Friday, April 24, 2009

It's Been Ten Long Years

Wow - yesterday (which was originally, when Chaptes and The Globe & Mail launched a "book lovers" website, and then became and then eventually became turned 10.

I wasn't there in the chapters online office at the VERY beginning, but I was there near the dawn of time for Chapters' web presence. In late 1999, I moved from a management position at the Ancaster Chapters and into the role of something called "Database Quality Manager."

Interestingly enough, I applied for a posting for "writer" with the website. It seemed right up my alley -- continuing to work for the bookseller company I was with but in a role that took advantage of my writing skill and experience. It seemed like a dream come true to me.

But when the HR contact called me, they wanted to interview me not for a writer position, but for a newly created role of "Database Quality Manager" (Interestingly, though I'd been published and had editing experience, apparently, according to the hiring manager, I wasn't skilled enough for the writer job, which I later found out, was not much more than re-keying the blurbs from the back of the books into the descriptions on the website -- what a huge waste of a group of very talented people)

In any case, I balked at the concept of being a "database" anything. I was a book nerd. I knew virtually nothing about computers except the very basics. She assured me that learning sql and various database terminology, etc, was secondary to having someone with a good degree of book knowledge and experience. What they really needed was someone who could look at a list of data feeds, and from experience, know that the way the title or author info, etc was wrong. To a hardcore IT person, it was just data -- but to someone with book knowledge, errors and typos, etc really stuck out.

I continued to balk, (fearful of not being able to keep up in an IT environment) but she continued to assure me that it was my book experience they were after and that any database skill I would need, I could learn on the job.

And learn I did. I was interviewed for and hired into the position, with the supervisors of four teams reporting up to me: Data Entry, Special Orders, Image Processors, and the Writers (ironically, I became the manager of the person who wouldn't even consider me for the position of writer on her team) -- there were about 60 odd people working within my core group.

Through my seven years working within the online group (which later merged into the head office IT group for Chapters and Indigo), I had the opportunity to work with some fantastic creative and intelligent people. I learned a great deal about database terminology and was able to understand concepts I never thought I would, and things that continue to help me in my current role as a bookseller.

Those seven years were absolutely incredible -- various projects and teams I worked on required not unfrequent over-night shifts and it was typical that while I arrived in Toronto at about 7:30 AM, I often wouldn't be back in Hamilton until 11 PM or perhaps after midnight. But that's the joy about doing a job you love -- because, though the hours were long and the work was non-stop, I loved every minute of it.

In my 7 years there I rode through some incredible changes -- frightening multiple rounds of layoffs due to the "bomb", mergers, takeovers, etc -- dramatic changes in organizational structure, and continuing to assume new roles and responsibilites and learn various systems and tools. One constant in all the years was the high quality of people I was fortunate enough to work with. I was priviledged to work with some of the most talented, intelligent and dedicated people I've ever met. Too many of them to even begin to name.

I left that company in 2006 to move into a new management role in the bookstore at McMaster University. It was a difficult decision to make, but with a young child in the house, getting back home well after my son's bed-time and missing out on seeing much of him was too much to bear.

While the move was good on my personal and family life, it has also been a fantastic one on my professional one as well. I've been fortunate to get to work with yet another group of phenomenal people within the academic bookselling community, and have continued to grown and learn in new areas.

I am grateful that I moved when I did, and completely enjoy each of my days in the job I've held at McMaster since 2006.

But I will always cherish the time spent at "Chapters Online" and within the IT group of head office for Chapters/Indigo -- and I will always treasure the memories and the friends and colleagues I met and worked with while there.

Which is why I'm completely delighted to be attending a 10th anniversary celebration in Toronto tonight at The Charlotte Room (a meeting place we regularly gathered in at the end of a long day) and I can't wait to catch up with some many folks I haven't seen in years.

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