End of Year Autonomy Ratings

It’s coming up that time of year when we look back and review our past year’s work and determine if we are making “the cut”. I’ve never really dreaded annual reviews but I think I would like to perform a different type of review of myself this year.

One of the many topics that comes up in our large enterprise wide meetings is this idea of employee autonomy: the ability for an employee (like myself) to have the power over her own work at a level that allows her to make critical decisions about said work without requiring a supervisor’s permission. The idea is that if I am good enough at what I do and have the proven ability to make the best decision about something that I be allowed to do it without requiring outside permission. I like how the boundaries were drawn. “If you ask for permission to perform a task or if you ask a question and the answer is “Yes” 99% of the time you have the authority to make those decisions on your own without additional permission”. That 99% success rate proves that you have the ability to assess a situation and use your skill set to make an informed decision and that your supervisor trusts in that ability.

In terms of my daily tasks I know with about 90% certainty what I can make a decision on without asking for permission or additional review from a supervisor. But if I were to rate myself on autonomy at work using the definition above how would I rate? I’ve divided my current job into several main categories and given myself a percentage based on how often I receive the “Yes” and how often I require additional permission or assistance to complete a task.

  1. Customer Service: 90% of my email responses require no additional review before I send them. I am sufficiently competent to answer the majority of inquiries I receive from external parties with which I interact. Due to the nature of my work this is actually a big deal. In addition, I would give my ability to respond to phone inquiries (which I do much less of on a regular basis) at about 95%.
  2. Process Improvement: The majority of improvements I recommend are supported by my direct supervisors. Even if the resources are not immediately available I am given verbal or written affirmation that “Yes, that would be great. Put it on a wish list for 2015 to discuss with [X] Department”. From 2013-2014, I have implemented three major improvements that have increased the efficiency of our work group tremendously: (1) Using less spreadsheets and switching to shared workspaces which reduces duplication and error rates; (2) Introducing new technology like cloud data management; (3) improving work instructions and templates to allow for more flexibility by the user and making the process flow more transparent for anyone to use.
  3. Project Planning: I would estimate this at about 75% autonomy because the majority of my planning requires input from multiple persons, work groups, and in some cases departments. I don’t feel it would be recommended to give one person 100% autonomy over a task like this since no one person can understand everyone else’s job 100%.
  4. Data Management: This is an area I’m confident in but at the same time I feel like improvement is always preferred. I rate myself at a good 80-85%. However, in terms of the autonomy I’ve been given according to the definition above I’m actually at about 90-95% in this current position.
  5. Quality Control: This is related to Data Management but I’ve categorized it separately because I feel that I do equal amounts of overall Quality Control as I do regular maintenance work. On this I give myself a 90% because when going into hunter-gatherer mode to perform root-cause analysis and correcting any input errors (either system generated or staff generated) I am able to, fairly well, correct a problem internally so that it does not affect the final output or overall customer service.
  6. Emergency Management: While growing up this meant food distributions, security, and the rebuilding of schools and homes it means something entirely different in my current work environment. I rate myself at 80% on this because while emergencies tend to pop up on a weekly basis this is often due to workload distribution and a mix of external factors outside my control. I do have to request permission from a supervisor before redistributing workloads for other staff members and prioritizing work group goals for short-term results since I am not the direct supervisor of the other staff. However, 90% of my recommendations on responding to any work related emergencies are implemented at some level. In addition, if a supervisor is not available I am able to manage more urgent situations with almost a 90% post-completion approval rating. Unfortunately, some situations require that staff with an RN make certain determinations. I consider my ability to work with other staff to ensure this happens as part of my autonomous rating since I am still responsible for the overall results.

With this new “rating system” put into writing I can now see that actually I have a large amount of autonomy over my work. It would be interesting to see how the weekly statistics compare to my end-of-year assessment. I also recognize that I have not included in any assessment of disciplinary actions that may have taken place (all of them minor and corrective in nature). At this time there are relatively few but the majority of them have to do with overall annual planning and since I have only just now begun the annual cycle for the second time it stands to reason that it would take at least one repeat performance to say that my ineptitude was the root cause and not my lack of training or experience with this particular type of work. For those recurring projects I have performed at least twice now I can say that there have been improvements from one instance to the next and should point out that it appears volume of overall work has doubled since I first began in Summer 2013.

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Barefoot MBA

One of my favorite tunes during my last semester in college was “What Do You Do With A B.A. In English” from Avenue Q. I thought I wouldn’t end up in a satirical version of life making up song and dance numbers to illustrate the sorrows of staring and a blank screen for two months trying to write a graduate school application and ending up with some post-modernist mess titled “Grad School Whore” in which I do actually create a parallel between my attempts at applying to graduate schools and being a hooker. Those were some dark times in my life.

