Monday, March 4, 2013

A Day in the Life: Monday

This week I am cataloging my daily activity for Hack Library School's "Library Student Day in the Life" project (#HLSDITL). You can read others' posts -- and see pictures and videos -- here. Maybe you want to write your own!

7  AM: Alarm went off at 7:05; I hit snooze 3 times while I mulled over my dreams (which I promptly forgot by the time my laptop booted). Got up, checked email, watched this video on wealth inequality. Showered and got the leftover purple dye out of my hair. Dressed in leggings, layered T-shirts, jeans, and a hoodie: the power suit of the SF tech world. And bike messengers. Brushed my teeth, combed my hair, packed up an out-of-season snack of honeycake and applesauce.

8  AM: Skimmed 12 new posts in Google Reader. Out the door to the office a little after 8. Weather was cloudy but not too cold, even with wet hair: 50 (degrees) F. Queried on my phone (it's not a smartphone, but it tries hard) and got to the right stop just in time. While on the bus, I read Gone Girl, which I picked up at the library on Friday. Although I hadn't any idea what the plot was (runaway teen from the projects? MTF transitional memoir?), it had been recommended to me about 40 bajillion times, so when I found it staring me in the face from an eye-level shelf in the new arrivals, I added it to the stack. (I also packed a backup, a sure thing -- Anne of the Island. Just in case.) I arrived at work in time to make myself a cup of tea, which I took up to my desk and attempted to remember before it got cold.

I take perverse enjoyment in filling this mug with cocoa, soup, green beans -- anything but coffee.

9  AM: Started the work day. For those of you just joining, I do not work in a library. I work in a brick and wood beam office that used to be a wine warehouse. And I sit at a computer all day. It has two monitors up on cinderblocks and a 5-year-old keyboard with most of the key labels worn away. When I turn on the machine on Mondays, I log into: Skype (office chat and IM), Pidgin (IRC), Zoiper (softphone connection), Fonality HUD (call routing for customer service), Firefox (4 windows; 30-40 tabs at a time), Internet Explorer (2 windows; 8+ tabs), and Chrome (2 windows; ~8 tabs). I used to use Thunderbird before the company switched over to gmail. My desktop also includes a Notepad document with my recurring issues and some common clipboard responses.

Caught up on email from Thursday night through early Monday morning (okay, I checked in over the weekend, but I didn't action anything). My boss wants a few changes to my most recently-posted documentation. The Ops team is giving a heads-up about scheduled maintenance to the billing system next week. (Please please don't let that result in failed payments that I have to refund manually.) We got a wire payment from a customer, Finance says; I apply it to the account in question.

Checked through the ticket queues for Billing. Looked like a coworker who gets in before I do picked up the weekend ones; what's left is stuff handled by Finance that just happens to live in our queues. The team boss asked each of for our work plans -- this is an informal check-in in the group chat room. I signed up for more documentation, as we're trying to migrate existing stuff from our internal wiki to a gsite and make sure it's updated, and credit card dispute representments. Took a look at cases assigned to me that were reopened over the weekend (Oooh, is that Farsi? Google Translate!) and resolved them. Ate honeycake and drank tea. Looked at posts on my other Google Reader feed, which included such gems as Helen Mirren with pink hair, this kid in a fox suit, and Cops Detain 6-Year-Old for Walking Around Neighborhood.

10 AM: Filed representments against chargebacks. This happens when a customer notifies their bank that a transaction on their credit card was unauthorized. In most cases, that's a sign of genuine fraud -- perhaps you've been in a situation like that, where someone buys gas or groceries 2000 miles away, using your card -- and the bank will refund the customer and notify us, the merchant, that the charges were fraudulent. On an online platform, it's easier for a baddie to use someone else's card. They don't even have to have the physical card, just the necessary details (card #, expiration date, CVC, cardholder name and address). No one asks for ID, and there isn't a signature to match, and there's no security camera at checkout. So people get away with that kind of fraud a lot. Part of my job is preventing that from happening, and making things whole for the cardholder and secure for our business when it does.

But another part involves saying to the bank, "Hey, those charges look valid to us. The person has had an account for two years, pays about $40 a month for our services, and the name on the account matches the name on the card." This kind of chargeback might happen by mistake (say, the customer loses her credit card, cancels it and gets a new one, and forgets to update her payment method in our system; the bank sees us trying to charge a lost/stolen card and red flags go up).

