One Step Closer?

I just walked inside from fetching the mail with my son. I drop him in his jumper and turn on Leap the Frog and thumb through the mail. There in a white envelope, with black and blue letters a response from BART. I hesitated again to open the letter for fear of failure. Yeah I still feel like the interview did not go as well as I intended it to, but that is something I have to live with now since it is over. I held it up to the light for a moment and then decided to open it.I actually told my wife last night, “if I don’t get the job, I am drowning my sorrows in a bottle of alcohol.” Yeah, I know that would get me nowhere and accomplish nothing, but this job is so important to me, my health and most of all our family. This is security! This is a great company, one I want to spend the rest of my working years with, especially with a person like Paula, whom I have the world to thank for helping me get this far.Okay, back to the letter, so I tear open the end and like Charlie in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, I slowly slide the letter out and fold by fold open it. The top fold did not reveal any information except my name and the date, which was July 24, 2006. So the next fold was the important one. As I slowly unfold it, I see the words, “Congratulations!” That was all I needed, or did I?The letter that followed said that I had been “selected and placed on the elgibility list for the position of Train Controller.” Okay, that’s a good start, right? That list is active for 12 months from the date I stated and that this eligibility list “has been given to the Chief Transportation Officer for further consideration.” Uh, okay? Does that mean there are no active openings or there is yet one more person who needs to approve individuals on this list before being offered a position? *shrugs shoulders* I don’t know? Finally the letter concluded with, “Again, congratulations from the Joint Evaluation Committee.”So gang we are one step closer to a new job and I still have a smile on my face as wide as the Grand Canyon! I did send an email to Paula to see if she could shed any light on this “further consideration.” I do know for a fact there are openings, atleast this is what I was told. I also know there will be further openining later this year. It seems the proverbial cards are finally falling to my advantage. I will keep you abreast of any breaking phone calls offering me the position. I will keep my fingers crossed.

Interview: Day of Reckoning

After nearly two and a half months since submitting my resume at BART, I had my three part interview today at 11AM. Now, I have never been a big fan of interviews, on either side, administering or participating in them, I always get nervous and my head is a jumbled mess of thoughts. Up until now everything at BART has been going my way, I guess I could call Paula my “guardian angel” so to speak. All I do is say her name and good things seem to happen. Don’t get me wrong, I am qualified for the position I interviewed for and I know I would make a damn good employee [regardless of current attitude I have at my current job].

I arrived about 60 minutes early, because I always fear something will happen, so I need to give myself plenty of extra time in which to arrive. So I arrived quite early and just hung out, waiting…and waiting…and waiting. I was approached by a well dressed man who asked me if he could help me and what I was doing. He introduced himself and oddly enough he was a manager in the department I am trying to be hired to, so he understood my plight. He did say, “based on how you are dressed, you should get the position.” That was a positive thought that I took with me into the interview.

Once I was inside, there were three individuals who would administer the oral portion of the interview. There was a fourth individual who was an “observer.” The interview was very structured from the greeting to all eight questions including the writing assignment and typing skills test. Now due to the fact that I could be disqualified if I actually go into details, I won’t risk it. You never know who’s eyes will see what I type. Remind me to relate another Internet incident that nearly got me fired back in 1996 from my current employer. If you have spent any time taking interviews then you can figure out the basic line of questioning. A panel of people who want to see if you have what it takes to be a successful candidate.

I breezed through the writing assignment and finished the typing skills test. Hopefully I am not docked points because I did not capitalized any of the characters as they were denoted on the paper I was to follow. Of course all my keystrokes were 100% correct, I had time to check them all over and I did not have any mistakes. Then again, I did not think I would as my typing skills are very strong.

So the last two items I had to do was get them a dependability calender [number of days missed of work] from June, 2005 to June 2006 and god damn, wouldn’t you know I missed 2 or 3 days at the end of May and early June. Three days in the last 11 years! But they do not know that and I have no way of conveying that information to them since they only want 12 months because that truly does not reflect my dependability at all. I am nails when it comes to going to work…all the time. I don’t use sick time if I don’t have to, but under those circumstances I had to. So, hopefully that does not go against me.

