Sunday, April 16, 2017

How I committed economic suicide (part 4)

The next job duty my superiors gave me was to prepare payments. I got more training from Lenny. When looking at the prepaid vendors, we had formulas that would keep our vendors at above 7 days of usage. All I had to do was copy and paste a new formula into the report. For our post paid vendors, the process was much more complicated. There was a report in the accounting system that I could download to see all of the unpaid bills. The report included finalized bills and pending bills. I had to make sure to delete all the pending bills and pay every approved bill that came due within 8 days. After completing the report, I’d send it to Lenny so that he could set up the payments and then my boss would release the payments from our bank. In a few weeks, they would put me in charge of setting up the payments. This was one of the biggest responsibilities because if our vendors did not get paid on time, they would shut off our service and this would limit our ability to sell to the end customer. After the payments got released, Lenny emailed me a list of email address for all the vendors. It was my task to send an email to all of the vendors stating that we sent them a payment for the most recent invoice and we would ask for them to confirm the receipt of our payment.

For a while, the month of June went okay. I carried out my tasks as usual. It wasn’t until July when things started to fall to pieces. It was the beginning of the month and I knew that the month of June would have to be closed but no one asked me to perform any closing tasks. I enjoyed the fourth of July holiday and worked the next day to complete recording sales. After about July 6th, they asked me how closing was coming along and I was just walled. Immediately, I went back to my list of closing tasks and I couldn’t remember how to reconcile any of the merchant MID. I sat there paralyzed in anguish and pain not knowing how to get anything completed. I tried to get in contact with Lenny but he was unreachable. I asked my boss for some help to remember how to do the tasks but he was too busy. I looked at my reconciliations without any clue in the world.

At our weekly meeting, my boss said that we had just set the longest month end close. I was the reason for all of it. Barbara came to me asking to resolve differences in the electronic payments for June. With every request, I had to go to Lenny for advice and support because I was completely clueless. After lengthy retraining, I was finally able to complete my tasks but I had to get Lenny to explain everything to me again. I decided to take better notes this time around. It took us half of the month of July just to close the month of June. By this point in time, I was so nervous that I had screwed everything up that I was expecting to be fired at any moment.

They didn’t fire me, but they did let go one of the customer service representatives. Apparently, he didn’t meet the standards of the customer service manager and he failed his probation period. My boss wasn’t pleased with my performance and he told me to ask him questions if I ever got confused. Communication was always a weakness of mine. After all of closing was done, I went home just to lay in bed.

That Sunday, I was sitting in church just feeling the misery of existence. I couldn’t stop thinking about work and I even dreaded going back to work when I was resting on the weekends. While sitting down, I noticed Mei Ling walk by. As miserable as I was feeling, I thought I would feel better just sitting next to her so I got up from the pew and sat in the pew next to her. We carried out a conversation over lunch.

She was very attractive and I had adored her for several years. But she always had a boyfriend at some point in time or another so I never really payed her too much attention. All I really wanted to do was talk with her. It was very rare that we would ever have a conversation for more than two minutes but it went to the point where everyone else at the table had left. It was just the two of us for about a half hour.

When I got back to work, I proceeded to record sales. Something was odd about the electronic payments though. It looked like more currencies were being added to one of our accounts. Over a few days, I saw no activity but after a week, I started seeing sales come in. I asked my boss if we had started accepting foreign currencies for the account and he said yes. He said an email was sent out two weeks prior. Apparently, I had missed it. During the first few months, I couldn’t manage my emails because my inbox would get flooded with mail that mostly was not applicable to me. Since I was part of different email groups, I would see myself copied to messages of invoices being approved, internal reports being updated, confirmations from vendors, and a plethora of other mail that usually was not addressed to me. Because of this flood of information, it was very common for emails to sit in my inbox for weeks without me opening them.

