Friday 7 August 2009

Well, I passed...

It's great news, but not surprising as the course was continually assessed and I got over 90% for nearly every assignment - so I figured I'd at least passed!

Two things bug me though

1) Where the hell is the mark for CM4 41?!

It's a computer marked assessment FFS!!!

I'm really pissed off as the living, real-life tutor I had got all my assignments back to me within a few days, 2 weeks tops, but I took this *months* ago... it was a multiple choice test, marked by a computer... so why don't I have my results yet?!

I don't know how my score was calculated, but if it's just a simple average of all scores then it's pretty obvious that I only scored a paltry 84% in the computer marked test... ahh well... this leads me onto point

2) I don't know what I want to do next :-(

This was me taking my first step on the way to a degree in Computing with Business. I thought it was what I should do as I'm pretty good with computers despite having no real training.

My academic background is just extinct really... I left school and home at 15, only completing a handful of GCSEs and then had a child at 16 so didn't go on to do A Levels.

I did go back to college when my son was very small and completed some word processing and spreadsheet courses so I could at least get secretarial work - my first job however meant that I had to come off government single-parent benefits and I couldn't afford to travel, pay rent etc with the wage I was on so had to go back on them... soul destroying :-( I opted to have my benefits paid into my bank account as standing in the benefits and dole queue in the Post Office can deplete your morale in a big way!

Still, I didn't want to live like that and be another single parent state-handout statistic so completed more secretarial-based computing courses (I learnt to touch-type using chat rooms though, how sad is that eh?!) and enrolled on a foundation course in Business Studies to give me a way into university.

Unfortunately I realised I couldn't afford to go to uni so finally found a job at a Norwegian oil company as a secretary/administrator to their pensions department. After a year or two of this I realised that I couldn't take dictation and type other people's letters for the rest of my life without going slightly mental so I asked if I could join the department as a pensions administrator, which they agreed to, hurrah! It was great timing as my friend was keen to get out of pensions so we more or less swapped roles.

People soon realised they could come to me with their computer-use issues and I got more interested in what was going on behind the scenes of the pension software I was using.

The department was not a nice place to work, the people there was just odd and there was a lot of bitchiness and back-stabbing unpleasant behaviour. It really wasn't a healthy place to work so I resolved to get the hell out as soon as I could.

I managed to get a job as a 'systems specialist' in the pensions department of a fairly big retail company and discovered how nice it was to work with 'normal' people (as normal as people can be who work in the mysterious world of pensions, it does things to you!). Unfortunately my friend Caroline didn't leave the company until she was made redundant and the effects of working for such a destructive bunch of people have been lasting :-(

I worked quite happily in the other retail company for a while, my colleague and senior left so I moved up the ranks and took over the maintenance and report-writing side of the system, using the pension software's language - chrysalis - bizarre VB like stuff. I really enjoyed that but disliked how closely guarded the software provider was. You could not modify the system in any way shape or form... all you got was a package, and that was it... it was a one-size-(is meant to)-fits all, and was very clunky and frustrating!

The company went through a take over from an Icelandic consortium and started making people redundant left right and centre - very similar to when I was at the Norwegian oil company who decided to shift their head office back from London to Oslo - we worked in a 7 storey high building that was more or less empty when I left!

Then the company decided, in its wisdom, to move the pension department to Glasgow!!! Why? Because 'financial services is based there' and they said they thought it would make sense. In reality, wages are a lot less in Glasgow than London and they didn't want to continue paying us all so much. They gave us the opportunity to relocate, but everyone was a bit fed up with the company and, if you've got children or responsibilities here, you don't want to uproot yourself to the other end of the UK!

Fortunately, a few opportunities came available. One was working for the Church of England. I went for a job interview one day and got offered the job the next! I was overjoyed and flattered too a little, but I didn't get the best vibe from the people there. They were very nice but we just didn't gel.

The company I work for now has its head offices just down the road from my old ones. And I remember walking past one day and realising they were there and thinking "how funny would it be to go from one huge retail giant to another".... a few days later I got a call from an agency saying there was a systems analyst role going within the pensions department here - luck? Hmm, I think it was a little more than that :-)

The day of my interview was completely nuts! They weren't due to start interviewing till the following week, but I had to give an answer back to the CofE by the Friday and it was Wednesday at that point. My agent managed to wangle an interview for me here and I came in on the Thursday morning, with the dress in my hand that I was planning to wear for my current company's xmas ball, and met me now boss. He's the most wonderful warm, lovely, charismatic fellow around. He's got four kids - legend - and I was disarmed by how agreeable he was. We had a long chat, and then he took me to meet the big boss who was also lovely, if a little eccentric, but that's due to a) a very high level of intellect and b) working in pensions for too long ;-)

That interview was a little less informal, and I actually felt like I was being interviewed, but it also went well and I explained to him my dilemma with the Church of England. He explained his - they hadn't interviewed any of the other candidates for the role!

