Journal – October 2004

Welcome to another set of extracts from my personal journal. This month I started work experience for the first time since leaving university, with support from my Work Prep adviser Louise. There are naturally a lot of specific details about my work that I’ve had to edit out here, either for confidentiality or because they’ll make no sense out of context, but there’s still quite a bit here that will give you a good sense of how I’ve been getting on. Plus I’ve continued buying music and DVDs of course. So I hope you enjoy!

Friday October 1, 2004

It’s a new month, and I’ve got a new job! The local council have agreed for me to take part in a work experience placement with them. So I went down there with Louise as they wanted to meet me. They’re developing a new computer system, so the job I’ll be doing is more IT-based, but still closely connected to the finance department. They’ve said that they will start me off on some harder stuff, and then I can work my way down if necessary to a level that I’m comfortable with. I’d be lying if I said I understood everything I was told, but I understood the essential bits.

So it might not be directly finance-related, but it’s still going to be great experience, because it’s different. It will widen my experience, without just limiting me to accountancy, and to work on a project like this will look great on my CV. Even if I don’t enjoy it, it will still be very worthwhile experience to have, and I’ll hopefully get a good reference.

Having said that, they have stated that I might be able to get some work in the accounting department as well, helping with their balance sheets. In their words, as I’m willing to work on a project that’s not directly related to my degree, they want to give me something back, and try to get me some work in a more familiar area. But that may or may not be possible.

The standard week is five 7-hour days, from about 9:00am to 4:30pm (with a half hour lunch break), although they do offer flexitime as well if you want to work an extra hour or two on some days and finish earlier on others.

The dress code is smart-casual, so no ties are required, just a smart shirt and trousers. They don’t have a canteen for lunch, because they’ve got enough shops nearby, given that they’re bang in the middle of town. So I’ll probably bring a packed lunch in, but I’m going to go down there next week to scout out the area and get my bearings.

Louise will come in once a week to see how I’m doing, and if I’m having any problems. She has an incentive for me to do well, because she gets points, which presumably convert to extra money for her in the end. The Jobcentre also get money the further I get in the scheme. Incidentally, Louise had tried accountancy firms, but they don’t take people on placements for less than 6 months and didn’t have anything available at the current time. Under the scheme I’m on, the maximum length is 8 weeks.

I start on Monday 11th October, so I’ve got a week to get ready. Nan’s coming down tomorrow for a while, so she and my aunt and uncle will be able to watch my graduation DVD, and see my photo and certificate from that occasion. I can also give them the good news about the job! It all sounds quite exciting. This next week could be quite busy getting ready for it all, but I think it will be worth it.

Monday October 4, 2004

Nan’s with us now, and she’s seen my graduation DVD. She was very impressed with it. My Aunt and Uncle, as well as my Nan, also saw my photo and certificate which are finally up on the wall.

Mum, Dad and I went shopping today, mainly for me for my work placement. We went to the local Marks & Spencer store. where I got a briefcase, some trousers and shirts. We also tried to get shoes and a new coat, but didn’t have much luck with what we found. We bought a coat online from them today instead.

We also got a trouser rack for me, and a tie rack for Dad. We also got mince pies and some ready meals for lunch tomorrow. Their food is very nice, after all. They’ve got their other Christmas cakes and puddings in store already too, but we haven’t bought them yet.

I also had my first experience of the new Chip & PIN method of payment, which worked fine. All new debit/credit cards have a microchip carrying the important info, making them harder to forge, and instead of signing with your card you just type in your PIN – although I think people who can’t see would find that difficult. I think you still have the option of using your signature though. But the PIN is more secure.

Tomorrow, Dad and I are going to go out to buy some more things for me. This will hopefully include shoes (for work), a rucksack (not for work, but I do need one), and other bits and pieces, like stuff for my lunches next week.

Tuesday October 5, 2004

More shopping today, during which we found some good shoes from Clarks, and it gave me another chance to use the Chip & PIN system. The keypad and screen were smaller this time, but it still worked. And I got a new rucksack, from the same bag shop that I got my old one. And, as before, it was only a fiver. Good value really, considering the amount of use my old one got over my 3 years at uni.

Amazon have also delivered some stuff today, , all of which are a good, as I expected:

Thursday October 7, 2004

Dad and I tried out the bus route to my workplace today. Just as well, as we missed the stop first time round. I know where I have to get off now though, and we didn’t miss it by too much. There’s lots of shops near where I work too, including banks, places to eat, card shops, clothes shops, electronics shops, games shops, and big general stores like Woolworths, WHSmith and Argos. The journey there and back by bus is nice and quick, so I won’t have to leave home until about 7:45am at the earliest. I’ll have to be pretty careful if it’s dark when I go out and come home though, and I expect the buses will be very crowded in rush hour.

