Tales From The Ipe!

I sit by and watch the river flow. I sit by and watch the traffic go.

Category: Work (page 1 of 4)

Work-related topics.

Business Trip to Dallas Texas

Last month I traveled to the Dallas area for two days worth of meetings and tours.

The flight inbound on American Airlines was pretty uuneventful apart from the middle seat. The plane offered in-flight entertainment so

  1. I watched the first half of Arrival, but the audio was bad. (Update – Luckily I was able to re-watch it through Netflix later. Excellent film.)
  2. I watched Hidden Figures in its entirety, and I thought it was alright.
  3. I watched a portion of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, but ran out of time when we began landing procedures.

After picking up my rental car (a Kia from Hertz), I made my way up to the Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre. Most Dallas city hotels were booked up this week, so I was staying on the outskirts. It’s a decent hotel with nice rooms, one restaurant, and a lively bar. Unfortunately the small gym is more of an afterthought with missing equipment, and the outdoor pool (from what I saw) was rather tiny.

20170507_210531After I arrived, I worked out in the gym  (ran a 5K), then showered and made my way to see my Sandhya and family for dinner. She moved to Dallas maybe 2-3 years ago after getting married and had 3 kids in the interim. Life does move fast. I had a great evening chatting with them all, but then had get back to catch up on work and prep for Monday.

Monday itself was a blur with consecutive meetings all day. In the evening, I ran another 5K on the gym treadmill, cleaned & dreasesd up, then drove back into Dallas to meet up with an old friend, Paul. He’s a long term Dallas resident doing comedy in the DFW area, plus touring colleges and clubs in the U.S. We met up at a nice restaurant near his neighborhood for dinner, then walked across to a bar for drinks and to finish chatting.

20170508_222607Tuesday was another blur and then a mad rush to return the rental car, and catch my 5pm flight. I ended up getting home around midnight.

Amid all the meetings and topics covered, I finally made some time to visit some area friends, see a little bit of Dallas, and work out…. two days in a row. Amazing.

Business Trip to Columbus Ohio

In March, I had a very brief business trip to Columbus Ohio, that got postponed due to a freak mid-March snowstorm. It got rescheduled for two weeks later, and the same day as Lily’s 9th birthday party. Why? Thankfully, I was able to book the last flight out to Columbus on Sunday night with my coworker. After the party, we cleaned up, I finished packing, and then was off to Newark.

The flight was ultimately very delayed about 3 hours due to missing aircraft.

“Where’s the plane, United?”

“It’ll be here real soon, We really mean it this time!”

While waiting, I chatted with my coworker, caught up on the news, and ate a poor man’s cheesesteak quesadilla from a take-out restaurant at the airport (because they ran out of bread.) We arrived very late in Columbus, and navigated our weary selves to the rental car center, and to our hotel, the Hampton Inn Columbus-West.

In the morning, we grabbed a complimentary-yet-sparse breakfast at our oddly-very-empty-on-a-Monday-morning Hampton Inn hotel, then went to the office. We worked for the morning as planned, had lunch at the office, then got unceremoniously kicked out. It was one of those, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” kind of deals. Don’t ask. My coworker and I killed some time, gassed up the car, saw some of downtown Columbus, then went to the airport. We had dinner at the airport, then had an uneventful trip back home. I got home around 10:30 pm.

That was it, folks. It was a fast blink and you’ll miss it trip. Downtown Columbus looked interesting, so it might be worth coming back to check it out for a night.

Back to work

Folks, I gotta be honest, it’s good to be working again.

I’ve been working at Deutsche Bank since May 31 2016 in their audit department, auditing IT risk and controls around vendor management. It’s similar in many ways to the third party risk management work I performed at JPMorgan Chase two years ago. Through connections and old friends, and DB’s process, I was able to complete the entire interview process and had an offer in hand within two weeks.

It was a disconcerting first half of the year for me, which I wrote about in an earlier post. I was out of work for most of March, April, and May. In that time, I spent quality time with the family, did stuff around the house, studied for my June CRISC certification exam, hung out with friends, and enjoyed life for a while. Sometimes it was hard to relax, because I had nothing lined up, and the interview process was admittedly strange at a few organizations I checked out.

