Outside the Box

Special Projects

A while back I was asked what I would like to do within my current department if I could create my own job.  I’ve given this question a lot of thought and while I take great pains to not reference my current employer, or give away company specific details in my writing, I feel I can give a broad overview of what I’d like to do that would apply to any employer.

I’ve actually done a lot of research on the specifics of the type of things I’d like to do but haven’t been able to find a single job title that encompasses everything.  As a result I’ve taken to listing the things I’d like to do under the title “Special Projects”.  While this title is vague, I feel it is a good fit for the type of unconventional things I’d like to take on.  Also if you’ve read my About page you know I grew up wanting to be a US Navy SEAL, so it’s a bit of a nod to the Special Operations community as a whole for inspiring me to think unconventionally and be willing to take on challenges.

So what would I like my responsibilities to be under the title of Special Projects?  Well first, for the time being I’d like to stay in my current department.  I feel I can have the greatest impact there at first.  But as time goes on I would be willing to expand my scope once I’ve established my role and can more clearly define it within the larger organization.

But now let’s take a look at the specifics of what I would like to do.

Research and Development

This would involve seeing a problem within the department and researching ways to use the tools we already have, or tools we could acquire to solve the problem.  I would also set up an internal form for the department where the staff could submit problems to me that I could research and find solutions to.  I would also take on projects from management that require an outside the box solution.

The next step would be writing the proposal for fixing the issue that I have found, has been sent to me by the staff, or that has been given to me by management..  Putting the proposed solution into writing is necessary to make sure that everyone involved in the implementation of the solution has the same data.  It also acts as a record going forward of what is planned, and provides a blueprint for the team implementing the solution that they can refer to for guidance.

Also I find putting my ideas into writing helps me flush them out and see things I don’t see when just talking about them face to face.  I also find that writing proposals is a process I enjoy.  With things like this blog and the handful of internal proposals I’ve submitted to my current and former employers I’ve had the chance to find I truly enjoy this creative process.

Finally under the research and development role, I would act as an advisor to aid in the development of the project I submitted the proposal for.  Why not head of each project?  I feel it’s best to put those with the most knowledge in the area in charge of leading its change.  Now when that person is not available or does not exist, I would be willing to head the group but only if it was the best option.  Let the experts lead when they are available.

Continue with my current position on a limited basis

I would also like to, on a limited basis, continue with my current position.  I feel staying current with practices and procedures within the department would aid me in my ability to see areas of improvement.  I would not want to continue my current position on a daily basis, but act as a limited backup to my current team.  I would do one to two hours weekly to stay current and then be available, when time permits, to provide more help if the workload is higher than normal or if a team member is not able to come to work due to illness or vacation.

Special Projects

This would be more of an ad hoc responsibility.  If there is a project that needs to be done and I fit the needs of the project I could take it on if no one else is able.  I would prefer this responsibility be limited to only when I would be the best fit for the task or when the person best suited for the task is unavailable. 

Over time I would cross train with multiple disciplines within the department to be as knowledgeable as possible in every aspect of the department. Cross training would not only allow me to assist as needed in a limited capacity, but would also allow me to gain a better understanding of the needs of each discipline within the department so that I could tailor proposals to better suit individual teams specific needs.

Place of work

If you’ve read my posts The case for continuing work from home and Hybrid work is doomed to fail then you’ll know I’m an advocate for Work From Home (WFH).  What you might not know is I’ve been an advocate for WFH since my time as a self-employed contractor.  During my over 10 years being self-employed I had to learn to work from home and found it was a far more productive and efficient way to work.  The lack of distraction, the ability to optimize my workspace to suit my needs, all lead to a better working experience.  And during the Covid-19 pandemic I was able to re-experience all that while working from home.

So that would be a big wish for me, to be full time Work From Home.  Of course some tasks would need to be done in an office, but those are limited and I could run in for a meeting when needed.  But the vast majority of my responsibilities could be done from home just as well or better than in an office.  So a guarantee of full time Work From Home would be a big wish on this list.

Archivist

Acting as an archivist would mean running a cold storage archive of department documents.  While online storage allows for online backup and document recovery things can still go missing.  This is where the archivist comes in, having documents stored on a backup server offline (cold storage) means that if the online document server is offline or a document is unable to be recovered the archivist can provide the document to the parties in need of the documents.

This responsibility would involve downloading all folders and documents contained within those folders onto a server maintained outside of the cloud environment.  Once all files have been uploaded to the cold storage server I would check for updates at regular intervals.  While doing this I would also look for solutions to automate this process by finding backup software that would interface with the cold storage server software and the cloud hosting provider.  I would also implement deletion rules, stating that deleted files be moved to a holding folder for a set amount of time that is at least double the amount of the cloud hosting hold time.

I would consider being an archivist more of a side project.  While I do consider this an important aspect of document retention, I feel it should be more of a dedicated role.  I do plan to write a more detailed post about company archivists in the future and will link to the post when I have written it.

Conclusion

As far as I know at the time of writing a job like I have described does not exist within my department. But I view this as more of a fun thought experiment. Obviously my real dream job would be doing whatever I decided to do that day, for whatever amount of time I wanted, and getting paid obscene amounts of money for it, but I tried to frame this thought experiment in the realm of reality.  And who knows, maybe someday a job with some aspects of my “Special Projects” job description will come along.  And if that day ever comes, maybe I’ll go for it.

I know this post was a bit different from my normal content, but I decided to indulge myself with this post and actually write out all the things I’ve been thinking about.  And honestly like I mentioned above, writing this out has helped me flush out my thoughts and really figure out what I want.

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