There are a couple of reasons for me being over here in the US. Random facts follow.
working in a New York office
The main reason I’ve been paid to fly over here is for training, so strictly speaking I don’t have to be in the NYC office. However, I figured it was a timely opportunity to meet some people, sample the working culture and observe some amusing but facile differences.
The office we work in stands shiny and resolute on Park Avenue. Park Avenue is iconic New York: wide streets, yellow cabs, hordes of people, skyscrapers, cwafee, hotdog and pretzel vendors. Inside the building is marble and stone. There are different banks of lifts depending on which floor you want. My colleagues are up near the 40th floor.
The views are amazing. The office I’ve parasitised looks north over Manhattan. The city below is reduced to a vague awareness of car horns and sirens; a distant subterranean dream.
The desk areas are cosy – on this floor rooms are rarely wider than a living room. Fancy Aeron chairs and nice carpets. Our floor is mostly quiet though, many desks are empty and it’s easy to work without other people’s stress osmosing into your day.
In contrast, this afternoon I went down to see the Trading Floor. The traders – a fair mix of gender – each sit in front of a sci-fi bank of five monitors, each of which has an eye-mashing array of coloured numbers and graphs. They have multiple trading keyboards with tiny lights and displays and cryptic buttons. Orders are shouted into headsets. There is hubbub.
Food and drink is cheap, plentiful and wholesome. I note that everyone is exceptionally cordial and friendly. My colleague tells me, “everyone became more friendly after 9/11″.
I get to do some training around MQ, which is fun now I have some decent material to present. For me, presenting is excellent fun when you know the subject well, but drenched in anxiety when it’s a surprise or incompletely understood. The training I’m getting is really helping here though (post to follow).
I don’t quite get the USA interpretation of privacy in the toilets – sorry, restrooms. What’s with the toilet cubicles? They each have a saloon-style door hanging in mid air, with large gaps below, above and to either side. If I wanted to be surrounded by straining bare-assed men I’d had joined the Navy.
It’s not all shiny of course. My new shoes quickly create a Hindenberg-sized blister on my left little toe. The jetlag kicks your ass for 1-2 days.
Actually, working across timezones is quite weird. It’s difficult collaborating with people who are from the future. Getting out of bed in NYC, you know people back home in the UK are well into their day. You arrive at the office to a barrage of emails. In the afternoon you start to feel like you’re working late, just because you know the UK kids are already off in the pub.
Conversations. The weather. I guess the cliche is that British people talk about the weather a lot. The US population (at least on this coast) are equally obsessed, particularly on the subject of Guessing the Temperature. I’ll have to stick with that for now, as my alternative conversational opener goes, “so yes last night I went out to Studio B in Brooklyn without ID, got pished on vodka and Sprite and watched Zombi and Trans Am torturing their instruments”.
Which doesn’t resonate too well with most of my colleagues.