Road to Home Ownership: You Have Arrived At Your Destination!

Hello, and welcome to March!And welcome to my first post of 2023. It’s been one of the most stressful years on record, and unfortunately I haven’t felt as up to writing as usual.

But to avoid the journalistic faux pas of “burying the lede,” I shall announce that we closed on our house this past week. Monday afternoon, in fact. So that journey that really started just about a year ago has finally, mercifully! wrapped up. Getting there was really something, though.

First, as you probably know, interest rates have risen significantly as the feds fight to curb inflation, which really makes it harder for those of us who are not super rich to secure things like homes. As the cycle continued and they approached completion of our southeast Raleigh hom, we oscilated between whether we could or should take this on. In the end, we made what I think was a wise move and switched lenders as the closing costs the other would have reuired was well above what we could spare. We found a local guy who, in a month’s time, worked to get us a deal so good that we actually received a fairly nice refund at closing rather than having to pay anything. This gives us a nice leg up as we deal with starting costs like a new fridge and washer/drier.

So our original closing date was to be Februaru 15. As that approached, we hit a snag in getting all of the loan details completed and were forced to postpone to the 24th. This move initially made the price increase considerably, but negotiations ensued during which our realtor was a real help. We got things figured out, but because more paperwork had to be completed we had to postpone yet again till the 27th. So my wife and I worked the earlier half of the day and came home by noon so we could start mentally and physically preparing for closing.

We entered the law office shortly after 3, again delayed from the 2:30 time that had been initially planned because the legal folks needed to go over everything a final time with a fine-toothed comb. See how stressful it was? Then it’s listen to her read for a minute, sign, read, sign, reaad, sign, until your brain was just about oozing from your ears! Finally, mercifully! at about 4:25 we initialized the last document and she gathered them up for consultation by the legal team. And we waited… and waited… and “Um, you dated this document wrong.” Fixed, back out to them. “This number doesn’t look right.” Fixed, back out to them, “you signed too high on this one.” Grrr! Fixed, out again. At approximately 5:30, she returned with… the keys! We cheered, slapped hands, and got out of dodge before anything else could happen.

We topped that fine night off with dinner from our realtor at the Olive Garden, at which I found myself ravenous and slurped down that lasagna. “I guess that stuff’s not too hot,’ our realtor said. “Oh it is,” I replied “I just don’t care!”

Our last trip was to “our” house, completed and ready to live in sans a good scrub down. Having seen it from nearly the beginning, it was hard to fathom that the place had come together so quickly. I like the feel of it, though I’m hoping that once furniture is installed the downstairs with its nine-foot high ceiling and open-concept floor plan won’t have so much echo. We have until nearly the end of March to complete vacating our current residence, so no rushed move is required. But let the new era of my life and for us begin!

