Tag: day job

17 years (and counting) at the day job

I graduated from the University of California, Riverside on June 18, 1994. At the time I graduated, I was doing computer work for the dorm cafeteria, automating their budgets in Excel, developing reports, that kind of thing. I continued to do that work through much of the summer. Sometime in August 1994 I applied for a job as a “microcomputer support consultant” at a public policy think tank. I didn’t give much thought to it when I applied. It was one of several places I’d sent resumes.

On September 7, 1994 I was calling in for an interview. It was a grueling, 8 hour interview that lasted from about 8:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon and included a lunch interview. I met with all kinds of different people and they grilled me on my computer skills, people skills, pretty much everything. I’d never been through anything quite like that before and I was a limp reed by the time the interviewing was over. I didn’t want to think about it or talk about it.

Time passed and I heard nothing. I figured that I probably didn’t get the job, but then maybe a month after the interview, I’d heard from the people at the dorm cafeteria that they received a call to check my references. I figured that was a good sign, but I continued to wait. Shortly thereafter (I don’t recall the exact date, alas) I received a phone call offering me the job. I accepted and we agreed that I would start on Monday, October 17, 1994.

I arrived on time on Monday, October 17, 1994, went through the sign in process and some introduction, and was given a temporary office (which had a view of the ocean) until my permanent office was painted. That took one week. A week later I moved into my permanent office. I was in that office for nearly 8 years, until I transferred to the Washington D.C. office. I’ve been in this same office now for more than 9 years. Today, Monday, October 17, 2011, I have been at the company for seventeen years. I think I have the fewest number of office moves for someone who has been at the company this long.

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What I do at my day job

I’ve worked at my day job now for nearly 17 years. (Indeed, less than three weeks and I’ll have been there for exactly 17 years.) I started at this company 3 months after graduating from the University of California, Riverside back in 1994.

I work for a public policy “think tank” and that means there is a lot of research done there by many very smart people. I don’t talk about my work very much outside of work. This is because I like to draw the line between my job and my life outside. Many of my closer friends, however, have taken this to mean that I must be doing some kind of work that I can’t talk about. I’m sorry to disappoint folks, but that just isn’t the case.

When I started at this job, I worked on the company help desk, answering phone calls from people who were having some kind of computer problem or question. This was at the dawn of the Internet. I didn’t know what the World Wide Web was when I started. I knew nothing about computer networking. All I had was some programming experience and the fact that I played around with computers a lot growing up.

Over the years I moved into different roles, managing technical projects and then managing staff. About 9 years ago, I moved out of line management and into software development and I have been doing that ever since. I am cautious about what it means to be an “expert” in something. I see the word “expert” so often on resumes as to make it virtually meaningless to me, but if I have any particular area of expertise in my day job, it is as a “data architect”. I don’t particularly like this term, but it does describe fairly well what I do. I help organizations within the company look at the their data, organize it, analyze it and present it in useful ways that allow them to make important decisions based on what they see.

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Post-rollout evening

I was in the office at 7am this morning (yes, a Saturday) and began working through my 7-page checklist to get this long-awaited server consolidation rolled out. It took 8 hours (minus one hour for lunch) to get the whole thing done, but so far, it looks to be successful. There were no major gotchas along the way, which is pretty rare, but there is still time, and folks won’t really start working in the new environment until Monday. Meanwhile, I am cautiously optimistic. I had a lot of help from folks like Amy and Monica and Casey (who bought me lunch!) and they deserve some credit as well. I’m hoping by Tuesday or so most of the stress from this project will be behind me and life will begin returning to normal.

I got home at 3pm and the Little Man was waiting at the door for me. We hung out for a few minutes and then he and Kelly went for a walk while I went upstairs to catch up on some sleep. I managed to get 90 minutes or so.

Kelly went out with the girls tonight so the Little Man and I hung out together. He wanted to see more spaceships so we watched the first 30 minutes or so of the most recent Star Trek movie and he seemed really into it. But then it was his bedtime and for a wonder, he went down pretty easily. I’m wrapping up a few loose ends and then I am heading upstairs myself. Going to try to get in some reading before bed.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and we are all heading up to Baltimore so that the Little Man can take a ride on Thomas the Train. I’m sure I will have more to report on that tomorrow. In the meantime, let me wish all the Mom’s out there a happy day tomorrow! You are miracle-workers, each and every one of you!

