Started off with sitting in on a conference call where they went over the second 12 page NDA-Plus-We-Own-Your-Soul contract that I had to sign a half-hour before I actually arrived at the new job. Met the good folks on the team I’ll be working with, looks like I’m the old man on the crew again, got a couple of tours of the facility which is very assembly line in its approach to what it’s doing. Got settled into my desk, or what passes for my desk—a couple of folding tables set up in the corner, but I can’t complain because that’s pretty much what everyone has for a desk and it works—and was promptly asked by one of my new coworkers if I had much Linux experience. I said that my webhosts have all been Linux based and that I’ve monkeyed around with it, but that I wasn’t an expert. “You will be by the time you leave.” was the reply. Which, in all honesty, would be absolutely fabulous.
In order to be able to better support the machines I’ll be responsible for they had me sit down and learn exactly what it is they do. This is where this entry gets tricky because of the NDA. I’m not allowed to directly identify the company I’m contracted to or any of the details of what their process involves. According to the training video I sat through, complete with an annoyingly named cartoon monkey that could only be dreamed up by the tortured souls in the pits of a hellish marketing department, the answer I’m supposed to give when I’m asked what I do for a living is as follows: “I work for a temporary agency scanning documents for a major corporation.” They actually had a quiz after the training video in which this was an actual question. So I can say that it involves scanning of documents and that’s about it. Except that, other than this first night on the job, I’m not scanning documents at all. I’m providing technical support on the machines for the people who scan the documents. Even given that little bit of info you’d have to be living under a rock for the past couple of years to not know who it is I’m contracted to, but I can neither confirm nor deny it. As the young woman I sat for an hour and a half and watched work told me at one point, “When you say that to someone who knows what city you’re working in the first thing they say to you is: Oh, you work at [REDACTED]!” Except, you know, she said the actual company name that I’m not allowed to say except to coworkers.
Honestly, I find this whole cloak and dagger NDA stuff to be pretty funny and damned amusing to comply with. They even have an email address for us blogger types so we can send them any entries about work that we may be worried violate the NDA for a second opinion on if it’s OK if we put it up on our blogs. The reason for the secrecy is two-fold: First, the project is somewhat controversial and there’s plenty of people out there—authors and free information types—that aren’t that happy about it. Second, there’s at least one other (that I know of) competing project out there that may be interested in learning more about how this company is going about the project. So I can understand why they’re so guarded about it and I don’t have a problem with complying with the NDA, but it’s certainly a new experience for me.
So anyway, I had to sit down and learn how the document scanning folks do their thing and then I had to sit down at a station and do some of it myself. They have some test materials for training purposes and they had me go through the whole process for about an hour and a half to get a taste of what it’s like. Near the end my boss came over and started randomly yanking cords out of my machine so it would give me error messages that might come up for an operator. He was enjoying that part entirely too much, but it did give me a feel for what some of the common problems were going to be most of which they already provide operator instructions on how to fix, but which might result in me being asked to take a look at the workstation. I will say this about the workstations themselves: How they do what they do is exceptionally clever. There’s a definite challenge to the documents they’re scanning and the solution was very cool, but I can’t say anything more about that.
The rest of the evening was spent restaging the two laptops I’ll be using on the job. One is a personal laptop for use in day-to-day stuff like email, document writing, and messing around with to learn stuff on. I’m encouraged to mess with it quite a bit, restage it often, take it home, and so on. The other laptop is the one that will be used for the serious work stuff which requires it to be very secure. Both are running a very popular distro of Linux, one that I’ve talked about not too long ago actually, but I’m not sure if I’m actually allowed to name it so I’ll hold off for now. If you’re a regular then you probably have a good idea already. I didn’t get a chance to do much configuring of either machine yet as they day simply flew by and before I knew it it was time to go home.
So far so good and the rest of this week looks to be very intense as we get into the nitty gritty of what the job will entail. One bit of good news is that I’m allowed to blog from work during any downtime so I’ll be able to get the occasional entry up. Downtime may be scarce for awhile, however, as they work to get me ready to be on a shift on my own. It looks like after this week I may be on the mid-shift, however, which has a large overlap with the first and second shifts so my solo-time would be minimal for awhile. It’s definitely going to be a huge learning experience that should expand my skill set considerably if I’m there the entire two years of the contract. I’ve definitely got a good feeling about this job and am very happy I managed to land it.