The Not-So-Secret Diary of an Work Experience Student and the Apprentice From Hell
The Work Experience Diary
A 15 year old work experience student in an electronics lab made the mistake of storing his diary in the file exchange folder where it became a cult item until management took action. Names and company info have been changed, but the best misspellings have been left intact!
Upon entry to a XYZ-Co building, I asked at the entrance gate for 'R&D' Reception. To be told that it was half a mile down the road, did not go well. The buildings could be labelled better, such as a sign saying ‘Main Site' with another sign underneath saying 'R&D Building this way -- >'. When I got to 'R&D' reception I was greeted by a small lady sitting behind the reception. It soon became clear that she was either very new, or very stupid. It took a full half an hour to get hold of someone to collect me, this person had been a minute walk away the whole time. Also her grasp of computer technology was the power button and the keyboard. In the end my temporary identity badge was a piece of paper, on which was written Fred Blogg. And yes my name is spelt with an ‘s’ on the end.
The person who rescued me from the abobnibal receptionist was Leeza. I learnt that she had only been with the company for a few months and that she was going to Loughborough University. She showed me round both sites, and I was able to learn where the most important features could be located. Such as the restraunt, vending machines and toilets, the most important places whilst I would be here on work experience.
The people I met who I am going to be working with all seem very nice. My supervisor Frank is easy to get on with. He explains things well and makes sure I understand what it is he wants me to do. There is another boy here in work experience, Sy. He has been here for one week already and he has helped me out by showing me what to do and where other things that I might need are. I work in a small office in the 'R&D' high bay. It is small but it feels welcoming. Just outside is the main hall where all the various projects are made. In the office there are no windows to the outside, this makes it fairly brain bashing as you can’t tell what time of day it is just by looking outside. Also when you do go outside it is sometimes a shock at what the weather is like. There other several other people who work in the office. I have not had a chance to get to know them well but I don’t think I need to for two weeks.
On my first day I had not got permission from my parents to say that I was allowed to solder and drill. This led to a somewhat boring day of doing calculations and minor tasks. This changed in the second and subsequent days. I have since made an astable circuit which controls two LEDs which flash alternately every half a second. I had to do some calculations for this but I did not mind as it meant I was being given responsibility to get them right and do the work by myself. My circuit was soon working, not quite as it should, i.e. it did not work every half a second but close enough for it not to matter.
On Wednesday a new person came into the office where I work. I learnt later that he is an apprentice. He is not well liked by the other workers. He is a lot younger which might have something to do with it, but also he is very self assured and over confident in his abilities. Sy seems to like him but I have my doubts. Piers his name is, likes to boast about his abilities and skills.
The work has been fairly constant, it fits well into the hours I am working. I am working flexy hours which means I can work when I want just as long as I do 37 hours of work a week.
As the first week comes to an end I have to look back at what has happened at think about it. It has gone very quickly but it seems like I have been here all the time. I get on well with most of the people in the office and some I don’t talk with. Something I have noticed is that over the week things have changed a lot. At the start it was all new and strange. It was a large building and lots of people but I felt that it wasn’t as big as it was. This maybe because at school there are a lot of people in a relatively small place and this somehow makes it seem larger. Whereas at XYZ-Co there are fewer people and so it seems smaller.
I am doing a large amount of work to what I know some people in my class are doing, and from what I have heard from stories of past work experiences. I don’t have to do the dreaded jobs such as making tea or coffee all the time. This could be due to a hot drinks machine being just around the corner. Also my supervisor seems to have had work experience students before as he has special sheets of work for me to do. I like my supervisor. He has a good sense of humour and is very helpful. The work I do is similar to what I would be asked to do if I were back in my electronics lesson. This is good because it is the right level for me. Some bits are quite easy but I make a few mistakes because I rush it.
I am looking forward to the weekend. It will be a nice break from work, hopefully with a chance to catch up on some sleep. This is doubtful as I do a paper-round, DOH. I will enjoy coming back for my last week, things should go easier as I know the people and I know what to expect. I have lots of work to add as examples to my diary. Also when I get back to school I would hope to use the digital camera to take some pictures of the circuits that I made.
