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CL suggested, since I'm retiring, that this would be a good time for my company to bring in someone to shadow me, to learn what I do. It's one thing to see "Prepare Customer Report" on the timeline distributed to all supervising employees; it's quite another thing to do it properly and to know what can go wrong. You can't proof intelligently if you don't know where it's likely to fail.

Over the years I've learned lots of extra procedures and failsafes. I'd love to brag that I figured them out because I'm brilliant and insightful, but in truth, it was usually because some disaster smacked me upside the head and I said to myself, "Well, dammit, next time I'll have a fallback position."

My skills grew early, due to the work situation when I was first hired: we operated as a team, the 10 other people in the same position as I, in a large room with lots of desks and no walls. Blasco, Weatherspoon, Braden, Young, they taught me a lot. A few years later we were distributed far and wide, in remote locations, each of us on our own. Newly promoted people after that had no mentors and struggled at first to learn the ropes.

As a result of being tutored by my peers and learning from experience, each year I now know, for instance, to print out the previous year's information before the program is "cut over" to the subsequent year's information (some times the wrong file is cut over and the right one dumped).

In honor of the time that the mainframe server died right in the middle of the heaviest work load, I always save our stuff in pdf files in a document folder on the local hard drive. I copy to flash drives religiously. And so on.

I remember the time the IT people came by after I had gone home and reformatted my hard drive....

So while others gnash teeth, foam at the mouth, and pull out hanks of hair by the handfuls when things go wrong, I just keep working on real paper or on my personal laptop, ready to start inputting again, once the IT idiots get their act together. One year they never did, and we ran things on handwritten sheets in 3-ring binders. At least the copy machine worked.

How can you put experience like that in a memo to a new employee? Anecdotes can teach a lot more sometimes than a list of tasks by date. And it will all go out the door with me, when I leave, because our company is too stupid to find a way, budget or no budget, to have my replacement work side-by-side with me for a bit.

I'll leave my notebooks and notes for the new person, but it won't be the same as mentoring, CL. He, or she, will have to learn the hard way.

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