Lemont & Marilyn

Lemont & Marilyn
Lemont & Marilyn -- Anniversary Picture 2010

Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 31 Update

Well, we are done with our two weeks training as of today (we're taking tomorrow off for Jerry's wedding).  When we come back we'll work Mon and Tue, then have Wed-Thu off, then work Fri-Tue.  I was paired with one of the top agents today and it went well.  Mom will be taking a written form of the final test on Monday.  She had a much better day on the phones today.  I chatted briefly with one of the managers at the end of the day and he quipped that they "needed to get me into the right job" (referring to some kind of senior IT position).  Guess my networking is working!  I'm  hoping it pays off soon.  I don't think I was cut out to handle customer phone calls all day.  It isn't really all that bad, but I guess I miss the creativity I had in my old jobs.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 30 Update

One more day of training.  Mom re-took her final test and got 75%.  She needs 80 to pass.  She was pretty stressed out over having to take it over and I think that made it harder for her than it should have been.   She doesn't know yet if/when she'll be taking it again.  I think I saw they allowed up to three tries, so she should still have one to go.   I spent the whole day on the phones with another agent looking over my shoulder.  Mom was on the phones after she finished her test.  Some things are getting easier -- I think -- but every call is different enough that there isn't much to carry over from one to the next.  Guess it is good experience to get a lot of different things to handle, but it isn't very comfortable! 

March 29 Update

We had our final test for Member Services training today.  I passed but Mom has to take it again today.  She forgot that although it was a "closed book" test (we couldn't use our student manuals or notes), it was an "open computer" test and we were allowed and even expected to use the web site and the agent tools on the computer.  She'll be taking it again on Wednesday.  Other than that, we're pretty much in the mode to continue sharing calls with more experienced agents the rest of the week.  Yesterday we were the active agents and our mentors just listened in, pointed out where to go on the computer, and made suggestions after each call.  I still get focused on listening to the customer and forget to do the "tracking" and had to go back and do it after the fact several times.   By next Monday we should be on our own.  We will work Monday and Tuesday, then start our regular week by having Wed-Thu off, then work Fri-Tue.  Weather has been typical for Utah this time of year.  I think the weather department didn't get the memo that March 21 was the first day of spring though.  It has still been pretty cold -- around 24 when we left home and Monday the forecast included up to 3" of snow that didn't happen, but we did get some strong snow flurries a couple of tiems during the day.  Grass is getting green and trees are getting ready to leaf out as soon as we do get some warm weather.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March 28 Update

We started our second week of training today.  Spent about  half a day in the classroom, then had a Jeopardy-style "final test review" that was kind of fun.  Our side won, betting our entire 6,000 points on Final Jeopardy and winning!  The other side also got the right answer, but they only risked 3,000 of their 7,100 points so they ended up with 10,100 and totalled 12,000!  We also did some "role playing" where a couple of the instructors pretended to be customers and we acted like were taking their calls.  Then we were on to the real call center floor.  Mom did the talking and her training partner "drove" the computer.  I got to do both, with my trainer pointing out what I should be clicking on.  Their training program is pretty well thought out, teaching background, then basic skills, and letting you listen in and monitor some live calls before you have to do any yourself.  Tomorrow we'll be back on the phones part of the day and taking our final exam.  Then Wed and Thu we'll be on the phones again.   We're taking Friday off to go to Jerry's wedding.  Looks like we'll be working Mon and Tue next week, then our regular shift will start with Wed-Thu off and working Fri-Tue. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 25 Update

We completed our first week of training today.  We took another step closer to handling customer calls.  This afternoon we were hands-on the computer while our trainer-agents were on the phone and we were listening, so we got to practice using the computer tools we need to verify accounts and explore and resolve problems.  We will have only two more days of classroom training next week, then we'll be on the floor with shadow agents the rest of the week.  Except Mom and I have approval to take Friday off so we can go to Jerry's wedding.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 24 Update

