Monday, July 18, 2005

I should have known better, but well, I didn’t….

It all started with an invitation for a marketing writing course that I received about a month ago. I got the invitation via a PR network, so I should have been warned…. It was organized by a company called ExperTeam, that specializes in technical writing. Since the current economic situation is bad, such companies have a tough time surviving. Due to the unemployment rate among marketing and technical writers (45%), companies prefer to hire laid-off writers that are dirt cheap, very experienced and are paid per hour. ExperTeam invited me to join their course, that took place on 8/2 from 6pm-8pm. It consisted of two parts – the first part “what is marketing writing” and the second part “how to write killer marketing material”.
Since I always want to improve myself, I thought it was a good idea to go. The costs were also OK, $10. (I did not even contemplated to ask this amount from my employer).

So I registered…and did not get a confirmation. So I emailed twice, to make sure I had a place. Finally, I got the confirmation with a map how to drive there. And then the fun started….

That whole day, Ibby (my boss) kept throwing work at me. When I told him that I had to leave that day at 5.30pm (I start at 8am, mind you), the reaction was 1) why so early 2) what for.
I was stupid enough to tell him. He replied it would be a waste of time. I was finally able to leave armed with the map that ExperTeam had faxed me. I don’t have the greatest sense of directions, but I was quite confident that I would find it. The map clearly showed that I had to turn right at the fifth traffic light on the main road into Main Street, so that would be easy enough, correct?
So I drove off…..already being tired and stressed.

All went well, and I turned right at the fifth traffic light. Wrong street name, so I parked, and
went to ask directions. I asked the proprietress of a small kiosk that sells milk, cigarettes, snacks, and newspapers and also serves coffee. She did not know, but a customer sitting outside budded in, took my map and started to analyze it. Not very successfully, since he kept turning it around. After some minutes, I took the map back, and said I would ask at the petrol station. The customer looked insulted and said that he would have figured it out eventually. Yeah, sure, and I am a super model. The petrol station guy was very nice and helpful, and told me that he knew were Main Street was. I just had to turn left at the next traffic light. By that time, it was 6.10 pm, so it was cutting it close, but what the hack, I was almost there, right? Wrong!
I went back to my car (feeling hot and sweaty) and turned left at the traffic light as instructed. Lo and behold, the correct street name! Found a nice parking place, parked and saw that a high tech guy (pony tail, end 20s, must therefore be a software engineer) was getting into the car next to me. I thought that double checking would be a good idea, so I showed my map again, and he assured me that I was in the right place. He recognized all the streets, and pointed into the different directions to indicate them. I was very impressed and relieved.

So I went looking for ExperTeam at Main Street 6…..which turned out to be a Chinese Restaurant. By that time, I was very confused and nervous. I decided to ask a mother with a small child walking towards me – those ladies normally know all the streets. She was very nice and looked at my map. She told me that I was in the right street, but in the wrong village! Of course, I thought to myself, that explains a lot! She told me that I had to turn back to the main road, go to the left, 3 traffic lights and then to the right.
By that time, it was already 6.30pm, so I wondered if it was worth while to go. But since I am extremely stubborn, I could not give up. My feet were hurting and I started to get hungry (I didn't have a thing to eat since munching a salad at noon).
So I drove off again. By that time, I was smack in the middle of rush hour, so I was forced to move with the speed of a snail - a heavily medicated, doped out snail.

Finally, I arrived at the third traffic light and turned right. Guess what? Main Street is in the the middle of a cluster of buildings, without any numbers. Great!
I parked my car, took my map and walked into the first small building I saw – a small high tech firm. I asked the two young guys there if they could help me. They looked at the map and told me that ExperTeam should be in a building somewhere behind them. They did not know for sure, and happily informed me “nobody can find us as well”. This sentence was delivered with a big smile, so I wondered why they do not relocate.
I walked around and saw several clusters of small buildings. I suddenly saw an old sign with ExperTeam on it, so I followed it…and ended up in a playground! So I looked around and saw this itsy tiny sign “ExperTeam” on a building dwarfed by huge signs of other companies. Go figure.
By that time, it was 6.45pm…..But, in for a penny, in for a pound, so I went into the building. Nobody to be found, so I first looked for the restrooms since I drank lots of water on the way. I walked around, and finally a guy talking loudly on his cell came out of his office and demanded to know what I wanted. I answered that I was looking for the course. He pointed were it was and added “You must be very polite when you go in”. I informed him that I am always polite.
At that moment, a young guy came rushing towards me and told me he was also late. We decided to go in together.

So I opened the door to slip in….and was shocked.
It was a small meeting room, packed with 40 people sitting (shoulder to shoulder, knee to back) and another 10+ standing…without air-conditioning!
By that time, the idea of standing for two hours or so, having to pay for that privilege, and no way to make notes was enough to freak me out. I made a hasty retreat and drove home. By 7.30pm, I was finally home and thought this whole exercise over.

My first lesson: never trust maps sent to you by companies.
My second lesson: People are friendly and helpful, but not always reliable
My third lesson: ExperTeam has a good idea – if implemented correctly

Their concept is great:
1) you let your own employees teach – no costs involved
2) in your own offices – no costs involved
3) your invitees have to register – free database/mailing lists
4) 50 invitees = $ 500 tax free
5) 5%-10% might turn into customers (hack, even 1 customer out of it makes it all worth while!)
But what upsets me most……Ibby was right!

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