Skipping and tripping in my first job…or Stumbling into Regulation (Part Two)

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As I mentioned in my last article, my impending departure from the public service has caused me to reflect. This is the second of a series of articles about the journey that took a 23 year old maths and music grad to a career in regulation.

So, bringing you up to speed. It was near the end of November in 1995 and I had exchanged my part time Darrell Lea smock for my first full time job at Foxtel. I was an ‘Entertainment Consultant’ (keep the jokes to yourself thanks; I’ve heard them all). Bloody hell, that job was hard. It was not just the fact that I was chained to my desk for 7 hours and 36 minutes a day – well, OK, it wasn’t a chain but there was a cord connecting my head to the phone on the desk – but the breadth of the information I had to convey. From helping people who couldn’t get their Foxtel working – ‘Mr Smith, can I please get you to check that your Foxtel box is plugged in? Oh, it’s not? Well, plug it in and you should be all good’ – to calls from the door to door sales workforce, customer sales and enquiries, and ‘Box Hits.’

Box hits were my favourite – not sure why! They were when the techs would call us from people’s homes and have us turn their Foxtel on. We would ask them: ‘ Would you like a Box hit?’. The question always struck me as being funny. Apparently, one night after a day of calls coming in thick and fast, I woke up and asked my boyfriend of the time if he would like a box hit. I digress.

Foxtel was a strangely conservative place when I first arrived. I remember a colleague being hauled into a meeting room with a manager for wearing a Grandpa collared shirt on a Saturday. How dare he not wear a tie? Dress regulations were introduced – skirts couldn’t be too short and definitely no cleavage! Ironically, by the time I left two and half years later the dress code had been thrown out and you could wear whatever you pleased. After all, it was a call centre and we didn’t deal with people in person.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have a competitive streak and so, I took on the Foxtel KPIs with vigour. I was desperate to have the best stats and I was desperate to get a promotion. I was moved to the ‘win back’ team. I was good at convincing people that they didn’t really want to disconnect their Foxtel or cancel their order. I loved being a star in the team, but I just couldn’t crack a promotion. Later, a manager told me that they had thought I was a control freak and that was why I hadn’t received a promotion. That was how an assertive woman with an attention to detail was labelled in the 90s.

And, I didn’t like hypocrisy. I couldn’t help speaking up when I saw it. It made me sick. On a whim I applied for a job at Crown – answering the phones again. I got it. I didn’t take it. I learnt that I just need to suck it up. Hypocrisy is everywhere.

Anyway, good things come to those who wait and after around 18 months I became a team leader …DRUM ROLL PLEASE…for telemarketing. Yep, you heard right. Funny, given that I ended up managing telemarketing investigations at the ACMA. I ran the whole telemarketing centre on my own every Saturday and managed my own team the rest of the week. I was only 25.

I had continued my studies, squeezing them in around my work but I gave up on my musical direction. Having money, and making more money by going up the ladder, was too hard to resist. There was no money in music. I still had my studies, I figured. But I too got sick of that and decided to study and work full time for the final semester of my Masters in 1997. It was crazy, but I pulled it off.

And in the meantime, I couldn’t help but getting myself into trouble by telling the truth. Telling the HR Manager when SHE sought feedback on an unplanned, unapproved, unannounced session with the telemarketing management team that: ‘that’s an hour of my life I’m never getting back’ was not well-received (by her, anyway – my manager was pleased because she didn’t want HR there either). And responding to my manager’s query ‘ So what do you think JC?’ after a good half an hour of her telling us that both us and our teams needed ‘improvement’ with: ‘I think I don’t want to work here anymore’ didn’t go down well either. I got hauled into her office, where she attempted to make me take my words back for nearly two hours! Needless to say, I didn’t.

So, I started to look for work. I was less fussy than the first time. I had a number of interviews for a role at TabCorp’s telephone betting centre. At the final interview I again, low and behold, had a cold. This time, there was no miracle. I had taken the smart arse pill. I was asked where I want to be in five years and I answered ‘a job where someone else gets my coffee’. I laughed, made out that was a joke, and then told my future boss that I’d like to be the CEO. I got a call the next day. The recruiter told me I had the job. He told me the salary. It was crap. It was not negotiable. I was desperate.

And so, I became a Race-Day Coordinator. Now that trip is no less interesting, but that’s another installment…

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