Tag Archives: California

Five Things I’ve Learned At a Startup – Week 1

It’s been a week and I’m still here. The startup world hasn’t scared me away just yet. In fact, my job isn’t much different from any other job I’ve held. But there are a few things that will take some getting used to.

  • My job changes every day. I’m a member of the sales team, but I am often loaned out to other teams when they need warm bodies. This is occasionally inconvenient, but it usually offers and interesting look into what the guys around me are doing.
  • The company’s goals change constantly. I don’t mean short-term goals; the overarching vision for the future of the organization is subject to change. Few startups are able to enter a new market and maintain a steady course for very long. When the business plan meets the real world, constant course-corrections are inevitable.
  • There is no such thing as a “normal workday”. This is similar to my time as a detective. Some days are 9-5, but that is subject to change suddenly. A coding mistake or a special request from a client can turn an 8-hour day into a 20-hour binge.
  • I am responsible for becoming knowledgable about the market and product. Newborn organizations don’t have employee handbooks and training manuals. With such limited manpower, we have to train on the fly. After a week of studying, the jargon is becoming familiar and it no longer sounds my like coworkers are speaking a different language.
  • There isn’t anyone to watch over my shoulder. As I government worker, I was accustomed to micromanagement. My current job is the opposite; I am trusted to do my work on time. Failing to do so risks disappointing my coworkers and causing them more work. This is a better incentive to perform than any overbearing manager can provide.

I’ll continue to post as I have more to share with you. How does this compare to your work experience? If you’ve worked in a startup, or started a company, I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

Until next time.

-Taft

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Haji’s Hardware Store and Notary Public

I went on a fun mini-adventure today.  Before visiting Central Station and picking up a patch, I went on a wild goose chase in search of a notary.  I had to get some paperwork signed that will allow my parents to sign documents and make business transactions on my behalf while I’m gone.  This will allow my empire to run smoothly while I’m gone without having to ship documents back and forth across the Pacific.  It’s not easy being a hundredaire.

The forms required several signatures and notarization.  I assumed that getting the forms notarized would be as simple as walking to the Bank of America branch beside my sister’s apartment and requesting an appointment with a notary.  Unfortunately, the branch did not have a notary in house.  Two of the three other banks also didn’t have a notary.  The one that did, Bank of the West, was not willing to notarize my forms.

The manager at Wells Fargo, Kevin, told me that he did not have a notary on his staff, but he was willing to help anyway.  Kevin told me that there was a copy store on the next block with a notary.  I walked to North Beach Copy, but they were closed for the week.  I returned to Wells Fargo and asked Kevin if he had any more ideas.  After a quick Google search, he found a notary business a few miles away in the Tenderloin District.  Kevin called the business, set an appointment for me, wrote down the address, and sent me on my way.

I hailed a cab and read the address to the driver.  After a short ride, I found myself standing on a super sketchy street on the edge of the Tenderloin District.  If you’re not familiar with San Francisco, the Tenderloin is a notoriously bad neighborhood about a mile south of North Beach.

I walked to the end of the block, where I found an address that matched what Kevin wrote down.  I looked up and was surprised to find a sign for Haji’s Hardware.  I looked closer and noticed that a smaller sign that read “Notary Public.”  This was it.

I walked inside an old hardware store, where a 60-something middle-eastern man (I’m guessing Egyptian) sat behind a desk on an old wooden stool.  He pointed to an old stool beside him and said, “the executive chair is ready for you, sir.”  This was Haji.

Haji might be the most friendly old man I have ever met.  He moved slowly, spoke softly, and smiled every time I looked up from my paperwork.  He placed a small bowl between us and placed a pen in the bowl.  Next, he asked me to “kindly pick up the pen and hold it.”  For the rest of the process, we used the bowl in lieu of handing things to one another.  I paid him by placing cash in the bowl and then he placed my change and receipt in the bowl.

A woman interrupted our “meeting” as he was preparing to stamp my documents.  She appeared to be homeless, wearing an old coat, heavy gloves, and dirty jeans.  After looking at a rack of snacks on the counter for a few minutes, the woman pulled some change out of her pocket.  She counted it repeatedly, apparently looking for a snack that she could afford.  She asked Haji how much one of the items cost.  He pulled it off the rack, handed it to her, and told her to take it and go (in a polite voice).  When he returned to the desk Haji smiled and asked, “that was a fair price, right?”