Remembering the two diaries I read when I was back in school just before my mocks, I have decided I want to make mine as bright, colourful and exciting as possible as they were brain numbingly boring. Frank, my supervisor does not get into work each day until about 9, so this gives me a good chance to write up some more to my diary.
I have some idea as to what I am going to be doing next week. This is because Sy is on his second week and I will do some of the things he has done, others I have already done. I am supposed to be going on a course, which is designed to teach me how to sit at my desk properly, how to type correctly and general things about the office environment. This is because the government and company are trying to reduce the number of days taken off due to illness by staff. If staff take a lot of time of work then the company will lose money, so it is in there interest to try and reduce the large number of days off, taken by staff.
Next week as Sy is not going to be here, things will change but I am not sure to what extent.
It is the start of week two. Over the weekend I did not get much sleep as I predicted. This means that I am starting work half asleep. There is half an hour for me to sleep or type this before Frank gets in, so I’ll make the most of it and catch up on some sleep.
Monday went well, I constructed a small circuit and wrote up about it. Frank showed me some points at which I can improve. I find this helpful, as people don’t usually tell me I’m going wrong. I was pleased that my write up was quite good but I made a couple of mistakes when transferring the information in my notes into the write up.
At Lunch I went to the canteen with Piers. I still reserve judgement over him but he does have some (one or two…) nice qualities, you just have to be patient and look hard. The canteen food is very good and cheap as well. For the same price that I have been getting my sandwiches I had sausages, bacon an egg and lots of chips. I think I’ll be going there every lunch from now on.
The early mornings are beginning to get to me. If anything I am glad I came here but I would have liked it to be closer. A highlight of Monday would have to be the train journey to work. It was raining heavily and occasionally water would come spraying through a gap in the door. My dad was sitting opposite me and he got a bit wet so he moved. At Witham a woman got on and sat in the seat, which was wet. My dad told me next day that she was on the train all the way to Liverpool Street, and that she got soaked completely.
In the morning of day two Frank asked me to practice my soldering. This is very helpful and will enable me to show off when I get back to school. Frank showed me how to solder properly. I soon got the hang of it, and my soldering is now much better than it was a few days ago. I practised on the same piece of veroboard that I made my two previous circuits on. This allowed me to compare my past and present soldering. My improvement is very noticeable.
In the afternoon I am to have the talk (lecture) about safety in the office and such like. I am sure I will not learn much so I will most likely fall asleep, something I am finding myself very good at recently. Also during the morning a phone call came for Frank, it was one of my teachers phoning to say they would be here today! AHHH. Frank told him about 3:30. Just enough time for me to seriously burn myself and have to go home, unfortunately missing the teacher. I am not sure as to the teacher’s identity. Frank said he did not catch the teacher’s name, but he thought it was something strange, I think it could be Mr Bastion, if it is I will be pleased. He is a very nice bloke, and will most definitely give me a good mark. The worst teacher that could come would have to be Mr Jones, if this happened I would be in deep bad. (Bad being a substitute for other words that may get me into trouble). This stems from a mutual hatred between Mr Jones and myself. If he were to be the teacher I would get a really bad grade, not only because he hates me but also Mr Jones is notoriously the harshest marker in the whole school.
Ah…..relief. It was Mr Porteous, one of my only teacher friends. This was a true stroke of luck indeed. My report is gleaming with praise and I am happy. Mr Porteous and the group of us (us being Dane, Ashley and myself) have a good friendship, which we have only been able to form with only a few other members of staff.
The meeting… what to say about the meeting. Well, it was long (1.5 hours to be precise, leaving me late for my meeting with Mr Porteous) and considerably boring. It taught me nothing new and the person taking thought of me as a child. It was absolutely infuriating and more than once I felt like giving him a good kicking. He would apologise for the use of words such as ‘bloody’ or if he made a joke about the female present such as keeping clients satisfied, he would apologise to me!?! Why? Apologise to her mate, she is the insulted one. I think that Frank and a lot of other people like him but I think he is a complete fool. If he were to start treating me as an equal, that I am, then I could probably grow to like him, but I doubt he could change.
