Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Moving on and moving up...

How to begin an article or blog always tends to be the hardest part, especially when it's been almost a year since my last update.

It's amazing, now that I look back at the last year and try to summarise the events that have led me to the point I am at now - amazing and a little humbling, to think that so much can change in that period of time.

The biggest notable change is that I am no longer an employee with Resource Data Management.

Moving on and Moving Up...
For those who don't know (or understandably can't be bothered trawling through the numerous posts from last year) it was my intention to go in to medicine this year. I had done all the 'prep' work having went back to high school as a mature student to gain qualifications in Chemistry and Biology (an A and a B I might add :P) and also volunteering for St Andrews. I had even gotten an interview for the Access to Medicine course at Stow which I'm sure had I attended would have secured me a place on the course and placed me on a path to  Medicine.

But in the end it was going to cost too much. Waaaaayyyy too much.

Once again I find that my poor decision making as a teenager has hindered my options. Kids, don't do debt - nor squander your SAAS funding on studying for subjects you'll never use or areas you'll never work in.

So with Medicine no longer viable (until I win the lottery) I had to re-consider my career choices. As much as I would love to say that I am now a published author living the life of luxury from my condo in Florida - it's not the case (although if there are any publishers of Sci-Fi out there who would like to offer me a condo and the life of luxury feel free to drop me an e-mail :P).

I had to look at what I was good at (and this took some searching :S). In the end it was mother dearest who suggested I look in to other areas relating to what I was currently doing.

For some reason....this had never occurred to me. I must have searched the job sites for every other feasible job - except from the line of work I was currently in.

For those who don't know RDM have the maintenance contract for a leading supermarket. Basically if something broke in a store anywhere in the UK then it was my job to find someone to fix it and monitor the progress from start to finish. Specifically I was part of a team responsible for escalating jobs when things didn't go to plan (so you can imagine the lovely conversations I had with irate MD's struggling to juggle their resources to meet our clients demands - yeah, great fun!)

That being said - I did enjoy my job. There's something immensely satisfying about taking control of a situation and making decisions that lead to the resolution of a problem. Yes there were times when I wanted to tear my hair out (and I'm sure it's got a few extra shades of grey in it since i started - no book required). But those were the times when I felt I achieved the most.

Having never worked in reactive maintenance before, everything I know about managing time and resources, procedures and processes, escalations and KPI's. Everything I learned about the different trades and contractors, SLA's and ISO's and PPM's and quoted works. From logging jobs on a help desk to escalating to MD's to helping to run an entire region and participating in conference calls to review everything from problem jobs to contractor performance - RDM gave me the opportunity to experience it all.

In my first interview with my new employer amidst a torrent of difficult questions I was asked "How do you feel about your current employer?" I didn't expect the question and answered before I had time to fully process or think about it - I replied with one word.


Had there been more scope for promotion or the opportunity to progress my knowledge further within RDM I would have undoubtedly have stayed where I was - but alas the opportunities weren't there and so I began looking for something else.

I am pleased to say that I have found something that offers me both the opportunity to learn and the chance of career progression. It's in a similar field but not identical and a week and a half in I am very aware that there will be a steep learning curve if I hope to be on par with my colleagues whose knowledge and understanding as well as there management skills are first class.

In essence the job involves receiving a call or a scope of works (effectively a list of what has to be done to repair a problem). I then have to input this data in to the system, sequence the issues so that they happen in a logical order - eg, don't plaster a wall after you've painted it. Assign the works to multiple disciplines (types of engineer), order parts from multiple suppliers. Liaise between all parties and 'run' the job through to completion, all the time managing costs to maximise our margins (and minimise our losses). Once the job has been signed off I am responsible for the final accounts (billing - getting paid!).

If it was one job from start to finish it would be fine, but it's not. There are scores of these jobs being 'run' in any given week and each presents it's own host of challenges to be overcome. Needless to say at the moment there aren't enough hours in the day!

This unfortunately is the first bit of writing I have done since September last year. I could come up with excuses, not enough time, no luck with publishers etc etc. The reality is that my passion had faltered for a while. Then I came across the following short story - written by me which gave me tingles when I read it. I really like this piece, and it re-kindled a flame and a desire to write:

