Tuesday, 10 May 2011

It's not as easy as it looks

A few years ago I was between jobs.  I had given up my job as a trader in London, gone travelling and met the husband who had sold his house in Wanaka and was about to arrive in London to start our life together.  I had a few months before teacher training started at Goldsmiths.  At lunch with an old school friend, she mentioned that her office of about 3 companies and a huge number of people were relocating to the other side of London and they needed someone to project manage the move.  I have always considered myself an organised person and have enjoyed administrative roles in the past.  'How hard can it be?' We asked ourselves over a pint.

That's how I found myself on the highest wage I have ever earnt, in an office of my own (my chum who'd been working for the company for years was sitting near me in a much more junior open plan set up.  Ha) organising the move of a company to an empty building.  The organisation was involved in politics and media.  The room which housed the computer server looked like something off the set of the Matrix.  I sat at my desk on day one and wondered what the fuck I had to do.  Luckily there were plenty of ways to suck up the hours at work such as throwing back cups of tea with my chum and finding out who had shagged who in the office.

Problems started to crop up when some of the managers asked me to draw up a schedule for moving and re installing the vast amount of electrical equipment they worked with.  I rang British Telecom and sunk into even deeper water thrashing my way through incomprehensible technical jargon.  Phrases like ISDN and ISDL were thrown about (it took me about two weeks to work out that ISDN and ISDL were different things).  The new building was a concrete shell.  The scale of the project made my mouth dry.  I rang the husband several times a day (he has been managing construction projects for years) for advice.  He understandably didn't have time to teach me the basics of project management over 2 minute mobile phone calls as he had his own project to manage.

There was a girl in the Manchester branch of the company who had just managed their office move.  She started to video conference me several times a day.  Her irritation with my incompetence was exacerbated by the gap in our remuneration for the same task.  She had orchestrated the Manchester relocation within the scope of her monthly salary whilst keeping up with the other duties expected of her job.  I began to rely heavily on my daily communication with her to keep the move on track.

It didn't take long for huge cracks to appear.  I met with one of the managers and regretfully informed him that my teacher training course started earlier than expected and that I would not be able to see the move through.  Organised of Manchester called me and told me she would be taking over my role and that my services would no longer be required.  Relief didn't even begin to describe it.  I have never been so far out my depth nor more grateful to walk away.  The move did go ahead as planned but there were a number of glitches - one of which was a fisticuffs scrap between the removal men at the site of the new office.  The husband and my chum take enormous pleasure in reminding me now and then of my career which didn't exactly go stratospheric.


  1. I had many of those jobs in London including one with a bank - I had pretended I knew accounting as couldn't get a job as a journalist. They should have known when I said: "I know Excel 1 but not 2 or 3. I was over my head within an hour. Also was fired from a bakery for mucking up the till...

  2. professional subterfuge. Also known as initiative. I like it.


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