22 In Review: On Life And Books

So, where to begin in this strange year? Well probably by noting that, thank goodness, it has been much better than either 2020 or 2021. I do know that some of us are still being ravaged by Covid, and that it might break back out of the box at any moment as we’re really seeing in China. But more of us saw some sliver of normalcy than we had in a very long time.
My two previous entries are about my new job, so I won’t say much about that here except that I am still glad for the opportunity and yeah I’ll admit some learning is going on, but one would probably expect that when making the jump that I have. Just doing a lot of reading and watching videos and trying to get better at asking for guidance when I need it. I look forward to being able to use these experiences to mentor others with disabilities as I get farther down this road into my career.
As far as travel goes? This may be the most dormant year I’ve had since at least 2003, but that’s ok. We’re going to complete the first year since 2015 without having gone to the beach, so no relaxing roar of the ocean. I’m sure it won’t take long for that to be rectified though once we get on the other side. I was happy to get to visit my cousin twice in person though, well once he came up here in April and over the Thanksgiving break my wife and I went to Charlotte to see them. And we were able to enjoy watching some sports together for the first time in almost 3 years. It still feels like that time lost didn’t exist, or at least not in the usual plane of reality.
The biggest reason we didn’t do much travel this year is, as I noted in earlier entries, we’re preparing to get a home of our own. The structure, part of a collection of townhomes, is nearly completed; and our closing date is set for February 15, 2023. Now to just survive the paperwork involved in securing all of the mortgage and loan bits, but I am breathing a little easier. It’s quite a process, as there will for most of us be no bigger purchase than that of acquiring our own home.
And now for the fun stuff, books! My initial goal was to complete 60 titles this year. And I had fun smashing that! I actually got all the way up to 70, largely because once I got the new job I could enjoy a slightly more relaxed lunch and listening to my audio books for the entire 30 minutes rather than having to stop after 15 to start making my way back to my section. In total I read 34 audiobooks and 36 in Braille via my APH Mantis Q40 Braille Display, a number that surprises me. I think my previous record for Braille books read in one year was 17. In terms of fiction/nonfiction, I read 56 of the former and 14 of the latter. I try to read more nonfiction titles, but I usually like either to escape reality or find something that helps me look at it differently. I do enjoy memoirs though, as hearing all those paths to success gives me ideas I might use someday. And finally, I ranked 24 books with five stars, with an average rating of 4.3. In total, I read 27,346 pages at an average of 390 pages per book. So I didn’t read a bunch of short ones either.
And that’s about all for this interesting year. It’s been mostly level, with no real challenges to speak of or at least none I can recall while writing this. I seem to be in relatively good health, for which I am thankful. And there are lots of exciting things lurking just around the corner as we head into 2023. I’m just hoping it all goes as I need it to go. Here’s wishing us all a happy and prosperous new year. And maybe I’ll get back on my writing game, but no guarantees there.

Job Days No. 10: Embracing The New, My Life As A Training Specialist

Even though I typically only do one Job Days a year, I think this change is so big that I wanted to capture the feel of its early days. And it’s kind of cool that this will be my tenth Job Days update, giving it a little more gravitas. Hopefully it’s only the beginning of great things for me.
Nearly a month in, and I’m finding my footing. The day’s rhythms have certainly changed, but the overall goal of doing the best I cand and producing quality work are of course still there.
I get there around 6:35 A.M., and usually have to wait about ten minutes before my badge will allow me to open the door. Then I saunter back to my office, saying hello to the occasional co-worker I come across in the hall. Then, thermal mug of coffee at hand, I sit in my chair and read a good book until work commences at 7:30.
Once the watch begins vibrating at 7:25, I affix my computer to the docking station, clock in, and bring up email to see if anything has come in after I left the previous day. Then I get to work, flicking open planning files and half-completed training documents and working to wrangle them into something intelligible. Some weekdays, typically every other Monday, Wednesday, and Friday see me having professional development or planning meetings at 8 AM, after which I have to remind myself to stand and stretch periodically until my lunch break at 11:30.
I mostly just take lunch inside of my office, since the area near the building’s front entrance doesn’t get sun at that time of day anyway, but if it’s warm enough I will make my way out there just to see if I can cross paths with others. Of course that’s generally a difference with this position; I have less frequent social encounters than before. Although this is already changing and will continue to change as we draw closer to ramping up my training sessions with people by January. If inside, I listen to an audiobook while laying waste to a sandwich and other energizing foods like grapes or trail mix, then it’s hitting the grind again.
When I started in late September, the focus was largely on taking courses to prepare me for the office environment and learning how to complete reports, notes to go out to the company advertising our offerings, and participating in said meetings. But for the last two weeks, I have started building training sessions using techniques I learned like Action Mapping, which is a structured brainstorming method, and creating a transcript and design document. I hope to have a good body of course modules by the time I really begin working with others.
And I did do a little of that work this past week, as we did a Lunch and Learn Presentation on Accessing Basic iPhone Functions Using VoiceOver in which I answered a few questions and established a couple of individuals with whom I will likely work in training. I also worked during Open Labs to help people to get set up so they could explore the computer keyboard and learn other basic skills. I’m mostly getting used to moving around and assisting in a room where there can be many things going on at once.
My day ends at 4 PM, and once that alarm goes off I clock out, remove my computer from the station, and try to remember to collect everything I’m supposed to take back home with me. Every day is a little different, and I remain grateful to get this experience.

