New Year, New Job

Tuesday 11th January 2011

Hello again everyone!

I hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year? Mine was brilliant – I was spoilt rotten and got LOADS of great presents, and ate so much I almost exploded.

I have now moved most of my stuff down to Oxford, and have been settling into the office at work quite nicely.
XXX is an amazing place to work, although there is so much to learn that I’m doing my best to shovel all the information into my head as fast as I can!

The building itself is huge, and was purpose-built for the NGO 5 years ago on the business park. It’s a convenient 15 minutes walk from my new flat, and houses over 700 employees. It’s all very funky and open plan, lots of open space and kitchens with comfy break areas. There’s an amazing cafe downstairs with a plethora of vegetarian options (yay!), and a breakfast bar, as well as hot lunches, a deli bar and a salad bar. We have our own ATM inside the building and they have regular sales of shop products so you can go and browse all the new products they are planning to introduce into their high street shops soon. There is also a yoga class once a week in the big conference room, and a massage therapist who comes in on Wednesday afternoons, although you have to pay for those. Karina, my line manager, also took me along to the singing group, who meet at lunchtime once a week, and there’s apparently also a book club who meet at the pub once a month, so I might join that too!

In other words, it’s hard to find time to do any work once I’m done choosing my muesli/fruit/yoghurt/eggs/toast/croissants in the morning, having a massage, doing yoga, shopping and deciding what I fancy for lunch! I also have a sneaking suspicion that if I’m not careful the majority of my paycheck will find it’s way back to XXX – I’m sure they have designed all these fun activities with that in mind!

The whole office is designed to reflect the NGO’s ethos, so it’s ALL open plan, even the CEO doesn’t have her own office, she’s just at a desk with everybody else. There are of course lots of meeting rooms and conference rooms, and one-to-one rooms as well, and the only staff member I’ve seen who has his own office is the staff counsellor! We also have a staff health team that includes two registered nurses for confidential health and travel advice.

So far I’ve been having a lot of induction meetings and doing a lot of self-study e-learning modules to get me up to speed on everything. I’ve had HOURS of health and safety training, including tours of the building and fire exits, a training session on how to properly adjust my chair for correct lumbar support, making sure that my computer screen is level with my eyes and my wrists are flat on my desk at right angles from my shoulders. I’ve done the online workstation safety assessment, and had meetings with my manager about the levels of glare on my screen and not slouching forward while I type. I’ve even been informed about the “No peanut” policy which applies to the whole building, as there’s one staff member with an extremely severe peanut allergy.

On top of all this, there’s a little sheep on my computer who pops up and tells me to take a micro-break (30 secs) every 15 minutes, and a break (15mins) every 2 hours. It registers if you ignore it and keep using your mouse or keyboard, and just reminds you more and more often. If you ignore it for too long a scary Lara Croft-style animated woman pops up and sternly orders you to start doing stretches at your desk! If you use your computer for more than 4 hours continuously, or for more than 8 hours with breaks, it just tells you you’re done and orders you to stop everything!

In amongst this hive of activity it’s hard to know where to start! I’ve been busy reading lots of reports and things, and meeting people to figure out what they do and how it fits in with what I’m going to be doing. For those of you who don’t know, my new job title is “xxx” and in a nutshell my job is to help the humanitarian department achieve their vision, which is to develop the capacity of all the country offices in order to make sure that they are fully prepared to cope with a Category 2 or 3 emergency on their own, should one occur. This of course sparks off endless meetings and debates about how one defines “prepared”, and is of course a much bigger undertaking for some countries compared to others.

Countries as large and complex as the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) would require enormous manpower to cope with an emergency, whereas a country like Albania might be able to cope just fine. Then there’s levels of complexities, such as DRC or Sudan, with a complex political context, or Indonesia, which has over 16,000 islands, and requires a lot of remote management!

At the moment we are developing a set of frameworks to help individual countries plan their staff needs in an emergency.
We’ve had some hilarious meetings so far trying to hammer out the issue of language, and “unpack the jargon” – which in itself is a hilarious phrase. Each team leader has written a draft of their framework, and they are all completely different in every way, so my job (and Karina’s) is to try and standardise them and make them work as a generic tool for field staff to use.

Anyhoo, that’s enough about that! In other news, Oxford is a fantastic city, small and friendly with LOADS of great little bars and pubs and shops etc. Carl, my credit card, was feeling a bit nervous about the move, so I took him out and familiarised him with all the shops in town. He feels much more comfortable now, and thinks we’re going to like Oxford! One of my close friends from school, Hannah, is living here in Oxford, so she and her flatmates have very kindly been showing me around, and my cousin R has just finished her degree here, so she came back to visit the other day too.

I have found a lovely place to live, only 15mins walk to work, and 5mins from the local swimming pool and shops. J, the girl who owns the house, lives there too, and it’s a nice big house with loads of space. She is really nice, and although we’re still slowly getting to know each other I think we’re going to get on well. It might take me a while to get up to speed on everything (like remembering to rinse out my yoghurt pots for recycling, and only buying non-toxic organic dishwasher tablets), and she does occasionally have a rather judgemental raised eyebrow look (it’s usually combined with a comment like “You’re having a cup of regular tea with sugar at this time of night??? Caffeine AND sugar?…Tsk…You’ll never get to sleep…” or “Gin and tonic? On a school night? Hmmm….”) but in general I think we’ll get on fine.

That’s about it from me really.

Hope that gives you all a good idea of what I’m up to!

Lots of love to everyone,
Fully-Lumbar-Supported Maya!

P.s. – I almost forgot! Seeing as this year marks the official end of my twenties, I am having a big birthday party to celebrate! It’ll be at my mum’s house in XXX on the 21st May, starting at lunchtime and going on all day and evening. Feel free to drop in any time and we’ve got plenty of room if anyone wants to stay the night. Also I’ve decided on a fancy dress theme, although I know there are some of you (particularly of the older generation) who may not want to dress up! The theme is characters from your favourite children’s tv programme/cartoon. For those people around my age it’s a great excuse for some retro costumes – think Fraggles, Smurfs, He-man, Thundercats, Care Bears, Dangermouse, Muppets, Superted, Button Moon, Ducktales, Transformers, Sooty and Sweep, Inspector Gadget, etc!

Naturally there are many more – that’s just a few ideas to get you going!
Do let me know if you’ll be able to come, and if you’d like to stay the night.
Hope to see many of you then!

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