To look at me on an average day you wouldn’t be able to easily label me as an MBA holder. I like comfort over looking professional. My hair is often down and rather unruly. And I really really dislike shoes. If I enjoyed the beach more I probably would make a great beach bum. I’m probably more of a spirit inhabiting the corners of museums and galleries. Or a permanent structure in a cozy coffee shop: “Girl With Book”.

Having an MBA has been a real struggle for me. Mostly because there is a real stigma attached to those three letters that say what society assumes an MBA is like. I was just reading some trashy novel in which some girl has a “classic MBA” type boyfriend. What does that even mean?? He wears suits everywhere and is obsessed with power? Okay I am a little obsessed with power. I actually thought becoming a dictator was a legit career goal in high school. But still, it’s often associated with male, machismo style capitalism that requires a weirdly unexciting sex life (unless it’s an affair or one night stand) and the ability to see other people as objects at your disposal rather than as conscious beings.

As an MBA I can assure you that they don’t teach us any of that in school. It’s often a false stereotype creates based on what we thing being “in business” means. And of course there are some truths attached to that. But let’s get a couple things straight:

1. Having an MBA is like having an advanced degree in any other field. It means you have withstood the processes and rigors of graduate school and have been found acceptable enough to be given the option of graduating.

2. An MBA is a support degree. Having an MBA is meaningless without being attached to a set of other skills. “Business” is not a skill. Accounting, writing, dancing… These are skills. All an MBA can do is support a set of skills and abilities you have that are preferably based on your hobbies or interests. For many people their hobby and/or interest is just to make money. And good for them in picking something so straightforward but good luck on actually achieving that goal. Making massive piles of money is incredibly difficult if it isn’t attached to something you genuinely love. It’s like having an ice cream machine and no freezer. What’s the point?

3. And MBA does not mean you have to wear a suit everyday but that also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put a little effort into how you dress. Management communications is one of my specialties in that I am an excellent writer and find that written communication is much more meaningful in terms of security. I can say I’ll bring you a paper by 2 o’clock but if I’m a little late I can say “I could have sworn I said 3! You must have heard me wrong.” Whereas if I, as a professional, put it into an email that I’ll bring it at 2 I will be forced to either claim I made a mistake or that I was just super late.

One part about management communications that seems so much easier to students (when really I think it’s much harder) is non-verbal communication. How you walk, dress, and even the state of your car can say a lot about you as a person. You don’t wear to an interview what you would wear on a date and you don’t wear to work what you wore to the club. Depending on where you work, of course.

It is important to remember that how you think you look and how other people think you look are often incredibly disparagingly different. Example:

Every year at the end of the Fall semester the students in my program are required to present at a fair we put on in the lobby of our main building. I sent messages and tweeting and posted on Facebook: Dress appropriately. Business Casual/Business Attire. They actually get graded on this. And still I have students showing up in jeans or workout wear. Those students just need more guidance and that’s fine. They are, after all, still freshmen. But what often happens is that a girl will put on her mini skirt and see-through blouse and 6-inch stilettos and think she’s dressing for an office… And I’m ashamed to say that there are staff at the university that dress similarly and so it’s hard to correct that opinion.

4. Having an MBA doesn’t mean you have to work at a desk or in a corporate America style cubicle land. This is probably one of the hardest things for me to deal with. As a free spirit who can’t seem to keep her shoes one no matter how hard she tries it is incredibly difficult for me to tell the difference between what I can do and what I want to do. I may know my way around a keyboard and other computational devices but I prefer writing things by hand. I may be able to shuffle through mountains of technical jargon and piles of financial paperwork but I prefer reading sci-fi and fantasy. These are the sorts of things that make being what I term a “Barefoot MBA” difficult. There are actually a lot of jobs out there and I know I qualify for a great number of them. But I am continually getting no response from the dozens of applications I send in every week. Why? Because I’m not applying to those jobs and the jobs I am applying to aren’t sure what to do with an MBA who wants to write about food all day long. It’s confusing.

