Thursday, July 7, 2011

LONG Day In Denver

  Today I attended (not by choice) a conference for administrative assistants at a Holiday Inn in Denver. It was the nicest Holiday Inn I've ever been in, that's for sure. It was supposed to help me be a better assistant and learn some more tools and skills I can apply to my job. It wasn't a total bust, I'll admit, though I had a less than sunny outlook on the whole thing at first. These workshop things where you're supposed to meet people and do workbook exercises and teambuild is absolutely not helpful to me more often than not because that's not how I learn. Plus, I don't really like the idea of meeting strange people who I'm supposed to befriend for a day and then never see again. (I'm trying something new where I have to say positive stuff if I'm going to say negative stuff. Something about a silver lining or whatever. Bear with me.)
    Again, the conference had its moments. The speaker I sat in with for the majority of the day (there was another one whom I wish I had sat in on her discussions more) was extremely bubbly and chatty. She had some helpful points, but she didn't really give as many examples of how to put those ideas into action. The other speaker had better real-life examples and her analogies made more sense to me--again, making me wish I'd sat in on her discussions (there were 5 from each speaker throughout the day) more than I did. But some of what they said was interesting--learning about how to communicate better with different personality types; how to solve problems in the workplace in a creative way, etc.
    However, it seemed very focused toward the corporate world, which doesn't really apply to me since I work at such a small company, and other times, it seemed focused toward a more traditional office environment, which mine most definitely is not. Technology seemed to get ignored completely, which was yet another downer because, um, that's kind of a big thing where I work--web design company and all. The speaker asked for suggestions or examples of how we communicate in our offices, and I said we use Skype to Instant Message each other, which we do. It's not awesome, but it's quite useful some of the time. The speaker seemed to write it off, saying IMs could get annoying because they flash at you when they come in before you look at them, and that can distract you from whatever other work you're doing. True, but that doesn't mean it's not faster and easier than email for short messages or questions, and much faster and easier than getting up and asking people something (depending on the complexity of the question).
    All in all, I felt like it was a little too old school for me. There were a few younger women there, but most were between about 30 and 60, so there was a lot of stuff about writing stuff down, rather than using some sort of electronic system for organization. I'm like, we don't have files. EVERYTHING is on my computer. The only stuff that is on paper is stuff I've printed out so I don't have to keep tracking down that one email or that one document for a particular current project I'm working on. But those get shredded or tossed pretty quickly--they don't get filed away somewhere, never to be seen again. (Of course, it's a lot easier to bitch about the things I didn't like about it and what I didn't find relevant than to explain what I did like and did find to be relevant, which is why I'm doing it.)
    I learned some good suggestions on how to approach communication with both my bosses and my coworkers, so that was helpful. Also, learned how to approach problems and how to come up with solutions first before going to the boss, if possible. I didn't learn too much about organization because I'm a little too set in my ways on how I keep on my tasks (basically I write them down on paper/sticky note/Outlook calendar in several places, several times, so the repetition gets the task stuck in my brain and much harder to be missed or forgotten) but I did think of something I maybe could implement as far as task management goes at work. I don't know if it'll be useful, as many of our spreadsheets and files tend to get used once and then forgotten about. We have a problem at my job of implementing a system, and then not actually sticking to it and utilizing it fully. It kind of falls to the wayside sooner or later.
    Aside from sitting in a really uncomfortable chair for the better part of 6 hours, which is longer than I sit at my desk at work because I'm constantly getting up and asking questions, getting feedback, checking on my coworkers and their tasks, etc., it wasn't as awful a day as I had imagined. I did remember about three things that need to be done at work, which probably aren't done, and won't be done by the end of tomorrow, but they're all things for other people to do, so maybe I won't take the heat for not getting them done...
    Somewhat off topic, for those non-Coloradans who have no idea what Denver is like, don't drive here. Get someone else to drive you. Getting to the hotel this morning was easy, relatively traffic-free. Getting home was another story, even though we ended about 15 or 20 minutes early. Rush hour starts at like 2pm so you're pretty much screwed no matter what. Then, after two or three weeks of 80-90+ degree weather, got POURED ON the entire way back too. I waited for the storm to clear in Denver and then as soon as I headed out, it was just dumping rain the entire drive back. Hydroplaning was imminent, but I survived this time. (Sidenote: You know you live in Colorado when: you get rained on across the entire drive along the Front Range. But this only happens like once a year so it's manageable in the grand scheme of things.)
   Overall, the conference would have been better if the whole thing had been more focused on one thing like project management or communicating with your bosses and coworkers rather than trying to squeeze it all in over the course of a day. Everything got skimmed over a lot, and there could have been more examples, more in-depth coverage of topics if it had not been so broad.
   One last little complaint: I had to bring my own lunch. WTF. Cold, leftover Chipotle for lunch at an all-day conference where you have to pay $200 to get in kind of sucks.
I guess there's no such thing as a free lunch. Except I had one yesterday. 
So, WTF again.

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