Brent's Homepage

Yes, going to graduate school is my main reason for leaving Afni. But there are several things that have occured during my tenure at Afni that led me to decide to leave this company.

My Workspace
My office that I share with the other ITS technician and with the BSI Center Analyst is a storage room, as indicated on the floor plan for this building. We do not have desks, but instead are using a garage sale type table, one for us techs and the other for the analyst. We have been promised an improvement on these conditions for the entire two years I've been here, with no desks still in sight. First it was the Operations Technology team (now called BSI) that said they would take care of it. Same old story for the whole time I was on that team...we're working on it. Yeah right. Next, it was the Afni Coorperate Facility people who told us personally that they would get us desks, or at least have the workbench in our room lowered to our chair levels (the workbench currently stands at 3.5 ft in height, so you either stand at it to work or sit on a tall stool. The stool has very poor back support and after about 6 mos. on it I have gave it up for the garage sale table, as did the other two guys). Our own Call Center Director has entered our "office" on more than one ocassion, at least once with someone who looked like they might move the workbench to accomodate us. Oh...but that did not work out. It's so nice to know that when there's a technical problem that Afni's staff can count on us to fix it, and do it speedily (or else get chewed out), but shame on us for wanting a normal workspace. Really it is shame on you Afni, and those of you who still have not corrected this problem. Sit at a garage sale table for 1.5 yrs. and tell me you think there isn't something wrong. Think about it. I guarantee you 100% that if any of you were ever given such accomodations you would be throwing a hissy fit and a half. I've seen and heard some of you do it over smaller things. But I forgot, I'm just a young punk ITS tech who should only be spoken to when needed.
Add to the desk problem the fact that our room is a storage room with a nonfunctional climate control mechanism and all the broken junk that sits in it, and we'd have a 90 degree garage sale right here. The fact is that our room's temperature is not regulated properly and nobody can seem to fix it. If this had been temporary, I could understand. Things happen. But to allow these conditions to continue unresolved for over a year, and now 2 yrs, is completely unacceptable but typical of Afni. How about I have you work for me and I put you in a small room where it is 85 degrees or so. I bet you wouldn't last. But as long as I'm the one in it and you're not, it's easy to just say you'll fix it and just walk off and forget about it. Thanks again Afni. Every single individual that has entered our room, from the Call Center Director, the Operations Mgr., the Assistant Mgrs, the Supervisors, ALL OF THEM, have said it was entirely too warm. We sweated, they sweated. The Director was once in our room for some Front Page Training (summer 2001) and could hardly stand it for the temperature. He walked out later and did not finish the training with us because it was too hot for him. Obviously not too hot for us though.

Suggestion: Give remote techs REAL desks, and the chairs like the CSRs use...NOT those useless and back-pain-causing stools. Fix the climate control for the BG ITS room. It is absolutely terrible that the problem has been talked about but never fixed. Rememeber the second paragraph on Afni's Mission statement.