It feels good to be back on track. The team is great. Management is approachable. I’m doing work that is much more interesting than QA’ing the work of other auditors. And I get to travel every once in a while.

Business trip to Hartford

Immediately after returning home from my recent trip to Pittsburgh, I was back on the road (literally.) On a late Sunday night, I was driving up to Hartford CT for another audit. With all of our usual Ipe activities, I didn’t start the drive until 9 pm, but at least I got to enjoy a family dinner. I stopped somewhere south of Hartford for gas tank refill and a coffee break, where they gave me the all of their remaining Munchkins. Gladly, I was able to show restraint by only eating a total of three Munchkins. 😉 Guess they were throwing them away.

Unfortunately I was unable to find a decent hotel in the city of Hartford itself, so I grabbed a room at the Doubletree Hilton –  Hartford – Bradley Airport. On our first night only (Monday), my coworker and I had time to drive into the city of Hartford itself for dinner at the City Steam Brewery. Service was slow on a slow night, food was decent.  The hotel was okay, but the location (near the airport) wasn’t exactly scenic.

On Tuesday evening, we left Hartford and separately drove to northern Westchester, where we would be for more meetings. Once I arrived and checked into the completely underwhelming, dark and dingy, still being renovated room at the Holiday Inn – Mt. Kisco on Tuesday night, I got changed. I got casual, then hit the road to visit my friend Saji for dinner near Peekskill at Bangkok Spice Fine Thai in Shrub Oak NY. It was good to relax and dine with an old friend.

Wednesday was all meetings, then back in the car for the long ride back to NJ.

Business trip to Atlanta and Pittsburgh


View of Pittsburgh

In October, I went on a quick week-long business trip to Atlanta (one day) and Pittsburgh (4 days.) I didn’t stay long enough in Atlanta to see anything, but Pittsburgh was nice.

Monday morning I was up and out the door around 4 am headed to Newark via black car. Flight was at 6:20 am straight to Atlanta Hartsfield. Once there, I met one of my colleagues and took a taxi to the suburbs for a onsite data center tour. In the early evening, after all of our meetings, we caught a ride with another individual back to the airport to catch out next flight to Pittsburgh. I’ve never had a business trip with such a quick turnaround.

Pittsburgh is an older city with lots of beautiful early 20th century architecture that seems to be still in recovery mode after many industries moved out. New tech companies are moving back in, so I hope it all works out. We arrived late Monday night and had an interesting taxi ride with a cab driver who had strong opinions about Uber testing driverless taxi cabs.

The rest of the work week went fairly well. I had some opportunities to have dinner with my colleagues most nights, and to work out in the hotel gym. I even did a little exploring in the evenings. I stayed at the Doubletree Hilton Pittsburgh Downtown. It’s an older hotel, somewhat renovated, and I would honestly recommend checking out other hotels in the area instead.

I’d like to go back to Pittsburgh again for a few days to see more of the city. Plenty to see, and I digged the architecture. I took a few photos when I could.

Update on my life AKA Joel’s Unplanned Extended Vacation

It’s been a few weeks of….. vacation now. It’s feeling less alien strange time in some ways, and more relaxing at other times.  I have to say that I’m enjoying the down time, especially hanging out with my family. I’ve been home to help the kids catch the school bus on time, and I’ve been home to greet them.  I’ve been home to attend karate classes, softball games, boy scout events, and to hang out with them in general after school. I’ve been home to spend time with my wife without staying up late to work. I’ve been home to take care of repairs and to finish organizing tasks that we never finished after the move in 2014.

What else? I celebrated my 40th birthday. I’m getting more exercise time in at the gym. I’m able to hang out with friends in the neighborhood, and getting in touch with old friends as well. We also went to Philadelphia for a week during Spring Break, and it was fun!

These are all good things.

As for work — I’m not as worried. I did start hunting back in Dec / Jan, and it’s been a slow process. A little too slow if you ask me, but I’m taking my time to find the right organization and the right role. I did have an offer from one company based locally here in NJ, but we couldn’t make it work. You’re probably asking why didn’t I jump to that right away. Well, they were behaving somewhat strangely and the terms they offered were odd.  In the end, we couldn’t make it work. It was also quiet in Q1, so this also made me initially nervous, but now a lot of interesting, high-profile opportunities began opening up this month. There are two in particular that I’m very much interested in, and we’re in the last stages. In fact, I’ve already completed the background check for one.