Day four of training and it is going well.  Spent some more time "Y-jacked" with customer service agents in the call center, listening to customer calls and watching agents handle them.  Also attended a "Member Services Update" meeting that they  have every month.  A good part of it was dedicated to recognition of top performers.  Plus a free lunch and a free raffle.   I won a nice 2 D-cell Maglite as the next to last ticket drawn!  The recruiter I've been talking to said they are "close to making an offer" so someone else on the director position we talked about  yesterday, so that is off the table, but he has forwarded my resume to another department that has an unposted position.  It had been posted but the hiring manager couldn't really make up his mind what he wanted so they pulled the posting.   I'm fighting a cold so I'm kind of out of it right now.  I have another C.E.R.T. class to go to tonight.  Last night was Fire Safety, including an exercise using fire extinguishers to put out a "burn tray" fire.  The burn tray is a device one of the firemen made.  It is a tin tray about 3'x4' x 3" deep and filled with water.  There are about 4 copper pipes running through it and they bubble propane up through the water as fuel for the fire.  It was windy last night so  many people had trouble putting out their fires as the wind would blow the flames back around after they'd been put out, but I did well.  In fact, I think I was about the fastest.  One of the firemen commented "Looks like you've done this before."  With at least 3-5 C.E.R.T. courses  under my belt, indeed I  have done it before.  Tonight is our first session on Disaster First Aid.  The second one will be next Wednesday, then we'll be on to Light Search and Rescue.  It is all pretty much very familiar to me, but it is good to have the review.  The whole course is 9 sessions.  After tonight I'll  have 6 sessions to go (I missed the first one last week).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 23 Update

We completed our third day of training today.  We got to spend a few minutes listening in on actual customer service calls.  We also received our personal copies of Family Tree Maker and started learning how to use it.  I also had a meeting with one of the recruiters about a director of member services position.  It wasn't an actual interview, more of an exploratory meeting for both of us, but I thought it went well and he said he was going to "flag" my resume for his boss, who is actually responsible for filling the position.  The recruiter said they had another director level position that isn't posted right now that he thought I might be good for. 

I also went to a C.E.R.T. class tonight to begin getting re-certified.  Mom was going to take the class too, but since we were working last week when the first class was held, she missed it and has to wait for the next class.  I get re-certified by attending the rest of the classes. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21 Update

We completed our first day of training at Ancestry.com today.  Seems like a pretty nice place to work.  Today was mostly paperwork and orientation.  Tomorrow we'll get our own logins to ancestry.com and start learning how to use the system.  We are reviewing medical and dental plans -- so far we haven't been able to confirm our doctor or dentist accepts their plans so we have some more research to do.  The coverages seem pretty good and the cost fairly reasonable.  Ancestry.com also offers a discount on medical if we participate in a company-paid wellness program so we're looking into that too.  Company paid vision coverage is included if we select any of the medical coverages.  Our training schedule will be 8:30 am to 4:00 pm for the next two weeks.  We don't yet know how we'll transition to our regular Fri-Tue working schedule.  The corporate campus and facilities are very nice.  They do some nice things each week, like cater lunch on Tuesdays and Wednesday -- our lunch tomorrow is free, but normally employees pay $4 for the lunches and the company picks up the other $3 for the $7 lunch.  They also provide bagels and fruit on Thursday mornings.  They have an arrangement for inexpensive memberships to the Orem Fitness Center so we can take advantage of year-round swimming and running and weight etc.  We have exported our existing PAF files to the standard GEDCOM format so we can import them into ancestry.com as part of our training tomorrow.  Once we have them updated on ancestry.com we can transfer them back to PAF at home.  They told us there were 321 applicants, of whom 91 were selected for interviews and 30 hired -- 9% of all the applicants made the cut, so we feel pretty good about being there!  Mom said her interviewer told her she was the very last person interviewed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19 Update

I'm sure Mom will have already talked with or left voicemails with most of you, but she got a call from Ancestry.com and she starts training with me on Monday!  She talked with the recruiters about both of us getting time off for Jerry's wedding and Langdon's graduation and we MIGHT be able to work that out!  We'll have to coordinate with the training manager and then with our supervisor.  Guess we'll have to work extra hard in training, 'cause our  last day of training is April 1.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18 Update

