The Hell of my job

Not that I’m complaining.

This week had been a stressful and depressing one. First off was the Technology department meeting for Critical Mass. The company’s been going through a structural overhaul. It’s not the first time we’ve done this, but we’ve never done it to this degree before. This one is quite involved, and touches every aspect of the company. No longer are people promoted for a promotion — they are promoted when a position is needed to be filled, and they have the skills to fill it. Reporting lines are now rigidly set, and we all have people we officially report to. The old ad hoc, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants ways are dead (or dying fast). We are officially a large company.

That alone didn’t depress me. Aspects of that I welcome — it should (in theory) make things easier. What I didn’t like was how it caught me.

The company has three primary business units, one of which is the one I work in: Mercedes-Benz. Each of those business units has a need for a set number of directors, managers, and team members. Based on skills and experience, people were given those positions. I lost out on a promotion, mostly because I’m on Mercedes-Benz. (And if you think this is idle speculation, I did meet with my department head and asked him that very question.)

I came home that night and stood in my darkened kitchen, debating on whether to go to the local pub for a few hours to drown my sorrows. I went to bed, instead. At 7:15pm.

You’re probably wondering why the heck I’m so torn up over this. For me, it’s a matter of respect. For the last two years, I’ve been “rising” in the company. I became a member of the senior web development team, guiding the Web Development department (since rolled into Technology), then a part of the Tech Lead group, defining the technical ideas and directions for all of Technical Services (now Technology). Last January, I was asked to join the Technical Oversight group in Mercedes-Benz. We were the ones who set the technical direction for the account. Although only roles (not positions), the distinction was nonetheless important.

The Web Development department no longer exists. Hence, no senior team. The Tech Leads have been replaced by the Development Managers, of which I am not one. And the Oversight group was disbanded last December, in favour of the new structure, which I feel I have no input into. All of the advances have left me as a “Senior Team Member”. Oh, joy.

I suppose that in itself didn’t bother me so much as seeing who did become Development Managers. Many people I agreed with. But there were a couple who’ve either been with Critical Mass less time than I have (and I personally feel I have at least as much experience as they do), or who used to be junior to me and have now leap-frogged over me. I have nothing personal against any of them — this entire situation, though, worries me. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed. I feel that the respect I’ve earned over the last two years amounts to very little.

My roommate, Tamara, decided I needed to do something fun and get out of the city. So on Saturday, my third anniversary in Calgary, she “took” me (I drove) out to Banff (Bamf!). Frankly, it seemed like a good idea. I needed a day out of town. I needed to do something different.

Besides, it was a good excuse to take the Mini on its first long road-trip.

The day was thinly overcast. You could still see blue amongst the white, and it was quite bright. In fact, the weather was virtually identical to the day I arrived in Calgary three years ago. The drive out was pleasant, though the slightly warm temperatures (by warm, I mean getting close to thawing, but not quite) covered the roads with a lot of meltwater, nigh-depleting my window washer fluid supply.

We arrived in Banff (Bamf!) around 1:15pm. Our first stop was at the most-frozen Bow Falls, just below the Banff Springs Hotel. After a few quick pictures, it was off to Tamara’s destination of choice: The Upper Hot Springs.

As you may recall from previous entries, Banff (Bamf!) came into being as a result of the hot springs, discovered there in the early 1880s. For decades, people flocked to Banff to visit the natural hot springs (now known as the Cave and Basin) until Parks Canada realized that there was an endangered species of snail that actually lives in the hot water.

The Upper Hot Springs (residing on the east side of Sulphur Mountain, and a number of metres further up in elevation) opened in the late 1920s to serve the needs of the healthy tourist, wanting a dip in the supposedly medicinal waters of the mountain. Over the years, it’s had a few renovations, but the main house doesn’t look much different than it once did. The pool is different, as are the change rooms.

During the winter season, it’s a mere $5.50 to take dip. The process is quite easy: Pay your fee, change into your bathing suit, shower quickly, and then dive in. Well, you can’t actually dive into the pool (no diving is allowed), nor would you want the sudden shock to your system. Instead, there’s an indoor ramp that leads from the change rooms into the water (roughly shin-deep), and then outside into the pool.

Historically, the water is from the mountain. The drought we’ve experienced out here for the last two years, however, has stopped the flow of water. (I believe the Lower Hot Springs still function naturally.) For now, at least until the drought ends, the Upper Hot Springs uses municipal water. Not the same, admittedly, but the heat is the same: 41 degrees Celsius.

It took a bit for me to get used to. I’m not a big fan of extreme temperatures in water. I doubt I’ll ever be able to do a Polar Bear swim, and getting into hot tubs takes me a few moments. Eventually, I adapt and I’m fine. And I do have to say, that water is very relaxing. A few degrees cooler, and I could have stayed in there all afternoon. But after about 10 minutes, I had to start climbing up on the ledge to cool off a bit. (When you start getting an arrhythmia, there’s your sign you need to climb out for a while.) The medical recommendation is no more than 15 minutes. I think we stayed 20.

Changed and cooled off (I had to walk around outside for a while until my body temperature dropped to normal), we headed back into town for a visit to the candy store, and for a bit of lunch. Town was quiet, though our waiter at the Old Spaghetti Factory suggested it was the calm before the storm. As we finished our lunch, we saw what he meant: A nearly endless stream of Jeeps, SUVs, and cars with loaded ski racks (many of them rentals) returning from the hills. By the time we left, the first dinner was beginning to stream in.

This was our cue to leave town. It was about to get a lot busier, and we didn’t feel a need to stick around. The drive back was quiet. Tamara slept a little, and I really wanted to sleep — the pool had sucked the life out of me, and it was all I could do to stay awake for the trip home. Once we entered city limits, though, I was fine.

I was out of town for a mere six hours, roughly half of which were driving to and from Banff (Bamf!). But for some reason, it felt like I’d been out of town a few days. I’m not up to 100% of my regularly happy demeanour, but it’s helped. Hopefully, I don’t need to make this a regular occurrence.