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The sources of information that I use at work can be grouped into three categories: human, print, and computer. Humans that have provided useful information include members of the HR team, heads of various departments, and most of the individuals in the IT and production groups. Printed information includes memos, handwritten notes, P&L statements, buyer’s documents. My job includes extensive use of the mainframe system, several Access databases that I have built, vendor websites, e-mail, and many spreadsheets. Also available is the corporate website and an HR website. One of the first things you must learn is how and where to get various types of information.
My job involves determining which product needs to be ordered and how much to order and after getting pricing information, getting the necessary approval to order the product. Accomplishing this task requires extensive data analysis and data cleansing. The DB2 database, which holds all of the sales and forecasting information plus the product information master, has very little in the way of data integrity. I use a reporting software to retrieve the raw data from the DB2 database and save it as a comma-delimited file. I then FTP the information to a folder on my hard drive and then use an Access database to manipulate and analyze the data. From this database, I build queries and reports to determine order points and quantities recommend products to be discontinued or discounted, and make other recommendations to help lower inventory and increase sales.
Communication within the company leaves somewhat to be desired but does seem to work in most cases. The primary forms of communication are e-mail and phone. I have learned over time that certain people respond better or quicker to e-mail. With others it is better to call. And there are a few people who, if you want an answer, you better just go visit their desk. One of the biggest problems is the tendency for people to forget decisions that have already been made. This even happens after meetings where minutes were taken. One of the things that I have been working toward is setting up a discussion board where decisions and conversations can be stored.
The differences in various employees and the ways that they respond to these differences have led to several humorous situations. We have three employees in a room of sixteen that are rather loud and energetic. Two other employees had their cubicle assignments changed just prior to the office being remodeled in order to get as far away from the noise as possible. Then after the renovation, several of the noise sensitive employees were assigned across the room from the noisy employees, which seems to have helped. One lady however was assigned next to the noisiest of the three and then asked to be moved, which was interesting since they mostly work on the same projects. There are actually several people that sit a good distance from other people they work with. Things have worked out rather well for me since I returned to school because I am working mostly in the evenings when it is quiet.
My attitude at work is primarily positive but somewhat reserved. I have to make a conscious effort to come out of my shell and talk to people as people instead of just as sources of information. I really do enjoy talking to people and would probably qualify as a people person, but many times I get so caught up in my work that I forget I am working with humans. Sometime this causes me to come across as arrogant. I have been getting much better in this area over the past several years but it is an on going project.
One of the most successful solutions that I have recommended was a change in the way that we generated one of our key decisionmaking documents. Each employee had there own version of an excel template. You could use the same input in two different forms and get results that varied wide enough to make the difference between a very profitable product and one that was losing money. There was very little faith in the results of these forms, and everyone just hoped that the products they were working on were making money. The templates did have to be somewhat different since we were working with different products, but there were many things that should have been the same across all product types. I recommended that we use a common format and then built and distributed a form that could be used for all products and, the changes that needed to be made were made based on a few drop-down lists. The basic structure was locked to prevent “accidental” changes to formulas and other non-changing information. This was well received and when changes have been needed, we have only had to change the master template.
The vice-president of human resources has called me several times to help with various spreadsheet problems, including linking data and building custom formulas. I am not sure who suggested that he call me but there are quite a few people who are aware of my computer skills. Recently he had to build a formula to calculate the number of days each employee had worked since their last evaluation. This included calculating the number of week days in between the two dates and some data cleansing since some of the information had not been updated. He was using a spreadsheet with the names column hidden. I showed him how to find the problem data, and then how to build his formulas. He had already done all of the calculations for six employees and said it took several hours. We had the spreadsheet set-up in less than half an hour to do the calculations for 500+ employees.