Thursday, June 30, 2005

Directions….

Interestingly enough, it’s beginning to feel like I may have worked myself out of a job, again. Let me explain.

Contract jobs are usually targeted on two fronts by the client, duration (as in time/hours) and the project, or projects they want completed. Those of you who’ve been reading here a while may recall that this job started out as a little 6 week job, last November. About a month ago they extended my contract, again, this time though the end of this year.

This week however, I’ve finished virtually everything they've given me to do. I’ve been in high gear, primarily to clear my plate for the testing phase of the customer data/D&B sync up. Yesterday, one of the full time employees here may have made my assistance in that process redundant, as a result of some great work on her part.

As many of you also know, we’ve been experimenting with a number of ‘String Comparator’ techniques in an attempt to up the percentage of records we’d be able to machine match. Well this week she began the front end work on the process that would eventually incorporate my work.

One of the items in our plan was to apply the existing Name and address standards to the data initially, make as many ‘natural matches’ as possible, and then work on the remaining layers. When she finished applying the standardization process, a full 50% of the records matched, another 25% had only a name difference with identical street, city, state and Zip code matches, another 12% had only a street address difference with identical Company names, city. State and Zip.

With well over 80% of the file machine matching according to the rules the industry established for this process, there’s not much need for all the additional work to incorporate that comparator code. (Although that still leaves somewhere in the vacinity of 50-70,000 records unmatched) So, with that dramatic shift in direction, I asked my project manager what she’d like me to focus on, next week, while she’s on vacation.

Her response? “I don’t care what you work on next week, we’ll talk when I get back”.

I suppose I could take that two ways; first, she’s got to have a little time to find a place to ‘slot me in’ as she too had me pretty booked up, or, second, she honestly has no idea how she’s going to justify continuing the contract at this point.

Funny the difference, a day, and one run through a few hundred thousand data records can mean.

Also, for what it’s worth, I think this other programmer did a great job, and did exactly the right thing by taking her results up the chain here. It may not be the best thing for me, on a personal level, but, it’s certainly the right thing to do for the company! She’s got real skills, and is an excellent ‘outside the box’ thinker. It’s her influence has been a big part of what’s really helped push this project along and I’m happy she got this win!

I’m hopeful (aren’t I always?) that they’ll just hand me some more work they hadn’t mentioned yet as they didn’t feel I’d have time for it now. I do know my manager would like to see the company make me an offer for a permanent job, as she’s mentioned it several times. I suppose this shift could speed that process up, or end it altogether; I guess I’ll find out in a week or so.

I do have this Hummingbird ‘object model’ thing to work on, it needs to be done, but it is such a screwed up model, and so not ready for use with much except Visual Basic. I’m going to let that project rattle around in my head this weekend, along with some beer, Bondo dust and paint fumes and see what I come up with!

Just another day in the roller coaster ride that’s my career. Feast or famine it seems. I’ve gotten pretty good at taking it all in stride. I’d love for this gig to continue, contract or FTE (Full Time Employee). On the other hand, it could be time to take a month off, do some writing, thrash on the truck and let the placement folks earn their money….

Besides, it’s almost Friday… a long Holiday weekend approaching… and worrying isn’t going to change a thing… It will be, what ever it’s going to be, that I’m sure of. The other thing I’m sure of, is I’ll roll with it, whatever it is.

9 comments:

blake.mcstravick said...

This post was a little too technical for poor me, but very interesting. I would imagine that working on a contractual basis could be stressful at times.

Bill said...

Thanks Blake, it can be. I try to work hard when I have the work, and then to relax and enjoy the 'downtime' as much as possible.

It gets really stressfull for me if the 'downtime' gets much longer than 30 days.

The Humanity Critic said...

very technical, but then again that is right up my alley.

Karyn Lyndon said...

Isn't that just the way it always happens!!! Right before a holiday and your boss goes on vacation...

Firehawk said...

Bill,

Isn't that always the thing? Justifying the cost of paying you to show up in the morning? It seems like you've gotten comfortable in that position, but one never knows what will develop. I've always thought being an independent contractor would be tough on the psyche--always selling yourself, always adapting to a new situation. Then again, I imagine it's pretty exciting, also. Always working in a cyclic pattern, completing things and going on to a whole new task...

Happy 4th to you, man, and to anyone else reading!

seeingdouble said...

I didn't follow any of the technical stuff, mainly because it reads like Greek to me, but I can certainly understand the stressors of contract work. Personally, the process wouldn't fit my anxious personality (I'd FREAK not knowing if I had a steady income) but it sounds like it suits you well. I do hope that whatever the next few weeks bring, you are pleased with the outcome.

Braleigh said...

Very technical, thus very brain-assaulting, but as always, interesting. My mom also works on a contractual basis and it's fun how some days she's a big spender, buying things like electricity and food and the next thing you know... yeah.

Master of None said...

It sounds like you've got an easy week next week, enjoy it.

Bill said...

Critic - Thanks, and thanks for stopping by!

Karyn - Yeah.. it is... but she's been a great boss, hopefully there's more on the horizom.

Firehawk - The truth is, for the most part, contracting is actually 'less' stressful than a 'real' job.. at least I usually know ahead of time 'when' I'll be looking for work! Regardless though, it's always about the employer justifying the cost of having you show up, FTE or contractor.

SeeingDouble - It only suits me, because I like the diversity and change it provides. I could go without the uncertainty.. but then again, none of my FT positions has proved to be that 'stable' either! :)

Braleigh - "she's a big spender, buying things like electricity and food " You've got it!! Sometimes we even splurge on things like insurance and heat too!! (but only when it's a 'good' contract! :) Thanks for the laugh.. although true.. it made me smile.

Master of None - I'll be cruising for certain... and as you'll all find out later today... some interesting events on Friday.

Thanks again to you all, for stopping by, and especially for taking the time to leave me your thoughts.