The inventory business was undergoing big changes, the most significant was the increasing use of bar-codes and counting based on SKUs instead of dollar values.  There is no skill involved in this style of counting and the company hired an army of minimum wage drones to do these jobs.  I was relegated to doing pharmacies (prescription drugs) and similar jobs that still required a good estimator.  I was able to use this turn of events to my advantage as it allowed me to open up a claim with Unemployment Insurance and I leveraged that to qualify for a program where I could collect UI while attending school full time.  After an exhaustive amount of research I had narrowed down my choices to two options, paralegal and IT.  However as I dug deeper I discovered that the laws were different in each territory and what constituted a paralegal in BC was vastly different than what their roles were in the US and Ontario.  In BC they had much less power and were essential legal secretaries with as much emphasis on typing skills as there was on actual legal knowledge.   An IT career therefore had a lot going for it including a brief six month course which included a co-op placement and high demand thanks to the Y2K craze.

The cost for the Technology Support Professional at BCIT was only $8000 most of which was borrowed from my father.  Much of the curriculum dealt with familiar subject matter, MS Office products, computer hardware, etc.  I managed straight As and even jumped the queue a bit by getting certified in both Comptia A+ and N+ before the course was completed.  I did a host of interviews for my unpaid co-op placement but didn’t get any offers.  The feedback I got from my councilor was that I came across as too verbose and too forthright.  Basically I had bluntly told each one of them that my interest was in finding a permanent job.  In the end my eventual placement with Canadian Pacific Hotels which was geographically inconvenient and not a particularly good employment opportunity.   They were a great company and I did enjoy many perks but I didn’t learn much, I reset a few passwords, moved a few computers around and installed some software updates.  While I was there Nokia was installing a wireless network in the lobby.  I inquired about a job with them and was directed to Zoolink a small local company that was renting and selling wireless NIC cards to people waiting at the airport.  I worked with them for a few months but I could tell that their business model wasn’t going to work out.  However while working at the airport I did manage to meet Ken who was the vice president of a P.O.S. (Point of Sale) company and he gave me the lead to my next job.

Conveniently the P.O.S. company was only a few blocks from my house and John, the president, welcomed me into his office where we had a long conversation about business.  John didn’t have a job for me right away but he seized upon my knowledge of inventory control and paid me $500 to write a report about their current operation.  He liked that enough that he hired me to build 400 PCs and to test all the laser printers they had just sold to the BC liquor board.  Once that project was completed he offered me a job as a field service technician, but I declined the offer.  The truth of the matter was that I didn’t have a valid drivers license at the time and I couldn’t legally do the work.  Once I got my license I told him I was ready to accept the job but it was too late as they no longer had an opening and I was already entrenched in another role, as the Returned Materials Manager.

When I was brought on to take care of RMAs I became the 11th member of the operations team.   The senior bench tech had two months of unused vacation, which they forced him to take and I was given his work station.  While I did repair a few laser printers, mostly what I did was overhaul the returned materials process and dramatically reorganize the warehouse.   At the time returns were assigned little more than a post-it note.  More often than not the item was just swapped with a similar item from our stock and never returned.  Over time this caused our stock to age and when the incoming item was beyond repair it caused shrink.  I assigned RMA numbers and created a spreadsheet that linked them to the work order number.  In the warehouse I took all the parts and alphabetized them by manufacturer and part number.   In the process I found many duplicates and cleared out a lot of dead stock for items that were no longer in service.  This caused some friction with the senior bench tech when he returned but my system was kept and he was let go.  While my changes greatly improved the work flow through the warehouse they weren’t enough to compensate for a severe downturn in business.

The niche exploited by the P.O.S. company was being the last company to service a particular line of products.  While this worked out for them in the long run, it caused significant disruptions when primary customers eventually upgraded to new systems with full warranties.  During my tenure we lost the two biggest customers we had in BC, which in turn caused major layoffs that reduced our department to just five people.  Worse yet there were problems in other parts of the company which resulted in the closing of the Toronto office.  This brought about the return of Ken the VP or as he came to be known: Captain Chaos.   While I liked Ken on a personal level having to work with him on a daily basis became a real challenge.  A typical incident would begin when Ken would call me from a job site where he was supposed to perform an installation except that he would forget some of his parts.  I would then send out the shipper out to deliver them to him only to get a call from the shipper saying he couldn’t find Ken and we couldn’t call him because he would also forget to charge his phone.   It got to the point where I had to go directly to John and the service manager to get approval for unsigned purchase orders and dozens of other issues that needed attention.  Ken was infuriated, he felt that I had gone over his head and it completely soured our relationship.  When things got so bad that they had to layoff some field service technicians they gave one of them my job instead.  In the three years since I had left the inventory company I had adapted well and been successful in a diversity of roles, however when it was all said and done there was still one thing that had not changed.  I did not have a career in IT


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