A Year of Work Pays Off: I got a new job!

I’ve worked with the Workforce Development Specialist for nearly 2 years in some capacity, but over the past year in particular I’ve helped with tutoring and training different people on the JAWS screen-reader, basic keyboarding, and smartphone use. These efforts have, excitingly for me, culminated in a job offer from my employer for Training Specialist. In this role, I will continue much of what I have been doing, as well as act as an ambassador to drum up interest in the program among the workers and with company leadership. I think I will occasionally produce copy for the company, their newsletter, blogs and social media feeds.
It has been a whirlwind month (my birthday month too, as I turned 43 on the 13th) of applications, interviews, and even something of a trial, and now I’m due to start officially on Monday.
The “trial” probably happened because the supervisor of my current department became aware of my knowledge in smartphone operation from a blindness perspective. So yesterday he called me off of the floor to come and help an employee to get his email set up on the iPhone.
Then today, I encountered another blind woman in the Go Cary Door-to-Door vehicle that usually takes me home. I happened to place a phone call, and she asked me how I had done that. Turns out she has an iPhone but apparently no one has shown her how to use it. I explained the concept of double tapping on things when VoiceOver is on, as she said she couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t work if she single-tapped and so put the phone away in frustration. She also told me she has a computer with Narrator, the built-in Windows screen-reader, which she doesn’t find very useful. I told her about JAWS, and also a lower-cost, well free if you need it to be but they ask for donations if you can, Non-visual Desktop Access (NVDA) reader. It does much of what JAWS does, and even outperforms it in some areas. Anyhow, she said that coming across me was “such a blessing,” and I hope that she is able to use what I told her. She had been sighted previously and so is more used to functioning in that world.
I feel like these happenings are a little confidence booster from somewhere as I prepare for this new endeavor. It will be my first working experience not tied to a manufacturing floor, after nearly 20 years of trying to reach such an achievement. I am pleased to see that many Ability One facilities, the places that generally employ people who are blind and/or have other disabilities, are starting to promote upward mobility, and are bringing in the people to make it happen. The Workforce Development Specialist began shaping me for this sort of thing really from the moment she set foot on our company grounds, and finding that you have someone who believes in your potential can take you to places you couldn’t previously imagine. I know the work will be rigorous, especially as we get things going, but I look forward to working as hard as I can to benefit myself and ultimately so many others.