A month ago, I was astonished. I was aggrieved that although I had put in so much work to stand out over the course of 15 months, it supposedly didn’t matter to the new management. I was worried about how long it would take to find something new that I liked. Now, with two great roles in the pipeline, I’m a little more relaxed.  Everything will be alright, so enjoy it for now. Enjoy this time for now.

Soon enough, I’ll be back to jet-setting again.

“We were on a break!” — I’m between jobs

How do I say this? How about, “I’m unemployed.”

Last year, I joined AIG to be part of their Professional Practices team. Ensure quality work within the various audit teams, help evolve audit practices, etc. Seemed like a good gig where I used my knowledge and expertise. It was also a bump up in title and pay, with a future potential to move into Risk Management or another function in one or two years. I’d been wary of joining AIG for many years. Bad rep in the audit industry in NY due to turnover, and other stuff I won’t mention here.

As always, life likes to throw the occasional curveball every once in awhile. The first day I was there, I discovered most of the entire team was pretty disgruntled.  Five months after joining, the Chief Auditor was forced out, and new management came in to clean house. In October, the company began layoffs globally, including around 100 folks in Audit.

By December, our team had been gutted from 7 people down to only 4. We actually had one new coworker join in June, but she resigned in frustration within 4 months. I saw the writing on the wall, and started informally looking back in Nov/Dec 2015. By January, I was formally looking for a better opportunity before the music stopped. I am glad that I started looking that early, but it wasn’t good enough. After giving us busy work for weeks, our new senior management scheduled a fake meeting one fine day, and HR joined us.

So how do I feel about all this? I don’t know, to be honest. I’m still sorting out my feelings about the whole matter. I could say I should have avoided AIG and maybe I would have been right, but I  learned a lot and met people. I also got a chance to build new skills. I mentioned back in Dec 2014 that I had been interviewing for an internal JPMC transfer, and wondered for a long time whether I should waited it out longer. I learned last week that group was dismantled and consolidated in early 2015, and two layers of management  (including the hiring manager) were either pushed out or left the company. That means there was no future there either and I had been second-guessing myself for a long time and for nothing.

Could I have done anything differently during my time at AIG to save my job? I can say emphatically that I did everything that I could. While others worked quietly in their offices, I was out meeting with the audit teams every week Day 1. I was presenting to senior management all last year. I created new processes, and created new work products. When the new Senior Management came on, I was helping them with their various planning sessions and helping write or improve their existing presentations. I also helped develop and present on new audit practices and processes. Based on all this, I earned a strong performance rating.

So after all that, how did I still not survive? That’s what I struggle with. They couldn’t move me into another group and keep my skills? All those things I did, and it didn’t matter? I even applied for internal Audit spots, but internal sources told me afterwards Sr Management had external candidates ONLY in mind. In the end, it was just a numbers game and they had to dissolve our team and further cut the headcount no matter what. If they wanted to throw out the baby with the bathwater, so be it. I had also applied for internal transfers to other groups, but no one was truly hiring while they were also restructuring.

It’s been a few weeks, but I’m not completely over it. All that work for naught. When I think about it, it doesn’t sit well with me. Sometimes bad things happen because it’s simply out of your control. You have no control over what will happen, and that the simple truth. The only thing you can do is have contingency plans in place for when it happens.

As I mentioned, I’ve been interviewing on and off for a few months. I’m searching for the role that I like, with opportunities to further develop, in an organization that has a future. Same as I have always wanted.

I was at Columbia University last Wednesday

20160210_083024.jpgI was at Columbia University last Wednesday for an on-campus recruiting event. It’s an awfully nice campus (on the exterior anyway.) I’ve never hung around that part of upper Manhattan prior, but it was nice and different.

Not much to eat around there though. My colleague and I grabbed a not-so-quick bite at a Mediterranean place nearby — $14 for your basic chicken and rice platter. Yikes.




My last day working for You-Know-Who and that’s all I want to say about it

Today, Friday, was my last day working for the Firm That Will Not Be Named, and Voldemort himself. I won’t say too much, and you know what? After 12 months of complaining, I’m done talking about it.