I looked at the sales data and had to figure out what to do. The first thing that needed to be done was to record the sales revenue for all the days as sales receipts. Since this was a new customer, I had to figure out how to add a new customer to the accounting system and make sure it was set up with the correct currency and bank. However, since the electronic payment system let us hold balances in foreign currencies, I also had to set up new accounts in the accounting system as “banks” for the new electronic payment accounts. After messaging Lenny and Barbara, I got some instructions and directions on how to set up the customers and accounts. After that part was complete, I had to figure out how to record the transfers. Unlike the other account where Barbara made the transfers manually, this account transferred foreign currency into USD automatically. I had to spend more time looking into the electronic payment reports to find the transfers for each individual day and then record them as journal entries in the accounting system. Identifying the problem and then finding the solution took multiple days before completion.

Unfortunately, I would come to realize that several things would just go wrong and I would unexpectedly have to find a way to fix things. In most cases, I just wouldn’t have a clue how to get anything done or where to start. Often times, I felt like the only way I was getting through life was being dragged behind a car with a rope around my neck.

In July, my boss gave me two projects to work on. We wanted to focus on efficiency and cut down on the time spent recording sales into the accounting software. Our accounting software had a feature that allowed transactions to be directly imported instead of created manually. My boss also told me that I could use macros to manipulate data easier. How I decided to create and learn the process was all up to me though.

The second project he put me in charge of was to manage and maintain the independent contractor program. I had a meeting with my boss and several meetings with the European staff on how to “streamline” the process and grow the program. My boss never gave me clear directions or even objectives for what he wanted. In the beginning, we wanted to make the process easier for new contractors to sign up. At the time, a new contractor would have to sign an agreement, submit identification, and submit a tax form before he or she would start selling for us. After approval of all the documents, our IT staff would set up a website and the contractor would be good to go. This method required multiple points of verification. I would have to check the tax form, customer service would have to verify the identification, and I would have to download and file the agreement before the contractor could be finalized. My boss wanted to get it to the point where all of that could be done in a few mouse clicks.

During the meetings, I never really knew what I was supposed to be doing or asking. I was always following the lead of my boss. IT would be doing the work of updating websites and the marketing guys would be making decisions on their own. Every meeting was full of consternation, disagreements, and back and forth. I remember spending hours just trying to figure out how to get a image of the contract to store online. We debated who should be verifying identification and tax forms. My boss asked me to create a checklist for how to verify a W-8 or W-9. It seems like nothing could be done properly. In order to get through these meetings, I’d just nod and agree with whatever my boss said.

Personally, I had an amount of disdain for the program. This was the program that required me to record 50 journal entries and 30 invoices at the end of every month end. About 50% of the contractors that try to enter the program do not complete the application stage and never sell for us. What made things worse was the fact that most of our contractors barely sold anything. There would be several instances where we had a contractor that only sold about $20 to $30 a month and I’d have to record journal entries to record commission of $1.50 for the month for the contractor. Out of our 50 contractors, 70% of the total sales came from our top five contractors. Part of me wished that we could just keep the top five and get rid of everyone else. Of course, the other agents were being kept because corporate strategy believed that those contractors would gradually increase their sales over time.

During July, we hired two new customer service representatives. Considering the one new hire in June, we had a total of 4 employees doing customer service, one staff accountant, and one CFO. We also had a woman from Europe that was training the customer service representatives. The office was starting to fill up.

When the two new hires arrived, I was able to talk to both of them briefly. We even had a special lunch to welcome both of them to the company. A girl named Kim was hired and she had this nervous reaction to always laugh at everything that was said to her regardless if it was funny or not. The girl had some difficulty training and stated that she was used to getting extensive training before even taking phone calls. By Friday of the first week, she disappeared without telling anyone. This caused some confusion for everyone as Lauren was training her and had to ask everyone in the office if we saw Kim. She even scoured the outside of the building and the bathrooms just to find her. Later in the month, we lost another customer service representative and were down to two again. In later months, we would have problems finding and retaining customer service employees.

