Friday, September 26, 2008

Tethered to my email, or how I'm growing to love my blackberry

For many, many years now I've refused to buy a blackberry, or really any device beyond a cell phone that forced me to be on constant call. I spend enough time at my computer, since it's my home and work station, and enough time by my phone (ditto on the home and work front), so I didn't need to be alerted to every email all the time.

Of course, now that I'm out of the home office two days a week, I do need a better way to access my email, other than webmail. I have a lot of concerns about having my personal or other clients' stuff crossing my employer's server, what with all the concerns about lack of privacy and employee monitoring.

So I've done it. I've bought myself a blackberry. Of course, I chose the cute pink one. And yes, it vibrates every time I get an email. But it's also a decent cell phone, and I don't have to worry that I'm missing important stuff during my hour-long commute or when I play hookey from work (like this morning when I spent three hours at my sons' schools talking about Jewish New Year to their classes).

The big question is, though, will I become one of those people who checks her blackberry all the time, like at the dinner party, or at the movies, or during lunch meeting? I hate those people. God, I hope I don't become one!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

All my coworkers are Gen Y

When you work in an office, birthdays are celebrated. In my new office, it seems they usually pass a card for signatures, unless it's a "big" birthday, in which case there is more. This week, the office manager turned 30, so we celebrated with cake and champagne, and a bit of socializing.

There are only about 15 or 20 people (haven't met everyone yet!) who work here, and most of them were in the room for champagne. Talk came around to whose "big" birthday would be next, and eventually it came out how old just about everyone is. Turns out more than half the women are under 30. A few of the women and a few men are in their early to mid 30s. And one woman will turn 40 later this year.

Then there's me.

Granted, there are two senior people who work here who were out of town that day -- my boss, the President, who is in his 50s, and the VP of operations, who is 46. But man, it was a huge shock to find myself in the minority, and to find that I was the oldest person in the room.

That said, it didn't make me feel old, too much. More it was a surprise to be on this side of the dividing line. My previous office jobs in the past decade were government, where there are a LOT of baby boomers, so I was always on the young side of the line before.

I guess the good thing about being on the older people side is that it kind of reinforces the seniority I bring to my job. I want to be seen as a higher up, a senior staffer, so I guess being older helps with that impression.

But man, I need to learn more about Gen Y now.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Unemployment benefits for the self-employed

My apologies for silence the last ten days. I know both my followers must miss my posts. I do mean to do this more often, but starting the job, settling the kids into regular activities and clearing up other work has left me stressed, then ill (now getting over the cold/flu), and very time crunched. Still no excuse, hence the catch up this week.

Via Darren I read about a campaign promise in the current Canadian election by the ruling Conservative party to implement employment insurance for self-employed people. I guess the main point of it is to provide maternity/parental benefits to those of us not currently eligible because we work for ourselves.

Interesting thought. Yes, it would be great to get some benefits for maternity leave. But the maximum benefit you can get is about $415 a week, which is then taxed. I know for some people that's a significant sum of money over several months, but are those people self-employed? I had a friend go back to work because her benefits were running out, but once she paid for child care, the financial difference between working and not working was less than $500 a month.

I guess I was lucky, because I had the best of both worlds. With my first child, I had worked at a job part time that ended six months before the baby was born, but under the EI rules I qualified for maximum benefits. Which was nice, but frankly working part time I made more than the benefit amount, so I wound up refusing benefits most weeks (you have to report earnings and if you earn more than a certain amount, they don't pay you). The second baby for me I had no benefits, and yes, I started back a bit earlier than with the first, but it didn't make a lot of difference to me.

So are there a lot of self-employed people in their 20s and 30s who would benefit from EI? Am I being elitist to think every self-employed person would turn up their nose at $1200 a month, in return for paying in for at least six months before that?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My first week on the job

So far, so good.

I've had two days at my new office job and I'm still enjoying it. The people are nice, although I spent most of this week reading and learning about the organization. I like the two senior leaders with whom I'll spend most of my work time. They are frank, straightforward, and don't pull any punches, just like me. They appreciate honesty and are okay with being told what needs changing. I have my own office, with a window and a door and a u-shaped desk. Frankly, I'd kill for that kind of space in my home office. Today, my home office is feeling small and cramped. Well, it is small and cramped, but it never felt that way before.

I think the best part about it is, beyond the half-time aspect, that it's the kind of job I'd want. They look to me to be the expert, to take charge when I'm ready. I don't feel threatening or threatened when I discuss taking on duties or contact with suppliers. It's the senior staff role I knew I was qualified for, but which I thought because I'd been a consultant this long I couldn't achieve.

So while it's only been two days in the office, so far, so good. And I've read 2/3 of my book in just two days of commuting.

Monday, September 8, 2008

First day of work

Today is my first day of my new "part-time job." It's also my youngest child's first day of kindergarten. We're both a little nervous.

What if we don't like the boss/teacher?
What if the boss/teacher doesn't like us?
We don't know what our office/classroom will really look like. Where will we hang our coats? Where will we leave our purse/backpack?
Where will we eat lunch/snack?
Will we get along with the other staff/kids?
Will they like me?

We both know we can do the work, but it's the other stuff having us nervous.

At least my son has a new lunch bag for his first day. I have to use a plastic shopping bag.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Men in traditional female occupations

My kids went back to school yesterday, and once the parent party was over, I noticed how very few male teachers there are in my school. I think this is pretty common around North America, especially at elementary schools.

Is this a function of our paranoid society, where every man is seen as a possible abuser and women are seen as more nurturing? Is that why men teach at high school but not so much at elementary?

The sad part is I believe boys need male role models at the younger grades. I haven't done any scientific research, but is it possible boys feel a little alienated in the classroom because girls can identify with the teacher better?

Luckily for my kids, we have had some male teachers. Not in the classroom, but at daycare and after-school care. Even at the toddler stage, my boys had at least one male teacher -- very rare for ECE (early childhood education). They had two male teachers in the 3-5 year old group at daycare. And there was a male teacher at my older son's aftercare his first year (an aboriginal, disabled male to boot!), who was an amazing guy and super role model.

And today, I learned that my younger son's kindercare teacher (in my province, kindergarten is only 2 1/2 hours a day. The rest of the school day I pay for kindercare, then aftercare. It's all run at our school by the YMCA, and it's a great program, but it costs me.), with whom he'll spend more time than his female kindergarten teacher, is a man. And a Gen Y, manly looking guy to boot. I'm pretty pleased.

So why aren't men teaching young kids?