The last two weeks had to have been the most contentious two weeks ever in my life after giving notice. I’ve always had great relationships with all of my former colleagues and senior management at previous organizations. I’ve continued to keep in touch with former managers and colleagues, meet up with them for drinks or lunch when I can. Sometimes even dinner. I’m looking forward to meeting up with my former Prudential mates for dinner sometime in the next few months.

The last two weeks here? Not so good. “Someone” accidentally deleted all of my system access as part of the termination request submitted on my behalf. I tried to catch up on some of my work early Wed Dec 24th (around 3 AM), but couldn’t log in. I went to the office early (before 6:45 AM), but confirmed that my access was revoked prematurely. So the two weeks of closure / wrap-up / transition was cut short, and I sat at home while access attempted to be restored. I spoke mainly to my soon-to-be-former colleagues in order to help their transition by phone, but not much I could do. I returned to the office on Wed Dec 31st once my access was returned, but rushed through everything I could on Wednesday and Fri Jan 2nd.

Most of the team was out due to the holidays that week. I had lunch on my last day with one of the new team members who recently joined. I wrapped up for the last hour, sent out my farewell email, handed off my laptop to Desktop Support for scrubbing, and cleaned out my desk. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named never even showed up this past week. I had to hand off my badge and other items to another new hire. No exit interview. No following any termination checklist. I walked out with my few personal items, and that was it.

The end of the most ridiculous year of my professional career. Good riddance. It’s not over yet, as I’m still fighting over an HR matter. No more fighting with me for the sake of fighting. No more abusive staff meetings. No more performing a job I would never have agreed to in the first place.

My first week at the new job

Back to work!

Although it was nice to be on vacation, I had been waiting to get back to work. And not just any work. My new job. In my first non-audit role since 2000 when I had switched over from external auditing at PwC to their brand new Siteminder security implementation consulting group. That only lasted for a year or so, but it was new and interesting and different. I’ve been working in the Internal audit space from 2002 until now, and I was ready for a change.

The new role is in Newport, one of the nicer neighborhoods in Jersey City by the water. Newport and Exchange Place are the two big areas in JC across the Hudson River from Manhattan where a large number of financial firms have back office functions, especially IT. My new commute is a little longer these days, but it’s not bad. Just a little more complicated.

I’m now up by 5 am (ish), and out the door after I prepare kids’ lunches for the day. I try to catch the 6:30am train from Princeton Junction, which is 15 mins from my house. This is the station that is closest, but I’ve been on the wait list for two years now. If you remmeber, I started using it last month after they recently expanded one of the existing lots.

It’s a 36 minute ride up to Newark Penn, where I jump on the WTC PATH train, transfer at Journal Square, then ride that train to Newport. 5 mins walking to the office, and I’m there. Not bad, and the mornings are like clockwork. Minimal traffic on the way, and trains are plentiful.

The commute home is, unfortunately, not like clockwork. I have a commitment to pick up the kids by 6pm every day from school. I spent most of the week plotting what times I need to leave and routes that I need to take to get me to the school on time. I leave around 4pm, but the evening rush hour PATH trains don’t come regularly at Newport or Journal Square, and when they do, they are stuffed. So stuffed, sometimes I need to wait another 10 mins and hope the next train has some room to squeeze onto.

After some trial and error, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that there is one train at 4:52pm that I actually have a shot at catching to get me back on time. Just one, that’s it. I can’t catch the earlier one. If I miss it, my goose is cooked.

Once I do catch the train, that portion is okay. Unfortunately, the traffic out of the parking lot is slow and congested. Somehow I still make it to the school by 5:55pm. Not a lot of margin for error. I’m not generally an early morning riser, but I’m doing my best to get to bed at a reasonable hour, and my wife is generous with the sharp elbows at 5 am when the alarm goes off. 😉

One other note, I got moved on my first day, and now I have a “corner office.” I have this odd unused space between my cubicle and the windows – I wonder if I could make this a small waiting room with furniture. 😉




Besides all that, I spent most of the week acclimating myself to the company, and the group. There’s a lot of work — I had four meetings on my first day. I spent the rest of the week getting my remote access set up, admin application access, phone working, and working on things to help out.

And I’m heading to Seattle on Monday.

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