I’ve got more stuff from Amazon today as well:

So now I’ve got even more stuff to watch over the coming weeks! I’ve also been watching a comedy my parents bought on DVD recently called Brush Strokes. It’s ok, but I wouldn’t bother buying it for myself really.

On the TV, Michael Fish presented his last weather forecast yesterday. He was very good at his job, but was also famous for saying there wouldn’t be a hurricane back in 1989, only to be proved very wrong a few days later. Elsewhere, the music industry is cracking down on internet music pirates. It’ll be impossible to stop it though, I reckon. If one service goes, another will step in to take their place.

Saturday October 9, 2004

More information has come through regarding my job on Monday, just to confirm what I was told:

  • Start: Monday 11th October
  • Finish: Friday 3rd December
  • Period: 8 weeks
  • Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm (could change daily if I use flexitime)
  • Lunch: 1 hour
  • Dress: For business, no jeans (I was told no ties as well)

There’s also a health and safety questionnaire enclosed, which they had filled in, plus a sheet about their employer’s liability insurance. So it’s all coming along nicely. Only two days to go now!

Amazon delivered Yes Prime Minister – Series 1 this weekend. It’s a double-sided DVD, which is rare, and a bit annoying really. You’ve got to be extra careful not to touch either side of the DVD, whereas you can get away with touching the label side on normal discs. Plus, there’s no indication as to which side is side A and which is side B, so it’s a 50/50 chance of getting it right! I suppose it’s cheaper for the BBC, as you only need to produce half as many discs, but it’s still a nuisance.

Monday October 11, 2004

My first day of work experience went well. I arrived before my boss, who has to travel further than me so has more chance of getting caught in traffic. We had a meeting in the morning, and I was introduced to the other 4 people in my office. I then got shown around the building a bit – it’s quite a maze though, so I haven’t fully got my bearings yet. At least I managed to find my way out at the end of the day!

As I’ve said before, they’re all working on a new computer system, and they’re hoping to get it live at the start of January, although they’ve got lots of security, training and testing to do, among other things. It looks like it will be good anyway, and I’ve seen the basic interface of the system now. I sat in on a meeting today about the project. Some of it went over my head, I admit, but it was still interesting.

And I did do some work today, helping to set a few things up on the system. It included putting in options that users can pick from to ensure consistency and minimise duplication, rather than letting people enter things by hand, so it’s as easy as possible to use. And I had to do some work in Excel in connection with it, making sure I put in the correct references for certain things, while looking for any possible errors in the information before it was put into the system.

All in all, it was a good first day. Everyone’s nice and helpful, and obviously keen to see that I do well. It’s a shame I can’t use my disabled bus pass to get half-fare that early in the morning, nor can I get return tickets at that time either (it has to be a single fare each way). Still, I get paid the money back, so it doesn’t really matter.

In the news today, Christopher Reeve has died, aged just 52. He famously played Superman on the big screen, and became paralysed quite a few years ago after falling off his horse – just days after he’d been trying to get people to use crash helmets – so he had done well to survive this long.

Anyway, I can relax now before my next day at work. At least I don’t have to do any studying like I had to when I got home from uni, so that’s great. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

Tuesday October 12, 2004

Today I continued the work I was doing yesterday, uploading information into the test system, and checking various bits and pieces on spreadsheets.

Amazon have delivered more DVDs, my last order for the time being:

I’ve been watching the Oh Doctor Beeching! – Series 1 DVD recently too, and it is funny.

Wednesday October 13, 2004

I had an IT induction course this morning, which covered security, data protection, logins and passwords, the intranet, finding our own personal folders on the network, etc. It was a nice informal session, lasting from 9:30am to 12pm, with a short break. Each training computer has a celebrity name – mine was Boris Becker. And I made another friend with the woman next to me who was also on the course.

I also got my photo ID card done today (as I’ve been using a visitor pass up to now). I then had a risk assessment done – it’s just a legal thing, to detail any hazards which might affect me and stuff like that. Then I did more spreadsheet work in the afternoon.

Thursday October 14, 2004

More spreadsheet work today, mainly, but I had to do some other bits and pieces too. And Martin from the company that got me the plaement came to see how I was doing, as Louise was on leave, and he paid me back my bus fares for the week (£1.75 each way per day = £17.50 per week).

I saw Suzi Quatro’s Leather Forever DVD last night. It’s rather short (just 47 minutes), and not as great as Queen, or the recent Blondie DVD I got, but it’s still alright.