The Afni Paradox of Responsibility
PART 1. Here's the paradox of responsibility at Afni. Last summer, the Afni Bowling Green Center Facility was to be expanded with approx. 36 production workstations and two additional training rooms, each with 24 workstations, including phones. This was just too much responsibility (according to my superiors) for myself and the other tech here in Bowling Green. So Afni paid for three ITS personnel to come from Tucson to Bowling Green to assist with the physical deployment of the equipment into the rooms and to image (aka ghost) the machines with the appropriate image. My co-worker and I tried to explain to our supervisor that we were more than capable of handling the expansion by ourselves and did not need the extra help. Why spend that much money airline tickets, hotel accomodations, food, etc, when the money could have been better spent on improving the actual network infrastructure within our building (referring to the hub to hub to switch to router setup that the center currently has and is slated to be changed sometime this fall). Our reasoning should have been logical given the fact that I personally have ghosted the entire BG Call Center by myself on more than one occasion. I had support for issues when I needed it via the phone. But the fact is that I was physically here and did it all by myself....250+ machines. And there were some bad problems at times, as my supervisor could tell anyone. Nevertheless, the job was always done on time and done well. The same held true once my co-worker started here and assisted me with the ghosting and deployment. Still, the extra help was sent to Bowling Green. My co-worker and I ghosted the machines and had probably about half or so deployed before our help even arrived. Now please understand that help is appreciated and I have nothing against those that helped. But it was not necessary. The machines were ghosted and deployed very quickly. The total time saved by having the extra help was probably 2-3 hrs. maximum, mainly because they helped with physically carrying the PCs to their final location and plugged in the peripherals. Two or three hours gain versus the cost of airline tickets and hotel accomodations with food, etc, does not add up. I'm not a math major, but I'm not stupid either. Where does this stuff get planned? Why didn't anyone listen to our suggestion, and save the company money? Lack of communication and lack of respect for what remote site technicians have to say. If leadership expects to be followed then it better know how to lead or at least listen to reason. It would behoove you for future reference to take into serious account what your techs at each center have learned and know about different situations before jumping the bandwagon on a project, regardless of your title or position in the company. I learned things from CSRs. They are humans and can think...but they don't get treated like it. Anyhow, we (BG techs) had already ghosted all of the machines as mentioned earlier. We finished the PCs and began working on the phones with CTI. The help from Tucson spent some time visiting in BG. My co-worker and I came in on Saturday to finish the telephony side of the expansion and found, to our misfortune, that Fishel had not wired (once again, as this happened to two Pods on the initial setup of the BG Facility) several workstations correctly. After several hours of troubleshooting and testing, spending most of Saturday afternoon, we had everything arranged accordingly and functional. The kicker to this half of the story is that as far as the corporate ITS staff knew, the expansion did not need to be operational until later the following week, like Thursday or Friday. However, someone in operations informed us that the Call Center Director had every expectation and necessity that it be up and functional first thing Monday morning. I reported this to my immediate supervisor, who was shocked at this, but glad we had worked to get everything ready. Another lack of communication between Operations and ITS. Will they ever get it right and understand that if they don't work together nothing will ever be done right? For not listening to us, and not believing we were responsible enough to
take care of the 34 production machines and 48 training ones as well as phones, Afni spent the money to make sure that everything was take
care of, when in fact WE took care of it, as usual. End of Part 1.

PART 2. And now....the rest of the story. Back when I was working as an Operations Technology Specialist, doing the equivalent to what I do now as an ITS Network Technician, I had the privilege of working with a new auto-quality monitoring system that Afni was purchasing, known as Racal. Bowling Green was chosen as the first testing site and right away I began working with both Afni and Racal (aka Thales) personnel on this project. I became one of the most experienced Afni personnel with this product, as I was in constant contact with Racal technicians, writing up reports of bugs and fixes and troubleshooting. Over the course of time as many will recall, Afni still was having trouble with this product and so Racal sent a "swat" team of experts, traveling from site to site in order to resolve any reported issues so they could finalize the contract with Afni to buy the product. At the Bowling Green site, I spent a great deal of time working with several of the Racal team members, doing testing and reporting successes and failures with fixes. Friday night came and we were still working on issues. The pressure was on the Racal team to get all issues resolved. As the hours passed, I still saw bugs that needed to be fixed but were not. A high level Racal employee was there with us. Obviously, with time running out, the tactic was to put some pressure on me to say that this pretty much works okay and we'll take care of the rest. No one said this, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out in the business world when you're in one of those type situations. But what bothered me was the fact that some of my superiors were there during this week but left Friday afternoon, leaving me with the Racal guys still going over things. Racal had me initialing things as we had them fixed. As mentioned before, I was person who knew most at my center about Racal and so it makes logical sense to have me sign off. But alone, with no manager, without any of the Afni personnel who had orderd the product to begin with? I asked an Assist. Mgr. to sit with me as I went over somethings, so that I would not fill left alone with the Racal folks; not that the Racal team members were bad or did anything unprofessional. They were great. But business is business and somebody was going to be held responsible for this system. Why was I alone? That should have never happened. If you are a manager, then it is your job to be there on big decisions. I did not sign off everything because everything did not work. And so Racal left without accomplishing their goal. Kudos for me? No. But I have to wonder if I would have been held in such apathy if I had signed then things gone sour? Makes you wonder.... I was very bothered by the fact that nobody was there with me to help and to make the final approval. Is it normal Afni procedure to allow a tech to decide whether it's a go or no on $250,000 and up systems? Here's the kicker for part 2. Afni had created a position during its reorganization of the Operations Technology Dept. (my old dept.) into the BSI group. There would be a SME (Subject Matter Expert) for each of Afni' main internal systems: one for Payroll (Abra and the new system, PeopleSoft ), one for RTA and TCS, and one for the auto-quality monitoring system...which was Racal (now Click2Crap...I mean Click2Crash...oops...I mean Click2Coach). During the reorganization it was brought to my attention (as if I didn't know) that I would be the candidate for the job. I had worked the most with the Racal, I knew the programmers of Racal personally, had built a rapport with them. I understood all of the components of the system and was very skilled at tracking down bugs in it. There couldn't have been a more experienced person or logical choice for the job. But, as fate at Afni would have it, for whatever REAL reason, and there might be several, I did not even make it through to a second round interview. Hindsight tells me that the REAL reason was a fear that I would soon return to my university studies and so they would be wasting time hiring me. However, if this was what they feared, would it not make sense for a company that believes in INTEGRITY to tell me the truth about what they were concerned over and talk it over? After all, remember the second paragraph of the Afni mission statement: To interact with employees, clients, consumers, and all we encounter in a conscionable, respectful manner; treating them the way we wish to be treated. This didn't happen with me. Strangely, I almost missed the first round interviews because the Racal job was not posted in Bowling Green. Oh, but that was a strange mishap....hmmm. A few days after the first interviews had ended a senior official in the BSI group explained that the main reason for not selecting me for second round interviews, indeed, for not giving me the job as previously planned, was that "we need someone with more experience." EXACT WORDS. I was speechless. What could I say? What could anyone have said? Even the Racal folks were completely surprised and did not know why. They had been expecting me. Okay, so enough about goes on. I'm glad God kept me from corporate office. If I had only seen it sooner I would not have tempted Him. My point though, is that according to Afni, I was not "experienced" or responsible enough to be the corporate expert on the Racal system, which I knew better than anyone else at the time, BUT I was more than reponsible enough, more than experienced enough to sign off WITHOUT any Afni Management present that the $250,000 sytem from Racal was living up to its terms of the contract with Afni. I'm not responsible enough to take care of the expansion in my own call center, BUT I can and have ghosted the entire center by myself (pulling all nighters used to be my main job it seemed like). The Afni paradox of responsibility....You can do it, but you won't. You can't do it, but you will.

