In Training

I have been very fortunate to complete another half marathon just a couple of weekends ago. The Hospital Hill Half Marathon went very well, the weather in particular was very cooperative, cool and dry all morning. I was only a couple of minutes off my personal best and given the course (very hilly) I think it was one of the better races that I have ever run. Now before you nod your head gravely and say “I could never do that”, know that you can.* Also I didn’t train quite so vigorously for this race as for previous races just due to general apathy and a bit of exhaustion due to the busy race schedule I set for myself. It does bring up an interesting point on training, however.

Finish Line with PJ @ Hospital Hill

*And I think everyone should complete a half marathon**. One of those “accomplish able goals that will still change your life” type things. If you really think about it, the race isn’t really about the distance as much as the mentality. What better encapsulation of the human spirit that the drive to will yourself through? 

**In a similar vein, everyone should spend a couple of months in the service industry and/or retail. This one is a general one, so people stop being horrible to those respective industries. I mean really. It is not easy. Call centers on the other hand, I don’t wish that upon many people at all. 

Running much more than other things that I have participated in makes very clear the distinction between those who have trained and those who have not. For me it very clearly draws the line when it comes down to a race. I’ll be laboring 7 or 8 miles into the race and wishing I had done a better job preparing myself. Like a test. Unfortunately I’ve found in the corporate world, every day there may be a pop test. But fortunately my current employer is stunningly forgiving and very willing to invest in its assets (like yours truly).

So as the buzz and bustle of tax season rolls into the lull of summer and many financial representatives sneak off for a couple of weeks, it gives our business some moments to reassess assets and evaluate skills. For my corporation, it lends an opportunity to rearrange management and provide annual reviews. Given this general “less than hellishly-busy” schedule, I have been given instructions to bone up on some auxiliary skills that will help me move forward both personally and professionally. We have a rather robust learning management system with classes that appear to be bought from some outside vendor. Classic titles such as:

Taking a Leadership Role: Gaining and Using Influence
Communicating with Tact and Diplomacy
Financial Markets: An Overview

I think it is important to have a set plan for downtime in the workplace. People are generally not going to pay you on the clock to watch silly youtube videos or update your facebook profile.*** So I’ve had the opportunity to take these classes, all structured very similarly, to try to pick up tips and expand on a transcript that will eventually help me move forward (I hope). Would imagine that this sort of secondary training is probably a million dollar industry in itself. Just getting through bullpen would cost the company several thousand dollars I’m sure, but as these other online classes (in tidy 1-4 hour increments) are made available company-wide would imagine that figure ballooning to something around a million dollars or so. In most of these cases, I think it is clear that certain traits can be practiced but there is such thing as a natural speaker or a natural leader. In the corporate environment (as far I have experienced and studied) these natural advantages mean a lot more. More simply put “it is not what you know, it is who you know” and in many cases, it is how well you know yourself.

***Or following European Championships. Where the English national team may surprisingly sneak into the semi-finals under the least expectations in decades. Also I think all outside observers and neutral fans hope to see a rematch of the Euro 2008 final between Germany and Spain. I actually think everyone would enjoy that match. The Spanish riding out a terrific golden age hoping to add another trophy to the collection and a young and very fun German side that looks set to dominate the next decade in international soccer. Not that I’m following the tournament at work too closely…

This is where I’m trying to find my footing. Due to a strong start with my team, I received a very nice “annual” review but ultimately led to the question: “what do you see yourself doing later on in your career/for this company?” And I was (surprisingly for some) left without a good reply. I am quite sure the next step is to take advantage of company incentives for continuing education (MBA) and then figure out how to leverage that degree and the accumulating experience to springboard into…

…something I suppose. There are a myriad of opportunities not only within my own company but with the ties with our parent company as well. And while it may seem increasingly unlikely I will land that fantasy job**** there still is a strong possibility to land a dream job if I could settle on what exactly it is I want to do.

****test subject in a study of the ability for mid-20 Asian-American males to count tourists on the beaches of Australia whilst intoxicated.

On a more casual note, I am also going to take advantage of a respite in my racing schedule (maybe for the rest of the year) to level up on some video games. Though of a more immediate nature, I will actually be taking a little time off for vacation. Think it is going to be brilliant as it has been a decade since I’ve been to California.

I’ll leave you with a really fun commercial I saw recently for Nike running, see you later, space cowboys.

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Thangers in: “Corporated”

Lots to cover. I am now officially employed at a well established mutual fund transfer agency. I will be joining a recently formed outbound call team, supporting the overall investor services division of the company. My training group or “bullpen” as they call us, is about to complete the second of eight or so weeks of training. In talking to some current associates, the company seems to take special care to bring in new people not well acclimated to the financial industry to really have the ability to mold the bullpen to its own corporate standards.* It has been a very strange experience so far, as the other jobs I’ve held in the past have not been so, I think the word is permanent. ID badges, 2 weeks vacation, 401(k), dental(!) the whole works. It is both terribly exciting and terribly frightening. My other jobs have not been without responsibility, but this promises to be something much more.

*I think that this is not altogether a terrible idea. While it would be easier to incorporate industry professionals into these positions, old habits are hard to erase. If a company takes particular pride in its particular training program, why not find motivated individuals not inside the industry and invest in growth. Not only does the company get to train the associates as it sees fit, it creates a good bond for the new associate as he or she has kind of a social obligation as they are getting some new skills as well as treated very well throughout the process.

So far the process has been meticulously planned even though not well executed. Standards and booklets are in place as well as a number of training logins, test systems, and a well defined script. Oh and the copies! Tons and tons of paper printed out for a relatively small class size. The trainers joke, “For a computer company, we sure do love paper/hate trees”. (Not a great joke, per se, but draws a wry smile from more than one of our little group every time.) (Okay maybe not wry but rather polite ). As you would imagine a bureaucratic two month training program would be paced, that is the rate it goes. I’m not terribly surprised but I am a bit nervous when it comes to the actual performance of my duties. There is a significant amount of time dedicated to “drive share” towards the latter part of the schedule in which the new associate performs the job duties under the watchful eye of an established team member. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to this part, wish I could test it out sooner than later, I find that I learn a little better on a “sink or swim” basis. Good on the company to make sure that new associates are very comfortable before putting them in the game.* In the meantime, I’m going to bask in what is the unadulterated corporate pleasures of hour long lunches and unlimited hot chocolate.

*Haha. Bullpen.

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