Now we play the waiting game again. The list of candidates was short, if indeed that was the full list. There were 5 or 6 total people interviewing today. I don’t know if there were more yesterday or tomorrow. All I know is that I did my best, came prepared, made a good impression and went above and beyond what was needed to be done prior to the interview. I had read numerous manuals relating to the operation. I had spent 7-10 hours observing in their operational control center and spent time observing in the train cab, with a friend of mine who is a train operator. That is more than some outside candidates could even hope for. So keep those fingers crossed for me, I do see the light at the end of tunnel. As I said, hopefully it is the end, which would be the start of a new career and not a train coming to take me out.

Leadership: Where has it gone?

Frustration seems to hit a new high everyday at work. If it’s not one things, it’s something else. Tonight, it was a blackout issue in the Los Angeles area that caused adverse conditions and many late issues we had to deal with. I walked into the proverbial “shit storm” with the manager not really keep up with the state of the operation. Okay, the operation was a complete SNAFU, not knowing what was coming or going. This seems to happen every summer, although not due to these exact conditions that caused a power issue in Southern California.

Leadership as defined by Merriam-Webster is,

(1) the office or position of a leader, (2) capacity to lead and (3) the act or an instance of leading.

Now, I will be the first to say my leadership skills have degraded over the years, partly due to the fact I [or any of my peers] have no one to supervise! With that said, I feel I make competent, strong leadership decisions when I am involved in the operation. These range from decisions that either good for business, operations or customer service based. but leadership is something that should come from the top down, unfortunately its lacking.

As I have seen elsewhere, once a manager gets into an upper management position, they try to surround themselves with their cronies. Unfortunately, we are seeing that now and it really gets frustrating when people are “rewarded” [read given] a management position because of this. Department managers are supposed to make their managers can “lead and direct” the department, making good operational decisions. But what happens who those managers seem to be in over their heads and hesitate on making those crucial decisions?

Now, I have been fortunate in the past to work under two great managers [and one department manager]. Back in Los Angeles, little beknownst to me there was a department manager named Jim who knew how to get the most out of his supervisors [like me]. While he was not the most personal of people, he knew how to lead and motivate someone like myself, who at times would need a kick in the ass to get my pointed in the right direction. He would call me into his office at times and we would talk and I would always walk out feeling good about myself, the job I was doing and the company. He then decided to retire, leaving a void in our department. Of course, now some 4 years later I realize just how good of a manager he was.

I report directly a shift manager as a supervisor and while in Los Angeles, I was fortunate to work for a very good manager named Bob, who had 30+ years of experience and knew how to run an operation. He was always one step ahead of the operation, knowing what decisions had to be made and making the most of his people. To this day, I still keep in touch with Bob on a daily basis asking for his input in these difficult times.

The other manager, whom I consider to be my mentor is Ken. It’s always difficult to see someone with his character leave the company. To be honest, I would have followed Ken anywhere in our company, he was that good of a leader! While it was somewhat difficult to peg him down when I first got to San Francisco [he reminded me of Drew Carey, but looked difficult to work with], but within a few days that all changed. He was straight with us, he came out and said, “I don’t know how to run an operation” and that struck me odd. But what I later found out working with him was he had confidence in his people to do their job as operational supervisors. Ken was a true people person, always being able to approach people, talk to them and get the most out of them. As I said, I would go to the ends of the earth to do my best for Ken.

Since his departure and mine from Los Angeles it has been very difficult to turn to our current managers for their opinions or input on decisions. Why? They are all wet behind the ears when it comes to operational decisions. Sure they will consider themselves “leaders” but I have not seen any of them act like a leader. No longer are they personable, it’s memos, enotes and e-mail to convey their thoughts. You never hear words of praise, its always [after the fact] you did this wrong or could do this differently. *shakes head*

I look back and think of it as a blessing in disguise that I was not given the opportunity to be a manager in my current department. Outside of not being fully compensated [thanks Chapter 11 & 9-11] for the job you do. Honestly, working the midnight shift now I see an additional 10% for shift differential, potentially the same sort of raise I could have been given if I were offered a shift manager job. Not a full 10%, but potentially that much. But like everything else, there is more to a job than money [although that is quite important]. It’s the job satisfaction that also keeps you coming back for me and for me, that has long since departed.

While I still come to work, I cannot say I give it 110% any longer because I don’t have to in order to be successful in what I do. That’s not the right attitude to have, but its the honest truth. It’s also wrong to think of it as, “well they took 30% of my pay, so I will work 30% less.” But that is how I have felt for almost as long as I can remember.

