Shirley - Coordinator, Computer Lab Tutorial Service — Shirley was the worst boss I ever had. I don't remember what her major was, but she wasn't much of a computer person. We were doing introductory tutorials for students on getting acquainted with the University Internet services. It went really well in the first semester we did it. All the tutorials that all the instructors did were very well attended and everything was great. Shirley seemed like a good manager.
Then in the second semester, she asked me to do an extra side project on top of the tutorial sessions. She only had a vision. It wasn't very well thought out and, when it came to doing it, she kept telling me that I wasn't doing it right.
There's a lab in one of the libraries where people can book for a class or anything that required the use of the Internet access (such as our Internet Tutorials). The room gets blocked off and only people who are supposed to be in there are in there at the designated times. When there isn't a class in there, it's open to students for free Internet access.
The idea was that I was supposed to be in the lab for an hour at a time, a few times a week, and be available to answer questions and general help during the open times. Student internet access was gaining popularity very quickly and the lab was usually packed. There would be lineups and enforced time constraints on usage. There was one terminal up at the front of the lab that faces the class, whereas the rest of the terminals face the chalkboard. It wasn't a special terminal, it was set up just like the other ones and anyone could use it.
If the lab wasn't busy, I'd take this terminal and everything was fine. People associated that seat with an instructor and they had no problems coming to me for assistance.
If the lab WAS busy, I usually would leave that terminal and let others use it. And sometimes, when I started my shift, it would already be occupied. Shirley told me I didn't have to kick the person off if I didn't want to, but I could if I wanted to. I distinctly remember telling her that it was unnecessary to do that and I wouldn't.
We agreed that the best thing to do, in that case, was to announce at the beginning of the shift to everyone who was there that I was the AMS Instructor and I would be available for questions for the next hour. I'd also write on the chalk board at the front in big letters who I was and where I was. I then set myself up at the study tables in the back of the room.
She dropped in to see how I was doing. Why wasn't I at the instructor's terminal up at the front? I explain that the lab was a popular place for students to be and it's usually taken when I come in. Why didn't I kick the person off? ...? ...? I don't want to punt the person if I wasn't teaching and didn't really need the machine. I was doing exactly what we had agreed on.
Her problem was that I wasn't visible enough. I asked her what else I could do to be more visible. I stopped short of saying, "Why the fuck didn't you tell me this before when I went over it with you?" She conceded that it was a tough situation and not much could be done about it.
Over the next weeks, we'd run into the same problem over and over again. Why wasn't I at the front? Why wasn't I more visible? It's not enough to write in big letters on the chalkboard that I was there. I put up a sign in front of me at the table as well. The sign isn't visible enough, get some fluorescent card stock from the Bookstore and use that. It still wasn't enough for her.
She also had a problem with what I was doing while I was sitting in the back waiting for questions. I told her that there was no way I was going to just sit there with my hands folded at the table staring of into space. I was going to do some studying. At first, she didn't like that one bit.
I tried to explain that it was the middle of the second semester. People already pretty much know how to use the terminals and access their e-mail, newsgroups, etc. That's why we're also seeing a decline in the tutorial attendance as well. People have pretty much learned their way around and don't much need us anymore.
Shirley agreed that I could have some reading material with me while I wasn't helping people. She got pissed off at me when this "reading material" turned out to be a textbook. She was pissed that I didn't look like an instructor, rather I looked like a student just doing my homework at the table. No shit, I look like a student, lady. What, do you think I pay tuition, pull all-nighters, do lab writeups, midterms, papers and finals for kicks?
We discussed it YET AGAIN and we agreed that I wouldn't read textbooks. I'd bring recreational reading materal. That, coupled with the bright yellow sign in front of me ought to do it. And it would give me a chance to take a breather from studying during the day. I was glad to have worked through all this, but then she got mad at me AGAIN. She didn't like the "recreational reading" that I had. I brought one of the Fox Trot collections (either "En Masse" or "Enormously Fox Trot", I don't remember which).
I never did find out why it was inappropriate. She "couldn't put her finger on why it wasn't appropriate" (her words, verbatim). She said she had envisioned me reading "a novel or something". At that point, I started getting pissed. Tell me that I can read whatever I want, then get upset at me for reading whatever I want?
It was bizarre. She would agree and concede when we talked. Then she would get pissy with me over the same stupid thing. Oh yeah, when I went by that lab after I had quit, I saw one of the other instructors studying, which I wasn't allowed to do and on another occasion, another instructor was EATING at the study table I was at. The library has a very strict No Food/Drinks policy. I didn't bother persuing it. I had enough on my plate. I had another job, the Tutorial Service thing didn't affect anything I was doing, so I left them be.
Darren - University Computing Services, Help Desk Manager — I was Help Desk staff since about third year. We supported the University's dial-in service for all students, faculty and staff. Darren was a great guy, he trained me personally and recommended me for the Junior Webmaster position elsewhere even though it would mean losing me for at least one summer. He said that it would be a great experience for me to do it and I could learn things I wouldn't at the Help Desk.
Derek - Director of a technical resource sharing consortium for many of the colleges and educational institutes in the Lower Mainland. He wasn't very technical himself, more of a Business Dev. guy than anything else. He was tall with a bear body and the presence to go along with that. He had a wonderful sense of humour and when we talked about what I was supposed to do, the things he said would set off all kinds of lightbulbs in my head. I think he sort of knew exactly what he wanted and how it should be done but couldn't afford the time to do it himself. But we got a lot accomplished that summer and he really inspired me at a time when I thought Computer Science might not be for me.
Ed - Customer Support Manager, Ex-Work — He's not there anymore, but apparently, he was quite incompetent. I didn't notice this at all because I was new and was trying to learn everything. So no matter how incompetent, he knew more than I did.
Chris - Engineering Manager, Ex-Work — I got shuffled into Chris' group in a re-org. Chris was amazing and an incredibly intelligent guy. Down-to-earth, blunt and straightforward to a fault. He knew the product inside out, baseline and over 100 customizations for all the different client configurations. Chris' boss was Cyrus, the VP of Project Management, which made him my Grand-Boss. Cyrus' boss was Doug, the Senior VP of Operations... if you're still counting, that makes him my Great-Grand-Boss. Oh yeah, Ex-Work was mummified with red tape.
I didn't really have a boss at The Dot Bomb. Rick was called the Technical Architect, but he didn't really have the technical know-how to do something like that. Thomas was Technical Lead and I worked with him a lot. He called me "a quality geek". He had the most hilariously dry wit about him. Even though The Dot Bomb was a failure, they were great guys. They did everything they could to support me in what I did and the solutions that I proposed. They arranged it so that I would get my parking charges covered.
Again, I really have no idea who my "boss" was at the CRM Shop. The CTO was brilliant as all get-up. He knew the business and marketing side of it and the technical solution side of it. I have never in my life seen anyone like that — a geek and a Marketing guy. The same person. But this made him a scarce resource. EVERYBODY and their dog wanted a piece of his time. The Lead Architect who started on the same day as I did was also wonderful. He came from Microsoft, but he somehow escaped the brainwashing and made a full recovery. Brilliant guy as well, really cool to work with.
And at my current job, there's Kinda-Sorta-Boss-ish-Type-Person. If you think about it a certain way, I have seven or eight different bosses. If you think about it another way, I don't have a boss and I just do my own thing. *shrug* It works. =D
My last few jobs have been at companies with a flat reporting structure. Do I necessarly learn more or do better in these types of situations? It's hard to tell. I would have learned a lot at my first few jobs regardless of reporting structure just because I was so green.