Other-worldly

Starting a new job is like going on an overseas holiday. Too many goddamn foreigners and the food is weird.

For most of us work-a-day, rut-dwelling slobs, the workplace is reasonably fixed and constant. Change is challenging, and leaving the safety and comfort of a work-world you know and entering the strange, new land of thoroughly unknown people and processes is, for me at least, one of the great ‘new’ experiences. Like travelling overseas to a new place, the senses are elevated, your perception heightened, and you notice every little thing. You’re in unfamiliar territory and you understand very little of what’s going on. And the culture-shock makes for a wild ride.

I’ve had that the last few weeks. I left the convivial, personable atmosphere of a small but successful dot-com business and entered the big bad corporate world of a large retail and business bank.

To say it’s a change is an understatement. Everything is different, from the scale of the operation to the amount of teams and departments and people involved in getting things done, to the security and legal issues that come with even just getting access to the inside of a bank. The amount of people and red-tape between myself and what I hope to achieve here is dauntingly vast, and the vibe could at best be described as ‘uptight’. If working at the bank were an ice cream it would be the taste of lead pencils mixed with ‘anxious’. And it wouldn’t melt.

Technology-wise, the bank is stuck somewhere in the early 90s. My actual design machine, when it arrives, will be a brand-new MacBook Pro with all the trimmings. But for now I gots a Windows machine on my desk, and occasionally I have to use it. Goddamn it.

Working with this sad, crippled box as one’s daily work machine would be a version of Hell. They’re locked-down Windows XP machines running Internet Explorer 6.0 as the standard issue. You can’t visit most sites on the web, and social media + outside email are a no-no, and you can’t install anything. You even have to apply for permission to have your usb slots unlocked. Woah.

I’m used to a world where your work email and calendar are hooked up to your phone, where the machines are all unlocked and you can go anywhere on the ‘nets your want because you’re trusted to do the right thing. But, even though I passed a seriously forensic police check to be allowed to work here, apparently I’m still suspect. Given the tools, how I’m meant to do inspired work that helps the bank connect with 21st tech-savvy consumers is not entirely clear to me.

In terms of the work, there’s lots to do. Like, LOTS. And there seems to be some good appetite within the business to do it. At the moment I’m trying to look at the situation as ‘challenges and opportunities’ rather than ‘impassable walls’. The degree of success I end up having, time will tell. So far I haven’t had to put it to the test, since mostly I’m researching and drawing and thinking. But when the design starts to happen, I’m definitely wondering how it will be received.

For now, here’s some of what I’ve noticed in the last few weeks:

• People who work in the bank don’t look as outwardly evil as I thought they would. There’s a lot of rich looking old white guys wandering around, sure, but there’s a whole more people who are just kind of regular folk…But…

• No-one is friendly in a pro-active kind of way. It’s like public transport: No eye-contact, complete silent deference, people just getting on with what they’re doing. Hell, it took me two weeks to get a word out of the guy who sits next to me. Feels like you could ride the lift nekkid all day or stomp on people’s feet as you passed them in the hall and they would ignore you. But when you do break through, folk seem nice. I’ve seen this kind of behaviour before in large organisations. I’m not sure what it is about corporate culture that crushes people into this weird size and shape, but it happens.

• We have a weekly team meeting where we sacrifice a goat to His Highest Evilness Satan. Once he’s been appeased by blood, you’re welcome to all the goat meat you can carry out. I’m thinking of making mine into jerky.

• Nothing seems to happen quickly, and there’s always someone else who should be consulted or brought in to give an opinion. And projects have a tendency to just…go away. A couple of times someone nearby has been working on something and then told to just stop. People high up the ladder in an office I’ll never see make a decision and presto, it’s off, and we never speak of it again.

• The building I work in is amazing. It’s the most beautifully architected business space I’ve ever been in and I delight in coming here to work. Seriously.

• I am surrounded by beautiful women and really, really, ridiculously good looking men. Like, people so good-looking they should be in friggin’ magazines. Maybe it’s all the business attire or the brand new-ness of the faces, but damn, everyone here is so fine.

• There are no enormous pots of money sitting around. I like to think they must keep it all in a Scrooge McDuck money bin type dealie. Haven’t found where they keep that yet.

Good times.

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