That symbol is a frowney/smiley, because the news about my job lately is bittersweet. After the 7-month unemployed spell that started last September and lasted exactly as long as my savings held up, an old coworker got in touch with me about coming to work with him at an online games division of Disney. It was a really great opportunity to do exactly what I do, which is pretty niche, and it marked the first time the job skills requirements matched 100% with my resume. They’re usually more like 60%, and I smear the rest around until it looks like I’m the right person for the job, like everyone tends to do :)
Disney hires into 3-month contract roles, and renews them as needed if they’re not ready to make you full time, a process they call ‘conversion.’ Near the end of my 3 months (about a month back) there was talk around the expansive offices of me being converted to full time. Then my boss’ boss was let go, and the boss said he didn’t know what this meant for him or us. Soon I was in touch with recruiting and in the process of being converted, when communications disappeared. My boss brought me into his office to tell me that his former boss’ boss, who was – and is – still there, said not to hire me yet, because of reorganizations going on. They were also in the process of figuring out budgets for everyone. So I went back into a holding pattern with some time left on my initial 3-month contract. Then my boss was let go as part of said reorganizations, leaving 2 vacancies between me and the remaining boss, 2 levels up from me.
Our boss just told us on a Monday that he was out Friday, after decades with the company (off and on). We had a big party and wished him well, and feared for our lives at the seemingly unstable goings on. The following week I realized my contract was up that coming Friday, and soon my coworkers and local bosses were scrambling to find out what was going on with me. Was I renewed? Was I going full time? HR was all (ALL) on vacation, so there was no one to ask. I found a producer who tracked down one HR guy who couldn’t help, as his computer had a virus. I started to feel like I was in The Truman Show, and people were watching these crazy hijinks going on all around me. That guy fortunately (we hoped) knew enough from talks going on about me that he could tell that producer to tell me that I should indeed come in Monday and would be approved for some sort of renewal ‘through fiscal,’ which meant October, which was 2 months, not the usual 3 when being renewed. I went home on hoping my badge would let me in again on Monday, as that stuff is heavily controlled. I found this out when mom visited in July and my badge failed to let us in on the weekend so I could show her my office. Once I’m full time I can go in whenever, but contractors and interns are locked out on weekends. Anyway, it worked, and I was officially renewed for 2 months, which again didn’t make complete sense.
Then following week, my old coworker/friend, who was best of friends for the past 5 years at this place with our boss (the one they let go), told me he was leaving, too. He had left for a week to work with a 3rd party we’re developing a game with, and the day he first left was the day they let his old pal and boss go, and Friday, the last day he was away was the day our boss was out the door, so after 5 years of close friendship and working together, he wasn’t around for the big goodbye. These two were the company to me. They knew years of things I didn’t, went to bat for me all the time trying to get me employed, trying to get me more money (I’ve been just breaking even with a salary a bit lower than I’ve had in many years), and acting as a buffer to bosses even higher up. We’re having this other farewell party tomorrow, and Friday’s his last day. He was the only other guy who does the technical stuff I do, so now I’m the only one in the company who does this niche, yet critical stuff. This means I’m now the director of this kind of work (title: Technical Director) for something like 5 separate games. We’re just gearing up on things again, and I’m working 12-hour days. I left work at 10PM tonight and have to be in by 9AM for a meeting where I’ll be handed the reigns on one of the games – a sort of passing-the-torch ceremony in miniature (really I’m just meeting the team I don’t know yet, and seeing what’s going on). I also live 30-40 minutes away, depending on LA traffic. My days are pretty much gone now.
So this week, my coworker’s last week, they finally made me an offer. I’m converting to full time! This means I don’t have to pay $200/mo anymore for my benefits, and get much better benefits. I get a silver pass that gets me into all Disney parks, save maybe the one in Tokyo, for free, along with some guests. It also gives me discounts on all kinds of stuff that I don’t even know about yet – hotels, air fair, computers, etc. One coworker told me she randomly mentioned her job at a yoga class and the lady said she should have told her, as they have a Disney discount. I hope Rockler has one! :) I report Monday to the Disney lot (where all the old animation was done – Walt’s old office is there on the campus) for my orientation. The next day I have a half-day orientation in the building I’ve been in for 3-4 months now. I officially report to 1 particular game now, but am 50% on another, and then in any free time I help a small side project with their troubles, and the 2 remaining franchise games will come to me if they need help, and currently, both do :) I’ve never felt so needed, nor so under the gun!
So the down side is that I think even more of my precious time is going to slip away. I had somewhere between 4 or 6 new weekly meetings appear in my Outlook calendar this week alone. One of the art directors showed me her calendar, and literally every 1-hour block of time for all 5 workdays throughout the week is outlined, meaning it’s a meeting. I’m afraid I’m heading that way, though, watching my calendar already fill up quite a bit in one week. Hopefully that slows to a stop soon, though the meetings will just keep coming. I’m glad the meetings are enjoyable. It sounds awful – “meetings” – but I just stand or sit around with artists and talk about how to make video games better, and look at what people have completed since the last meeting (which was probably 12 minutes ago ;). If I have to be in a meeting, this is the kind I want to be in.
The up side is that I absolutely love this job. I love everybody there, and there are hundreds on my floor. There are parties going on all the time for different launch events or just for the heck of it, and there’s always food everywhere. I’ve never been this fat, and tomorrow I’m starting a rather major diet (good luck, me!). But I love my desk. I love the work itself. I love the goofy fires I have to put out every day. I haven’t even really minded sitting there alone until 10 each night this week trying to finish up a pile of requests. It’s so pleasant otherwise, and I cannot complain about being overemployed in this economy, especially as I’m broke still after 7 months of no bites. Also, though I thought I was going to have to haggle like never before for a decent wage, they just flat out offered me more than I’d hoped for this week, so I will be saving a good amount of money up again, especially given no time to go spend any of it! That’s how I really built up a nest egg at a previous job, and why I could even afford to stay here for half a year with no income. This means that in a year or two I can splurge on tools again! That’ll probably be about when I’ll manage to find time and energy enough to use them again.
Sigh… it’s always something.
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator