The Most Boring Thing You Will Ever Read

The other day I was reading a blog linked from another blog that I read regularly, and a light went off.  I instantly understood why I don’t post as much on Bad Pants as I did on Dead Charming.  I think of my writing as articles and essays, not as posts.  It’s hard to write essays and articles when you’re busy with your “day job” for twelve-plus hours a day.

Which reminded me that I’m now allowed to talk about my day job in my blog.  The company that bought the company that I work for has a “uniform policy for personal internet communication, social media, and online networking” (and I deeply love the fact that they used the serial comma) which was distributed as both a .pdf and a printed brochure (which, frankly seemed redundant) during our onboarding process.  Now that the rules about talking about my job are more clearly defined than “pull a Dooce and we fire your ass,” I’ll regale all (six) of you with a description of what I’m sure you will agree is the single most boring job description in the world.  The job itself is FAR from boring, but describing it is like watching paint dry.

I am a Senior Implementation Consultant working in the Workflow and Service Solutions Group of the Tax Automation division of Thomson Reuters Tax and Accounting Global Services business unit.  Specifically, I am focused on delivering end-to-end integration of the Sabrix Indirect Tax Solution into complex financial and accounting systems for Fortune 500 and Global 100 customers around the world.

Essentially, if you were a large to super-large company, and you had a software package that automated your financial accounting (and you would), we provide a solution that can be integrated into your financial system that will calculate the appropriate indirect tax treatment for a particular product based on transaction criteria and produce a resulting rate combination, and then optionally record the transaction to a Sarbanes-Oxley satisfying audit record that can generate compliance returns and reports for legal jurisdictions around the world.

My job is to understand super-expensive financial systems (SAP, Oracle Financials, J.D. Edwards, Peoplesoft, Ariba, etc.) and the potential underlying technology platforms (Oracle, DB2, Java, XML, Unix in essentially every flavor from AIX to HPUX to Linux to Solaris, WebLogic, WebSphere, NetWeaver, JBOSS, et. all) and create solutions for integrating our product into those environments.  It’s different every time.

Every customer I’ve dealt with in the last three years has a name you’d recognize.  I’ve met with their CIOs and CFOs and Controllers and Directors of Finance and Technology Managers in boardrooms and conference rooms around the country.  They don’t come to us, we obviously go to them.

If this sounds specialized, well…it is.  There are less than a dozen people who do what I do.  My company employs about half of them.  Our partners employ the rest.

My day tends to involve solving weird interface issues between Java Application Servers and integration packages on unusual operating systems, followed by a call where we discuss chain transactions for VAT recovery and intrastat scenarios around the EU, followed by a call about creating test cases for use tax on cross-border supplier shipments through the tax-free zone at Shannon Airport landing in Newark and Toronto.

I have to be ready at the drop of a hat (well, the ring of a cell phone that never shuts off) to answer questions about incredibly detailed technology issues from IT groups and Software Engineers, followed without pause by questions from tax managers and business unit accountants about software configuration customizations to accommodate detailed and specific tax and financial transaction processes from a non-technical perspective.

And I’m a specialist, generally Implementation consultants focus on one specific integration platform (Oracle Financials or SAP) but I’m one of two people (in the company AND essentially on earth) who goes the full cycle.  I can do SAP or Oracle, but I also design custom integrations from scratch.  Have a mainframe that sits on old AS400 gear and you want to batch process in a nightly run written in RPG and Cobol to our XML process engine?  I can help with that.  Have a completely custom built software system based on some version of DB2 running in Z/OS on IBM mega-hardware?  Yeah, I can help.  Hell, if you run on DB2 I’m gonna get your account, since I’m “it” in the DB2 department.

Fifteen years ago I wrote financial software for government agencies.  Now, I’m one of a handful of people with the skillset to integrate one of the most flexible and powerful indirect tax software platforms into pretty much anything that constitutes a financial package.  Well, one of two if you do something outside of the SAP or Oracle Financials world.

And I am in demand.  The interesting thing about being in the Tax Automation business is that taxes don’t really have a recession.  In good times or bad times, companies pay taxes; and companies that pay taxes want to find solutions that will help them maximize their tax accuracy and minimize their audit exposure.  When a company buys our product they almost always need time with our consultants to guide and assist them with the implementation.  As the consultant in question, this has been good for my job security.

All this job security means that I travel pretty much three out of every four weeks in a month; but now, I’ve been given an incredible opportunity.

My company (before the acquisition) was primarily based right here in beautiful Lake Oswego, Oregon (with our corporate headquarters in San Ramon, California…but that was just so we could say we were a Bay Area software startup 😛 ).  It’s great for someone who lives in (and loves) the Portland area, but kinda crap for supporting the eighty-plus percent of our customers who are in the east or central time zones, or the ten percent who are in Europe.  I’ve flown coast to coast pretty much every week in April and May, when I got to fly home.  Before that I’d been in Chicago, Columbus, and New York all for week-long stints multiple times since the start of the year.

People always tell me how “glamorous” it is for me to get to travel, and I will admit that the travel is a bonus to my job most of the time; but after a while life becomes an endless parade of airplane seats, airports, taxis, hotel restaurants and hotel beds.  You know you travel a lot when you land in a connecting airport and have NO idea where you are.  I had a layover in Houston and had to ask someone what airport I was in.  It wasn’t critical to know, I just didn’t recognize the layout, which was disconcerting.  Conversely, I could walk through the Denver and Chicago airports blindfolded and comfortably navigate from gate to gate while on a conference call and buying something to eat.

So, as the powers-that-be are happy with my performance, and have the ability to identify a gaping hole in our ability to support our customers, I’ve been offered a relocation package to move to Atlanta, Georgia and start up a practice that will focus on east coast customers and provide technical leadership for our UK and South American groups in a timezone that can answer before they all go home for the day.

I have to say, I’m excited.  I’ve never lived east of Boise, Idaho; so this is going to be an adventure.

OregonSunshine has been a true trooper as she scouted for new homes and worked on the practical details of our move (and also started to consider a change to her nom de plume).  We think we’ve already found a place to lease for the first year and still keep our “hobby farm” lifestyle, and we’ll be settling the details within the next few days.  I fully expect to be moved before the Fourth of July holiday.

Yes, my job is unusual.  I do technology AND finance…I’m a Geek AND a Nerd.  If anyone read this far without their eyes glazing over or falling asleep at their desk, well, I’m either really impressed or just a little bit frightened.  But I have to admit, I love my job.  I love the challenges and the complexity, and I really love the people I work with and the quality of the work that we do; but it does tend to eat into my free time.  Currently I’m “on the job” for about 12 hours a day…on a slow day.  Hopefully the move to the eastern time zone will help me find more time away from work simply by being closer to the work that I’m doing.  Well, that’s the plan anyway.

So, I’ll try to post more and essay less, but honestly that’s just not how I naturally write.  If things are a bit quiet on this front, keep in mind that I’m probably in the middle of hauling my life across the country.  I’ll post pictures and tweet from my iPhone, so watch the twitter feed for updates.

And wish us luck.  I don’t know that we’ll need it, but it NEVER hurts to have all that we can get.

10 thoughts on “The Most Boring Thing You Will Ever Read

  1. Ok, my eyes glazed by the third paragraph. I STILL can’t tell my mother what you do for a living. I just tell people “something with geek stuff and taxes”. Or, “I dunno. He’s on the phone and answering email all day. That’s all I see that he does when he works from home.” I give up. I do not know! My little brain cannot make it through your job description!

    Now, just help me figure out how to keep and move my pony and your boring, tedious job people will keep me happy. My pony. Going to Atlanta. That’s all I want for this move to be happy.

  2. PS You can’t even tell me what you do without my ears shutting down when you mention the word “java” or “international taxation”.

    You just get frustrated that the “java” in question has nothing to do with coffee, and the “international taxation” has nothing to do with us shopping at a duty free store while on an international vacation…

  3. You’re right. Most boring thing I ever read. 😀

    Can’t say I didn’t warn you…

    But my own job description is just as eye-glazing. And I can quite easily believe that your skill set is in high demand. (Mine, not so much!)

    Demand is a relative term. My skill set is in demand with those who seek to integrate indirect tax calculations into financial systems. Your skill set is in demand with institutions of higher learning. I might feel pretty good about the skills I have, but you should fell pretty damn skiffy about your’s and who pays for them.

    You guys are of course welcome to stop by anytime you’re in horsey country – whether it’s for the Equestrian Games or as you’re passing through on your way! Just drop me a line!

    Count on it.

  4. So, you integrate tax software into high-end financial software.

    Essentially yes…thanks.

    You’re welcome.

    Constant travel like that doesn’t sound glamorous to me, it sounds like a hellish grind. I’m glad you’ll get to cut down on it significantly with this move. Good luck.

    This summer has been low on the travel for me, and I’ve been very thankful for it. We’ll see how that goes as we get into the close of the year.

  5. I can relate. I actually enjoyed reading your post. I work as a consultant implementing one of the software companies that you mentioned, Ariba. Like you, I travel 3 weeks per month. I enjoy my work too. I focus on functional challenges and design. I find the work creative. Like you, I work with mostly Fortune 100 companies. I think your job offers considerably more security that mine.

    Job security is a mixed thing. Given the economy, I’ll take it and smile. In better times, this level of work would make me consider either a different opportunity or different compensation.

    To what do you aspire? Where do you see yourself in five years? 10 years?

    I get this question a lot. Honestly, I’d like to be a full time writer. Just write. No taxes, no software, no conference calls, no boardrooms, no crisis that isn’t of my own design.

    Do I see this in the next five years? Hard to say. I used to think so, then the economy went to hell and I’m just happy to have a good job. Publishing is changing and I don’t know where I fit into that (if at all) in the future. As for ten years, I have absolutely no idea. I’ve been so bad at predicting my path through life, I’ve given up all but the most basic financial planning for a time-period that far out.

    Be joy.

    And also with you.

  6. Welcome to the East Coast! I hope you are prepared for the humidity.

    Holy hells sister, you ain’t a kiddin’!

    I also must admit that I glazed over during the actual job description part, but I gathered enough of it to understand that it probably pays very well! And I’d take a job with a hard-to-understand description and big paycheck over three with easy-to-understand descriptions and small paychecks any day! haha

    My preference for a large check and complex services is pretty much why I do what I do. I could also do carpentry, or work in radio, or go back to insurance brokerage and financial services. None of which pay all that well. So, yeah. I’ll keep the job with the crazy hours and mountainous workload. It’s a trade off, but I know where I stand with it.

    I do hope you post more often, because I love your wit and insight, but I understand the demands of time. There just never is enough of it.

    I’m working on it. We’ll see how this goes. So far, so good.

  7. I may not have understood a lot of what you wrote in this post/essay/article/resume, but I was anything but bored. I’m a tax accountant at a medium-large corporation who uses Oracle on a daily basis. So, I’m very grateful for the brain behind accounting software.

    And I can relate to loving what you do, but knowing it will never sound interesting to anybody else…especially my 5-year old daughter. I asked her what she thought I did all day, and she said, “You just work.” She will at least acknowledge that I count things now, but she’s definitely not inviting me to school for show and tell.

    Congrats on your new opportunity!

    Thanks, I’m really enjoying everything so far; even the weather.

    I used to write Oracle Financials applications, so yeah, I was one of THOSE guys. Love the job, hate describing it to anyone who isn’t in love with taxes/finances/software.

  8. Correction…should have written “loving what you do” not “loving what I do”.

    Already fixed :-) but, I knew what you meant.

  9. All that to say, I still don’t understand why you didn’t take the job with MY employer when they offered–nay BEGGED–you to come work for us. *sigh* You ARE in demand, man. We need good people like you…

    One word: Dallas

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