I’m not sure if the problems we had were specific to our company. We didn’t offer overtime hours and the agents were only given a total of two 15 minute breaks. There was no allotted time for lunch so I think this really bothered our employees. Training was also an issue as most of the sessions were done over the phone and instructions were coming in from overseas. But in general, customer service agents tend to start out at around $10 to $12 an hour and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room or opportunities to advance in the career. One of the officers at our company first started out as a customer service agent however advancing that far in a career is rare. The furthest that most people would expect to advance would be customer service coordinator or supervisor. Even then, the pay increase that comes with the extra work is not very large.

While I listened to their conversations, I couldn’t help but to sympathize. I remembered having to do customer service, deal with angry customers, carry our unclear directions/orders, and be constantly interrupted while trying to get any work done.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How I committed economic suicide (part 3)

Eventually, Lenny got back to me and took a look at the previous reports. What had happened was that I forgot to delete the voided transactions before I recorded the sales. This threw off the exchange rate and the total sales amount so I had to look back at the data for the previous three days and correct the invoices affected. It was a Tuesday and I had my weekly meeting with my boss. He said it was okay if I made some mistakes while learning, however he kept on throwing more stuff at me to do and complete. During my first two weeks at the company, I came to the conclusion that completing all the necessary work for a week would be impossible to do within 40 hours. I’d have to say an extra hour or two a day and take a 10 minute lunch break just to have a chance to complete everything. Effectively, I’d be working 45 to 50 hours every week but I wouldn’t get any extra compensation because I was on salary. I was stuck and trapped. It was either this or be unemployed.

Having a weekly meeting with my boss was a new experience. None of my previous jobs had such engagement and feedback. Unfortunately, these meetings would be when my boss would chew me out for screwing something up, doing something wrong, or not doing something that he expected me to do but never told me to do. The weekly meeting was usually a low point of the week for me.

In addition to a one on one weekly meeting, we also had a weekly meeting for Finance to discuss new developments, concerns, and vacation time for the staff. I usually felt like these meetings were a waste of time however I did like to have a reason to take a break from my work flow. Usually, most of the points of the meeting did not affect me or my daily tasks so I would zone out for a while until the meeting was over.

During the rest of that week, I was giving the task of learning how to cover Barbara’s work so that she could take a vacation. At the time, Barbara was in charge of two different tasks that had to be done on a daily basis. The first was to update our telecom vendor balances and the second task was to update the bank account balances and make sure it matches to our accounting software.

Our company is a retail company and buys phone service from large carriers wholesale. We then break up the service and sell it to the end customer for a profit. This is the entire business model. Our telecom team searches for carriers that will give us the best offers and as a result, we do business with more than 15 telecom carriers. To get the phone service (our inventory), we either pay our vendors in advance or on a set schedule. On a daily basis, our IT department sends us a report of how much service was used for each vendor and we use that information to update our balances for each telecom carrier. We do this so that we know when to pay our vendors and how much time we have before we have to make a payment. It is very important for these values to be updated daily because there could be an instance where our balance is running low for a vendor or if we are about to exceed our credit limit with our vendor.

The process was simple. Every vendor we updated had a bill entered into the accounting system and I would add a new row to the bill to indicate the usage of the previous day. I then took the updated balance and plugged it into a report to see if we were close to needing to make a payment. The second task was far more complicated.

The second task was to update the banks. To do this, I had to log into the accounting system and go to the banking feature. The banking feature was connected to the banks we used and it allowed us to download daily reports from our banks. After downloading several reports, the transactions would be listed and I’d have to match them with the invoices that were entered into the accounting system. The tricky thing about the process is that multiple deposits came in per day and none of them were labeled. In order to identify a deposit with an invoice, I had to enter in the exchange rate onto the deposit to convert the USD amount to the foreign currency and then I could match it with a foreign invoice. If an invoice was not matched to any deposit, it was a clear indication that something might have been wrong with the invoice. The amount might be off or the exchange rate may have been entered incorrectly. With over 30 deposits to match per day, it was a little difficult to remember all how all the deposits would be applied to the invoices. A particular annoying case is that a certain credit card likes to act different from the rest of the credit cards that we accept. This type of credit card would settle into our bank account two days after the rest of the cards so this was something I had to take into consideration. However, I remember the most difficult part of updating the bank accounts was after payments were made. Payments made by wire transfer would be debited from our bank account individually but ACH payments were all lumped into one sum. In that case, I would have to identify all the vendors that were paid then mark all the vendors invoices as paid in the accounting system. In order to know if I did the update properly, I would check to see if the balance in our bank accounts matched the balance in the accounting system.