At the end of our conversation, during which I referred to him only as “sir”, he thanked me for being polite.  He said, “you have very good Karma and I wish good things upon you.”  It seemed a bit odd that a man named Haji was telling me about Karma, but it was flattering nonetheless.  Meeting Haji made the whole ordeal worthwhile.

Until next time.

-Taft

This photo was taken on the street in the Tenderloin District. This was taken about two blocks away from Haji's. I didn't take this picture, but it is an accurate representation of the neighborhood in which I found myself today.

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Return to Central Station

I returned to San Francisco PD’s Central Station today.  I promised to use the patches I was given for trading, so I decided that the patch was more important than my pride.  I sucked it up and went back for another round.  Fortunately, there was a different crew working today.

The young woman working the window today was attentive.  When I walked up, there was a man filling out paperwork in front of me.  As soon as she finished helping him, she asked me to be patient and wait for a minute, made a phone call, and came right back to the window. I explained that I wanted to trade patches. She called for a supervisor, who showed up a few minutes later with a SFPD patch.

Instead of addressing me through the window, the officer came outside and shook my hand.  We traded patches and he asked me to leave an extra one for his personal collection.  I was happy to oblige.  He asked me about the details of the patch.  I made some stuff up, but it sounded pretty good and he seemed to buy it.  For those of you who don’t know, there is a building on the LPD patch because Lenoir had the first textile manufacturing facility in western NC.  Hey, it could be true.

Thanks to the officers with whom I spoke, SFPD’s Central Station is back on the good list.  For those of you who don’t know, my readership is fast approaching two dozen.  A bad rating from A Southerner Abroad could ruin  even the biggest department.

Until next time.

-Taft

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Tustin PD

Immediately after my visit to Irvine PD earlier this week I went to Tustin PD.  Though it was not as nice as Irvine PD or Santa Ana PD, I was pleased to find that the officers with whom I spoke were hospitable.  Even the captain, who I mistakenly called “officer” (didn’t see his butter bars), was helpful.  The officer in charge of supplies was out of the office, so the captain was nice enough to track down a patch for me.

The woman who brought the patch out to me was the “CSI Supervisor”.  I failed to ask what CSI stood for, but I imagine she was responsible for either forensics or communications.  I left a Lenoir PD patch behind for Tustin PD’s collection, but she asked me for an extra one.  She told me that she is a patch collector and that she thought our patch was “beautiful”.  I was glad to leave an extra one for her personal collection.

As I was leaving, I noticed that Tustin PD has several chargers.  They were white over black, so they looked a lot like Boone PD’s chargers. This was surprising because I have not seen many chargers in California.  I am accustomed to seeing several makes and models of patrol cars in North Carolina, but the California PDs seem to use the Crown Vic almost exclusively.

Now you’re caught up with my patch trading.  I hope to get my hands on a San Francisco PD patch if I can make it to a different station somewhere in the city.  I have a lot to do today (since I’m leaving tomorrow), but it might be possible to make time.

Until next time.

-Taft

 

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San Francisco PD

Well, my streak is over.  I found a police department that was neither friendly nor hospitable.  I went to the San Francisco PD’s Central Station, which is less than 100 yards from my sister’s apartment, and walked up to the window at the front entrance.  I thought that I would be in and out quickly because there was no line.  I was wrong.

Describing the waiting area at Central Station as institutional is generous.  It consists of a small open area (maybe 10′ x 5′) with a single large, dirty glass window facing the front office.  I walked up to the window and waited.  And waited.  And waited.

The ten to fifteen minute wait would have been tolerable were it not for the fact that a secretary and several uniformed patrol officers were milling about, occasionally glancing up at me and then going about their business.  Two officers strolled in and held what appeared to be a short personal conversation a few feet from the window, and then walked out without acknowledging me.

The officers ignoring me got my blood boiling, but I kept waiting.  I reached my limit shortly thereafter.  A woman in civilian clothes, who I assume was a secretary, walked in and out several times while I stood at the window.  The last time she walked in (before I gave up), she looked right at me and waved, then sat down and went back to work.

I simply couldn’t believe it.  I am confident that heads would roll at Lenoir PD (or almost any other NC department) if someone were treated that way.  I shudder to think what would happen if I had an actual emergency and went to Central Station to report it.  I hope, for the sake of the residents of this district, that my experience at the substation was not representative of the police services provided here.

I’ll try to stop by a different precinct before I leave for Korea on Saturday.  If I have a better experience elsewhere, I’ll update you.

Until next time.

-Taft

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