Maybe it's a case of "friendly" fraud: a customer hasn't logged into their account for a while, but sees a recurring subscription charge and doesn't want to pay it, so they tell the bank they canceled their account with us. Or a college kid is using the card his parents gave him for emergencies to play online games, and when they review the statement they call fraud on any charges they don't recognize. Or a charge the customer made on a debit card puts his account into overdraft, and he calls the bank when we won't refund him. In the first example, if we'd been contacted first, we'd be happy to instruct the customer in how to downgrade or cancel their account, and maybe refund the latest subscription charge if the account hasn't been used in that timeframe. In the second, we'd confirm that the user was of age, and perhaps inform the parents that it's between them and their son -- he can certainly use a free account, or switch to a different payment method, but if he was authorized to use the card, then these charges are valid. In the third, we'd explain (to the customer, and perhaps to his bank) that it's his responsibility to keep track of his bank account balance, and since the goods/services purchased were delivered (and used!), we consider it a nonrefundable charge. Most of the "friendly fraud" situations are resolvable through customer support for our products.

We don't like it when customers charge back on valid transactions, because not only are we out the money that was paid to us, but also our company pays fees on the chargebacks, and fines if chargebacks go above a certain percentage of our total transactions. So when ones come in that look like that, we push back and tell the bank not to take the money away. It takes a while to compile all the evidence (account records, screenshots, etc.) on our side, so that's another reason no one likes chargebacks.

11 AM: Fixed the documentation as requested (it was about finding PayPal Transaction IDs in our customer service tools, and then how to locate the PayPal transactions at even without the Transaction ID). When we hire someone new, they'll be the guinea pig for whether this makes sense during their training.

Also worked on documentation about internal search processes on another tool. I integrated material from an older wiki page and then pinged a coworker for a sample use case so I can get a specific screenshot. I'll have to wait until she runs across one fitting the criteria before I can open it up myself.

Another tool was acting up and we couldn't process refunds. (Yikes! Mission-critical task there.) After hashing out the symptoms and troubleshooting a bit on our side, our boss escalated the problem to the third-party vendor that maintains the tool.

Contributed to my sister's Muggle's Quidditch team; they're raising funds for the team's travel to Florida to play in the Quidditch World Cup. (They placed 3rd at the regional Western Cup in February, and were the first "pure community team" -- as opposed to the collegiate teams -- to qualify for the World Cup.) If you contribute, you get team swag! It's a very geeky sport, as you might imagine. They'd better win.

12 PM: Lunchtime. Still kind of full from mid-morning snack, but I know that the afternoon will not be pleasant if I skip lunch. Today's a Meatless Monday, AND I'm dairy-free for Lent, so lunch is kind of tricky. Do I want to take the cash in my pocket (left over from Friday's outing, when my companion surprised me with a ticket) and pay the taco truck guys for a bean and rice burrito? Or head to the cafe across the street and get pastries and hardboiled eggs at retail prices? Walk to a deli or to Mixt Greens or Specialty's and scout out veggie, cheese-free options? It's a little depressing to spend money on lunch without meat.

Back with my my bean-rice-and-guac burrito (the taco truck guy looked at me like What's the point? but knocked $2 off the usual price for a super veggie burrito with cheese and sour cream), I curled up on a couch in the downstairs lounge and read some more Gone Girl. Someone I didn't recognize, but who looked like she belonged in Marketing or maybe Legal, gushed over the book and recommended the author's other one. I got back to my desk with a second cup of tea (same tea bag) and a glass of water. I checked Facebook. (The difference between intent and impact, purple Mary Janes, a remote coworker cleaned her fridge and organized her kitchen over the weekend, medium beef filet looks like pate -- all brown and mushy.) And I took a survey about alcoholic beverages (it was very short, 'cause I'm a teetotaler). Then I used my accumulated e-rewards points to buy 500 True Blue points. I'm saving them up for our next flight... somewhere.

1  PM: When I got back to my desk, I saw that my coworker had hooked me up with an account that had made the right sort of transaction. I opened up the record, found what I needed, took a screenshot, and then added it to the documentation. (I'm creating in Google Drive, and then editing the gsite once the material's approved.) I sent her a thank-you using one of our special company tools (where thank-you points are translated into cash at the end of each quarter).