Of course, the first time I tried to update the banks, I had my issues. I always had to double check to see that I put the correct date and exchange rate on each payment application. There were also a number of transactions that I didn’t know how to match and there were a few times when I forgot how to classify an entry. I always dreaded when Barbara would take a vacation because updating the banks took me at least 3 hours to complete.

In a weekly meeting, my boss mentioned to me that Lenny would start showing me how to perform the month end closing activities. The boss mentioned that closing was usually a long and tiring process and I should expect to be working about 50 hours a week during the month end closing. I was very overwhelmed by this but at least Memorial Day was coming up. I would have a three day weekend at the end of May.

I enjoyed my three day weekend only to arrive at work on Tuesday to the horror of realizing that I had to record four days of sales. It felt like I could never get a break. Even if I had a holiday or a day off, the work still needed to get done one way or another. I came to the conclusion that I’d have to work on the weekends just to have any hope of getting everything done. At some point in the day, my boss took pity on me and said that I could split the workload between two days and this helped me out. I was still recording sales for the entire day though.

When June rolled around, Lenny sent me an email and started to train me on the month end closing activities. Unfortunately, our phones were horrible and I could only pick up half of what he was saying to begin with. We had to continue to communicate through instant messages online.

Since this was my first closing, Lenny would be walking me through it the whole way and demonstrating everything. The first thing he asked me to do was download all of the reports for the credit card processor and upload them to the company shared drive. I would use these statements to reconcile the customer MIDs with the invoices recorded to the accounting software. The biggest challenge I had here was that the documents could not be downloaded as spreadsheets so the text had to be copied and pasted into a spreadsheet. Furthermore, the spreadsheet had to be manipulated to get all the text in the proper columns and the dates aligned to even use the data to begin with. Unfortunately, Lenny and I were using two different softwares for spreadsheets so some of his instructions did not work when I tried to do them. We spent at least 15 or 20 minutes trying to resolve formatting errors in my spreadsheet. After the errors were resolved, I could proceed to follow his instructions. In the accounting software, I could download a report of all the invoices for a specific customer MID and then I would compare it with the statement I downloaded earlier. In a new spreadsheet, I placed the statement settlements on the left side and the accounting software date on the right side and I matched each day up to make sure there were no differences. Lenny only showed me how to reconcile the easiest MID for the sake of time. The MID had only USD settlements and only one batch per day.

The second thing on my list was to record depreciation entries. Since our business was 100% online retail, the only equipment we had to depreciate were the laptops in our offices and a few switches that we had in two datacenters. The method used was straight line depreciation so I would update the dates from the previous document, copy and paste the prior balances as the current balances, and then update the formulas for each field. After the spreadsheet was done, I’d enter the journal entries for depreciation expense into the accounting system.

The third item on my list was to record two reclassification entries. In order to save time recording sales, we had all of the sales revenue recorded directly to one general product on a daily basis. At the end of the month, we would run our internal reports to see a breakdown of the products we actually sold and then we would reclassify the total sales to the individual product. The same process had to be done with our exchange gain or loss for the month. After the spreadsheets were finished for both journal entries, I’d record both entries into our accounting system.

