Category Archives: Work

When Irish Eyes Are Blurry – My Time at Microsoft Part Deux

When Irish Eyes Are Blurry – My Time at Microsoft Part Deux

Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis.
– Brendan Behan

I’m troubled, I’m dissatisfied. I’m Irish!
– Marianne Moore

I thought it might be time to circle back to the next chapter in my Microsoft adventure.

We left off with my landing in the international translation group at Microsoft after a corporate reorganization. Now, keep in mind that I do not speak any other languages other than “Another drink, please” in almost every tongue on earth as if I were a native.

This linguistic talent does not qualify me to run a program for a major corporation that involves finding and managing local international vendors for culturally sensitive translation services. For a lot of smart people they sure do make some shitty decisions.

You see, before they made the ill-advised choice to give me this job, translators at Microsoft were living in Redmond, Washington but attempting to sound like they were a local sitting in a café in France.

Evidently, no one bought it so the non-English speaking world was turning against us and we were in fear for our very existences (that is just a slight exaggeration…even I can’t ignore that…).

All of this culminated in them packing me up, thrusting me on a plane and farming me out to Ireland to work with our office there to get this all straightened out.

Let me mention here that I am Irish. Half Irish to be accurate but my father refused to acknowledge the other 50% of my DNA as if it somehow insulted him and he wouldn’t speak to it anymore.  His favorite saying was:

“Being Irish was like being a black lab, you could mix any other dog with it but at the end of the day, you still just had a black lab.”

So, until I blog about my Chilean side, I am, for this post, 100% pure, unpolluted black lab Irish.

Oh, and up to this point I had never been out of the country except for the wax museum in Victoria BC and throwing up on the sands of Mazatlan. Not exactly credentials to deal with culturally sensitive issues.

The second I set foot on Irish soil I was home. These are my people – sarcastic, annoyed and mostly drunk. It was like re-entering the womb.

I was swept up by my Irish brethren into the 5-hour work day and the 3:00 pub crawl. We’d share many hours over numerous Guinness.

And, the more Guinness I drank the prettier the designs looked on the foam head. These people are feckin’ artists!

 

Oooooohhhhh, so pretty!

And, the more pretty foam designs I drank, the harder I would try to do an Irish accent, which is melodic and lovely when an Irishman speaks. Coming out of my mouth, however, it sounds just like a drunk vampire.

They, on the other hand, thought everyone from the US sounded either like John F. Kennedy or J.R. Ewing.

Like most Europeans, they eat dinner at midnight. The first night I had dinner out with all my new, snarky Irish friends, we were finishing up our meal at about 1:30AM when everyone ordered coffee. Not any coffee, either, but Turkish coffee. This is the crude oil of coffee drinks. Not wanting to be left out of a great cultural experience, I also ordered Turkish coffee at 1:30AM. Why not?

I’ll tell you why not!! I ended up doing the following for the rest of the night in my hotel room:

  • NOT SLEEPING
  • Watched Irish news for hours on end – in Irish Gaelic
  • Wrote postcards to everyone in my address book – including but not limited to my best friend from 6th grade and several ex-boyfriends.

My last night in my homeland, I was taken to the oldest pub in all of Ireland. I’d question the honesty of that statement if it weren’t for the fact that it was black as coal on the inside and the smell was a combination of what I can only guess is a thousand years of smoke, a hint of Viking sweat and some sort of animal urine.

I assumed I’d be on the dole once they figured out at corporate headquarters that I basically drank my way through our international crisis. So, it was with a splitting headache and a heavy heart that I boarded my flight the next day.

This black lab was sort of sad to go home.

Polishing the Turd – My Time at Microsoft Part 1

Polishing the Turd – My Time at Microsoft Part 1

I am thoroughly embarrassed to admit that I have worked, in one capacity or another, for a certain behemoth software company for nearly 22 years. That’s right, I was a child prodigy.

When I was first hired, Microsoft was in its heyday. As I walked around campus I was awestruck by the happy youth wandering the hallowed halls playing hacky sack and wearing inappropriate footwear in February.

I was giddy at the sight of the free drinks served on every hallway. And when Bill Gates showed up at every ship party riding in on a unicorn, well, I couldn’t believe I was actually being paid.

It was a Utopian society swathed in a golden haze where things moved in a soft-focus sort of slow motion and we privileged few were not of this world. We even had our own ultra-hip language – a blend of three-letter-acronyms, grunge slang and a few 1s and 0s. It was both literally and figuratively, Nirvana.

This was my life until I had to work on my first product release and there seemed to be a line- up of emergency vehicles queued up in front of various buildings carting collapsed employees out on stretchers. The young lions were dropping like flies.

In the caste system of Microsoft at that time, I was definitely an untouchable. I was in the User Education department relegated to “Documentation Assistant” which is just as glamorous as it sounds. I basically took a bunch of content that people much smarter than I had written and made it look pretty. Or, as we liked to call it, we polished the turds.