At 1:30 I had my 1:1 with my boss. This is the second meeting I've had with her since she became my boss (again -- the management hierarchy here seems to be kind of circular over time, and she was here when I was first hired 5+ years ago.), and we're figuring out how best to catch each other up on what we need to know about the week. I keep a shared document, for starters, that lists all of tasks I've accomplished each week, and the 1:1 is an opportunity to address those in more detail, request feedback, and make sure I'm on course for personal and team success. Right before the meeting, I remembered that I hadn't officially requested the next month of Fridays off, although we'd discussed that last Thursday as she'd asked me to take it one month at a time. I logged into our payroll software and did that through March 29th.

2  PM: Back at my desk and the only one minding phones while my two teammates were on lunch. Thankfully, we don't get many phone calls these days, because they're triaged through first-level billing. The only calls that get escalated are ones like, "I don't have an account with your company, but my credit card has a bunch of charges from last week" or "My 11-year-old (and 11 seems to be a prime age for this, despite our minimum age being 16) used my card and racked up charges and I think you people are horrible!" They used to be very unpleasant as well as frequent, but for the past couple of years(?) the pre-screening has mellowed most of them out to a level I can handle in about 4-5 minutes. Explanation, data collection, preliminary investigation, refund, block card, and BOOM. Done. "I'm sorry this happened to you, but I'm glad you called and I was able to help. You'll see that refund in your account in the next few days, and you won't have any future charges from us. Take care!"

I wrote up an email requesting that some settings be changed in our case-management system. basically: can we move X and Y cases somewhere else so we don't have to see them and they aren't counted in our metrics? Finance handles those; Billing does not, so I think they should be separate. Sent that off to my boss post-meeting as discussed, so she has something to work with when she makes the request.

Commented on another HLSDITL post. Said hello to the roving Cairns terrier in a pink and gray sweater (she'd been more interested when I was eating my burrito on the downstairs couch.)

3  PM: It got a little quiet at this point, so I turned on some Hulu in the background. This is a perk of being at my desk all day with headphones on. Sometimes it's Netflix; sometimes it's AccuBroadway or Jango online radio. The sound keeps me entertained and helps me work; that's funny because I'm also using it to drown out the office chatter that is NOT conducive to concentration.

Then I moved to support cases -- specifically, those escalated to Fraud (another part of my job, but a smaller one). Here we might have appeals from users whose accounts were suspended (for using someone else's credit card, for charging back valid transactions, etc.) or cases addressing fraudy behavior on our platform or on related websites. We also receive a heavy load of cases from users whose accounts have been phished or compromised, and it's our job to secure the accounts, recover as much as possible that was changed or transacted during the compromise, and make sure they go back to the legitimate accountholders with new passwords.

4  PM: More Fraud support cases (they're slow going, with lots of investigation on multiple accounts).

Checked Facebook again and found this gem of a library article posted by SLIS. Drank more water. Hoarders played in the background.

5  PM: Switched over to Billing cases. The coworker who gets in and leaves earlier than I do had been working these, but she's gone now and there were a couple easy cases to resolve. Both were cases where a legitimate customer had been charged through PayPal and wanted to be refunded.

Read email again -- a couple of new hire introductions and some approvals on the March time-off requests. I also took a look at the team dashboard in our case management system, to see how my totals stacked up and also what kinds of cases we were seeing increase this week. Metrics are really helpful when they're manageable and relevant.

In the last 20 minutes of the workday, with the Billing queues cleared, I polished up this post so far. Took a look at my Blogger stats. Pretty stable; have had an average of 150-160 views per day for the past month. Seems like a few people from HLSDITL have dropped by. I'll have something more for them to read tomorrow!

6  PM: I put on my shoes (they came off around 4, I guess. Sometime after my meeting.) and picked up my bag, turned off my monitors, and headed out the door. Swung by the mailroom on the way and checked my box. I had just one piece of mail -- a condolence card from an aunt and uncle I see once or twice a year. My grandmother died about two weeks ago. This is, I think, only the second condolence card I've ever received, the first being in 2008 when my other grandmother died and my girlfriend broke up with me at the same time. My coworkers (same company, different team) sent me flowers. The card was very sweet and thoughtful, but I confess to having a moment of confusion when I couldn't read one of the key words in the first sentence.

Dear Remy,
[Aunt] and I were so __________ to learn of your grandmother's passing.

Wait, so what? You "were so what"?? I puzzled over it for several blocks after leaving the mailroom. It was kind of a Mad Libs moment. So... dreadful? So defunct? It wasn't long enough to be disappointed. So relieved? Stopped at a DON'T WALK sign, I pulled out the card again and deliberately glanced at it without focusing -- and then it snapped into place. Saddened! There was just that awkward shape of the a, and then a space where I wasn't expecting one.

