Monday, 2 February 2009

Working full-time

It feels like I just posted on my blog yesterday. It was in fact 2 weeks ago.

In the past 10 months, I have gone to meet Stefan to talk about ways to increase my position in the company three or four times. I usually see a few new tasks thrown my way and an immediate increase in work, but it is usually nominal and short lived. I know his heart is in the right place, but this is now what I have come to expect.

So when I met with him a few weeks back to discuss screening candidates, I was hopeful but also realistic. I didn’t ask for any guestimates of how it would increase my workload because I have learned that those figures usually have little relation to what actually happens.

I was at Nina’s two weekends ago, which is when my last blog entry left off. The following Monday (January 19) I arrived back in Amsterdam at noon and called Stefan to discuss when he would like me to come to the office for more training. He told me to come in immediately. I have been at the office everyday since.

Stefan has been full-on training me as a recruiter. I listened in on four screening calls before being given a handful of candidates to screen myself. After going through my screening notes with Stefan he is happy with the job I am doing with that. Although the unfortunate side of responsibility is that it sometimes means I have to reject them. But that is part of the process. I have had to “pull the plug” on four of the seven I have screened. We have a thorough process in order to weed out people who aren’t in the top 25% in their field. That is one of the focuses of the company; we only deal with the truly motivated and best candidates we can find. Rejecting people is an unfortunate part of the job, but it has helped me hone the skill of looking past the words on their CVs and the things they tell me during the screening interview to determining who really is a star candidate and who isn’t.

I have been given two area that are my responsibility: Java Developers and Quality Assurance/Test Analysts. I wade through our massive collection of applicants (500 from December & January alone) looking for people worth talking to for these two roles. When I find one, I screen them. If they are motivated and driven with relevant experience, I try to match them to a specific company we are working with who are hiring for one of these two roles. In my first 2 weeks I have made 2 matches. I then hand the case over to one of the other recruiters or Stefan; the one who has a relationship with that client. It is then their job to try to get this person the job.

I am also learning a great deal about technology; specifically about Java (a programming language) and the off-shoot technologies from it.

Every step in the process is worth a percentage of the commission. At this stage we haven’t negotiated my percentage. We decided to wait until I had been in this position for a month. At that point Stefan will assess my performance and I will assess if this is something I am happy doing. It is my goal to negotiate a new contract all together. I don’t want to be an hourly employee anymore without a real contract. I am hoping to negotiate a fixed hour contract with a salary, commission rate and a proper allocation of vacation weeks.

It might sound optimistic, with the current global financial situation right now, to try to negotiate a better deal for myself. But I have an ace in my pocket and Stefan knows it’s there.

That Monday when I arrived back in Amsterdam and started working in the office I also received an Email from my previous manager at the cruise ship terminal. She wanted to know if I was available to work this season and how much time I could make myself available. She had big plans for me and wanted to meet to discuss them. That week I met with her and learned she wanted to make me a Pier Coordinator which is similar to a Team Leader. I would be a go-to person for the other Ticket Agents when they had an issue that needed to be resolved. She also saw me helping her with a few side projects that could give me a solid part-time job for the summer.

I took this information to Stefan and asked him about my new role. He said it could be full-time if he liked the job I was doing and I enjoyed the new responsibilities. He made it clear he wanted to see my role with him increase, not decrease and he has proven that over the space of the last two weeks. But he also knows that other offer is on the backburner (it wouldn’t start until late April) and I have some time to make my decision.

I still have my technical writing duties, although I am bringing on the “other” technical writer to give me a hand when needed. He was the guy they used in my absence for 3 weeks when I was travelling with Shawn in the fall. I now have him at my disposal when I have too much on my plate.

The office is small; it’s in the attic of a canal house in one single A-framed room. There’s a fair amount of natural light and my workstation is in one corner of the room next to a window that looks out over the inner courtyard/gardens for the city block. Behind a few trees I can see the top of WesterKerk; one of the major churches, that sits in front of the tram stop I use on the days I don’t bike into work.

Overnight my position went from part-time to full-time and I couldn’t be happier about it. It does seem ironic that I spent a considerable amount of time talking about how little motivation I had in my last entry. And literally the next day I was thrown into a new role with more demands. I now realize that my motivation had little to do with a trip on it horizon, it had to do with sheer boredom. This past week I worked almost 45 hours; something I can’t remember doing since the spring of 2007 when I was saving for my initial Europe trip. It does seem amusing to me that I am finally getting the type of working scenario I wanted, but it arrived just around the time I was supposed to have been leaving Amsterdam.

To celebrate my new job and increase in hours (which also equals increase in pay) I took Nina to Café Rousseau. This is the restaurant I discovered when Mom was here. I had wanted to try it for ages and I finally got that chance on Mom’s last night. We both thoroughly enjoyed it so I took Nina there. On my second visit I had the same great experience, as did Nina, so I am now making reservations to take Dad there when he comes next weekend. It is my new favourite restaurant. It is one of the few places in Amsterdam that nails the three important elements of the dining experience: great food, warm and friendly ambience and good service. The fact that they do it with reasonable prices makes it an anomaly in Amsterdam.

One of the advantages of living in a highrise with an Eastern facing living room are the sunrises I have been enjoying while eating breakfast. My bedroom faces North-West which gave me some wonderful sunsets in the summer. Now that it’s the winter and sun is rising later, I have been catching them over the last month and some of them have been gorgeous.

Like in Vancouver, the temperatures have dropped again and ice is now forming on the canals again. We don’t have the fog problem, although I have seen some great photographs that have been Emailed around. With the cold weather we have had a lot more blue skies. So on Saturday Marc and I went out on our bikes and explored some neighbourhoods. I showed him some of the neat areas I had found, even took him to some places he hadn’t been before. Being in the market to buy his own apartment, he showed me some of the neighbourhoods he has been looking at.

Jaana had a friend staying with us this weekend and she decided it might be nice to go out for Sunday brunch. So she put together a group of eight people, including Marc and myself, and we went to the American Hotel. This is a beautiful old hotel in Leidseplein — the last touristy area on the edge of central Amsterdam.

A live jazz trio was playing in front of a massive window highlighted with stained glass. Brunch ran from 12:30 – 3pm and it was unlike any brunch I had been to before. The idea was that everyone was expected to stay for the whole duration of the brunch. A relaxing Sunday afternoon dining experience. Three buffets were presented in a staggered order over the course of the afternoon: the appetizers (which was the size and scope of most Sunday brunch buffets), the entrée and desert buffets. One of the highlights was the fish station at the entrée buffet which involved a large platter of 7 varieties of raw fish next to a cook at a grill. It was sublime!

After lunch we retired to a pub on one of the quieter canals in the quaint De Negen Straatjes (The 9 Streets) area. This is a residential neighbourhood of heritage buildings full of cafes, bars and restaurants. I cycle through it on the way to work and it’s one of my favourite parts of town.

When we finally left it was the early evening so the group of us grabbed a few bottles of wine and came back to the apartment. At 11 I retired to my room and I was the first one to leave. I had such a good time, I can’t remember having a day as fun as that in ages.