The last part of the closing process was to record all the offline sales and commission transactions for our independent contractors. Right off the bat, Lenny told me he hated this process. He sent me a template to use for recording these entries. I logged into our internal system to look for the reports and I saw a list of about 100 independent contractors. Immediately, Lenny told me that only half of the contractors were active however I would have to run the report individually for each contractor. After the report was run, I’d have to copy and paste the information into the template on my spreadsheet and then record the journal entry into the accounting system. If the template showed any offline sales, I would also have to record an invoice for the contractor and apply a payment to the invoice. The process was long and cumbersome but we didn’t know a more efficient way of doing things. It took two to three hours to record 50 journal entries and 30 invoices for all of the contractors.

After all the transactions were completed, it felt like my mind was turned into mush. I still had to update two reports regarding transaction fees and the overall breakdown of sales so I just listened to Lenny’s instructions as best as I could. After the first week of June, the month end closing was completed and I just wanted to forget about the misery endured.

I looked out the window of the office to see a brown building in the distance. I wondered if it was the building that Julia worked in. I realized that my office was close to the major mall that she worked next to.

In June, I tried taking my laptop home a few times on the weekend in order to stay on top of my work load. If I got done recording sales over the weekend, I wouldn’t have to endure recording three days of sales every Monday. I felt resentful for having to work 6 hours on the weekend but I was willing to put up with it just to keep making money. Sometime during June, I had finally saved up $40000.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

How I committed economic suicide (part 2)

When the setup was more or less complete, I finally got the chance to get trained on my job activities. They told me that I would be in charge of recording sales and Lenny would be training me over the phone. After struggling trying to use the phone, he gave me instructions over email as well. The first thing I’d record was sales information from electronic payments. Lenny showed me where to find the sales data for our company. I had to find the data and then record the sales, refunds, and fees into sales receipts in the accounting system. The process took about 30 minutes to do because we had sales in 7 different currencies and each report had to be pulled up individually. On a daily basis, all the sales from the foreign currencies would be converted into US dollars and transferred to the US balance. I had to calculate the exchange rate for each of the transfers and record them into the accounting system. After recording the sales and transfers into the software, Lenny showed me where to find the information for chargebacks. Again, I had to pull up 7 different reports individually and record any information as journal entries into the software. This took an additional 20 minutes.

I finished entering the transactions and Lenny reviewed my work. When he saw that everything was acceptable, he proceeded to show me how to record sales from the second electronic payment account. We had a program where we would hire independent contractors to sell our products on our behalf. This would increase our sales and in turn, the contractions would earn a commission for everything they sold. Luckily, all of the agents only handled US currency. I logged into the company account and downloaded a report of all the transactions that occurred on the previous day. I was given a separate spreadsheet to identify all the contractors and I entered their sales receipts into the accounting system. Thankfully, I didn’t have to bother recording any transfers. After the second account was completed, Lenny showed me how to record the last account.

The last account for electronic payment was dedicated to our mobile recharge product. It was the easiest as there was only one currency to record sales data. I recorded the entry into the accounting system and completed the sales training for the day. Lenny explained to me that sales come in daily and have to be recorded on a daily basis. He hated Mondays in particular because he had to record three days worth of transactions for that day. Later on in the week, he would show me how to record the sales data from credit card transactions.

After my training with Lenny was completed, my boss came over to my desk and dropped a stack of documents down. It was full of invoices, bank statements, and other notices. All of the documents had to be scanned and emailed to the correct departments. He spent 20 minutes with me giving me email addresses and instructions on where to send the documents. He also asked me to come up with some sort of filing system to store all the paperwork. After completing several tasks, it was past 5pm so I left the office and started driving home.

Traffic going home was the most insufferable thing I experienced. My office was located right next to a highway off ramp which was right next to a major mall which was surrounded by several office buildings. During a one or two mile stretch, there were at least 8 traffic lights and traffic cops directing traffic. It took 45 minutes just to get to the interstate. After getting on the interstate, I experienced massive sand stills for another 30 minutes. I then realized that life would become incredibly miserable from here on out. After the commute was finished, I had spent close to two hours in traffic and it was almost 7 pm at night. Once again, this reinforced my decision to never get married or have children.