Dear Remy,
[Aunt] and I were sa ddened to learn of your grandmother's passing.

Mystery solved.

At the station, I went to top off my transit card... and couldn't find it. Or my phone. See, I carry my phone just about everywhere, and my transit card is tucked into the soft rubber phone case, which makes it harder to lose. Except when I lose both at once. I stood in front of the machine, wallet and WageWorks card in hand ready to swipe, and patted down my hoodie and my pants pockets and the pocket of the messenger bag where I had found my wallet and my keys... nothing. I wondered whether I'd left it in the mailroom, only there wasn't anywhere to have put it down, and concluded with resignation that it must still be sitting on my desk. But I had the money to pay for a new one! (Even if the fee for a new card ticks me off when it's unnecessary.)

So I purchased a new card, put $30 on it, and figured I'd just keep it in my wallet after tomorrow, just in case this sort of thing happens again. (I was without my phone OR my card for a week last year!) Grumbling, I walked away from the machine with my hands full, trying to put away my credit card into my wallet and get the messenger bag turned around while tagging into the turnstile. And of COURSE, as soon as I cleared the entry point, I set the messenger bag the right way over my shoulder and felt/saw/realized/remembered that I'd put my phone, transit card and all, into the little phone pocket on the strap. GAH. Teach me to borrow my wife's luggage.

Read more Gone Girl -- I'm liking it -- on the train, and got home a bit before 7. For the past couple of months there's been a lull most nights, because my wife isn't yet home from work, and the apartment is dark. As soon as I walk in the door and offload my bag, keys, wallet, etc., the cats want attention. The big guy is nearly frantic -- Ma! You left me all ALONE! With just this... other cat. The one you got me for company 8 years ago. -- and I sit down in the big comfy chair just so he can jump onto my lap and get his first evening pets. And as soon as I did, tonight, I saw that he'd puked on the bedroom floor. *sigh*. Up again, cleaned up the cat puke, put down more dry cat food, refilled the water dish. Then shoes came off and I plopped into the chair and opened the laptop to write up my past hour. The other cat hasn't come to say hello yet. She's just staring at me from across the room.

7  PM: This is the hour I have most weeknights that's just for me. More or less. Usually I eat dinner, mess around on the internet, hug my wife, pet the cats, maybe start some laundry. Bad days, I lie on the bed and read and whine until I get a foot rub. Today was sort of in between -- I read some, demanded cuddles, and chatted with her about her day and what to do for dinner. (Rice, zucchini, fried eggs.) And then she cooked it. :)

Had a brief exchange with my mother on Facebook, where she'd seen in the Activity Log that I'd liked a friend's link to a couple's adoption page. Not that I'd liked the page, mind, or shared the link on my own wall. Just that I'd liked the link on my friend's wall. She wanted to know whether I knew the couple., That's why I didn't share it myself. (Stalkery much?)

8  PM: Loaded up The Princess Diaries (another treat from the library) and started homework. Usually I give myself Monday nights off, but I'm behind and I ought to turn in this report to my internship supervisor tomorrow. (I sent the related Powerpoint presentation last night; more about that in another post.) Ate at the computer. Yep, definitely typical DITL of a working grad student.

I was just getting into the work when the DVD decided to die. Spent 10 minutes trying to coax it to eject, then cleaned it and tried again. (Also tried the widescreen disc that was also in the box, but that one wouldn't even start.)

9  PM: Back to work on the Tumblr report. At this point I'm using the frame I made for the presentation, and fleshing it out with additional material. That's easier than the research about the benefits of social media.

I convinced my excellent wife to pull together some cocoa (made with almond milk) and a slice of honeycake.

The DVD died again. I struggled with it for a while before giving up. I'll have to stick a note on it when I turn it in.

10 PM: Distracted by the DVD issues, and encouraged by my report, I browsed Tumblr for a bit with my brand-new account. I do not predict that it will be as addictive as Pinterest was for me, but the visual appeal is strong here, too. Tips from advanced users are welcome.

More work on the Tumblr report, although I can tell it's going to take a few more hours to be submission-ready. Logged the time for my internship.

11 PM: Starting to feel the weight of a Monday. Early bedtime tonight. Brushed teeth, changed into pajamas, and crawled into bed with the laptop to finish up this post. And update my reading list.

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