What makes it worse is that I’m a little unwilling to take a major step back and start all over again with my professional track record. After having worked long enough to know that I am worth at least a certain level of respect it’s difficult to decide to either go back to school and train in something different or take a job that’s actually beneath me in order to get my foot in the door. What I’d like to believe is that with some of the cultural mixing of cultures with the rise of globalization there will be an equal rise in the need for well rounded individuals who can easily transition between two seemingly opposite ways of life. Being able to switch between languages, shoes (or no shoes!), offices, geographies… These are all things that the Barefoot MBA must be able to do. Because being a macho man in a suit with an attitude and desire for money and power just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

When A See-Through Dress Isn’t Enough

So I saw this dress at a shop the other day:

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That right there is a full length Chinese style dress. And it’s completely see-through. Seriously considered buying it but it would have been like buying a new computer for a job you don’t even have yet. Got me thinking, though…

I’ve been applying for this job. Been through a phone interview, two panel interviews, and a meeting with the director I’d be working under. All interesting experiences and one was just downright fun. And then I asked some current co-workers (all of whom were previously my professors and/or supervisors) to serve as references and they were all happy to do so. I figured it was like the dress. You wear that and it’s sure to get you at least a positive reaction, right? Wrong! People don’t work that way. Human nature is inclined towards the overly-complicated.

Once I had finally gotten all the information in for my references it was time to get my current work completed before I left for vacation. My current contract does not include vacation time and, while that shouldn’t prevent me from being out of the office to get my work done, that doesn’t mean everyone understands how contract work works. Including employers. Asking questions is very important. And so is being on top of your workload.

I did, at some point, have to tear myself away from tanning on the beach to fill out a form for doing a background check but that was fine. And then I was at brunch yesterday morning and got what seemed like an urgent email saying they needed ME to get in touch with my references and ask them to turn in their stuff THAT DAY so that the hiring manager could make a decision this week.

Employers… I love you and the jobs and opportunities that you offer me and my fellow job seekers. But please, don’t be those people. I am more than happy to provide you with information and jump through a few hoops to ensure you that I am a good candidate for whatever position I am applying for. Asking me to try and get my references to jump through hoops before a major holiday because you didn’t ask me for information in a timely manner is incredibly unprofessional and rather rude. It’s like if I did have someone to wear that dress for. I text them that photo and say “If you want to see me in this dress I’m gonna need you to drive down here and show me that you want it.” That’s totally reasonable. But if I say “I’m going to need you to make sure my friends have a man that night too so we’ll all have something to talk about over drinks tomorrow night.” That’s being… Well it’s not nice. It’s unreasonable and it means not only do you put yourself in a tight spot but you have alerted a potentially fantastic employee that you may not be a place they feel comfortable working.

Luckily I am on fantastic terms with my references and can text or email them and promise to make cookies or something and it’s all good. But I puts an applicant in an awkward position to have to make unreasonable requests like that no matter what sort of cookies you promise in return.

With the job market the way it is it may seem like employers hold all the power and the little people vying for attention just need to put on a fantastic show just to get noticed. But as someone who consistently has to remind students and recent graduates that skills that getting a job is more than having a piece of paper outlining your technical skills I know that it’s difficult to find good people to fill many positions that are open these days.

I know there are holes in my résumé that prevent me from getting a dream job but I take personal development very seriously. I have worked hard to both enhance my skills as abilities in order to be productive as a member of society but in the application process I have also done my best to present myself well and take the time and effort to show you what I am capable of in terms of task-based work and as a person you would have to work with on a regular basis. Making me feel as though I am without self-autonomy before you’ve even offered me a job could mean that I could take my skills elsewhere. And with the rise of the technical degrees and the loss of the liberal arts I can assure you that it can cost more than just a filled position or a timeline in a strategic plan. It could mean you sit next to that person who complains about their dating life to their mom on speakerphone every day in your shared office because they never learned proper office etiquette but they were desperate enough to jump through hoops and did a lot of behind the scenes pushing of other people’s buttons to get you what you wanted.

Je suis “bored”…

I highly doubt there is anyone who hasn’t at some point gotten bored at work. And if you’re anything like me and have a hyperactive brain and need constant stimuli to keep you at a functioning level of consciousness it is all too easy to just sit at your desk and stare out the window…. If only that window looked out into space.

Well after playing around on this file and that file and making life more difficult by attempting to sync all 7 of the email addresses I have to manage on my own without the help of ITS I figured enough was enough. Let me be productive with my life if not at work. Not that there was a great deal to be productive on at work today.

Yesterday I happened to find myself at an event for National Refugee day down in Silver Spring with several friends. One friend was there since it was a part of a work function and was introducing the rest of us around as her family. The other two were Kenyan like her so that seemed to make sense. But when she introduced me things got awkward. Most people think i’m hispanic at first. Then just a really nice shade of “white” followed by brief conversation and hearing my name and being “What are you??”.

