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29 July 2016

Post #500 & Johnny Paycheck

This is, depending on whether or not you count unpublished drafts, my 500th post here. Blogger counts them, and the dashboard that loads when I log in says this is number 500. Perhaps sometime I'll print all of those (these) posts just to see how many pages it all adds up to.

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ADA accommodations at work: the meeting that was proposed, which I turned down because it was a violation (maybe there's a better word) of one of my already approved accommodations didn't happen. The accommodation is that on days when I work project hours (aka software development) my department isn't allowed to schedule meetings or training, or pull me off of software development, because doing so breaks my concentration to the point that I can't get anything done. I don't task switch well. It takes time to get the PTSD settled down enough that I can actually focus on programming. So no meetings (although I do make one exception for the software development team weekly staff meeting.)

Person who wants to meet with me (a team lead) talked to the disability resource person in HR for clarification-- team lead wants to "accommodate me" by having me come in early (just before my scheduled software development time). All of a sudden, meeting face to face is of the utmost importance. I've already explained to this person that it's not that simple.

It matters a great deal that I know what I'm in for when I get to work to code. Over the past couple of years I've done a lot of work on my own to figure out how to get from in bed sleeping to sitting at a desk at work producing code that does something useful. It is a process, a routine, a sequence of events-- a boot process. It takes a certain amount of time, and talking to myself, and pacing around my apartment. It also takes checking my backpack to make sure I have everything in it, checking to make sure the stove is off, checking to make sure the window is closed and locked, and a few other PTSD related things. When I leave my apartment, I'm in a particular frame of mind. While I walk to work I'm in another. When I walk in the door at work, I'm ready to hack. My brain is thinking in code.

This is a 2-3 hour process, including stuff like showering and getting dressed. It's not trivial, at all, but it is very fragile.

If I have to go to a meeting when I arrive at work that's note related to code or coding, I have to turn off the hacking part of my brain. If it's about accommodations I'm going to be instantly triggered, not just when I arrive at work but at home when I'm getting dressed. Accommodations not in place means I can't concentrate, which means I can't code. Anything that factors down to something that includes "can't code" shorts out the entire system. Starting a night of coding out with a meeting talking about the accommodations that a) have already been approved, b) are not always available even though Federal law says they have to be and c) are either ignored or fought by the very same management people triggers me, and that factors down to "can't code".

This is why there's an ADA accommodation with my name on it that says "no meetings or training" on days when I'm supposed to be coding. Duh.

So now, even after talking to the disability person in HR, team lead still wants to have a face to face meeting to talk about how s/he can better meet my needs right before I start coding.

Simple. Go back a step and look at why I had to contact the disability person in HR in the first place.

I emailed HR because one evening, a couple of weeks ago now, I came to work and someone was sitting at the workstation that had been reserved for me as one of my other accommodations. It's on the perimeter of the room, out of traffic flow, as far away from the major noise sources in the room as possible, and I have both my left and rear flanks covered by walls. If I'm sitting at that workstation, someone has to try really hard to distract me.

The "reservation" system is that there was a printed note taped to one of the monitors saying the workstation was reserved. Because it had been flipped over where it wasn't visible, someone sat there not knowing it was reserved for me. When I brought it to the attention of the student team leads, no one did anything about the problem until I pitched a fit. So my suggestion was that someone be assigned to check to make sure that that workstation is available before I get to work.  

Weeks later there's no resolution. Now we're talking about an entirely different accommodation (meetings/task switching) and on top of that now the team lead wants the proposed face to face meeting agenda to include talking about my plans for fall semester-- which has nothing to do with the original thing I wrote to complain about, which was an approved accommodation being unavailable when it needed to be.

A sub-rant: If you're a manager and you have someone working for you that has ADA accommodations, please please please don't play these kinds of games with your people. Whatever the accommodations say, make it happen. You might not know the details of why the accommodations are necessary, and that might be weird for you, but it's not a ding on your skills as a manager. Understand and accept that the person with accommodations asked for changes because they want to work for you and because they want to do their job well for you. Follow the accommodations to the letter and bring down hell on anyone who keeps those accommodations from being available to the people that need them. Follow up and make sure the accommodations are working. Your company/organization will be better for it.

Where do things go from here?

I haven't replied to the latest email; in one sense, none of this matters because I'm going to be leaving anyway. I haven't kept that a secret at work-- people know I'm a short timer, it's just a matter of exactly when. Maybe they're just stalling until I, and the accommodations problem, go away. I hope not, because that's just really cheap and I'd like to think better of a place I've worked at for seven years-- especially when during two of those years, I slept on the street outside the same building I work in to keep working there.  Maybe I just don't want to admit that I spent too much time and too much effort on a place and on people who didn't deserve it.

Because of my experience over the past couple of months dealing with the formal request process through the ADA, and getting medical documentation, and appealing denials, and even after that having to fight to make sure my accommodations still exist-- because of all of that, it's a lot more difficult to picture myself in a company that's all open office and that doesn't likely have many other employees with disabilities. Am I going to have to fight these battles everywhere I work?

I sound like such a cynic, but I can't help but claim that some of my cynicism is justified by experience. Anyway, the next chapter in my life isn't written yet. It's a work in progress, so how much of a cynic I am is subject to change.

I'm leaving this job; by the time you read this I'll have given two weeks notice that I'm leaving. When fall semester starts, if I were to stay I'd be limited to 25 hours a week at work (with only 10 of that for software development). My primary motivation is not money, but when I'm putting this much effort and emotion into just being able to do my job, it's not worth what I'm getting paid.

Even without the accommodations circus, I'm not being given new work to do, and it's miserable. The project I've been working through all of this? No one even asks about it. There's no professional development going on, beyond what I read and learn and do on my own. No mentors, no team work, no challenges. Not what I signed up for. I'm a hacker. I'm better than this.

My apartment's nearly empty. Today I moved all but one suitcase worth of stuff, and of course my backpack, to my storage unit. Effectively, right now I'm a nomad, but that's not really that different than this time last week (or last month). Here hasn't been home, it's just been here. I'm headed west, but where exactly I don't know. Since I wasn't able to work as much as I'd planned on over the summer, I don't have as much funding as I'd like-- so that changes what I can do and where I can go. It doesn't make sense to go straight to Silicon Valley if I just end up homeless when I get there. Sometimes, you can't get there from here.


Next week I'm going to a hackathon, MLH Prime in New Jersey, at which I'm going to try to make some find-a-new-job magic happen. After that I'm going to travel a little more, see some family I haven't seen for a while, spend some time staring out windows while the country goes by. I'll probably find a quiet place to rest for a bit, catch up on some reading and studying and coding projects that have been on hold. There will be some R&R.

Tentatively, I'll be in classes this fall. We'll see. Signed up, but some things have to be worked out.

And, surprisingly, I'm okay with all of this. It will be really weird to be somewhere else, but there are so many places and people and events here that have bad memories attached. Being somewhere unfamiliar will be all right.

As long as there's net, of course.



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