DreamHost – One Month Later

I’m almost a month into the new job with DreamHost. When time flies, you know you’re having fun.

Within the company, we have a way we can “high-five” each other when they’ve helped us out or done something beneficial for someone else or the company overall. So here’s my public “high-five” to my new lead, Justin K., and everyone else, who’s made the transition smooth, not intimidating or overwhelming (ok, just a little overwhelming), and has already taught me a lot.

While MtSAC had become a pretty demoralizing workplace for me (and sadly, many other employees I’ve talked to recently) and I don’t miss it for one minute, I know that everything I learned at that job has paid off: PHP/MySQL (thanks Bill for the opportunity to do that), Linux/UNIX (self-taught), troubleshooting on the fly, and most important of all, treating end-users with respect as the individuals they are regardless of their tech knowledge. The wide diversity of students and staff at MtSAC makes for treating others respectfully even more important, and unfortunately this is a skill severely lacking in the IT field. Call a customer service center and you’re treated like an imbecile. Go on a tech forum and you’re promptly told to “Go RTFM noob!”, or given some incomprehensible tech-jargon that’s only purpose is to boost the guy’s ego so he can feel like he’s better than you.

Treating others with respect has been a philosophy I applied during high school when I worked around my local community repairing computers. I’ve brought it with me to MtSAC, and now to DreamHost. Students and faculty don’t have the time or skills to deal with technical failures, and neither do business owners who rely on their websites to drive their business to bring in thousands of dollars a day to remain afloat. We all depend on each other, and to treat another with disregard is to shoot yourself in the foot. You never know when you’ll need them, and in the personal and business sense, when you’re doing poorly, you’ll wish you had all those people you pushed aside. Side note for the politicos/philosophers out there: as libertarian as I am, this is why I will never subscribe to Ayn Rand’s philosophy. It’s against your own self interest to focus only on your own self interest!

I don’t know for sure where I want to end up with my life, and that’s exactly how I want to keep it. Being certain blocks you from the unexpected experiences.

“Life’s a journey, not a destination.”

It’s not about where we get to, but how we get there. If there’s one thing my medical history and close brushes with death have taught me, it has been to not focus on a single end goal. My AS is in Aviation, my BA is in Political Science, but my job skills lie strictly in IT. My shift from focusing on politics to philosophy has taken a similar course. Long-term goals are fine and can motivate you to move on, but conclusive goals lock you into one track so that you’re too afraid to take chances. As of now, Linux server administration is where I’d like to head and this job couldn’t have been a better step for me to take. I’ve regained the drive I once had in high school that got me into teaching myself Linux and computer repair in the first place, but I have no idea where it may lead me now.

I don’t know if it’s the new job, the new apartment, or getting out of Chino Hills and into new surroundings that I actually enjoy being in (holy cow Chino Hills is boring), but I realized something just today. For the past month, while I have felt a bit of uncertainty (probably due to learning the way things work here), I haven’t had one bit of depression or lack of motivation that was dragging me down before, and I feel like my job played a primary role in how I was feeling.

MtSAC has always been in our family. Dad was an instructor and moved up to become a dean over two divisions. My sister, brother, and mom all took classes there. I graduated with my AS alongside my sister and I have worked there for 7 1/2 years. But unfortunately something changed along the way, and I don’t know the exact reason why. Sure budget cuts have hurt, and yes many are working harder due to having to pick up extra work, but who isn’t in this economy?

I feel the root of problem at MtSAC is due to a serious lack of respect from top to bottom and from the bottom back to the top. What kept me going at that job certainly wasn’t appreciation or validation from management. While I can’t say what they were feeling when they acknowledged my work, I will say that I always felt that the appreciation and praise given was fake; almost as a way for them to boost their own ego. Managers would tell me I’m doing a great job even though they never observed my work first-hand and we didn’t actively solicit end-user feedback from students or staff. How could they possibly know if I’m doing a good job? It felt as though they were simply re-affirming their own work, or maybe justifying their lack of work… Respect has nothing to do with authority or arbitrary obligation. True respect is an involuntary reaction others have towards you based on your actions.

No. What did drive me at MtSAC was the immediate feedback a student, faculty, or staff member would give when I saved them from being completely blocked from doing what they needed to accomplish. This is what has continued for me at DreamHost, and I feel like it’s 10x more important now than before.

With a government job in education, we’re effectively guaranteed work. The State guarantees funding (I’m sure not as much as some would like, but the State does reserve its legal monopoly power to take people’s money and fund services or pet projects), and due to the artificial demand on pieces of paper called degrees, we are largely guaranteed a steady supply of students because society has deemed “success” to be heavily dependent on having a degree.

The difference with DreamHost has been that every action we take could mean the difference between keeping or losing a customer, and potentially many more if they share their experience with others. At MtSAC, I felt a lack of motivation because, as much as we liked to pretend our actions meant something, it really didn’t matter that much if a student left our computer lab unsatisfied. I’m trying not to get into a side-tracked discussion on the failures of State education, but just real quick: students feel a high demand on having a degree so they feel enslaved to attend college. Because they don’t have much of a choice to leave, they effectively don’t matter. If students want to “succeed” in life (based on society’s definition of success), then they are not free to leave school; and many have been mislead to believe this is the only path to success.

DreamHost has given me back what I’ve lacked for the past 5 years: a reason to push myself. Every customer does matter, and every customer can leave their own individual response to how I’ve affected them. And more importantly, every customer can freely choose to leave us at any time for any reason. We have serious competitors in the web-hosting market and every single customer matters. Where else is a MtSAC student going to go? Chaffey? Please…

So far I’ve received 9 customer surveys with a 0% dissatisfaction rating (beat that Congress!). You bet I’m determined to keep that, and it’s that determination that I’ve been lacking. I once again care about what I do and have a reason to push myself further.

I’m so glad I finally found not only an opportunity to move on, but I’m now with a company that promotes a competitive, yet cooperative environment. And most importantly: it’s something I enjoy, which is sadly something far too many people can’t say about their jobs. I’m still getting settled in but I know this was the right move to make.

I know I’ve got several friends out there struggling to find some sort of employment, and I hope that somehow this can give some motivation or hope. Find something you enjoy doing and not something that will just net you money. And if you must take some mediocre job just to make ends meet, at least find a hobby on the side that you can use to teach yourself useful skills. Almost everything I’m using now are things I taught myself since high school; not part of some bureaucratic education curriculum, not part of my job (necessarily), but something I enjoyed and wanted to explore.

For those at MtSAC who may read this. I hope it can be seen as some insight on how to improve things, and not just to insult your work.

And Justin, welcome to my Facebook page, you can expect more random tangents from me in the future. This is nothing new; just see my other posts.