Friday, March 23, 2012

Love that math

Politics and cats?  I’m swirling round the bowl here …

Do you want to hear about my work?  I am not a full-time author.

For years, I worked at IBM on external customer accounts getting the work done to fulfill contracts and messing with data on how to do that more efficiently.  Like many, my job was off-shored.  Two fellows in Brazil got tapped, and it wasn’t till the end of my thirty day notice (they were busy with other training) that I found out they did not have the same IT background – I did pricing for projects, and IBM breaks down different hardware, software, maintenance, labor and miscellaneous items in different pricing categories and then I priced for different customers, all with their own contract terms.  No worries for me though, I could look at the customer request and vendor quotes and fill in my pricing spreadsheet like a sudoku puzzle.  I enjoyed pricing.

I admit I’m one of those odd math people that find numbers and spreadsheets fun.  I kid that if I could write in a spreadsheet, that I wouldn’t wonder how good it was.  It either adds up or it doesn’t.

The other part I loved about the job was translating pages of contract methodology into plain English.  I worked with Service Level Agreements.  Let’s say IBM is hosting a web site on servers somewhere, and a customer would like to be told that the web site will be available 100% of the time.  Let’s say IBM negotiates for 99.5%, but then every year promises to improve based on performance.  That's continuous improvement of the SLA.

Anyway, I did the improvement calculations.  After Year 1 of the 10 year contract, I look at the contract, there’s pages of how each type of change is calculated, and I treated it like a word problem.  The end result might be 99.67%.  I talk to IBM internally, and give them all the changes.  Lots of those calls turned into ‘why is this bad for us?’ because there'd be a monetary penalty for missing that measurement.  Then my slides would get presented to the customer, and I’d explain where the numbers came from, and ‘why this is good for you’. 

Now I’m doomed because you know how much of a math geek I am.

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