As turd polishers, we were secreted away in dark, inside offices like Morlocks. Many times I emerged at midnight to see my fellow Morlocks, confused and stumbling, in the hallway to make our way to more Mountain Dew and Twizzlers – you see, we had to hunt at night.

The good and bad of Microsoft is that there are constant re-organizations so you either end up losing a wonderful team to turmoil or you get to escape the insanity of a highly dysfunctional team. The latter was far more common than the former.

So, my days with my Morlock brethren were destined to be numbered as I was re-localized to the Localization and Translation group. Somehow I was both moving up and down in my career at the same time. I did get exposure to a lot of different cultural work styles in this time period. The Germans always did impeccable work and were on time though didn’t get most of my jokes. The French didn’t fess up to an issue until it was too late to fix and then they blamed it on the Germans. The Irish could not be found after 3:00PM though you forgave them because they were just so damned fun. So I had a crash course in international studies.

Before you ask: No, I do not speak any foreign languages other than Microsoftian. Though I can say “Click the button” in French. And, I’ve actually gotten to use that in an elevator in Paris one time when I told my husband to “choisissez le bouton” to our floor. I even said it with an affected roll of my eyes to seem appropriately annoyed, just like the locals!

In our next installment, Chapitre Deux – Irene Does Europe.

OMG I’m on IMDb

OMG I’m on IMDb

Every now and then I feel compelled to do a Google search on myself. Mostly I want to see if there is another Irene Barnett out there with a more interesting life – there is a nephrologist in Los Angeles who looks to have a much better life than I do. (What the hell is a nephrologist anyway? I hope it doesn’t have anything to do with banging dead people.)

As it happens, the other day when I did this, I came up on IMDb as an “actress”. The first entry was a weird movie I worked on many many years ago with a crazed lunatic of a filmmaker. I bought his “workshop” and flew to Las Vegas with a bunch of other suckers to learn how to be a guerilla filmmaker in the likeness of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. This experience really deserves its own post as I was literally stuck in the middle of Death Valley with a Mormon, a born-again Christian, a stoned sound guy and a crazy ballerina who looked like Gloria Swanson – all at a haunted hotel. I shit you not. If we all walked into a bar it would be a set up for a good joke.

The other entry was much more interesting – evidently I was “East End Girl #1” (that’s right, suck it East End Girl #2) in a TV mini-series called Shoulder to Shoulder in 1974. Evidently, this series dramatized the lives of the Pankhurst women and their role in the Suffragette Movement.  Yeah, I don’t know what any of that means either. Since I was pre-pubescent in 1974 and would most likely have remembered doing a TV mini-series. I wonder if that was the nephrologist working her way through med school.

Whoever played East End Girl #1 must be pissed that I’m getting her credit. But no more pissed than East End Girl #2 who, undoubtedly, had a life strife with disappointment and failure. While I, on the other hand, ride high on my fame and fortune. Suck it East End Girl #1.

I Mock Therefore I Am

I Mock Therefore I Am

So, a blog. I know this is what is done these days….sharing information with the world that you think they are clamoring for but, in reality, only you think is helpful/interesting/humorous/etc.  It always seemed akin to telling someone about your vacation to the Grand Canyon in molecular detail or talking about how your colon is doing – of great import to you but a painful and awkward experience for the recipient. Kind of like sex.

I work at home, alone, so I am thinking this is somewhat like my lunatic ramblings as I shuffle around my house in my slippers talking to my imaginary friends and co-workers. The way I see it, I’m just looking a little less insane to an outsider by purposefully writing it down because, dude, I am a BLOGGER!

A little about myself in case you are in the least bit interested. (If not, feel free to hit that little box with the x and get the hell outta here because you have THINGS to DO!) I’m the youngest of 6 kids, raised in a predominantly Irish Catholic family with a smattering of Chilean. We are a thick-skinned, sarcastic clan with excessive body hair. If we had a family crest it would be emblazoned with the words “I mock therefore I am”.

One of the biggest litmus tests I have when I meet someone, aside from whether or not they LOVE Raising Arizona as much as I do (and if you can quote any of it, I’ll add you to my will), is whether or not they are capable of finding humor in their own crazy ticks, missteps or third nipples. There is nothing that is more of a bore than someone who takes themselves too seriously and can’t stand to be mocked or made fun of.

Along the same lines, I also believe that there is humor and absurdity in pretty much any situation.

And, since this is a blog and I’m supposed to keep it short…..

  • I hate getting into an unmade bed.
  • I can’t stand it when people say “irregardless”. It’s not a freakin’ word.
  • I am one of the only women I know who loves Mystery Science Theater 3000 and consider “Manos, Hands of Fate” to be a modern classic.
  • My hall passes: John Cusack, Paul Rudd and Gregory Peck circa 1953 (I have time travel capabilities in this scenario).
  • My lesbian hall passes: Tina Fey, Zooey Deschanel and Leslie Mann.

There you have it, dear imaginary readers.

Until next time,

Irene