Prelude to the Big Rollout

Much of the last several months at the day job have been spent working on a project to consolidate an abstract a fairly large group of servers and applications. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but it has been a challenging project and a fun one to work on. But as the rollout approaches, the projects always grow less fun. As you can probably tell I’ve been putting in a lot of time on this and this weekend is the big rollout. I have a 7-page long list of tasks to run through beginning at 7am tomorrow morning, but if I have planned this well, it should go smoothly. I hope so, anyway. Rollouts rarely seem to go smoothly for me, but we’ll see.

The long hours mean I’ve seen less of the Little Man and Kelly than I’d like. That hit home today when I met them at the park after work and the Little Man came running happily toward me shouting, “Daddy! Daddy!” When it was time to leave, I had to go separately because we’d come in different cars and the poor Little Man had a melt-down because he thought his Daddy was leaving him again. (Like I left him to go to L.A. last week.) Of course, I will have to leave him again tomorrow. I plan on being in the office at 7am for this rollout tomorrow and I have no idea when I will be back home

My days have been one endless stream of work, one way or another. They have been blurring together and this week in particular I’ve been in a pretty foul mood. I feel like I could use six months off just to get back on my game. I’ll get exactly one day: Sunday. Then it’s back to the routine, continuing on with my two other big projects and starting up yet a third. I have written almost no fiction in a month (with one small exception), and I really feel off my game. Hopefully this rollout will be a success and things will start to improve afterward.

I am looking forward to two small reprieves this evening: the second-to-last episode of Smallville, which I plan to watch in realtime for a change. And reading more of Game of Thrones, about which I will have more to say shortly.

Santa Monica, day 3: the bloody sock

Another mostly crappy night’s sleep last night with strange dreams that I can’t remember but which kept waking me up every few hours. I finally gave up around 4:50am and headed into the office around 5:30 to try to get some extra work done.

My right sneaker has been rubbing at my heel in an uncomfortable way for some reason and when I got to the office this morning, I decided to check it out to see what the problem was. I found my sock soaked in blood from a blister. I still don’t know what changed with the shoe but I decided I should probably get some new ones. The problem is I am pretty cheap when it comes to clothes and shoes and in truth, Kelly is the one who generally buys me clothes. As it turns out, sales tax in Santa Monica is 10.25% and there’s no way in Hades that I’m paying that much tax for shoes when 24 hours later I can pay 5% in Virginia. So I’m suffering with the blister–but not too much as you will soon see.

Another full day of training class beginning at 7:30am. At least today we didn’t have a working lunch and at lunch time, I grabbed some food from the cafe and then headed out into the sunlight (our conference room had no windows) and allowed myself to soak in the rays much like Superman soaking in the yellow sun to rejuvenate.

After work, I went out for a drink with my cool boss at a brand new bar in Santa Monica called Misfit. We had a nice time there but we had to part ways at 6:30. You see, with all the stress that has been building up from work, I finally gave into temptation and scheduled a massage for myself: my first in nearly 3 years. I scheduled it right around the corner from the bar at Burke Williams. I schedule an 80-minute Swedish deep tissue massage beginning at 7pm. It was wonderful. The masseuse used those hot stones and everything. I feel so much better afterward. In fact, the only problem was that 80 minutes seemed to fly by as quickly as 50 minutes. After the massage I made use of the great facilities they had there. I took a steam, sat in the super-hot sauna for 10 minutes (I’m not kidding–I could feel the heat inside my nose), and then showered and walked back to the hotel. Really, I feel 150% better. It was well worth it.

Now, I’m all packed and ready to return home in the morning. I have an 9am flight, and I’m schedule to arrive at Dulles around 5pm. Hopefully I’ll be home around 6pm. I miss Kelly and the Little Man and am anxious to see them.

I’m spending the rest of the evening vacationing in the Golden Age of science fiction.