This afternoon has gone quickly, and so I am going home to relax <smile>
Start of day three. I got some sleep, HOORAY. I am looking forward to my last three days. This weeks is going faster than last week, so I should be back at school very soon. I have enjoyed being here most of the time, but I want to go back to school and see my mates again. I have spoken to some on the phone and I think I am lucky in that I have a good work placement, because some people are having really harsh work placements in that they have to do all the jobs that no-one else wants to do. Meeting Mr Porteous has given me a sense of joy and reminded me that I will be back at school soon. Also it was someone I could talk to and hae a joke with. Frank and the others have a joke now and then but to me it seems hollow, and I am finding now more than anything that I just want to do the work then go.
Piers is back today. This means that I have had to change desks yet again. It is anoying because I liked the first desk, it was secreted in the corner and not many people could see it.
The work is getting better and I am getting more to do,but there are still sometimes where I have little or no work to do. A bonus to writing this diary is that my touch typing gets better, I am trying not to look at the keyboard as much. I find that I am able to do it just as long as I keep a constant pace, if I pause or stop then I find that I lose my orientation. I can usualy find the right keys but sometimes I hit the wrong key or two keys at the same time. Hopefully by the end of this I will be able to touch type perfectly and that added with the speed that I can type with should mean better jobs in the future. If I fail to become a computer programmer this means that I can always get a job as a secretary.
Frank should be here any moment now so I am going to stop and I will possibly continue with this later.
Entry 5 - Apology
Looking back now I realise what my actions have caused. When I wrote what I did, it was in ignorance. I was oblivious as to what might happen if other people saw them. Looking back now, what I wrote was completely out of order. The insults that were directed at people are not true in any way, and it is also my feeling that they are in-fact very nice people. What I have done is wrong, and I know that now, but now is too late. What I have done is responsible to me only. It is nothing to do with my school, friends or family and in no way should the bad reputation or any blame that comes from this should fall upon any of the for mentioned.
I am truly grateful that the company was able to keep me on for my last day and I feel this was more than generous. I do not ask to be forgiven nor do I ask that what I have done to be forgotten. This is the first time that I have been in a business environment and what I have come to think of acceptable in the past, is not so here. This has been a lesson from which I have learnt much, and I hope that I will never make such a big error in judgement again.
In the documents I insulted a couple of people. To you I would like to send my unending apologies and I can only wish that what I said has had, as little effect on you as possible, as they were mere words of a naïve school boy here on work experience.
To anyone who was insulted or upset at what I wrote, I am sorry beyond bounds. My future actions can not atone for my mistake, and neither can they undo what is done, but they may be able to heal a wound. It only depends upon how deep the wound is.
If you're an apprentice or trainee and you're asked to keep a diary remember one golden rule: use a floppy disk; never use a file exchange area where anyone can find it. File exchange areas are considered great places to surf at lunchtime!
THE RISE AND FALL OF THE APPRENTICE FROM HELL
THE ARRIVAL …
As a comparison to the work experience escapade, there is the "Apprentice from Hell" or AFH. Some apprentices are keen, hard-working and intelligent. Some are less intelligent, but make up for any lacking by being hard-working and enthusiastic and by asking for guidance when they don't understand how to do something. Others are best described as wastrels and layabouts who do the bare minimum to satisfy the requirements of their apprenticeship, spending their time emailing with mates, hiding from colleagues or pretending to do their college work.
Some time back, the company had the misfortune to get the "apprentice from hell". Most apprentices are taken on through a recruitment scheme at local colleges, but this one was the son of one of the managers. His dad negotiated him an apprenticeship in the grand tradition of the 19th and early 20th century when sons were expected to follow in their father's footsteps or sign on with the same factory which employs dad. Have you any idea how hard it is to sack a manager's son, however grossly incompetent he is? Even when the idle toe-rag is doing his level best to get the company to sack him (so he can claim dole), the company don't want to sack a manager's son.