Suggestion: Remove the paradox syndrome at Afni and make this the motto to live by: If you can do it, do it well and show us how as well. If you can't, let us show you so you will know. Proven technicians should be consistently rewarded....NOT ignored until needed. You don't have to babysit your employees, or play patty cake baker's man. Just show them that you really care and reward them for their efforts. That motivates outstanding work and fosters a better atmosphere for everyone. (Hint: your best workers are not always corporate people).

I recently had someone in ITS tell me that I had just wasted twenty minutes of his time. I had just reported some issues that had been reoccuring over the last few months but had never been resolved and could not be resolved locally. This individual has been made aware of these issues on numerous ocassions. These were and still are issues that generated heat tickets that did not need to be generated, if the issues had been address by members of ITS and worked on until resolved. But no....hush...I'm wasting someone's time. After all, my time is not important. Here's the kicker: This is the same person who constantly calls me and asks what is going on when nothing is going on, and then gripes because there are no heat tickets. Is it bad when things are working right? Apparently for Afni it is. We need more things to break for more heat tickets. After all, the number of heat tickets someone does tells us how good or bad of a tech he\she is. Ridiculous right? But that's what you've implied...
A few months back I had a senior level ITS person refer to me as a Rogue Tech. And this person has never worked with me personally and if we have ever seen each other it was maybe for 30 seconds or so. What a great judgement call from someone in leadership! This was due to the fact that I had him and several other people all trying to tell me and my co-worker what to do at the exact same time on a given situation, with him and another on the phone, some others in our room including the Center Director and some other people, probably clients, standing outside our room, and everybody was saying something different. What, I can't do my job like I was hired to do? But alas, I forgot the old rule that as a problem gets more serious, the technical person who can fix the problem requires more management spectators and the like in order to facilitate the job. In fact, my co-worker and I resolved the problem rather quickly, in spite of said person's need to treat my co-worker and I like we were children and not adults. Very disappointing, especially for someone in leadership. Just another reason why I have lost respect for you. Let's consider my rogue ways, shall we? Was it the "rogue" thing to do when I drove in early morning hours that Saturday when the AC unit above the phone switch leaked water and tripped the breaker on the top left cabinet, taking down about one-third of the center's phones? This discovery was made only because someone had paged the ITS Helpdesk from the center about a few phone issues (it was third shift and nobody cares about third shift apparently). The supervisor in her frustration decided to call me at home and so I decided to go in. When I got to the switch room to check on the phone loops that's when I found the mess. I rushed to Wal-Mart to buy a tarp and some tent poles to build a ceiling between the leaking unit and the switch, so water would run off into trash cans around the canopy. The Center Director was contacted and came in to assist. I do appreciate his help on that matter. Hey, I remember, it was the "rogue" techs that rewired the expansion area in Bowling Green that Afni had paid another company (Fishel) good money to do correctly the first time. What a Rogue Tech thing to do! Why, I should have just left everything there and followed the Afni policy of it's not my job so I'm not doing it and leave it for someone else to handle. I should have been wrote up for working on it and getting it done ahead of schedule...bad network tech bad network're becoming a ....a ......"ROGUE TECH = Gets the job done no matter what and gets it right. No appreciation or promotion required." No thanks for anything I've done. Not from you. And you know who you are. Just a new title..."Rogue Tech." If you only really new how good I made you and your department look and all the unsaid things that I did to make things better in Bowling Green.