The iPhone, 10 Years On

“This is ny first iPone status”
I composed that famous sentence nearly 10 years ago, on September 23 2012 from a relatively warm bonus-room sort of set up in my mom’s PineBluff home. It took me a mind-boggling 45 minutes to peck at that keyboard, double tapping on each letter I wished to enter and, I suppose, with no auto correct to help me. Yet I felt a sense of pride at having managed to at least get some sort of status up for my friends to see.
As told in previous posts, I’d acquired said iPhone two days prior, as I knew I would be relocating away from the city and wanted to have some sort of connection available. Little did I know at the time, but this old phone in its myriad versions has become so much more than I ever could have expected. (And as an aside, Itypedmyfirsttextwithnospacesinitatall. I am surprised the recipient was able to interpret that message’s intended meaning.)
That was way back in the days of the iPhone 4, when one’s cell company would allow them to be had free with contract. My poor self would likely not have entered this rarefied world of tech for another couple years otherwise, especially as I had no job at the time. And yes the main thing to which I had to acclimate was that small keyboard on the smooth glass screen.
With As my skills improved in typing and actually performing other gestures, the phone became a portal to the world around me in ways I could not have imagined. I probably have six GPS apps onboard, all of which give me slightly different information about things. One of my favorite things to do nowadays is to build a more robust mental map of city and country layouts by looking up the actual GPS coordinates. This even makes reading certain books, such as one I recently read about an Alaskan cruise, more fun.
I of course do more mundane but equally important tasks with this device, such as managing my credit card and bank account, paying bills, and the like. Hey, I can remember a time when blind folk would have needed visual assistance simply to complete those tasks, so I do not take their easy availability for granted. I know too that such things don’t come without risks, as I recently had to close a card because of some fraudulent nonsense, but sadly that’s just part of the price if one wishes to use electronic transactions in this way. You just secure yourself to the extent possible, and keep an eye on things.
I don’t really know how much more they can make this technology do, but I have recently downloaded iOS 16. I like it, but had chosen to get it being well aware that the earliest version would likely have some bugs. The main one I notice is that notifications don’t seem to clear from the Notification Center as quickly as they should. Usually I just have to do some swiping around though and the message will disappear. I also notice that VoiceOver, the iPhone’s text-to-speech reader, seems to pronounce some words more correctly than it had before and some less so. But then it’s likely near to impossible to ever get all of these pronunciations right, and it’s generally not a big deal for your average blind reader.
Probably the biggest reason I decided to get iOS 16 quickly is so that I could play with the new Eloquence voices, which are the same voices that many of us blind folks have used on Windows with JAWS and NVDA. I did try listening to these voices in the phone, but I suppose it will just take some getting used to. I know these voices are typically more discernable for me with my hearing loss on the PC, but they don’t seem to confer the same advantage for me in the iOS environment. This may have more to do with my having gotten used to the Samantha voice I’ve been using with VoiceOver since that long-ago 4.
And those are some random, varied thoughts I’m having as I celebrate ten years in possession of the iPhone. The models I’ve had over that time are: 4 (2 of them), 4S, 6 (2 of them), 7, 8, and 12 Pro. I do not plan to get another one until this I have now is no longer supported.

The Importance of Mindfulness

I’ll begin this post with a silly story, but stick with me here as it’s going somewhere. My wife and I always have fun with the Mindfulness app’s prompt “as your day winds down, take some time to reflect”. When listening to this spoken with VoiceOver on the Apple Watch, it tends to say “winds” more like that which blows than that which spins. So every time I hear this, I make a ridiculous descending whistle sound that is meant to signify my day “winding” down, and she usually makes some sort of silly comment about that happening as well. It’s become a fun inside joke, one of many we’ve developed over time. (And as a complete aside, that app seems to think my day starts at 10:09 PM and ends at 10:40 PM. With the same pay? I’d take that!)
What I am discovering though, if I hadn’t known it already, is that mindfulness and being aware of how one fits into a place or set of circumstances can really matter. At work, they seem to be enforcing their cell phone policy to a higher degree. Lately, they’ve even said that we are to keep all electronic communications devices in our bags while on the floor at all times, even during breaks. This may have always been the rule, but I think even the supervisors are only just working it out fully.
Anyhow, someone pointed this out to me as I sat checking notifications on my watch during break, which I had done many times with no discernable consequence. I’ll admit, that first confrontation didn’t go so well, especially as said individual is not actually a supervisor. I will grudgingly grant though that she is someone who always looks out for me and my interests, an older woman who knows my family from way before I can even remember. So even as I grumbled about it, I contemplated how I could make the changes and still be able to interact with my technology for at least as much time (15 minutes) as we get between work sessions.
And as it turns out, it was a good thing I rethought things. The biggest obstacle to my leaving the floor at break is the amount of time it takes to reach the break room. When you factor in the two minute walk (three if I get stuck behind the slow train of blind folks clacking along with their cane,) the additional minute or two to locate a seat, and the three minutes I’ll need to get back to my section, I’m only left with six minutes to do my bidding once seated. And the place is always crowded and exceedingly noisy.
But, I discovered that there is a much smaller break room that is really more like a nook, and it’s just around the corner from where I sit. There is carpeting, plush, comfortable chairs, and wooden tables should they be needed. All of the fabric and the room’s size (it only really holds four) make for an ideal, quiet space where I can truly de-compress. And there are usually two others inside at most, placing relatively subdued cell phone calls as I happily digest a passage of whatever book I am reading on my Braille display.
And why am I telling you this? Well because I have been doing it for just over a week, and it has made all the difference in the world! Now I almost look forward to going in, knowing that I’ll have those nuggets of time to get myself together for whatever comes next once that bell rings and I must return to my duties. With that thought change my attitude has begun to improve, which leads to greater productivity and a less uptight feeling by day’s end. So if you feel yourself struggling with similar things in your work setting, try making that small change. Maybe find somewhere away from your work desk (assuming you work in an office and not a manufacturing facility as I do). It doesn’t have to be quiet of course, because some want more chatter and socialization. I think the key is that it matches whatever your personality is. Just be mindful and aware of how small adjustments can have a massive impact.

