the early months


It all started waaaay back in August '99, when I relaxed for the first time since leaving college. I'd gotten a great job I really liked doing, and made contact with kin prepared to admit I existed - my cousin Elli. She said she didn't mind talking to me either. Life™ seemed OK.

So it all fell apart at the end of the month.

After things calmed down I quit and moved out to settle here in England, near where Elli was, and in January '00 decided I should use my permit and start working again. I didn't know what type of work I wanted, so I went to an agency and asked what temporary positions they had I could start the next week. They told me they had two with the same firm, one as a receptionist (start Monday) and one as a stores clerk (start Tuesday.) I said I'd be willing to take either. The agency were happy to put me forward for the stores clerk position but thought my accent was against me getting the receptionist one.
(Elli said later it was a polite way to tell me the firm wanted a feminine voice answering their phone.)
The agency sent me along on the Monday to make up the numbers anyways. When I got there I was told there'd been a mistake - their receptionist had refused to quit and take the stores clerk job so they didn't need someone for the reception job any more.

That should have warned me.

They offered me the other position instead, with the only differences being that it was for a shipping clerk (not a stores clerk), it was a permanent full-time job (not a temporary one), and they also wanted me to start immediately - that afternoon if possible.

Warning number two - that one went right past me as well.

I started the next day, only to find I couldn't get a written contract just yet as they were going to be taken over the next month. I thought OK, at least I'd have something for a month to ease me back into the habit, and I could start looking for another post the next week. The takeover took two months in the end and the new bosses put AJ, one of their own people, in charge as our CEO and kept us all on anyways.

- - -

The second week after the takeover we had a senior management suit wandering around, with AJ stuck to him as he wanted to be there to "explain" anything we might say to him. It turned out he was Head Office's IT CEO, Guru Bob.
He was on the same corporate level as AJ, but with a rival Big Boss to AJ's Big Boss. He'd been sent to evaluate our internal IT structure to see if it needed to be brought into line, and came into the office as I was rebooting the receptionist's PC. It was dying on a regular basis and I had gotten into the habit of rebooting it for her - it was either that or logging a call for a technician from Head Office to try to talk her through rebooting it and taking the phone away and doing it myself when she started to panic.
He came in, saw what I was doing, turned to AJ and said "I thought you said you didn't have a SysAdmin?"

That's how I came to the IT department's attention.

He then managed to get me away from AJ so he and I could have "a little private chat." He was the first one to ask who was I and what was I doing there, and what could I do. Nobody had asked me what qualifications I had until then, not even the agency who sent me there. I don't have any IT relevant ones, just some experience, but he didn't think paper qualifications were necessary as I could do more than was needed to run the SysAdmin side of things anyways.

We then spent the rest of the afternoon talking about IT setups we'd both used before and the (slightly more interesting) subject of which PC software we'd refuse to work without. Before he left he wrote and signed a requisition form for my PC to be upgraded to "CEO and above" standard and for me to have net surfing rights.

The next day AJ told me Guru Bob's Big Boss had decreed I was going to be the SysAdmin for the site, and would be reporting back to Guru Bob at Head Office.
However AJ had spoken to his Big Boss, who'd decreed I was going to stay the shipping clerk for the site, and I would still be under AJ's authority.
But he was prepared to compromise.

The shipping would take priority over the IT. I was to keep the system running. I wasn't to shut down the system to do any maintenance during office hours. I wasn't to upset other members of staff. I was to tell AJ whenever I spoke to Guru Bob and give him copies of any reports I sent to Head Office.
Oh yes, and there was no training budget to send me on the course Guru Bob had told AJ he should send me on, and I couldn't go anyways as there was nobody available to cover the shipping work if I was out.

And that is how I became a shipping clerk with a secret identity - a Secret SysAdmin.

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revised: 2001-09-01