the bag. It’s really not much of a bag, to tell the truth, but I’ve been hesitant to jinx myself. 🙂
It all started when our boss, Eric, was looking for someone to “volunteer” to do 1098 duty for tax season. See, people get statements of how much interest they’ve paid on their qualifying loans (usually mortgages), so they can claim it as a deduction. The job of sending duplicates and making corrections to these tax forms is big enough that two people need to be taken out of the normal job rotation to handle it.
I almost got volunteered (by my boss) to do 1098s, but he decided to sleep on it, and ended up choosing someone else for the job. (*whew*) While my boss was giving me the news, Scott (our trainer and my cubemate at the time) mentioned that, if Eric wanted to put me on something different, I knew how to program databases.
Flashback to a couple weeks prior. Some people from Application Services (the people who do most of the techie programming stuff) came to check out our workflow, and were absolutely aghast that we were logging in all of our requests for loan changes (our department’s main function) in Excel. We were getting probably 200-300 requests a day, by email, fax, interoffice mail, and postal mail, and every one of them got logged into Excel, as proof that we received the request. Application Services suggested to our boss that we should be using a real database, like Access — a suggestion that a few team members had repeatedly made in the past, but one that now seemed like a really good idea, since bonafide codeheads suggested it.
Back to me and my boss in my cube, and Scott “outing” me as a geek. It didn’t take Eric long to ask if I wanted to work on the Access database, and it took even less time for me to agree to it. My co-worker buddy, James, had already started on a database a few months before, on his own, and with Eric’s permission. I told him what was up, and asked if I could use the basic database as a jumping-off point. He agreed, and I agreed that this was *our* project, especially since he’d started on it first, and since he knew Access much better than I.
(Funny story: Scott later said that he was in Eric’s office after our cube meeting, and Eric said to him in a scandalous whisper, “I didn’t know Diana was a geek!” Neither of them were sure whether it was something I was comfortable with, apparently. Being called a geek, I mean. I assured them both later that I’m quite secure in my geekiness.)
So, for two weeks, I did my normal job and worked on the database. Luckily, my spot in the rotation for those two weeks was boring and simple and I got done with it by Tuesday or Wednesday both weeks. By the end of those two weeks, James and I had laid out the structure of the database, gotten most of the forms working, and started thinking about what kinds of reporting we’d need to do. We weren’t comfortable with it “going live” yet, though. Not nearly. I told Eric so when he popped his head into my cubicle and asked if it would be ready for April.
Of course, when he told us that we could both get off the rotation to work on the database only, we compromised and agreed to have the data entry portion ready to go in one week, by Monday, April 3rd. We’ve been off the rotation ever since.
I’ve gone from never having used Access in a real database situation (CS 100 doesn’t count) to learning how to build union queries and establish relationships and implement multiple tables with foreign keys and enable referential integrity and all sorts of geekery that I had no idea how to do two months ago. (Actually, some of it I could have done in FileMaker Pro for Macintosh about six or seven years ago.)
As soon as we get our department’s log stable and “finished” (as much as we’ll ever believe it to be), we’re going to be pressed into service for other departments who could use similar tracking databases. James and I have been agonizing over this, because neither of us get paid enough to be a Database Administrator, or even a programmer. This project we’re doing because we enjoy using our brains and skills and getting paid for it. Any other projects would be moving into the realm of potentially being taken advantage of by management.
We talked to Eric today, and laid it out for him (nicely). We basically let him know that, if we’re going to be creating databases for other departments, it wouldn’t be fair for us to still be taking up space in his department, but not doing any actual loan corrections work. We told him that we want to have our job descriptions changed before we do work for any other departments, and that a change in pay grade would be mighty nice, too. We didn’t have to be total dicks for him to get the point, which is good. He says he’s going to go to his boss and see what her thoughts are regarding our positions.
It’s really hard to stick to our guns when it comes to compensation, especially when we’re both still stoked to be off the job rotation. We’re waiting for someone to pinch us and wake us up, or for the other shoe to fall, or for some other dramatic cliche to happen.
At any rate, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past two months. And it makes going back to PHP/MySQL both easier and harder in different ways. (Not IsNull() doesn’t work so well in PHP, but leaving out the Then in my VB If-Then statements doesn’t work so well, either. For the geeks out there.)
For once, I’m sated.