The Perception of Appearance
-By Chris Boyle-

“Did you know Santa used to be green?” the television blared in the corner. ”Hard to imagine that round bellied, white bearded, jolly faced man we all know and love in anything other than a cosy red jacket…isn’t it? You can see the kid’s faces now. When they step into the mall and there they are: the reindeer, the elves, and the round, bearded stranger clad in shades of emerald green…the red jacket kind of makes the man…doesn’t it?” The announcer continued as the screen flashed between traditional images of Santa and an unfamiliar figure robed in green.            “With us today is Doctor Handin Reeves, he’s here to talk to us about his new book ‘The Perception of Appearance’ which was released earlier this month and has already shot to the top of the bestseller list” the announcer continued as the scene switched to an older man sat cross-legged on an armchair with an extravagant moustache and eyebrows that curled at the corners.                              
           As a society, I don’t think we can deny that we are visually focused: we see things, and have an opinion.” The doctor began, eyes staring deep into the cameras lens. “That’s why marketing departments spend billions of pounds every year working on their product’s looks. I mean at the end of the day, the look of a product doesn’t change what it actually does.” He fiddled with the buttons on his Ipad and the screen behind him jumped to life
“If Coca-Cola came in a yellow can instead of a red one it would still taste the same. Or if it came in a tub instead of a bottle, it’d still do the same thing, right?” images that would make Coca-Cola’s marketing teams heads spin were scrolling across the screen behind him as he continued to speak. “Yet even though the look doesn’t alter the products abilities in the slightest, it’s the look, which sells the product.” He pressed another button and the screen blacked out.
The same can be said about many of the things we encounter in our day to day lives. Bright colours are used to attract us, to entice us in. They make us feel excited or happy. Sombre colours make us feel sad or lonely.” His hands gestured wildly as if compensating for the lack of visual aids by trying to paint with his fingertips.
“Did you know more attention is paid to a curved sign, than a square one? It’s more aesthetic to the eye, and because of this we pay more attention. But-and this is the big question-are we so attuned to appearance, so cosmically perceptive that when we look at someone we know nothing about, that we’ve never even met, assume we know them?” His hands relaxed as his face turned thoughtful “Do we label people?” Another dramatic pause as the good doctor stared into the camera with his fingers locked in front of his face. “Appearance is more important in today’s society than it has ever been before, whether you are judgemental of others or not…It seems not to matter, for you are constantly being judged...”

The voice droned on in the background as the girl danced through the piles of mismatched clothing littering her once tidy room. Her eyes lit up as she found the brush she needed and with a quick pirouette found herself face to face with her reflection.
“I am a confident, articulate, intelligent, OWW!” the brush caught in her hair as she practised her speech in the mirror for the hundredth time.  With an irritated gasp she threw it to the ground where it landed amidst the assortment of nail varnish and earrings she had put on and taken off, only to try on again a moment later.
She smiled at the absurdity of the situation as she stared at the mess at her feet, after all of the hoops she had jumped through to get to this stage: The early morning electives she’d taken, the late night lectures she had attended, the relentless reading and re-reading of case studies, and the harsh reality that was exam after exam after exam. And after all that, here she was fussing over her hair…her smile faltered as she let out a resigned sigh.
“…intelligent, funny, full of empathy…” She continued as she knelt down to scoop up the brush, careful not to crush the newly bought black pencil skirt she had protected from creases and stray cat hairs for the last week. She had seen it on the mannequin in the store window and new it was perfect; ‘Smart, professional, ready for business!’ It said everything she needed it to. The blouse and shoes were the same, she knew the outfit looked incredible, and for this interview it had to.
In less than an hour she would be standing before the panel of doctors who decided whether she got to pursue her dream of studying medicine, or whether it had been just that, another fleeting dream. Her stomach churned at the thought of rejection, she had worked so hard for this opportunity. She knew she deserved it.
Fixing her eyes on her mirror self she forced the fear of failure aside. She had passed all the exams, finished all the tests and in that outfit she would look great! Well almost great, once she finally got her hair under control.                                                                                              
  For the first time in her life she had fallen upon beauty magazines and YouTube videos with titles like ‘What does your hair say about you?’ and ‘The upside to wearing your hair down!’ She had studied them like she studied for anatomy, meticulous and precise. She had taken notes, bought all the right materials and was now following the instructions to the letter. Finally negotiating her way through the final tug she reached for clasp after clasp, bending the hair backwards upon itself the way the ‘Barbie girl’ prom queens on the videos had done.
Her fingers danced through the maze of hair with surgical precision and with a few more carefully placed clasps she stepped back to admire the end result. It looked incredible, just the way she had imagined it would. She allowed herself a satisfied smile, the same one she did when she knew she had ‘aced’ a paper then the alarm on her mobile brought her back to the present. She was late. Grabbing the outfit she launched herself into the bathroom and prepared herself for the most important day of her life.

