There I was, at the Corporate HQ for on-boarding. I should point out that I still don't know what this company does, despite the newspaper ad, hours of online research and two rounds of interviews. I even got the nerve up to ask my manager-to-be, but he didn't seem to be all that clear on it either. I've been working here for two months at this point and I still don't think I see the big picture.
That is not to say that I was not excited about the prospect of employment. I was ecstatic. The job description mentioned both business and engineering, which means that it was right up my alley. Also, finding an entry level job with no qualifications other than a college degree is not easy in 2009.
The first hour of my brand new employment was spent negotiating with HR over various forms of identification. Eventually the ritual was complete and I was granted a security badge and whisked off to the sprawling complex where the actual work is done. Whatever that is.
I was instructed to find a seat anywhere (it is apparently first come, first serve. If you want an office with walls and a window, you show up early. Late comers get to contend with the fluorescent glare in the middle pods). I was given the various orientation materials (approximately 800 pages in length) and the HR handler noted that my manager would be by in approximately two weeks to check on my progress. Two weeks.
I sat down in the extreme back corner of the facility-- figuring this choice would place me outside of the range of curious passers by. I was in the process of making myself comfortable when a pair of bespectacled eyes peered over the cubicle barrier.
"Yeah, I guess."
"I wouldn't bother with that." The eyes turned and looked around for something. The something in question came over the barrier between the cubes and landed with a thunk. It was an exact duplicate of the orientation manual-- all 800 pages of it.
"It's already filled out. They never check it. I don't think they even open it."
I soon learned that my new neighbor was actually somewhat of an important person in the company, though the thought would never have occurred to him. He is an alpha-engineer, plain and simple. It isn't that his social skills are bad. I just think he fails to perceive social reality. He started working for the company immediately after graduating early from BU. Two years and multiple promotions later, he was the Chief Weaponologist.
Chief Weaponologist. I found out over the next few weeks that despite being a genuinely nice and gentle guy, his primary job is to find new and marketable ways to kill people. And he is good. Apparently, just in the span of the previous fiscal year, he had doubled the destructive capability of Poison Cobra Dispersal Unit and developed a heavy weapon that could convert common garbage into high energy projectiles (marketing praised it as "eco-friendly and very expensive"). Rumor is that he is currently working on something interesting involving robots.
One day, after growing a little more comfortable, I asked him, "Does it ever bother you that the stuff you come up with gets a lot of people killed?"
I don't think he even blinked an eye before answering:
"You don't win wars by dying for your country. You win wars by giving the other guy the heebie jeebies."