Long days, short nights

I’m in crunch time for the day job, as I might have mentioned. I’ve been working toward a fairly major rollout of a new server environment and that was targeted to happen April 30/May 1. Then I found out that I needed to go back to L. A. to attend some training right about the time we were planning on rolling out, which pushes things back a week or so. This project has me working long hours. I was at my writers group last night until 10:30, and then I was up just after 4 am this morning and into the office before 5:30am today. I didn’t head home until after 4pm. And tomorrow morning, I’ll be into the office by 6am once again. Couple this with the fact that the Little Man has been sick and that takes up additional energies and the result is that tonight, I am completely exhausted.

Another side effect of all of this is that I am once again behind on my Vacation reading, although I’m still hoping to catch up this weekend.

We took the Little Man to the park after work today and managed to get in a decent walk, and I thought I might watch the Yankees/O’s game tonight as a little break. But after I got the little guy down to bed, I cleaned up the TV room and the shut off the game. I’m heading up to bed as soon as I finish writing this post.

There’s still a couple more weeks of this work schedule, but I expect things to calm down a bit in May.

Coming to L.A. (again)

I had thought that my trip to L.A. at the beginning of March was the last trip I’d take to L.A. for about a year. But it turns out I’ll be back there again–and in less than two weeks. I have to be in Santa Monica for 2 days of work meetings, Thursday and Friday April 28-29. Not an ideal time with Kelly well into her second trimester and leaving her to take care of Zach for a few days all on her own again. But I’m making the trip as short as possible. I’m flying out on Wednesday and flying home early Saturday.

That means two endless flights across the country.

On the positive side, however, I may get the chance to see friends that I don’t see very often.

With a little help from my friends

Yesterday was the first day of my day job retreat and it was interesting, especially the stuff we covered on Scrum and Agile development. I got to have lunch with Beth, who grew up with me at the company these last 16 years and is like my work-sister. And around 3pm, we had a “team-building” exercise, which entailed walked down the street to the local bowling lanes and bowling for 2 hours. That was a whole lot of fun. Our team, made up of me, Pam, Cord, and Amy came in first place in the first round, second in the second round. I bowled over 100 each game and Amy bowled a remarkable (to me) 177 in our second game.

Afterward, we headed over to El Cholo in Santa Monica for an extended happy hour. A lot of my work friends were there and that made it easier to get through the rest of the evening, especially when I am missing Kelly and the Little Man. During one of our exercises today, Kelly called me because the Little Man wanted to talk to me and I said hello to him on the phone. He proceeded to tell me all about “eh-panes” which I found to be just adorable. Kelly said that at school his teacher pretended to call me because they new his daddy was “at work”. He wanted to do it for real and it was a pleasant surprise to get to talk to him in the middle of the day.

El Cholo was a lot of fun. Lots of people showed up and we were probably there for more than three hours. Eventually, my good friend Andy, myself, Mary and her husband Bruce (a fellow Yankee fan) headed out for pizza.

When Andy dropped me off at the hotel afterward, he had me autograph my story, “Hindsight, In Neon” in his copy of the Descended From Darkness anthology. It was a humbling ending to what turned out to be a very cool day.

My L.A. itinerary

Tomorrow I fly to Los Angeles for my day job team’s annual planning retreat. I usually enjoy this trip because I get to see coworkers I only see once a year (I’m the only one on my team who works in the Washington office). I also get to see old friends that I don’t see very often. And I get to see family, too. This time, however, I almost wish I didn’t have to go. With Kelly pregnant and Zach a handful right now, I really just wish I could stay home. That being said, I’m already checked into my flight, which departs Dulles bright and early at 7am and I will be depending on my friends in L.A. to help keep the gloom away. Here, therefore, is my busy itinerary for my trip:


  • 7am: Fly to L.A.
  • Noon (PST): Lunch with Rob
  • 6pm: Dinner with Lisa


  • Day 1 of planning retreat
  • Noon: Lunch with Jim
  • 3pm: Bowling with the team
  • 6pm: Big Happy Hour at El Cholo


  • Day 2 of planning retreat
  • Noon: Lunch with Beth
  • 6pm: Retreat dinner with the team