The general unfairness of this soon became apparent. During a crackdown on internet misuse in the workplace, an engineer was suspended for accessing a website which was not on the company's white-list (though it has since been added to the list). His life was made hell as HR and a succession of managers, right up to divisional director reprimanded him. The IT Dept took away his computer and analysed it for porn or other illegal downloads. They found none and eventually the guy was reinstated. He handed in his notice soon after the witch hunt. A short while later, the apprentice complained to the IT dept that his computer was going slow. IT Dept found (and reported) several hundred megabytes of downloaded pornographic images on his hard drive. The computer logs showed the apprentice had downloaded them all, and moreover he had downloaded them in works time. However, because AFH was a manager's son he was ordered to erase the images and no action was taken against him.
Over the years, IT Dept found other illegal software on his PC such as file-sharing software, pirated games and cracked copies of software packages. For everyone else, this is a dismissable offence. IT Dept wiped out the files every time the PC was audited and AFH reinstalled them the next day. If you wanted a copy of a game for a Playstation, AFH could make a copy on request - using company PC equipment. Someone else was sacked after a games company served "cease and desist" orders via the company address, but AFH's dad was told to "have a word" with his son. For 6 months (until IT caught up with him), AFH set up his network PC as a server and ran a site akin to rotten.com. As a sideline, he used the PC to download porn to CD-ROMs which he sold on site. No wonder he never had time to do any work!
You may ask "why didn't they just take his web access away?". At one point they did, but he complained it stopped him doing his job so daddy made IT reinstate web access. Thanks to his unstinting efforts, every PC user on site had their privileges reduced to prevent software downloads. The only thing they successfully banned him from using was newsgroups and that was only by applying a "no newsgroup access" policy to all apprentices and trainees. It was impossible to curtail AFH's activities without him complaining to daddy about victimisation.
The apprentice-from-hell's daily schedule went something like this: Arrive 30 minutes late for work, clock in but immediately spend 20 minutes standing outside work smoking a cigarette. Meet other apprentices and trainees for a 1 hour coffee break in the staff canteen. Avoid doing the work assigned to him and surf the web or play Quake over the network until mid-morning coffee break. By the end of coffee break it isn't worth returning to desk, so go straight into 1 hour lunch break. Arrive back from lunch 30 mins late and spend half an hour emailing friends. Half-do assigned tasks, making sure non are done well enough that your "clientele" want you to do anything for them again. Wander aimlessly around, returning the half-hearted fruits of labour to clientele. Go for coffee, after which it's time to skive off early. On Tuesdays, go to college and skive off as many lessons as possible.
This routine was flexible. Before usenet was banned, AFH could spend entire days on alt.something-or-other. After usenet was banned, he managed to spend entire days on Ebay. It was rumoured that some of his auctions were pulled by the company as he didn't actually own the property he was trying to sell.
The following summed up his general philosophy. If quizzed about hours by dept, say you are spending them in training area, completing college work. If quizzed about lack of output, explain you were working on assignment for college. Fail exams and scrape through re-sits, a privilege denied to all other apprentices whose career depends on their merits, not their relatives. Aim to return any work assigned to you within 28 days (if convenient, bearing in mind the CD-copying, games-playing and porn-surfing). Needless to say, the dept won't be too pleased about lack of industriousness, but daddy's the manager so they aren't allowed to complain.
Then, of course, there is the company dress code. The suit-and-tie rule extends to all levels of staff, including apprentices. The only exceptions are those who work in the machine areas where suit-and-tie would be impractical. However, AFH will strive to look like (a) a skateboard hero, (b) a rap hero, (c) David Beckham or (d) all of these at once. This will entail breaking the company's dress code, but what the heck, daddy's the manager.