Teacher Troubles: On My Most Recent Growth Experience

I’ve been quiet since just before July, because I’ve been bombarded by personal issues that I may or may not get into based on their outcome. Suffice to say I feel like I’ve been treading water and things are in an interesting place. I’m trying not to stress too much, but then again I suppose stress is the name of the game in adulthood, right?
As summer winds down though (ah it makes me sad to write that!) I guess I’m doing as well as I could hope. I just recently passed a year of tutoring co-workers in the use of the JAWS For Windows screen-reader. I can honestly say that my ability to work one-on-one has markedly improved. I’ve learned a thing or two about pacing, and am just more able to communicate complex concepts to my clients.
To that end and with growth in mind I suppose, the Workforce Development Specialist had recently asked me to try my hand at teaching the entire class. We’ve for the last month or so been instructing individuals in the general use of the keyboard, including how to type with the home row at center and what all of the keys do. To do this, we took advantage of a program called Talking Typer that allows one to press any key and get feedback, as well as to complete various drills designed to speed typing up incrementally. The main challenge we have is that, since the program has not been purchased, we must log off and back on every fifteen minutes. This is not a huge deal though, and it has also given our newbie typers plenty of opportunity to practice.
Anyhow, so I tried my hand at teaching this Tuesday. And because I believe in transparency and will report how things go no matter the outcome, I will say that I did not do nearly as well as I would have liked. Most of the difficulty stems from my hearing loss, as in order to do the job effectively I would have needed to be able to monitor what was going on at each station or at least establish some kind of call and response system so that I would know how each person was doing. I found it hard to even get everyone’s attention when preparing to start, and thus kind of gave in eventually and just worked with the person I’d had for the entire course. My bumblings were saved by the other tutor in the class, a pretty talented guy who quickly figured out how to redirect the students and managed to walk them through a few word and typing drills.
I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too badly though, as it was a learning opportunity and not everyone is going to be sharp at everything. I think that naturally I will be better in one-on-one settings, or perhaps working remotely with multiple individuals since maintaining awareness of what all are doing will be less challenging. We shall see though, of course, and in any event the most important thing I can do for myself is to expand my skill set.
So that’s the most interesting piece of my current, chaotic existence on which I can report. It certainly reiterates my oft-stated respect for the teaching profession. What y’all teachers do is not easy! And you need more love for it. I do hope to continue my career-advancing moves by getting a JAWS certification from Freedom Scientific, continuing to work with my cousin in learning how to effectively tutor as I have been for some time, and oh yeah work on polishing my writing skills. It’s sadly still an uphill slog in employment for those of us with disabilities, but I figure that by noting my path through this process I make it a little easier for anyone who comes behind me.

