Sunday was my ten-year anniversary with the phone company. In some ways it feels that the last ten years have just flown by, but then on the other hand, they have been a journey, a long road of my evolution from a 19-year-old taking a job just to have full-time employment to a 29-year-old with a family and a career.
The first time I walked into the directory assistance (otherwise known as 411) call center, I had no idea what to expect. My personal life was in chaos: I had gotten separated and moved back in with my parents, I was broke, and I had no idea what the future held. I took the job because it paid more than my last job as a grocery store cashier. What I didn’t plan on was sticking around long enough for the job to turn into a career, or to meet people that are still in my life today – good friends, including my best friend forever and ever, Keri, and of course Paul, the man who I would go on to spend almost a decade of my life with. No, I didn’t plan any of that, but I am so fortunate that it all happened. And today, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect back on my career thus far.
At first, working in 411 was challenging. I mastered the job itself fairly quickly. In all honesty, there isn’t that much to it – you search a directory using key words to find listings. I was in training for two weeks to learn the most effective searching techniques, and then I was on my own. The hard part was that for about the first year that I worked there, my schedule was erratic and demanding. The call center was busy all the time, so we were scheduled for six-day weeks. Since the center was open seven days a week, I would routinely be scheduled for Monday through Saturday one week, followed by Sunday through Friday the following week….meaning that I was working twelve days straight with no day off. And the shifts themselves were split shifts, which meant I’d go in for four hours in the morning, have a three to four hour break in the middle, and then go back for another four hours of work at night. Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore, and when I started dating Paul I switched to a night shift so that I could avoid split shifts. But it got better, and gradually the overtime was reduced. The simplicity of the work left me bored most days, but I had a very encouraging boss (thank you, Josh!) who supported me and helped me to find a place in the center’s leadership program, where I got to help out with training new hire classes and schedule management. I even helped out with training a whole new computer system when the center upgraded to a new platform.
I’d made a good start in 411, but after a couple of years at it, I was ready to move on to different things. In the spring of 2006, I applied for a transfer to the sales and billing center, known as the CSSC. I interviewed and was offered a position there, and my training started on May 1st. I grew closer to the other people in my training class. The CSSC was different from 411. It was like a little family. My trainer, Diane, was absolutely fabulous and to this day I adore her. I graduated from training on my birthday of that year.
My Graduating Class, July 14, 2006
In the beginning, I had a lot of success in the CSSC even though I was never much of a salesperson. In 2007 I won multiple sales awards, including Diamond Club for being one of the top salespeople for the year. On Valentine’s Day, 2008, I received the award, and then was whisked away in a limo for a celebratory lunch. It was one of the coolest career experiences I’ve ever had to date.
Me in the sales center, circa 2009
After that, I didn’t really have the kind of success that I’d had in 2007, in part because I decided to become a union steward. This meant that I was in meetings and away from the phones, and subsequently did not make impressive sales numbers. Whether or not I was a top seller, my coaches – first Kris, and then Davena and Roo – were very supportive and encouraging of everything I did, including when I applied for a transfer from California to Washington. The transfer was approved, and on April 12, 2010, I started my first day at the CSSC in Washington.
This was a big change for me, career-wise. I had known that the Northwest was being sold from one company to another, so my employer was going to change in July of 2010. But what I wasn’t prepared for was that I would be exposed to opportunities I never could have dreamed of in Washington. To be honest, by the time I started in Everett, I was beyond burned out on the sales position. I didn’t like the aggressive sales tactics, the constant badgering to perform, the monitoring of my calls, my bathroom breaks, EVERYTHING. I was sick of being on the leash that was my headset. And just when I had about had enough and was beginning to think of jumping ship, I was brought onto a six-month special project known as the Jeopardy Desk.
Basically, I was given an offline position, away from sales, in which I assisted in making sure that orders for services actually made it to the point that they were installed. It was August 2010, and the new company was just getting its feet wet in the Northwest. The company assembled a group of technicians, sales representatives, technical support reps, and contractors to make reminder calls to customers who had pending installations. The whole idea was to make sure that orders were written correctly and made it through installation. If a customer wanted to make changes once the tech got to their house, the tech would call my group and we would make the requested adjustments to the order. If an order was missed, we called to reschedule. Those of us that worked on the Jeop Desk became a close-knit group, and we had a lot of fun together.
The Jeop Desk, Halloween 2010
I absolutely loved my job on the Jeop Desk, and I learned so much during that special project. But I had known from the beginning that there was an expiration date on my happiness, a date when I would have to go back to what I now viewed as the drudgery of being on the phones, selling all day. Not wanting it to end, we began campaigning to make the Jeop Desk a permanent position. My coworker Bob and I fought especially hard, and although we didn’t succeed at saving the Jeop Desk, we did get ourselves noticed, and one morning I got a call at home from Doug, the man who would become my boss, offering me a job on his newly-forming Customer Relations team. He explained that he had been offered the new job as manager of Customer Relations, that he was assembling a team, and that he would like me to come to work for him. After I calmly told him that I was honored and would absolutely accept, I hung up the phone and jumped up and down out of pure excitement and happiness. And so, on April 1st, 2011, I joined the work group that I am now with.
Everett Customer Relations
I’ve been in my current position for about two and a half years now, and I love it. Most days, I can expect to come to work and learn something new. My coworkers are some of the best people I know, and even though we spend our days addressing complaints, we have fun together and the atmosphere is generally light and fun.
Although I’ve moved around to different departments in the past, I truly feel like I’ve found my niche in this position and have no plans of going anywhere else. With any luck, I’ll be able to post an update in another ten years.