My home on the web - featuring my real-life persona!

Best week ever…

Sometimes, everything seems to just fall into place. This was one of those weeks where it seemed like everything was just working out for me! By Friday noon I was so giddy I could hardly sit still. This is what happened…

Monday:

  • I started my week with a really nice email from the product manager for the Greek application thinking me for the super fast and awesome turnaround on the Greek translation. I sent him a reply back saying I really appreciate the feedback and I made a comment that I am working on a pretty old and weak laptop. He sent me back a note that they have a pretty nice laptop that no one is using and I can have it.
  • I had to hand in phase 3 of my final project for CISP314 and I believe I created a pretty awesome website layout! This is no where near the final version but I am pretty happy with the general look & feel. I am not a fan of Flash but a Flash intro is a requirement.
  • Another homework assignment went well too, an interactive Flash movie. Like I said, I am no big fan of Flash but man, Flash is HARD.

Tuesday:

  • Same PM sent me another note mentioning that he was in a phone conference where the VP of SW Engineering mentioned to the CTO how great translations are working out, how fast, inexpensive and efficient we are. Nice going, this is a great step towards job security :-)
  • I get the UPS shipping note that the laptop is in UPS - yeah, I can’ wait!

Wednesday:

  • I got some financial aid awarded for the Fall semester, a private scholarship for academic excellence for $1000 (half-time student status).
  • After I found a great deal on the super awesome HAMMER HN1200 NAS - it arrived today. Unfortunately, the included 1TB drive was DOA but the device is still a hit.
  • I did my final exam for CISP247 and got a 190/200

Thursday:

  • After I felt like I coasted through much of my class I was worried about having to develop a real functioning database. While I was starting to work on it, I realized I totally got it and just breezed through ER Diagrams, relationships, cardinality, queries and whatnot. Lots of work but I am good to go and finish it properly and without having to pull my hair out.

Friday:

  • I got a new/hand-me-down laptop at work (18.4″ screen, C2D T9600, 4 GB RAM) - OMG, so awesome! It is so huge that I was almost embarrassed. It has a UK keyboard layout and a couple of other little things that are strange but who cares? I can finally dump the Pentium Mobile 2.0 GHz that was just so slow…
  • I had bought a pair of Nike running shoes that once again didn’t work well for my feet but the store allowed me to exchange them without a problem and now I have some Asics Nimbus which simply rock!
  • I received my award for working 10 years at X-Rite
  • I received my Tastefully Simple goodies too - must bake bread :-)

I have the feeling I am forgetting something. I hope this isn’t a display of how sad my life usually is, but the cummulative “Awe Factor” of this week was just super high. Not that I haven’t had great weeks, for example on vacation, but this was just awesome and accomplished.

Now all I have to do is finish up my database and I got another class down!

OMG - It’s full of mistakes!

So, we just had one of our applications translated into Greek. It is a very big application for a total of 13,000 words just strings. Initially, we had about a month so time was not a big issue and the translation got started on May 8th. Of course, these things change and all of a sudden, we needed it not by the beginning of June but for a show on May 20th. That means 12 days for the translation, cleaning up the bilingual files, importing the strings, fixing truncations and other issues, testing functionality and compiling DLLs. Of course we made it!

Now I was waiting for feedback. Nothing at all from the guys who were at the show. No “good job”, no “shame on you” - nothing. After a week, I inquired and I got the reply back that there were “a big number of errors”. That sent a shiver down my spine. We don’t have many translations into Greek, only one other application so I don’t know this translator very well. We don’t have any Greek reference material, but I asked and he confirmed that he knew the subject matter. And I myself can of course not check anything in Greek.

Turns out, it wasn’t all that bad. We had issues for all language because unless you are a printing press operator, you really can’t figure out some things. I remember asking our German guys questions and they had no clue either. Unfortunately, some terms that were wrong occured 50 or even 100 times so yeah, it looks like a lot. Correcting all strings took me a couple of hours of manual copy/paste, which is not bad at all.

It just irks me that the only feedback I get was that there are a lot of errors (which wasn’t even true). He never acknowledged that we did the impossible by turning this around so fast and that it worked fine. Only the tester mentioned that this must have been the fastest turn-around we had for any language but I am also getting a lot better at handling languages I know nothing about. The last translation we did for that was Russian - I am fine navigating through French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, but Russian and Greek are a whole different animal. If I see a truncation at runtime, I can’t just type in the text I see and search for it - I need a virtual keyboard and go letter by letter type in a keyword to search for. And I am amazed how nicely Trados and TagEditor handle the different character sets. I don’t think many people know what an ordeal it can be to have an application ready for non-Western character sets.

Ah well, believe it or not, I still love doing it - it’s a big girl puzzle and I am getting paid to solve it!

I am wearing jeans!