 The city streets teemed with life as she walked through the sea of people on their sidewalks. It was only a twenty minute walk from her apartment on the east side to the universities medical centre where she would do her internship.
She passed the Starbuck’s cafĂ© where she had filled out the application form which was packed with ‘misunderstood’ writers sat with their tablet computers and hi-tech notebooks, their fingers dancing across the keyboard, frantically clicking away as they worked on the great American novel.
 Pretentious, arrogant and self obsessed. At least that had been her experience. All she had heard while filling out the form had been one writer’s story to another about how important they were and how big their next idea was going to be. Ego versus ego over a ventĂ© mocha latte. Pathetic.
                A man in a suit bumped into her shoulder knocking her to the ground and passed her by without so much as a second glance, his mobile phone glued to his ear as he disappeared into the crowd. “Wall street moron” she mouthed silently as she picked herself up and dusted down her skirt.
                Pushing Starbuck’s and the man in the suit to the back of her mind she turned onto 47th street and couldn’t help but smile at the scene that met her eyes. Where before the people had worn business suits and clutched black leather satchels they now stood like an artist’s pallet, an assortment of colour amongst the drab city streets.
The ‘Prada Princesses’ steered clear of the skinny-jeaned ‘emo’ punks, only the scowls of disdain each felt for the other spanning the ocean between them. She stuck to the middle, looking out of place amongst the designer shops and the fashion frenzied youths, careful to avoid the assaulting glares from either side. Finally after another quick turn the medical centre came into view, its green neon sign welcoming and friendly. She stood for a moment, flicked her hair, checked her watch and with one final tug at her blouse strode through the automatic doors.

The waiting room was immaculate white with the usual posters and notices pinned neatly to the board on the wall. The receptionist gave her that appraising once over she was all too used to, her eyes lingering a moment on her face before flicking down to the paperwork on her desk, her perfectly manicured nails rat-tat-tat-ing on the desk.                                                                    “Med interview?” she asked in a monotone drone that suggested it was the hundredth time she had asked the question. Without lifting her head or waiting on a reply she nodded in the direction of a free seat.
                Stomach churning she sat and watched as the two other hopefuls before her went in tense and came out terrified. The seconds ticked by as she tried to remember the answers she had prepared.
                I am confident, articulate, intelligent, funny and full of empathy and compa…’ the buzzer on the receptionist’s desk buzzed loudly and she jumped as it rang out through the now empty waiting room.
                “You can go in now…” the receptionist said with the same dry tone. Standing slowly and fighting back a wave of nausea she picked up her purse and composed herself. Finally after a moment’s hesitation she put one foot in front of the other and approached the ominous looking door marked ‘Interviews’.

The interviewers sat there in their pristine business suits meticulously groomed. None of them looked up as she walked awkwardly into the centre of the room; each with their eyes cast down, fervently scribbling notes about the boy who had just left.
                There was only one woman on the panel; she struggled to hold back her look of contempt at the ratio of male to female. Medicine was hard enough already without having to brave the battle of the sexes. One by one they raised their heads, their eyes darting from her chest to her face then back again, the same drawn-out look she had endured her entire life. And in that moment her chance was gone, their minds made up.
                The bulge on her cheek that caused the facial paralysis and the sharp indent on her blouse where her left breast should be were all their eyes could see. The congenital birth condition that had seen her bullied through high school and alienated in the work place, the source of her shyness and cause of low esteem.
“Let me help you sit down…” said the interviewer on the left as he rose and one by one the others lowered their gaze, pencils already scribbling.
I am confident, articulate, intelligent, funny, full of empathy and compassion towards my fellow man…” the words she had planned to say echoed in her mind “but, none of that matters. Because within a heartbeat of meeting me, my identity is lost…stolen away, forever forgotten by their perception of my appearance.”
The illusion of confidence she had created lay shattered around her, like slender splinters of glass from the mirrors she could not bear to face. The words from the television that morning came to the fore of her thoughts as she turned and hurriedly left the office, ignoring the confused look of the interviewer who had risen to help...  

“…Appearance is more important in today’s society than it has ever been before, whether you are judgemental of others or not seems not to matter…for you are constantly being judged...”

What do you think?

Personal life
Things are going well with Toots and I - we'll have been engaged for a year on the 21st of September of this year and that in itself is something I never imagined happening in my life. I never thought I would find someone that I could love more than I love myself (and I love myself ALOT - ask any mirror ;) )

We got back from our first 'real' holiday together in Blackpool (we went to PiperDam in January but it wasn't a holiday, it was a break lol!). We both thoroughly enjoyed it although there is now a horrific picture of myself plummeting 40 feet to the ground with a look of pure terror on my face (who decided to put a camera at the 20ft mark?!?!?!)

More updates to follow - I promise,

Thanks for reading,

Dare to Dream,


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