January 18, 2007

Life in Welly: Work

Lots of people have asked me about my job and how it’s going etc. To sum it up: it’s ok. Not to be any more cynical than usual, but I stopped getting excited about jobs a while ago. When I first came out of college, I was incredibly excited to get a job doing something (1) I was good at and (2) that was interesting to me. Then Andersen crushed my soul and made me love tax accounting a lot less.

When I started my second public accounting job at Alpern, I was timid at first, then really into it, then crushed again. I think I was my most excited, though, when I started at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Not only was I working for one of the top public firms, I was finally getting to do International Tax Accounting AND I was paid to travel. That love-affair lasted about six months, although I travelled for almost 2 years. I will spare you the recap of the Hell that was PwC Baltimore…

ARINC was my first true corporate job, and I loved it. Had no idea what I was doing at first, but quickly took control of everything international there. When I left, I had working knowledge of about 15 countries, with bits and pieces of 40 more. And for the most part, the job was great – I worked for really nice people, had my own office, flexible hours and interesting work. Eventually, though, I saw that the company was like a dysfunctional family that had no interest in changing. It was discouraging to try to fix processes over and over again and rely on other people I had no control over. I started to feel like I was running after thousands of 2-year-old children, some of them biters.

And so here I am, in another country, working for a public accounting firm again. I tried to keep an open mind, but honestly I am not excited about this work anymore. Tax Accounting is still interesting to me – I enjoy learning the tax law of different countries (almost like learning a new language) – but I have already dealt with messy clients who can’t seem to get things straight or correct the first, second or even third time. I feel a bit dumb right now, as I’m not very familiar with the laws here, or the accounting standards used, and I know nothing about our clients. It’s frustrating to start over (again) after working for 10 years in this industry.

The managers are excited because I have an accounting background. Apparently, many of my co-workers are lawyers, and thus don’t understand (and can’t do) certain types of work. And while I understand accounting, the work they want to assign to me I’ve never done before. Took a class on it once back at PwC, but have never actually done it. I can learn it, but all the clients I’ve worked on are messy, and it’s just so much more difficult to learn something when it isn’t correct to begin with.

My co-workers are really nice. I have yet to meet someone who is angry, or mean, or a ladder-climbing back-stabber. People genuinely make friends with co-workers here! The managers are understanding and helpful, and the partners are accessible. The hours are shorter (37.5 a week), with more vacation (NZ law is four weeks) and holidays (11). Also, my sick time is not subtracted from my vacation time. I even have a desk with a view of the bay – I sit on the 23rd floor of the Majestic Centre. It’s great until we have a fire drill and we have to walk down 23 floors in the stairwell!

The most interesting thing about my “induction” into my company was the huge emphasis on safety. Because healthcare in NZ is covered by the government, there are frequent inspections of workplaces to ensure they are up to code. I was forced to watch a hilarious video showing lots of “don’ts”. People were falling over obvious cords, or standing on chairs with wheels to reach heavy files. The best was a woman opening a box with a razorblade – blood everywhere! It was basically a series of skits of things people would never do. To add to that, there are signs all over the office – mainly in the bathroom – about safety. Some of the rules? No carrying files, coffee cups or purses when walking downstairs. This means you can’t grab your purse during any kind of emergency. Riiiighhht….

Then we watched a video on harassment. Of course, there was the typical sexual harassment stuff, but there was an even larger segment regarding general harassment! Managers aren’t allowed to call names, make an employee cry, or even stand over them at their desk and ask them if their work is done yet! So many of the attitudes and behaviours that are readily accepted in the US are completely and totally not acceptable here. It was so very shocking for me – and awesome. Those of you who have known me the longest know what I dealt with on a daily basis at PwC, both on the road and in Baltimore (nevermind what transpired at Andersen).



KJ said...

I hear what you're saying about not being excited about work. After all these years, work is just something that pays the bills. As long as it's not unbearable, I'm content.

Tara said...

How many people actually like what they do though? I agree with kj-as long as it pays the bills:)