Friday October 15, 2004

I spent today in the accountancy office, helping them to make initial preparations for the new annual reports they’ll have to produce next year. This also allowed me to have a good read through this year’s financial report – all 74 pages! It was interesting, though. There’s a lot of rules and codes of practice they have to obey – the main statements of accounting principles is from a body called CIPFA (The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy). I saw the book of CIPFA’s principles, and it’s quite long. They also have a huge folder from CIPFA giving more detailed notes and examples of how the principles might be used.

So, that’s one week over with, 7 more to go. It’s been a good start.

Monday October 18, 2004

Another interesting day at work, with more people than ever in our office. There was a lady there who was younger than me, at 20 years old, so it’s nice to know I’m not the ‘baby’ of the workplace! Anyway, I did a fair amount of work on Excel. The auditors like specific checks to be done, so I’m putting together a form for some of those checks that they can fill in each day. We also had the regular Monday morning meeting, and were shown how to book computer courses if we had to answer the phone for people wanting that.

I didn’t do much over the weekend. I did see the Kenny Everett DVD though, and that’s pretty good. I liked Hot Gossip on there too, they do good dance routines to good tunes. I’ve also been watching the Blondie Greatest Video Hits DVD, and that’s not bad either. I’ve also finished Series 1 of Oh, Doctor Beeching now, and I’m glad I got that.

Wednesday October 20, 2004

On Tuesday I finished off the auditing form in the morning, and then had to do other bits and pieces in Excel. Most of the work I’ve done so far has been in Excel, as it looks like they’ll upload a lot of the data to their new system from spreadsheets.

Today I had the Navigation Course for their new software. It’s pretty easy stuff to get the hang of, and there’s some useful bits and pieces that it can do. Also, the demonstrations were great – the trainer has some software that allows him to show what he’s doing on all the other PCs, then when he turns it off, you can get back to what you were doing. It’s clever, and very useful.

Talking of useful things on PCs, the IT people there can take over your PC if they need to, although they obviously can’t do it without warning you first. If you have a problem, you can give them the PC’s unique number, and they’re able to take control of it to try and solve the problem. I’ve not seen it in action, but I’ve heard it freaks some people out at first when they see the mouse moving on its own!

Apparently I’m working on security tomorrow and Friday, but I don’t know any more about that yet. All I do know is that this week is flying by!

Thursday October 21, 2004

Today was more work on spreadsheets really. Nothing much to report there. Dad did go to the hospital though. It turns out that he does have some lesions in his brain, but they’re not serious. His dizziness hasn’t completely gone, but it’s not got any worse. He could be put on some steroids – probably a low dose, I hope, as the side effects from them aren’t always very good from what I’ve heard.

I also got the Blondie Live By Request CD today. Having seen the DVD, I knew it was good already. A couple of tracks aren’t on there, despite being on the DVD, but that might have been down to a lack of space, as it runs to over an hour as it is. It’s great anyway.

I’ve got plenty of DVDs left to order in the next couple of months. I’m going to wait until I’ve got through my latest lot though. That way, my next order will keep me going over Christmas, especially if I watch only a bit of Live Aid each day to really take it in. I might get GTA San Andreas later as well, but how often I play it would depend on how much free time I’ve got. I can’t really play it a lot once I get a job – but maybe that’s a good thing, as it’ll make my £40 purchase last a long time! I’ll wait on a few reviews first, too, although it sounds like it’ll be better than Vice City.

Anyway, one more day to go, and then I’ve done a quarter of my placement already! This week seems to have gone quicker than last week, that’s for sure.

Friday October 22, 2004

That’s 2 weeks done! Louise came in today, and was very pleased with how I was getting on. I’m one of her easier customers I think. I suppose others probably aren’t sure what they want to do, or have problems when they’re at work, or don’t do what they’re told, and so on. Still, I guess I could have a problem in the next 6 weeks – who knows?

Today went fine though. I finished off some spreadsheet stuff, and then went up to the accountancy department in the afternoon, where I also had to update an old spreadsheet for them. I also found out about how we can design custom menus and options for the users of the new IT system. You don’t have to stick with the menus given to you with the software, so you can try to make it user-friendly for everyone who will use it.

Monday October 25, 2004

Nothing much happened this weekend, and now I’ve started my 3rd week at work. It’s a bit quieter, given that 3 people from the office are on holiday at the moment. I did some more spreadsheet work, which involved putting people into different security groups for the new system. Each group has certain allowances and restrictions depending on what they want to do in different areas. The hard part is working out which groups to put people in. I also booked some training courses for people who wanted them, again for the new system. The first course they have to do is the Navigation Course, which I did last week.