The next day at work, I had another training scheduled with Lenny. I logged into our company portal to pull out the reports needed to record credit card transactions. The first thing I had to do was filter the data and delete all the voided transactions. After than, I had to filter the spreadsheet by each merchant ID number and do separate filters to sort each currency out. I had to get the total native currency and total converted amount in order to calculate the exchange rate. After I had all that information, I’d enter it into the accounting system as invoices. We had two MID with multiple currencies and each one of those had at least four foreign currencies. This meant I did the sorting, conversions, and entries at least 8 times for foreign currencies. Including the invoices based in US dollars, these two MID required 12 invoices daily.

Two extra MID had me matching up different batch numbers and amounts to record another 6 invoices. Lastly, our independent contractor program had me record another 12 invoices into the accounting system. On a daily basis, I had to record about 30 invoices into the accounting system just to have all the credit card transactions finished. This process took me close to two hours in the beginning. The next thing he showed me how to do was record chargebacks for the credit card processor.

It wasn’t too difficult but I was confused the first few times because I didn’t really know how to perform vlookup very well. I downloaded the reports from the portal and compared the report with a chargeback report that we had in our internal systems. A vlookup would identify each transaction as the correct product and I would then record the entries in the accounting software. The first few times, I did this, I messed up the software and had to try again. By the time the first week had ended, I was feeling just dead tired.

At the end of Friday, I agreed to meet Allison and some of her friends for dinner. Already, I was in a foul mood from work that day, traffic was a nightmare, and I just wanted to go home. When I got to the restaurant, I ordered a dish which I couldn’t eat by mistake. It was covered with shrimp. I was irritated, I didn’t want to talk to any of Allison's friends, and I just sat there dwelling about how I screwed up my order. She asked me how I was doing and I told them I was miserable and couldn’t stand my job. They all kind of saw my irritation. After eating dinner, they were going to go somewhere else for dessert to which I just bailed and went home. After this point, I would just blow her off and not go out of my way for her.

I got home and finally got to enjoy myself a little bit. The weekend came and went in what felt like five minutes and I was back to work on Monday morning. Since it was Monday, I had to record three days worth of sales in the accounting software. Considering the fact that fully recording the chargebacks and sales for just one day would take three hours, I had nine hours of work to do just to record everything. Unfortunately, I could not just record one set of sales receipts and invoices. The deposits came in the bank on an individual daily basis so I had to also record the invoices individually or else the bank balance would not match with the accounting software balance. I had no other option but to just slog on through it. Despite all of this, my boss kept on throwing random unimportant tasks at me.

While I was trying to get all my work done, my boss asked me to order things for the office such as a mp3 player, speakers, office plants, and a coffee maker. I got a request to take care of customer service appreciation week which meant buying various food for customer service. He asked me to take care of ordering supplies and getting rid of supplies that we didn’t need. I even remember that he asked me for assistance in getting the access door to our office installed and figuring out how to work the card key system. I kept on thinking to myself how could the boss know how busy I was and why was he worried about unimportant stuff like mp3 players and office plants.

Eventually I completed recording all of the sales but it was getting close to six pm by the time I finished. The next day, I showed up to work and started recording the sales. Only about 45 minutes into the day, I get a message from the senior accountant telling me that the bank deposits were not matching up with the invoices I recorded the previous day. She asked me to review the invoices and figure out what was causing the difference. I had absolutely no idea what to do and had to ask her what the problem might have been. This is where stress and panic started to set in. I couldn’t proceed to complete my work until I corrected the previous three days of work. Barbara told me that there might have been an error when I calculated the exchange rate so I looked back to check the previous reports and calculations. The exchange rates were calculated correctly. Still puzzled, I had to ask Lenny what the problem might have been. However, it took me at least 15 minutes to get a hold of Lenny considering he was in Texas and working on his own tasks. I thought about asking my boss but he was on a phone call that could take 20 minutes to complete. I sat there frozen unable to do anything or have any idea how to resolve the issue.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

How I committed economic suicide (part 1)