Suggestion: Instead of name calling with an employee's supervisor, why don't you just call up that employee and discuss the matter with him one-on-one. You want your leadership to be respected, then prove your leadership by respecting those who are to follow you. Remember, to whom much is given, much is required.

Just so you know that I'm not Joe Bloe from the street before I worked for Afni let me lay it out for you. I graduated from High School as 7th in a class of 350, with three Valedictorians, all 4.0 GPA. I was nominated by my Congressman, and both Senators to the United States Air Force Academy and was accepted into USAFA. After completing basic training and finishing half the first semester, I decided to leave the Academy to pursue studies at another college, Indiana University. Before I took my first class at IU, I had tested out of 33 credit hours of courses. During my studies there I became a McNair Scholar, and worked on two separate research projects, each one paying me $2500. I spent my junior year studying in Madrid, Spain. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish with High Distinction (Suma Cum Laude) with a minor in Russian Area Studies (2 years of Russian language and other culture/literature courses), a minor in West European Studies, and a Certificate from the Liberal Arts Management Program (aka LAMP), at that time a very prestigous integrated liberal arts and business program that mixed the best of both colleges. Undergraduate students with this certificate were counted on the same level by top-notch consulting firms as MBA students at IU's well known Kelley School of Business. Only 25 students were selected from the freshman population at IU. If you did not make the selection your freshman year, then you never made it into the program (it started your sophmore year). The program has now changed, but those were the rules when I entered. I joined Afni as a Bi-lingual CSR in the Bowling Green Call Center, after moving to KY because I got married to someone attending Western KY University. Within two months I obtained a position as Operations Technology Specialist, and upon the reorganization of the Operations Technology group into the BSI group, I joined Afni ITS...doing the same job I had done before, supporting everything technical in Bowling Green in some form or another. No previous PC support, no certifications, nothing. Just jumped in feet first and did it. I learned alot and learned the hard way. It was demanding. But I did it well, with all my heart. Ask the supervisors in Bowling Green. Ask the management. Ask my co-workers. Ask CTI. I have my witnesses...

I am fully aware that there are others who also just "jumped" into the technical field, and that my story is not unlike many others. Is it wrong of me to have high expectations for Afni, when I have proven myself more than once? I'm tired of the child treatment that corporate ITS and management in general tries to dish out. I am an adult, and at least as educated and probably more educated than many of you. And you might think that does not matter. How wrong you are. But putting that aside, the most important thing is that we are suppose to be a team...not a dictatorship. After working for Afni for 2 yrs. I can say for the most part that teamwork corporate wide is severely lacking. There tends to be a prejudice against younger individuals' abilities to lead and be responsible and as a result, whether intentional or not, the atmosphere is often that of a high school. But I guess Afni is just a microcosm of life's problems that people face everyday. People are human. We all make mistakes, and we strive to improve. I do not think everyone at Afni is terrible. I'm not saying anyone is a bad person. There are many at Afni that I appreciate, respect and with whom I have enjoyed working. To you I give my wholehearted thanks. However, there are those of you who have bad ways of doing things and you need to change. Some of you carry bad attitudes and haughty ones that are very unpleasant. I am not the judge and jury by any means. Even so, that does NOT justify the way YOU do things. Just because "that's the way we've always done it", or "that's the way this person does it", does not make it right, does not make it the best way for Afni to do it. Are you not aware of the attrition rate at Afni? At Bowling Green? (Check our QRSD Dept., 11 people in my 2 years here). Someone's eyebrows should raise. Catch a clue. There are definite problems at Afni with communication, respect, teamwork, fair treatment and recognition. How can Afni expect to succeed with such problems? Don't talk about improvement. Improve. You know a tree by its fruit....if what I am saying is not true then it should be obvious. Ask around, find out if I've missed the mark. But if what I am saying is true, and you do nothing about it, then what you sow is what you will reap. Really it's not the reputation of Afni that ultimately matters, but the effect that working at Afni will have on the lives of its employees.

Without mentioning any names, I would like to give my thanks to all of you that made my life at Afni worthwhile, you for being such great people.
God bless and take care.

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