Book Writing/Critiques: On Rejection and Growth

Back in mid April, I had the bright idea to turn on the Twitter feed for the National Book Critics Circle. In so doing, I quickly discovered their Emerging Critics program, in which would-be book reviewers are paired with mentors and taught the ins and outs of soliciting freelance writing work. I think they also help with editing manuscripts and provide workshops with people who have made it in the business. And the best part? Little experience would be required, as long as one demonstrates an ability to think critically and write clearly about a book.
I knew I had to attempt applying for this organization, especially as it is one of the most respected outlets of its kind and the name alone would likely open doors for me. So I submitted my application—which required three sample reviews, a personal statement, two references, and a resume—on May 1. Hundreds of people competed for ten slots, and a month later I finally learned that I hadn’t made the cut. Of course I understood the odds, but it still took me a few days to pick myself off of the mat and get back on it.
But I am nothing if not resilient, and each exposure to rejection makes my skin a little tougher. It will have to be in order to enter the world of writing, of that I am well aware. So I asked myself, what next? Time to go online and find some kind of writers workshops that would help me sharpen my skills. And that’s what I’m now doing, as the author Francesca Serritella, Lisa Scottoline’s daughter, unwittingly linked me to something called the Dallas Writers Workshop. Their headquarters and personal meetings are in fact in Dallas, Texas, but they also have a lot of activities that can be completed online. The first of these I saw that really looked compelling is going to be taught by James Tate Hill, a blind individual who’s memoir Blind Man’s Bluff I had coincidentally just read with my Facebook book club Friends and Books. This is a group of blind folks who discuss monthly picks and whatever else we happen to be reading. Anyway, Mr. Tate Hill’s workshop is to be on short story construction, and it would allow you to work with and have your work evaluated by him and other students. It’s a little steep for my wallet at the moment, though I do plan to take a later offering from him perhaps after we get our home purchase squared away.
So I chose an eight-week independent study workshop on how to write works of fiction, novels in particular. I’m still toiling away at my book, an Excerpt of which I made available earlier. Already, listening to the instructor of this workshop explain the basic elements of a story has helped me tremendously. The first week’s assignment was to combine the four elements, using a selection of mix and match scenarios and generate a piece of flash fiction. I was surprised that once I started typing, the words flowed relatively freely from my fingers. I am definitely looking forward to what I will learn in the following seven weeks. And I hope that watching my journey to bestseller status (yeah I know getting ahead of myself, but a man can dream!) will help others. You won’t make everything you try for, but you can for sure learn from each attempt.

Dashin’ Round The World: My Food Delivery Ride Along

As a blind person I have enjoyed the rise of food delivery services such as Door Dash and Uber Eats, as they give me more options than pizza if I need a good mea and no one is available to transport me. I am aware of the controversy that surrounds such services, and particularly their somewhat fraught relationship with restaurants. I hope though that the paring is beneficial enough, as especially proven to be the case during this protracted pandemic period. I for one don’t even know how much money I have squirreled away grabbing things new and long enjoyed.
What I hadn’t really known is how the experience is for those who do the legwork for these businesses. Until my wife decided to become a Dasher. This is what Door Dash calls its food couriers, I guess trying to be humorous and, more importantly, to indicate the supposed speediness of the food’s transmission to its recipient. She initiated her run in this position yesterday, and I rode shotgun just to see what was what.
First, she rolled into a parking lot near one of the busiest areas of Cary, called Crossroads, powered down the engine and launched the app. Dashers use a special app that instructs them along the way as they make each delivery. The time then was shortly before 4:45 PM, and upon being asked how long she wished to continue she indicated that 6 would be her stop time. I do like that they allow you to set this, as it allows you to remain in control of your day and know when you might want to be done. It seems easy to get lost in delivering and have several hours go by before one knows it (well sort of, as dwindling supplies of expensive gas would also alert you, but that’s another post).
Anyway, the only thing she had to do then was await an order. And it didn’t take too long for the first one to roll in. A woman wanted three items from China King, which was less than two miles from our current location. This order was immediately available when she went inside, and so she snagged it and slid it inside her insulated bag. Then, she used the app’s built-in GPS to navigate to the customer’s apartment. The challenge here is that since it doesn’t allow you to use Google Maps, you can’t interface it with Android Auto. So she couldn’t view navigation instructions on the screen, and will thus need to get a phone jack. The apartment we needed to reach was also not far away and the delivery contactless, so she completed that and got another order right away.
The second person wanted six items from a Mediterranean restaurant called Kebab Skewer. Maybe he was having a party? There was a little more of a drive getting to this location and to the guy’s home, was very nice
with a couple of floors and a garage. She did wave to him through the kitchen window, but was able to leave the food there for pick-up.
It was already about 5:40, so we deduced that this third order would be the last one. It was to be from a place called Totopas. She had initially rejected it, but then determined that she was already relatively close to the location and chose to accept it. The only thing this customer, a woman who seemed to be a college student, wanted was a Vegan taco. This surprisingly took a little longer to be prepared, but she got it and we headed from Kildaire Farm Road in South Cary to her location not far from NC State University in Raleigh. This was a decent apartment that required a key fob to enter the building, but had no buzzer for would-be arrivals to press, so she had to call the person once she was there to make the exchange. This went without a hitch, and we were done.
On the whole I think she found the experience to be satisfying, and maybe even enjoyable. The income was decent, of course it would be better if the affore-mentioned gas weren’t through the roof. But I guess if one has the patience for it and doesn’t mind a little driving, it’s an acceptable way to hustle. You can turn down orders that you feel are too far away, and of course you can stop and start whenever you want. Now that I’ve seen how things look from that side, I feel a little better about utilizing these services, with the already noted caveat regarding how they might or might not benefit restaurants. Anyhow, that was a different experience for a Saturday in a time and period that has largely been monolithic. We’ll see what new fun I can get into in coming days.