  • Noon: Lunch with Cathy
  • 6pm: Dinner with Mom & Dad


  • 9am: Flight to Washington
  • Dinner at home with Kelly, Zach, Jen and Sadie

In Santa Monica next week

Once a year, in my day job, my team gathers in our Santa Monica, CA office for an annual planning retreat. I look forward to it with mixed emotions. One the one hand, I get to see people I don’t normally see (I’m the only one on my team who works in our Arlington, VA office); and not just coworkers, but old friends and family, too. There are lots of social events and it can be a great deal of fun. On the other hand, I leave Kelly and the Z-man behind for 4 days, and that is always tough.

This year, I head Santa Monica on Monday and return home on Friday, with our planning retreat taking up most of Tuesday and Wednesday. Blogging will continue as normal, as will my Vacation in the Golden Age. And while I’m out there on the West Coast, I’ll submit my second Wayward Time Traveler column. I may even squeeze in some fiction writing.

Thanks to the Internet, I’ve made quite a few writer-friends online that I’ve never met in person. If any of you folks are in or near the Santa Monica area next week, let me know and maybe we can meet up in person.

Coming to L.A.

I have a business trip at the end of the month. I’m heading to Santa Monica for 4 days for my team’s annual planning retreat. I’ll be staying at my usual digs in Santa Monica and I just wanted to let folks know that I will be there in case any friends or family that I haven’t already gotten in touch with are interested in getting together. My time is pretty limited, but I’ll be as flexible as I can. I get into town on Monday, February 28 and fly home on Friday, March 4. The retreat is a few weeks earlier this year than previous years, which is nice because it seems like for the past few years, I’ve ended up flying on my birthday.

Kelly and the Little Man won’t be coming with me this time. Work and school conflict.

A twist on interviews

I’ve heard rumors that from time-to-time, science fiction writers are interviewed on various venues. It has not yet happened to me (there is no reason that it should have, I suppose), but a few months ago, in my day-job, I had an interesting twist on the science fiction writer/interview phenomenon.

I was tasked with screening candidates for a database developer position we had open in our group. This is a fairly tedious process that involves scanning through resumes, separating the wheat from the chaff, and then doing short, 20-minute screening calls with the people who made the cut to see if they are worth bringing in for a full-scale interview. For a month or so it seemed like we simply weren’t getting any good candidates, and even the ones that I phone screened never made it beyond the phone call. Simply not the kind of technical experience we were looking for.

And then one day, I had arranged a phone interview with a candidate that looked good on paper. At the specified time, I called this gentleman and when he answered the phone, I said, “Can I speak to Mr. So-and-so?”

“Speaking,” he said.

“Hi, my name is Jamie Rubin and we have an interview scheduled. Is now a good time?” (I don’t know why I always ask that, since clearly, it is a scheduled interview. But I do.)

“Yes, of course,” he said, “but before we get started, Jamie, I just have to tell you that this is the first time I have ever been interviewed by a software developer-slash-science fiction writer.”

Well, that caught me off guard. I make no secret of the fact that I write science fiction and I do so under my own name and a quick Google search of my name will attest to my avocati0n. But this was the first time that an interview candidate ever mentioned it. And while I hate to admit it, it made me feel pretty good. It also immediately established a good rapport. The interview went well, we brought the candidate in for further interviews and ultimately, he was hired into the group and he’s a great guy to work with.

There is one more science fictional postscript to all of this. The candidate in question sounds exactly like my friend Michael A. Burstein, at least over the phone. Their voices are so similar that throughout the first screening interview, I kept wondering if Michael wasn’t putting me on. I mean, Michael would know what buttons to press, and mentioning the fact that I was a science fiction writer would be one of those. After I completed that interview with the candidate, I immediately called Michael and told him about it, just to see if he would admit to some elaborate practical joke. Of course, Michael had nothing to do with it, but found the story amusing.

And so while this science fiction writer has not yet been interviewed about science fiction, he has conducted interviews where he was recognized as a science fiction writer, put leading an interview on database development. That’s kind of an interesting twist on interviews, isn’t it?