Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bikes and free coffee

Part Deux in the bringing you up to date on life and me up-to-date on the blog. Perhaps after I write this, the blog can get back to some semblance of contemporaneity and, who knows, socks.

Mad Science, "blowing shit up for Grade 2", was, and is, great fun. Being there for the lightbulb moment in some child's life was, and remains to be, an honour and there is possibly no greater thrill than doing an experiment, no matter how small, and hearing twenty kids go "woooooowwwwwwwwwwww, that's so cool" in unison.

Unfortunately, "ohs", "wows" and "thats-so-cools" don't pay the bills and whilst there was a possibility of parleying Mad Science into something closer to full-time, it seemed a little too sketchy. I don't mean the work or the people are sketchy, they are actually great people and a great program, but probability of a pay-cheque, and the amount of that cheque, was a little too probabilistic too me.

There was nothing in this town in my chosen field (fish + immunology; can you get any more esoteric?), leaving town was not an option and EI only lasts for 40 weeks. Time for Plan B: rethink one's career trajectory.

Fortunately, I had already thought out an alternative career trajectory. You know how some people say they'd like to retire early and open a B&B or become a painter or (in Alexandra Morton's case, become a "biologist")? I'd always said that if science didn't pan out, well I'd love to work with bicycles and in triathlon. Was there any way of making this pan out?

I'd been applying to sport-related management positions, but my CV just didn't want to stick with anyone. I think it was the PhD that did it. I was just overqualified. I remember getting CVs from post-docs wanting technicians' positions and I suspect my CV was ringing the same kind of bells with the people on whoms desks it was landing. Then just as HRDC was thinking "Dacanay, Andrew, we've been supporting you for a year, time for you to get off your arse", some opening on the sales-floor at Cyclesmith appeared. Within the space of two days, I applied, was interviewed and was offered a position. Within five days, I was on the sales floor in a staff t-shirt getting to grips with Career 2.0.

So, three months in, how goes it? I'm not so naive to think everything will be sunny and smelling of roses. I used to set my own schedule and agenda, I was the boss. Now my agenda and schedule are set by others, and I am most decidedly not the boss. Occasionally someone more senior will ask me what am I doing, if it appears I am standing around, customer-less and temporarily underemployed. Coming from a background where I was the one asking the questions, not answering to them, it feels weird.

However, I'm not making mistakes any more, at least I haven't had a mechanic come up to me with a work-order recently and say "did you book this in?". I'm getting a better handle on our inventory, but given the shop is 25 years old and has vintage esoterica on dusty top-shelves all over the basement, I don't think anyone really knows what we really have, and I'm getting to grips with the rhythm on the shop and shop-life.

But bikes! Do you have any idea of the amount of sweet, carbon-y, Ultegra/Rival/Dura-Ace/Forced-up goodness that pass under my hands on a regular day? So how bad can that be? I get paid to deal with these things! I mean, really, a job where I can fondle the Trek Speed Concept 9.5 on the floor without people saying "sir, please step away from the bicycle".

I already knew many Cyclesmith staff, after all, I've been a customer there for 11 years, so there was no awkward getting-to-know-you phase. This did mean my training wasn't quite as thorough as it could have been as I think was regarded as one of the family (almost)! There is a sense of community and team-work, more than the NSAC ever did (Houssain Farid, are you listening?), which makes it a great place to work.

The hybrid and moutain-bike learning curves were particularly steep for me. However, if you're enthusiastic about bikes, as I am, then it makes it easier to engage people regardless of your product knowledge; availability, affability and ability is the sales-floor triad (I believe). There is a great cross-range of people at C'smith and if I don't know the intricacies of a dual suspension MTB, I can always call on a colleague who does. And already I feel that I am called on to help out with with customers who's needs others feel I can better serve than they. Sometimes when your self-worth is feeling a little low, someone asking you to help a customer chose tri-bars is all the validation your life needs.

For those of you who know me, you know that coffee is kinda a big deal. I once worked out that I spent ca. $8500 at the Tim Hortons in the Life Science Building opposite the NRC in the 8 years I was there. With a Timmies on the same block as C'smith, was it possible this could happen again; coffee, bagels and breakfast sandwiches? No; there's always a pot of coffee on downstairs; it's provided by management and comes from Java Blend on North. Once a week a particularly sweet-smelling box is delivered containing a week's worth of coffee-grounds.

So, in the final analysis, I get to drink free coffee and talk bikes and triathlon all day. I mean, where's the problem? I'm supposedly an intelligent individual, I should have thought about this earlier.


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