But long story shorter: I ended up dancing with an incredibly good looking gentleman from Haiti who grew up in the DRC (Congo) and now teaches advanced English in a high school for students who don’t have English as a primary language. It’s been a long time since I danced that much and it was a late night resulting in massive zombification (waking up and feeling/looking like a zombie) this morning leading to my lack of work because a lack of just about any form of conscious thought whatsoever. I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek: TNG today between preparatory moves for my upcoming vacation. That involved buying a lot of Aquaman comics because I’m totally behind on those.

In the middle of that I realized earlier this morning that during some makeshift conversations in French last night I haven’t been keeping up with my language reviews like I had promised myself I would do. So I whipped out the ol’ iPhone (it’s  4…. Just a 4…) and started playing on MindSnacks. I’m much better at the French games than the Chinese ones because it’s not only more recent but Chinese anything is just hard and I find textbooks and practice squares more comforting than fast paced matching and tonal space games.

It got my mind moving once again and I feel not only more accomplished in life but also more awake. And it doesn’t hurt that when I say on my transcripts and resume that I have skills in French I could at least carry a fairly decent conversation about what month it is and where I come from.

Well That’s Annoying…

Twice in the last couple of weeks I have somehow managed to apply or inquire about three positions that have been listed as “no longer open for application”. That’s annoying.

(1) Because in some cases I have spent a great deal of time on an application to make sure that it not only presents me well but in a way that is tailored to the organization I have applied to. That sort of research can take at least 2-3 hours and that is a lot of effort made on the part of an applicant who will only be told that the position has been filled or is just no longer available.

(2) Because it looks bad for the employer. Who wants to work for associate with a company or organization that can’t even get it’s act together enough to take down a position that has been filled. You’d think they’d have a WHOLE department in charge of doing that… They’s probably call it Human Resources or something.

(3) And here’s an even worse scenario: You’ve taken all that time, you’ve turned in the application, and then you’ve been told that the position has been filled. THEN, after going though the only minor heartbreak that you weren’t even given the chance to be considered and moving on… There it is AGAIN!!!! Same company! Same position!

Number 3 not only accentuates the not-coolness of numbers 1& 2 it also leave you with a very bitter taste in your mouth. Does this mean that you can apply again and have a shot or does it just mean that they never took down the announcement? Because it is always possible that last minute problems have forced them to reopen the search for applicants but if you reapply and they just hadn’t removed the posting you look a little like an idiot. It’s very hard to tell.

But these are just some of the frustrations that take place when you’re churning out high volumes of applications and specified resumes and CV’s and individually targeted cover letters.

In my current place of employment I have seen openings still posted for positions that were filled years ago while I know for a fact that positions are being filled regularly based on interpersonal connections. It can be very frustrating for people looking at companies, organizations, or specific industries that they want to work it but don’t know someone who can give them the on-the-ground information necessary to know how or what to say “Pick me! Pick me!”. In some cases things will work out but a lot of times it will be very difficult to even get close to a position you truly want without putting yourself out there not only in how you present yourself and having the strength to keep applying (even after several failures) but to make new friends or talk to people who might be able to give you the run-down in their own places of of work or networks. This may make some people (like myself) feel uncomfortable because it feels as if you aren’t really making friends but are using people. But sometimes it comes down to how badly you want what you want and what lengths you’re willing to go to in order to get there.

Welcome to My Universe!

Hello, Earth, and welcome to my universe!

There are so many things that I want to tell you about me and so many things that, subsequently, want to learn about you so I have started this blog in order to begin what I hope will be a very long and prosperous relationship made up of mutual respect and a whole lot of fun!

Allow me to introduce myself:

My name is as ambiguous as I am. Those that created and declared me as their own titled me Jocelyn Uli Lumban Tobing and then they never ever called me that again. To many I am known as Josie or Oci and in most instances I will refer to myself as Oci Lumbantobing which is both my more familial title (“Oci”, pronounced *OH-CHEE*) and my paternal ancestral name (“Lumbantobing”).

The primary purpose of this blog is to act as a medium for finding employment while here on Earth as well as to showcase my skills, abilities, and interests in order to network with others who are on similar paths through space. Space is big and we are small but we are ever so infinitesimally larger together.

I look forward to getting to know everyone who visits and interacts with the blog better as time goes on. Please feel free to leave a comment or send me a message concerning life, the universe(s), and… well everything.  And please feel free to look through some of my profiles to get to know the many different sides of me.

Thank you for visiting and please… help yourself to some refreshments.

From the collaborative desk of,

Jocelyn, Josie, and Oci