Outside of work, AFH boasted about how important he was. Disciplinary action didn't apply to him. The dress code didn't apply to him. Time and attendance didn't apply to him. Productivity didn't apply either. His Walter Mitty lifestyle included fictional business trips to America which always fell through because of "the customer". Colleagues guessed that daddy was using work as a creche, not trusting his bone-idle and oft-insolent son to keep out of trouble and not run up phone bills if left to his own devices at home. Even better, this creche paid for AFH to be there! However … comeuppance was on its way.
… THE DOWNFALL
After almost 2 years of AFH, the other apprentices are getting a little fed up. They've been cautioned about time-keeping, appearance and work throughput, while AFH is basically getting paid to dream about being a rap-star-soccer-player-skateboard-hero and to see which porn site IT haven't blocked (one valuable output , for the IT dept at least, from him was the list of sites he had successfully accessed and which needed to be blocked). Every time the company does take action, all the apprentices suffer: no newsgroups, clampdowns on email use, not even a family photo as wallpaper on the PC. So what do they do about it? Here's what.
One apprentice set up a email account in the name of a girl, let's call this fictional female "Stacey". Another dug out an old mobile phone and SIM card. This became "Stacey's" phone number. They know that the AFH frequents certain chat-rooms, albeit from home due to IT blocking access via work. One evening, Stacey started chatting to him and from then on the apprentices took it in turns to be Stacey. Over the next few weeks, all the chat sessions were logged and printed for reference. Stacey soon gave AFH "her" email address and phone number and the two began to send emails and texts. "She" sent AFH a photo of herself (which was actually a glamour photo downloaded from the web). AFH sent Stacey a photo of David Beckham, telling her it was himself before he let the hair bleach grow out. Not being over-endowed in the brains dept, AFH didn't think it odd that Stacey never talked to him in person over the phone.
Subtly egged on by colleagues at work telling him to "impress the girl". Funnily enough, the colleagues egging him on were not even in on the hoax, they were merely hoping he'd be caught out. AFH told Stacey he was lined up for promotion to management, that his father owned the company, that AFH often went to America and Europe on company business and that he owned and drove an Audi. In reality AFH did not have a driving licence. He told her that Channel 4 were going to feature him on a programme about successful teenagers. By then, AFH was starting to believe his own fantasies so the guys had special fun with the last bit.
AFH told them about Channel 4. The film-makers were supposedly going to visit the company to interview him. The supposed date of filming came and went, but no cameras turned up. AFH told them the filming was rescheduled to take advantage of the company family barbecue. That day also came and went and there were no cameras. They guys did not pursue the issue of film making, but Stacey did. AFH sent her texts and emails saying how well the filming had gone and about the interview and how he was told he has "boy band good looks". By then, Stacey acted eager to meet this millionaire-in-the making so a blind date was arranged. One of the guys' sisters was given a script and she left voice-mails for AFH, but for some odd reason, she never answered the phone when he replied. Again, this did not strike AFH as odd.
The day of the blind date between AFH and Stacey arrived. AFH turned up at the pub, trying to look like a rap-star-soccer-player-skateboard-hero. This is not an easier combination of images to achieve. The best description of that image is to imagine a windswept chimpanzee (this captures the hairstyle and facial hair and, to some extent, the gait) in a baggy shirt decorated with Chinese pictograms, cargo pants two sizes too large, oversized Nikes, a cigarette in one hand and a Man-U liveried mobile phone in the other hand. He sat down at one table and waited for Stacey to find him. At that point, his fellow apprentices (who had been lying in wait) handed him a bulging ring binder with transcripts of his on-line romance with "Stacey". Certain sections were marked with yellow highlighter - the car, the promotion, the trips overseas. AFH was, of course, livid at having been caught out, but remained convinced that daddy would deal with the guys.
By various means, the tale reached his father, but nothing happened. By then, AFH was clearly becoming a major embarrassment to daddy, due to idleness, insubordination and abuse of IT facilities. Later on in the year, instead of doing re-sits for failed exams, AFH's apprenticeship was wrapped up without notice, his desk was cleared and he was marched off site by a Personnel Officer. It will take daddy several years to regain the respect of colleagues and may necessitate a transfer to another branch .