Our last day at Shelf Reliance.  We spent the better part of the first half of our shift doing water barrels again.  This time we had to go to a difference warehouse a mile or so away.  We were at it past our normal lunch break and came back to the original warehouse to pick orders after we got back from "lunch" (at 6:30 - 7:00 pm!).  About the only new task we had today was making up the cardboard dividers for the shipping boxes.  They are really quite interesting.  They come with all three components for each of two dividers all in one piece of cardboard that has the assembly slots cut out and are partially cut to form the long center piece and the two shorter cross pieces.  To break them down into the various pieces to be assembled you just bend a stack of them back and forth a  couple of times and they snap apart.  Quite an ingenious design.  I figured out I could probably save Shelf Reliance about $100,000 a year with just two words:  assembly line.    Wish I could get them to let me set up assembly lines for making the barrel kits and for shipping -- for, oh, say, 10% of the annual savings for 5 years.  One of the chief honchos was working alongside us doing the barrels and I see why no one seems to have a clue how to organize things better.  They're just following his example.  Oh well, we don't have to worry about that any more!  I start training at Ancestry.com on Monday.  We hope Mom will get an offer from them tomorrow and be able to start on Monday as well.  For now, we're just looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.  Even though our shift this week didn't start until 2:00 pm we were getting up and getting going a lot earlier to get stuff done before we  had to go to work.  For instance, this morning Mom went in to give plasma and yesterday she had her interview at Ancestry.com.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17 Update

We worked another shift at Shelf Reliance again today.  Nothing very interesting to report -- just a normal day picking orders but at the end of the shift they needed an extra good cleaning done because the USDA inspector is coming tomorrow and he has a reputation for getting down and looking under shelving etc with a flashlight.  We're getting so we know the locations of many of the products without having to look up the codes on the order sheets.  I still see plenty of things that I would definitely do differently if I were in charge,  things that would make the workplace safer and things that would make employees more efficient.  For example, the way the shipping area is set up they stack the pallets at the same end where orders are coming in, then have to drag the pallets all the way down through the warehouse, then over, then back up to where the doors are to the trucks.  Seems to me it would make more sense to make the shipping process a linear one with orders coming in one side and pallets built on the other end near the doors!  Duh!  The way it is, the pallets have to be moved back past all the order carts that are lined up and being filled.  Oh well, we only have one more day, unless they ask us to come in on Saturday, which would be time and a half.  At least one temp has already been scheduled for Saturday, but so far we haven't.  Probably just as well.  There are things we need to get done around the place and it would be a good idea to get rested up before we start training on Monday at Ancestry.com.  Mom has an interview at 9:30 tomorrow morning.  We're both pretty sure she'll get an offer and be starting training on Monday when I do.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 16 Update

Just another day at the Shelf Reliance warehouse.  We packed another 100 barrels and filled a bunch of orders.  We worked on a a "megapack" toward the end of the shift.  It consists of (I think) 32 cases of #10 cans of food storage, with 6 cans per case.  We worked 2:00 pm until 11:00 pm today.  Everyday I see more that could use improvement in their methods and facilities.  I'm sure they'd be in big trouble if they got a surprise visit from OSHA!  The way things are done around there constantly reminds me of a phrase in a movie involving a monkey and a football.  From the way they do things they never  heard of Henry Ford and his greatest invention:  the assembly line. 

Mom got a voicemail from Ancestry.com yesterday and talked with them this morning.  She has an interview tomorrow morning so maybe she'll be starting training with me next week.  Wouldn't that be cool!

No word yet on disaster relief security jobs.  The first conversation made it sound rather urgent, but obviously it isn't since we haven't heard anything more in several days.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15 Update

I got a call from Ancestry.com this morning and was offered a job as a Customer Service Rep.  I start training on Monday (March 21).  After 2 weeks training I'll be working Friday through Tuesday.  They mentioned possibly interviewing me for a Team Lead position in a few weeks and that would be a nice advancement.

Ancestry.com is still advertising for Customer Service Reps so Mom is going to apply.  Wouldn't that be cool if we could both work there?