Kudos to my employer, and I really mean it. I believe they have found the one way to boost morale, that doesn’t cost a thing! We have “Casual Everyday” from now until Labor Day and we are allowed to wear jeans.
I never really understood the US dress code for employees. It was a bummer from day one - I can’t wear jeans to work? Impossible!
I understand that for some customer contact and for certain types of jobs, people have to wear attire that is a little more formal, but in all honesty - those people know, they don’t need a dress code. And if they don’t, there are bigger issues. For the majority of employees at my company there is no need to wear anything else.
Now, since corporate morale everywhere in the US is down, my company has sent out a company wide update with the new dress code that is in effect until Labor Day in September when it will be reviewed again. I am so happy!
On the other hand, that brings up a new question - why does it make me so happy that I can wear jeans. I am not a formal dresser, I actually wear mostly pants that are cut like jeans anyway but made out of a different fabric. But somehow, jeans is just a whole different world.

Survivor’s remorse - lay-off aftermath

So, yet another round of lay-offs has passed. Last week, I lost several of my nice benefits - tuition reimbursement being the one that would hurt the most and we got a pay cut. This was actually the aftermath of the “restructuring” earlier this year. Back then, they said that they may have to “do more” if business or the economy doesn’t pick up. Well, we all know, economy is still in bad shape, so yesterday we went through round 2.

I was in early because I wanted to leave early and my boss basically greeted me with the news. Believe me, this is not a good way to start you day. So, for the next few hours, you just keep your head down. You don’t move, you don’t look up. You work as hard as possible so everyone sees how busy you are - not that it matters because the decisions have been made already, but it is just my instinct. If the phone rings, your heart stops for a moment - until I saw on the caller ID that it was my husband. I told him not to call for the rest of the day or I’d need digitalis for my heart.

Either way, I survived, and today is just another day. Unfortunately, my chipper self is really down today, and when I told my husband (who is by the way allowed to call me again), he said that it sounds like “survivor’s remorse”. I looked it up and yeah, that’s pretty much it. Why were those people let go - some of them were here for 20+ years? And even more curious - why am I still here? If they were no good - why weren’t they canned before? Does performance even matter? What is the criterion?

But there is something else that bugs me today. Wherever I go, people are basically whispering and bad-mouthing the company. Hey, I still work here - AND SO DO YOU! I for one am happy to have a job right now. It is not like there is a job market out there with. Show my a similar company out there that is doing much better right now. And if you find a better company - well, maybe you should apply for a job. It’s not like I feel everything is hunky dory but right now I don’t feel like hearing all the trash-talk. I feel like curling up on the recliner with a bag of chocolate - or a bottle of something, I haven’t made up my mind.

Anyway, I guess I am still in-house…

Links:
X-Rite’s Kentwood headquarters feels brunt of about 30 job cuts
Photography Companies Provide Snapshot Of A Lousy Year
Survivor’s Remorse

Feeling the economy

Today is one of those days, where it is uncomfortable to be an in-house translator.

From friends I have heard, that they have been approached by clients who asked them to lower (or not raise) prices because of the bad economy. I am pretty sure a lot of people just do that to increase revenue, but it is a simple fact that US companies are struggling - a lot. Here in Michigan, there are a lot of companies in the news. Of course there is the automotive industry - we all know how they are doing, but there are also a lot of small and midsized companies who are struggling. I am not a business major, and generally business/finance bores me - unfortunately, this time it affects me.

My company has announced lay-offs today - no secret, the press release is on our web site. It was actually there before they even told us about it. They had an immediate meeting at 8.30am - tough noogies for me since I usually start at 9am because I am not a morning person. Anyway, I am part of Engineering and we had a department meeting afterward, where we were told that Engineering/R&D is not affected. While it was nice to hear that, it is still unsettling. It don’t like the feeling of not being on control of my fate. There are so many more things hanging on this than just my income. We would lose health insurance - right now, my company covers the both of us. My 401k would stop - and since I only started to work here 10 years ago, I don’t have a lot of retirement savings to show for. I would have to pay back the tuition reimbursement for the last 12 months which would probably eat up any possible severance package so there goes that.

I like X-Rite. Working here is so tightly connected to living in the US, since I came here in February 1999, and started to work in June the same year. I didn’t get here on a work visa - they actually searched for a German translator right after I arrived. Big coincidence! I basically had the job before I even had a work permit but having a job offer helped to speed up the process at the INS a lot. For me, living in the US means working at X-Rite.

I also think we have great products. I work with them when I translate the software or hardware and it really confuses me why we are not doing better. I don’t know if it is our products or business and financial decisions, and I would love to know. But then, hopefully there are smarter (or better, more business-savvy) people solving this issue.

I know that a lot of freelancers deal with that uncertainty every day even if they have a little cushion to rest on - but to be honest, that is one of the reasons why I prefer employment. I am just a little chicken.

Now, the news are on to us, starting with the the local NBC station WoodTV and our local paper the Grand Rapids Press - actually, my “Google Alert” for X-Rite was longer than I have ever seen it before. I remember, after the last lay-offs in April, I left the building only to see the news crew outside. Let’s see if that happens again - in about an hour. I am almost sick to my stomach.

Oh well, before I start to sound like a teenager who got dumped, I better sign off. Thanks for listening!