Tag Archive: PStrat

I’m Back!

Sorry I have been away and not blogging for so long. I have had a lot of changes in my life and just haven’t had the time I wanted to blog. But now I am back and hopefully will have time to blog more often.

So probably the biggest change is I have switched jobs. On October 31, after spending 6 years at Presentation Strategies (PStrat) as the lead Web Developer and a Team Lead, I left and am now working as a contractor at the American Kennel Club in Cary as a ColdFusion developer.

The change was a tough decision for me. I had a lot invested in PStrat and to be honest it felt like a family. However over the past few years, the family started to crumble as I started to see some business practices that driven solely by money and some really good people leave. By the point that I decided to start looking for another job, the company had changed its behavior dramatically.

First, we over charged our clients by almost double. We would “stop, drop and roll” to do ANYTHING the client wanted on any timeline. Employees were asked to constantly work nights and weekends to get projects done. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to keep your clients happy and that you’re not going to have rush jobs from time to time. Nor am I saying that getting paid well is something you shouldn’t aspire to do, but we were just out of hand. The staff as a whole was burnt out. We started cutting corners to give the client the least we could, while charging them as much as we could. To make this issue worse, we starting to a lot more “in-kind” faith based projects for companies that couldn’t afford us. Again, not that a company shouldn’t do this, but you have to do it within reason and within your means. When 65% of your projects are ones that you probably aren’t going to get paid for, and they are just as much work and hassle as ones that you could be getting paid for, something’s going to give.

Overall staff salaries had gotten out of whack. I say sales people get hired into very large salaries (~ 6 figure) with extra vacation. They would come and go as they pleased, and over time our project conversion rate went from 70% down to 30%. Now that wasn’t all their fault, as we saw big Pharma companies change their practices so they could pay us less and get more out of us. However, non of those big sales saviors lifted a finger to get us into other industries until it was too late. We even had one who tried to leave the company and take a million dollar client with him. He was busted before he left, but the client ended up dropping us anyway.

On the other hand, the people that I considered to be the “worker bees” were paid as little as possible. These were the people working the long late hours, sacrificing their family time, and in general always being being there when they should. To improve the bottom line, the perks and benefits for these people were slowly taken away. The company operations staff removed the overtime pay structure we had, then they stopped giving little AMEX gift card “thank you” bonuses, stopped giving out hockey tickets and on and on. Believe me, in its hay day the perks were awesome, but as time went on they were slowly trimmed away. We did still see small Christmas bonuses, again nothing like when I started but in general those stuck around. Up until this year we had Christmas parties. But when you’re pulling 50-60 hours almost every week and not getting taken care of, life begins to suck quickly.

Work load also became unstable as well. We started the year off working those 50-60 hour weeks. I remember a week in February when I worked 72 hours in 6 days, including a Saturday vendor visit in snow! However due to some key people leaving and taking business with them and the Pharma changes, there were points this summer where my job sheet had NO active jobs on it, my team was sitting around surfing the web and just keeping their chairs warm. So we never knew what to expect from one week to another. Would we be working our tails off or closing our doors?

We also weren’t making smart hiring or firing decisions. We would hire people with little to no computer experience to sell and manage multimedia services. We kept people who would cost us tons of unnecessary expenses on projects time and time again.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, in an effort to make our bottom line better, we started farming out our work to other companies. It was like a mechanic hiring another mechanic to do all his work for him. So we basically became a company of project managing middle men and not the creative multimedia shop that we started out as. Over time it just became not worth it.

So back in March I started to look around of another position. I did have a steady paycheck and I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to be fired, so I was a bit selective when searching for a new position. There were several positions that I interviewed for that I didn’t get for various reasons. There were a few that I was offered that I turned down. I also discovered along the way that a good fit for me was hard to find and that it was hard to get across to people what exactly I can and can’t do. I have a 10 year graphic design background, working in a range of different areas including, product packaging, trade show displays, software interfaces, marketing materials, software manuals and Web pages. However while at PStrat I made the transition to a web developer, so I have a lot of those skills as well. And I really wanted to get into doing Flex applications which is in itself another skill set. I have also spent a fair amount of time dealing directly with clients, planning projects, interviewing contractors, vendors, and potential hires. So trying to explain all that to somebody over the phone or in a 30 minute interview and make it all make sense was difficult.

After a short lull in interviews over the last spring and early summer, it became clear to me in late July that something was going to come through soon. I was up for 4 positions which had all gone to the final interview stage So in the end I went with the American Kennel Club. So far its been a good experience. The environment is a lot different than what I was used to. It’s very big. My department alone is the size of the entire PStrat staff base. Its very technical as I work with people who do PL/SQL, Java, PHP, and ColdFusion. So thats been a little bit of an adjustment for me. I have had the opportunity to do some Flex and AIR work while I am there. Right before Christmas a project came through that met the needs of a AIR applications so we have been working on a prototype app (soon to be the real thing). Flex has been an adjustment, but that’ll be another post.

So with the job change, things at home have been happier. My family gets to se me again so they like that. I haven’t been as tired and grumpy. I have actually had time to take a few freelance projects which has been fun and brought in some extra cabbage. So overall its been a good change.

So what’s coming in 2008? Well hopefully a new house sometime this spring. Maybe a little baby making. Oh and a new web site / blog under a new name and identity. But for all that you’ll have to stay tuned. If you made it to the end of this post thx for hanging in there. I had a lot to say on my first post back!

PowerPointing today

So I am out in Philly at the airport Marriott for a company project.  We help Pharma companies get ready for their FDA trials by supporting them with AV setup, speaking assistance, and PowerPoint editing and slide creation. At the moment, we have more projects of this type than we can manage, so I have been asked to be here in Philly to be a PowerPoint tech.  I’ve done this sort of thing before, even though it isn’t my favorite thing to do.  So at the moment, I am up and dressed and waiting for the call to come down and get started.  I am hoping to find some breakfast food down in the lobby area as well.  I will be tweeting throughout the days (here until Tuesday) and will try to blog as I can.  Have fun out there!

I am very excited that I am going to Adobe Max 2007 in Chicago this October.  My company approved the trip last week and we just registered day.  This will be my third MAX trip (I seem to go every other year). This year seems like a good time to go as there will be tons of info on Flex 3 and AIR.  Both technologies are on fire right now and I can’t wait to dive into them. So if you are going to MAX as wll drop me a line and maybe we can hang out.  See you in Chicago!