Don’t get me wrong, I take pride in what I do because I have been doing it for 11 years and I’m good at my job. It is nearing the time to jump ship as that iceberg is approaching. Many people have wished me well with my upcoming interview at BART. I only hope I don’t let myself down, this is a great opportunity and a much needed change. I feel confident and that this is my destiny [sounds corny, I know]. There has been just too many things to go right along the way since I met Paula and got the ball rolling. Hopefully within a few days, I will be closing the chapter on part of my life and opening a new one.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Good news arrived via mail today! I was a bit hesitant to open the enveloped addressed to me from BART. With anticipation filling my gut I torn open the end of the envelope and removed the letter, but did not unfold it. Maybe I said a little prayer, as non-religious as I am, guess it can never hurt, right? With that, I unfolded the letter and just had to see the first word, ‘Congratulations!’ I was on to the next step, or is that hurdle?

I am very excited at this opportunity that has been presented to me. The success lies squarely on my shoulders now. While the beginning of this process was a bit rocky, with no letter saying I was invited to the test, things have been rolling along very smooth since. I don’t see any reason they will not continue that way, which could find me leaving my current employer and going to a company who values its employees.

The interview process is actually a three step process that will take place this coming Thursday starting at 1100PST. I figure I will get up early, eat and catch the train to Lake Merritt Station arriving about 30-40 minutes early, always makes me feel good to be early. The process, as mentioned is three parts that includes a written exercise, typing test and oral interview. Since I have not had much luck the past few years with the two interviews I have done, I have some concerns. The written exercise will be a snap, I like to write and feel I do it well. A typing test? LOL, seriously, I think my 60 WPM will suffice. But the oral interview…ugh!

I have already contacted, who I consider my mentor. His name is Ken and is a former manager of mine and someone who’s opinion I value highly. He has been the ONLY manager I worked for in San Francisco who actually knew how to manage and was good at it. With that said, I have always approched him wanting his words of wisdom and advice as I go forward. I know he is excited for me, as he wants to see me move on to a more lucrative position in a better company. As of this writing, I have not received a response from him.

I also contacted my friend, who would in essence become my manager if…okay…when I get the job at BART. She is happily on vacation in Spain, but does have access to her e-mail. I sort of feel bad sending her e-mail while on vacation, but I had to pass her the news. Maybe she already knew I was going to get an interview, I don’t know. Maybe this is all a formality? Maybe the job is mine and I am going through the motions? Obviously, I can’t go into the interview thinking that. I need to go in confident and professional in order to be successful and secure the job. Hopefully she has some information to pass on to me.

Finally, I will be calling my buddy who got this train rolling [no pun intended], his name is Jim and I worked with him at my current employer before he left for greener pastures at BART. While I am not going for his position of Train Operator [but I do go through the TO training], he could shed some light on the oral interview process.

I feel confident I can answer any question thrown my way. I might need to sit down the next few days and organize my thoughts and make sure I have some key points that I want to stress that help accentuate my talents.

Hopefully that light at the end of the tunnel is the other side and not an oncoming train that is going to roll over me. Things have been very positive up to this point and now I am ready to take that final step and succeed!

I Passed!

Leaving for work last night, I grab the mail and hop into my truck. And there, between the newspaper,, an envelope from BART. I was a bit hesitant to open it, but heavy with anticipation to see what it said. I sorta felt like Charlie, trying to pull that golden ticket for the chocolate factory. I wasted no time tearing the envelope open and slowly opening the folds.

The word, “Congratulations!” was all I needed to see to know I had successfully passed the test that was administered some two weeks ago. As I mentioned, I felt very confident going into the exam and knew I had done well, being one of what had to be a handful who actually finished in the 45 minute time frame. Now I am in a pool of candidates that will stay on file with BART for 12 months from June 22, 2006. Hopefully I will not all that time in order to get an interview.

As for the interview, no new information. There have been OJI [on the job instructors] assigned and an interview committee put together, so it sounds like the day is rapidly approaching. Coming off the success of the test, I do think it is just a matter of time before I receive a phone call or letter inviting me to an interview. This is undoubtedly the most important step in the process, but with the people I have on my side, I feel confident I will get through the interview.