November 22nd, 2009

Me 2 (B&W)

Professional Food and other company dinner highlights

Another sign my current employer isn't afraid to spend was the nice annual dinner last night. Hundreds of people from the main Portland office, the Seattle office, and the many outside locations of workers collectively known as "the field" (you can't build buildings in an office, after all, not even if there's a TARDIS in there) met for food and drink and visiting at the Oregon Convention Center -- a building built by this company, by the way -- to cap two days of talking about the state of the company and its hoped-for future state.

The company was nice enough to fit me in at the last minute -- I'd gotten hired just before all the RSVPs were due, and my priority was getting settled into the office, not deciding if I'd eat the beef, the chicken or the vegetarian plate! -- and with me being single and not having a date, I was probably easy enough to fit in. And trust me, I appreciated the gesture. And the food. (The beef plate.)

I stood then sat at a table in a ballroom with my Marketing co-worker David and his wife, making a geek cell within a rather non-geek group. We were almost certainly the only people in there talking about Pixar, Donnie Darko and Dr. Horrible, let's put it that way. Drinking was allowed, though I showed one reason why I wasn't drinking by rolling up my sleeve to reveal the bandage from my blood draw earlier. I had lots of water and some coffee during the night; that's it. Scotch and blood draws, I'm guessing, do not go together.

We ate, and ate well. I admitted to David I only remembered the order you're supposed to take utensils (from farthest from the plate to closest) by thinking of that scene from Titanic. Almost didn't need the knife for the beef, though, and that's a good thing.

The company then did a slide show of its projects from the past year. I'd been involved in organizing the presentation -- I'd also organized and even made PowerPoint slides for smaller group presentations that were done Friday and earlier Saturday -- so I knew what we were going to see. The company is building some neat things. It also wasn't afraid to admit how tough the construction business is right now, but projects are happening and the company is still working to get more projects. There. That should be generic enough; I doubt I should mention any company projects that aren't finished yet.*

I ducked out for a few minutes during a video, a homegrown parody of The Office. I figured, it'll be in-jokes I wouldn't get, considering I've only been at the office for three weeks, and if the non-professional acting was bad I might get contact embarrassment. (Hey, it's happened before.) Plus I'm not really a fan of The Office, so the style was less likely to work for me. I wandered the convention center for a few minutes instead, then caught bits of the end of the clip. Okay, there was some funny stuff in there.

I made sure to be back for the annual recognitions, honoring people who'd reached 10h to 35th anniversaries with the company. This was the other big part of the show I'd been involved in: I wrote most of the quick paragraphs summing up each person's career. I'd done my best not to let it hit me that oh my God the corporate bigwigs are going to read my words when I was writing them over the past few weeks, and I'm relieved to report that the blurbs were read well, that they went over well, and that when they were changed, they'd been changed by people who knew the honorees better than I do. I also was a little relieved that the guys at the top at this company know their people; that doesn't always happen in a large corporation. Also no huge howling mistakes, either; I'd started to worry (you can tell worrying's a skill of mine) that I'd mixed up some people's details, so the boss would say how great it was that Raymond Colin Sullivan had been such a good mother to her son Roscindo, or something similarly embarrassingly wrong. Indeed, it went well, and I thought to myself This would have gone differently had I not been hired. I had an effect. I helped. Took pride in that.

* I can mention more of the places the company's already built: Seattle's Experience Music Project, the Portland skyscraper now called the Wells Fargo Tower (still Portland's tallest building), a mixed-use downtown Portland building with windmills on the roof, a bunch of Intel plants from Portland to Israel, Nike's Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong buildings on its campus west of Portland, a bunch of the hospital buildings at OHSU where I used to work, and more.

Bear with me.

Perhaps this is a sentiment best said at the end of December instead of a month beforehand, but I do feel that 2009 has been one of the most challenging years of my life.

It's been tough.

I've survived it.

I'm sure there will be more challenges. I think -- and hope -- I'm up for them. Because, speaking generically but truthfully, I want things to get better.

Bear with me as I do my best to do that.

I hope all of you are able to do your best at the challenges, as well.