Mom and I pulled another shift at Shelf Reliance today.  We started out packaging 55 gallon plastic water barrels for shipment, then helped restock some returns, including a "megapack" that was a pallet about 8 or 10 layers deep.  We made up some Emergency backpacks and then spent the rest of the day picking orders.  I wouldn't mind having one or two of the Emergency backpacks.  They seem to be pretty well thought out.

There is talk of having us work a few hours overtime toward the end of the week.   The extra hours and the time and half would be nice, but the days can be quite tiring.  It isn't really heavy work, but it is tedious and I have needed pain pills for my back about half way through each day so far.  I sometimes needed them when we were flagging, but usually only when we had windy days and I had to fight the paddle.  This job involves a lot of bending and twisting and lifting so we're both kind of sore by the end of the day, but not nearly as sore as we were the first few days of flagging, so we'll probably get used to it soon. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

March 14 Update

We haven't had any flagging work for the last three weeks.  I drove down to Las Vegas with Steve Dellos last week for a few days.  We met with some of the protection companies we've previously contacted.  Steve and I had lunch with the CEOs of Alpha Protection and Omega Protection.  They work together and I had previously emailed both of them about getting together while we were in town, but I didn't expect to meet with them at the same time -- but that is what happened.  This  morning I picked up a voice mail from the CEO of Omega.  He said he called me by mistake, but was glad that he did.  He said he and his buddy, head of Alpha Protection, enjoyed meeting us and would definitely call us if they have work, especially if they have work in Utah.  He had some film company work around St. George but it was postponed.  Alpha and Omega work together to teach a very comprehensive PPS course that we'd like to take some day to enhance our credentials and skills -- and to strengthen our relationship with these two companies.  But for now, it is all just additional networking.

Steve and I also took the class that Nevada requires to get our concealed carry permits for Nevada.  We have to go back and complete qualification at the firing range and submit our applications to the Las Vegas Metro Police Department before we can get our permits, but at least we  have completed the required classroom work -- and the class was free!  Most companies charge $120-130 for the class, but I found one that does the class for free!  And the instructor were excellent.  The morning was mostly dedicated to  legal aspects and what to do and not to do.  The instructor has been teaching concealed carry classes for 45 years and he is still an active LVPD officer.  His wife taught the afternoon session on gun safety and cleaning.  She was also very good and has a fistfull of NRA teaching and range master credentials.

Mom and I got a new assignment from Strategic Staffing this week.  We're working at Shelf Reliance, a company that specializes in emergency preparedness and food storage.  We're just working in the warehouse -- picking and packing orders and putting together emergency backpacks they sell.  Not anything very challenging but at least we're working and it is interesting to see some of the stuff they sell.  We're working from 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm all week.  It is kind of good to  have a predictable schedule.  I don't think it pays quite as good as flagging, but getting a full 40 hours may make up for it, compared to the hours we've been getting for flagging.   Hopefully the flagging will pick up now that the weather is improving. 

The radio tower work I thought I had lined up didn't work out yet, but there is supposed to be another assignment coming up in the next month.  If that comes through it should pay nearly twice what I make flagging, plus per diem.

There may be an opportunity to provide security for relief supplies and relief workers in Japan.  The word is they are going to need a lot of private security, but we don't have anything concrete on that yet.  It might not be the most pleasant time to visit Japan, but Mom and I would still welcome the opportunity to travel and perhaps even be part of the relief effort.  From what I've heard we have all the certification and training that is required -- and then some.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 1 Update

We didn't get called for flagging on Monday.  We did get a call this afternoon but we were volunteering at the Deseret Meat Packing Plant and didn't get the messages in time to accept an assignment tonight.  Tyler and Taylor have arranged to have Christianna blessed tomorrow night at 6:00 pm so Taylor's folks can be here (they're leaving to go home to Alaska on Saturday) so we let Strategic know we won't be available tomorrow.  Most assignments don't end early enough for us to get home by 6:00 pm.

We've gotten some new PPS leads in the last couple of days that we're pursuing, but don't have anything solid yet.  It is good news that we're establishing more contacts and that they're actually taking and returning our calls!