A new guy is coming onto the team from tomorrow, who’s also on a work placement. He’ll be booking courses and doing other admin tasks. He shouldn’t take too long to settle in, it didn’t take me long.

Tuesday October 26, 2004

Today I started to use some new software that allows us to create documents like invoices, bills, etc, based on data it receives from the new IT system. That system can’t produce forms in the desired way, so this other software will allow us to do it instead.

Basically, you export data from the database you’re using to a text file. Each page of data might represent one person’s invoice details, for example. You can then map different areas of the data to a form layout you have prepared – you can tell the software what the different areas of text represent (as they’ll be on the same place on each page), and change the formatting on the form.

You can also create subsections. For instance, if you’re sending out an invoice, you may have a total section at the bottom of the page. But, if you have a lot of orders, it may be better to leave the total section until the last page, or keep the total on the first page and move the long list of orders to a separate sheet that the first page refers to. So you’d have to get the software to realise that if a person has more than ‘x’ orders, then it has to do something different. You can use statements like IF, THEN, ELSE, etc to do stuff like that. You can also create subsections for different elements to be put at the bottom of certain sheets (e.g. a note if someone hasn’t paid on time).

It sounds quite complicated, and it is in some ways. But it’s just an advanced form editor really, like a bank might use to put the data from your bank account onto your bank statement. The software’s been installed on the PC in my office, and I’ve got the manual to look at and work through. So tomorrow I’ll probably just be playing around with the software to see what it can do.

In the news today, John Peel has died suddenly of a heart attack while on holiday in Peru. He was 65. He was a legend in the music industry, and so many artists owe such a great deal to him. Without him playing their songs on his radio shows, and giving those bands a chance to play live ‘Peel Sessions’, a lot of good music will never have been heard. His favourite track was Teenage Kicks by The Undertones, a great track in my opinion. And he helped artists like David Bowie, Pulp and The Smiths, among many others, to get noticed. He defied the mainstream, looking for the lesser known acts that he liked. This involved listening to every single demo tape he received, so they weren’t just chucked in a pile and ignored. Once artists got into the mainstream, his job was done, and he let them get on with their careers.

He had a genuine passion for music, and was a kid that never really grew up – someone has been quoted as saying that we’d have been in trouble if John Peel had reached puberty! John had real respect for music, and played tracks uninterrupted on his shows, while giving informative commentaries. And he did an awful lot of good work, and a lot of artists trying to get noticed today will find it much more difficult now he’s gone. There was nobody like him in the music industry, and there probably never will be again. He will be sadly missed.

Wednesday October 27, 2004

Nothing much to report from work – I’m better acquainted with the form software now, although I’m nowhere near an expert. There’s many complex bits to work out. Plus I won’t always be generating full forms. Sometimes we’ll be using pre-printed stationery, which means it’ll be a trial and error process to fit things in the correct place on the page, so they don’t overlap with what’s already on it.

The weather’s been horrible today. The road by the seafront was closed, so bus drivers had to take a massive diversion to get around it. I didn’t get to work late, amazingly, but I was stuck on the bus for an hour on the way home because the traffic was so busy. That’s over twice as long as my normal journey. The sea’s been battering the coast here because of high tides, strong winds and low pressure all coming together. Some places in Cornwall have flooded, and part of the sea wall at Penzance collapsed.

It was quite entertaining to watch the high waves come over the sea wall on the way home though, from the safety of the bus. But we couldn’t see it for long, because all traffic had to take a back route home. This could all happen again tomorrow, but at least I’ll be expecting it if it does, whereas I wondered where the bus driver was going this morning!

In the news, Glastonbury Festival’s stage for new bands will be aptly renamed the John Peel stage, as John championed so many new bands in his lifetime. He deserves that.

Friday October 29, 2004

Louise came yesterday for my weekly review, and I’m still not having any problems for her to sort out. But she’s got in touch with a charity called Action For The Blind about getting a larger monitor for my computer, and they’re able to loan me a 17″ monitor for the remainder of my placement. So that will be very  handy.

The buses were also diverted again yesterday, but the journey home didn’t take as long as it did on Wednesday, thankfully. There was some more flooding in some areas yesterday though. And 27 beach huts at Dawlish were ripped apart by the stormy weather, being strewn across the railway and into the town. The owners have to fork out for the damage and loss of possessions as none of the huts were insured.

But anyway, my third week at work is over already, and still all good so far. Nearly halfway!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

2 thoughts on “Journal – October 2004”

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