I went back to work for a couple of hours and then got called back to this place and met first with a dude from our actual IT systems function - who gave me a logic test to do - nightmare!!! It was about 20 years old and utterly irrelevant to my job! I sweated and cursed my way through it though, although not completing all the questions (I later found out that the questions I did complete were all correct - super!), and then met with one of our deputy heads of pensions here. She was nice and that went well... I then met with the assistant head of Personnel and after that was finally free to leave!

As you can imagine, I was very relieved to step into the party dress and relax for the evening... however it was a little surreal as I was hoping with all my might that I'd be leaving that awful company to work for its largest competitor! I couldn't help but chuckle when the chairman stood up after the meal to give a 'rousing' speech which included the phrase "Death to our competitors, death to [my company's name]" - twit.

The next day I got the phone call from the agency to say that I'd got the job, I was overwhelmed.

I can safely say that I've never worked for such an odd organisation. But I mean that in the best possible way. This place is quite unlike anywhere else really... it's a democracy, we all have a say and we all have an equal share in the profits. I feel incredibly lucky and honoured to be working for such a wonderful organisation and I can, hand on heart, say that I never want to leave it.

My job, however, is a different matter :-(

which is how this post started.

I don't like my job, I don't really like programming, but I'm good at it, which is why I do it, because I think I should, because I don't have anything else behind me to back me up, no qualifications, no experience other than in pensions IT!

So I don't know what my next step will be, study wise. I know what interests me, sports, fitness and nutrition, but I don't know how to apply this to my professional life without leaving my wonderful work place :-(

I know that some people reading this might not have a lot of sympathy for me, and I'm not looking for it at all. I have been very poor, I lived on £28 a week when I was pregnant, the first year of my son's life was spent in just the one room in a mother and baby hostel, I lived in council accommodation for over 11 years and I'm fully aware of how incredibly fortunate I am to have a well-paid job, to work for a good organisation who cares for its employees, to have a lovely child and boyfriend... all these things I can safely say I thank God for on a daily basis. But I'm being honest, as I always am on this blog, and it troubles me that I'm sitting here typing this instead of working!

I adore my boss, I know he stands up for me when I don't produce the work as quickly as I should, and I love our little systems team, but I don't love my work and I find it hard to focus and concentrate.

I'm sorry, I need to get on and actually do some work. I need to think about this over the weekend and not during work time, I just wish I knew how to switch off and put my 'work hat' on, I guess it's the same disorganised chaotic pattern which has plagued my eating over the last 18 years too, I need to sort my shit out and get my act together once and for all, I feel like a fraud here, like I'm living a lie, being paid for nothing. What a waste :-(


  1. Congrats on your result. i studied to degree level with the OU- an excellent organisation, I thought.

    Good vid of Wole, too. I hadn't seen that one. I'll rib him about it at work on Monday.

  2. Thanks :-) it was only a 30 pointer but I'm glad to have completed the module, even if it's not a topic I want to continue studying (I started the same course a couple of years back but only got as far as TMA01, glad to have seen it through, quite unlike me :-D)

    ha, yeah, give the boy some stick ;-) I'm surprised you haven't seen the vid though, he posted it to his facebook profile for everyone to see :-D I'm seriously impressed though, must take a hell of a lot of power to propel that much weight off the ground so high! amazing stuff!

    one day... heh

  3. oh and I fully agree about the OU, I was astounded at the quality level of the course literature, it was really impressive, I just wish they had more courses geared towards diet and nutrition!

  4. Congrats with the passing!

    Your career progression and determination to progress is quite amazing; you may not like your job now (god, I'm so glad I'm rubbish at programming!) but you've come quite a long way to get there. It's a real shame the OU doesn't have much of interest in the diet/nutrition/sports science area, I'm sure there's quite a call these days for experts in those areas with serious practical experience.

  5. yeah, perhaps, but then I think there's lots of competition too... it's quite an attractive field to work in, as long as you don't mind the rubbish pay that the sports industry offers! :-)

    thanks for your nice comments btw, I do feel like I've come a long way, but now I feel I've come to a standstill, it's just hard to know which way to go next!