It was the middle of May when I started work again after 7 months of being unemployed. As soon as I arrived at the building, I was hit with a sense of deja vu. It was the same building I visited for an interview back in 2012. I took the elevator up to the sixth floor and walked to the suite only to find an empty room with the lights turned off. Maybe I was a little bit early. Feeling nervous, I walked outside and sat down at a table. Back in college, there was an unwritten understanding that class was canceled if the professor was more than 15 minutes late for class. I had no idea what to do if you went to work and no one showed up though. Luckily, I had the number for customer service for the company and I called them. When they asked me what I needed, I just told them that I was hired as an accountant and had arrived at the office but no one was there yet. The customer service representative was able to get in touch with the operations manager and they said that someone would be in the office shortly. Feeling assured, I walked back inside the building and up towards the sixth floor to see that the lights were on and the boss opened the door for me. It was the first time I saw him since the interview and I said it was good to see him again. He showed me to my desk and I saw one woman on the opposite side of the room which I assumed to be another accountant.

The CFO gave me my login credentials to my laptop and said I could take a look at the accounting software as well as the other programs. We were still waiting on one more employee to show up so I was idling there without an assignment to work on. The room was very empty. The walls were bare and there were only two tables and some chairs. Immediately, I got the impression that I was interviewed in a hotel because the company did not yet have the office space yet. After a little while, the CFO gave us a brief introduction to the company. Fifteen minutes later, the third guy finally showed up. He was breathing hard and in a mess. Apparently, he was late due to his car breaking down or the buses running late. After he arrived, the four of us went to lunch.
As it turned out, I was the only accountant there. The man and the woman that started with me were both customer service representatives. Most of our company’s operations were located in South America and Europe. Our senior staff accountant was located in Bolivia and the other accountant was stationed in Texas. Lenny would start training me on how to do my job in a few days however we would have a much more important task to do first which was assembling furniture.

During the first week, we didn’t get actual work done. We had to spend the week getting ready to get work done and part of that entailed assembling chairs and tables. Immediately, I felt a little resentful. I didn’t recall furniture assembly in my job description when I started but there was probably a section that said ad hoc activities. Later, I would come to learn that the term “AD HOC” was a latin term for stuff the boss doesn’t want to do. Well, I couldn’t complain. I had been unemployed for the past 7 months. I was also very understanding considering that the United States operation was very small. There were only four of us and that was probably not enough to justify hiring an operations manager. During the first week of work, the four of us assembled multiple tables, chairs, and drawers. We spend a good amount of time hooking ethernet cables into wall jacks, modems, and phones. We spent even more time wrapping the cables and cords around the tables and walls to make everything look neat. I did so without complaining however part of me kind of wondered what kind of company wouldn’t have this stuff sorted out before the employees started working? We were making room for extra capacity. By the Summer or Fall, our company was trying to hire two extra customer service representatives, one IT guy, one senior accountant, and maybe two people for marketing positions. After setting our office up, we started to run into some technical difficulties.

During the first week, I was working with my boss to set up my phone properly. The phone I was using was a VOIP phone so I had to call tech support in Bolivia just to get the phone activated and the number set up. But repeated problems caused us to be going back and forth with Boliva for over 45 minutes. Even after finally getting the VOIP phone set up, everyone in the office was struggling with the call quality of the phones. Whenever we used the phones, the call was cut in and out every few seconds making communication completely impossible. During our first two weeks, I was barely able to get any effective training with Lenny and the customer service representatives were barely able to communicate with customers. The only solution we had was to get rid of the wireless modems the phones were connected to and plug an ethernet cable directly into the VOIP phone. This solved the problem for the most part, however our phones were affected if our internet connection cut out.

Unfortunately, internet issues were frequent during our first few months of operations. This would be particularly frustrating for customer service as sometimes the conversation would just be lost on their end. In my case, it was annoying and disruptive when I was entering invoices into the accounting system and my system would freeze up after every entry and mouse click. Losing an internet connection was always nerve wracking because we never would know how long it would take to reconnect. It could be a few minutes or as long as an hour.