On The Work Front: A New Experience With The Day Job

What! A! Week! That’s about all I can say after having an at-work experience unlike any other. I was selected, due to my on-and-off tutoring of employees on Jaws for Windows and basic PC skills, to participate in a company-wide training. We’re working to expose everyone to UKG Pro, the HR Management Solution our company adopted nearly 2 years ago but of which many blind and low-vision workers there had yet to avail themselves. I have to admit that at first accessibility for this platform was limited, but it has made leaps and bounds in recent months. So they’re mostly hoping to take advantage of that fact to make Open Enrollment into our insurance and benefits plan, which starts next week, perhaps a little easier on HR.
I was told that I would be a part of this effort with only a day’s notice, as we initiated a soft rollout last Thursday before turning on the juice this week. Once full sessions were underway, I worked back in what we call the Workforce Innovation Center (WIC) which is really just a room full of computers, from Monday through Thursday with five sessions: 8-845, 9-945, 12-12:45, 1-1:45, and 2-2:45. Each of these days two of these sessions were conducted over Zoom, so that we could reach all of the other facilities affiliated with my company.
It probably surprises no one that I and we had a few glitches. My main task was to demonstrate how to log onto the system and proceed through the various link groups to locate sought-after information such as pay stubs and a list of current benefits. The main challenge was probably getting one’s password entered before the system times out or locks you out. Last Thursday was a complete bust for me for this reason, because I had unknowingly turned on the Caps lock and tried three times to enter my password, thus prompting a need for password reset. I had to suspend my attempts to show the individual with whom I was working how to log in, but luckily he seemed as computer savvy as I was so I feel confident he was able to figure it out on his own. They’re tight on security, understandably, requiring that said passwords be changed every 90 days no matter how often one logs in. We definitely had fun explaining this to the masses.
I also had issues getting the sound to a comfortable level for listeners on the other end. I hadn’t been made aware of this until the second-to-last conference though, so I feel bad for the folks who were forced to endure a blaring Jaws in their ears. But hey, one can’t know unless one is told.
Those difficulties aside, I mostly enjoyed the week. It took a little while to get used to the mental heavy-lifting required to do these presentations over and over again, adjusting as needed to different questions. But I was able to work sort of successfully with at least one individual, not quite getting him to login because he’s still learning the keyboard, but at least boosting his confidence in the ability to do so. Also, on Wednesday and Thursday she had the other tutor and I do more of the talk, only reading off the brief introduction. My voice got a little tired, but I think I sounded pretty good and was able to deliver a relatively stable speech by the end. The challenge of course is to make it as lively the 30th time as it was the 2nd, because each is done with a new audience. And I have to, I think, do a few more of them this coming week as well.
It was a real honor to be asked to take on such a task. I’ve had a few people come up and thank me personally, saying I’d done a great job and seemed to know the computer well. And while I am not necessarily expecting external reward, I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t make me feel good. More than anything, this presents a real chance to advance my career. And that’s the part to which I am looking forward most. We shall see.