Thursday, June 01, 2006

Real Life Problem Solving Skills

I spent four years in college, and in that time, I have read that I should have developed problem solving skills. Then I learn that most employers value problem solving when looking for new employees. They also don't like employees who tend to go on shooting sprees at work, well, except for letter carriers. I hear that people who are good at shooting coworkers with semi-automatic weapons are also good at sorting mail. This is a scientific fact, so postal managers actively search for these individuals. Or so I have heard.

Thus far this week, I have solved two problems, and I was thinking of putting this fact in my yearly performance evaluation report. It shows initiative, smarts, and a "can do" attitude. My evaluation is practically writing itself. A bit of a "cut and paste" from this blog entry, and I am set for the year. Note to self: "Do not copy the paragraph which includes semi-automatic weapons."

Earlier this week, I was thirsty in the afternoon, and since we don't have a coffee-shop or other store in our office, I visited the vending machines for liquid refreshment. You see, I had one crisp new dollar and fed it in the dollar slot, and the bill did not fit. I am talking American money trying to fit in an American soda machine, and my bill is too wide. My first thought is counterfeit one dollar bill. How can people make money on printing ones? And then I get back to reality and think the bill is too new to fit into the machine. So I start problem-solving. How can I make the bill fit? Well, since I am a master problem-solver, I think that I should crinkle the bill and then flatten it out again. And guess what? The bill fit, it ate my dollar and I got my Fresca. (Okay, I got a Diet Coke, but I wanted a Fresca.)

First problem solved, and embarrassingly, the second problem involves vending machines again.

Later in the week, I wanted a Fresca, would settle for a Diet Coke, and I approached the machine again. For some reason, the dollar slot did not want to attempt to take dollar bills. None of them. So instead of giving up, I think that I should problem-solve again. The machine next to the soda machine was a candy and other fattening items machine, but I did not want partially dehydrogenated oils that day. But I put my dollar into the food vending machine, and then pressed the change return button. The machine converted my dollar to four quarters, and I re-visited the other machine to obtain my Diet Coke.

Bottom-line: after four years of college, I can use a vending machine even when they are poorly designed. Got to love higher education. Perhaps I should not include this in my performance evaluation.

19 comments:

sjblogger said...

Too bad you are most likely unwilling to move to the Midwest, we could use a problem solver with your skills in our office.

See we were trying to shove this bad employee out the window the other day and he just wouldn't fit...

Tony said...

Well, at least you didn't have three or four supervisors standing around watching your dollar bill handling experience.

I've just had the time to go back and read your Memorial day posts. I've spent 21 years in the Army. Four years active duty and the rest at the 87th Div in Birmingham. I was 11B (infantry) when I was active and retained that MOS (Military Occupational Skill) throuhout my career. When I arrived at the 87th I was told I'd have a new MOS, 71L (Admin clerk) and that I could no longer wear my blue cord (the cord you see on the shoulders of some soldiers). It broke my heart and I had to walk away and gather myself. I was able to retain my 11B MOS and thus stayed in for the duration. All that bit of history to say...I appreciate your views regarding the treatment of our veterens. I don't ask for handouts or think I deserve anything special, I did, after all, VOLUNTEER to be an infantry soldier. I did it at a time when I had no direction in my life. looking back, if I had to do it over, I'd have done it the same way. I've done things and been places that others dream about. I've done things and been places that others don't have the balls to do, or think they're too good to do. I love this country and will step up and do my part to defend it.

Sorry for the lengthy comment. I just wanted to say Thanks.

Tony
http://pondog.wordpress.com

Rob said...

I'd be careful if I were you telling too many people where you work about your "practical" problem-solving skills, Leesa -- at least if you have aspirations of moving into higher levels of management! You would be better off learning the psycho-babble and management "buzz words" du jour and liberally sprinkling them into your conversations if you want to get noticede for leadership potential. The fact that you can solve "real world" problems is likely to be intimidating to the Harvard MBA's and Wharton's Business School grads who already have their sights set on the executive suites, so you might want to just share those stories with us, your avid fans. My guess is, you are also more than capable of getting the balky copy machine to work when it jams 15 minutes before a big meeting and can get London on the line when the satellite link is lost in the middle of a teleconference -- and those skills seem like "witchcraft" to the PHD's and MBA's who can argue both sides of an issue equally effectively but have never done any of the "grunt work" that makes the businesses they run successful.

ANYWHO, congratulations on finding "more than one way to skin a cat" (that's not code for anything) around your office. If you keep it to yourself, you might just have a long and illustrious career! ;-)

Pittchick said...

Maybe you should branch out and start desiging new vending machines so that future generations won't have these problems.

Tai said...

hmmm, I wonder what it means that I can do that without a higher education.

Damn. I'm a GENIUS!!

kathi said...

Girl, I'm blown away by your skills. I don't care how much that 4 years cost you or your parents, worth every single penny. :)

Georgiapeach said...

RFLMAO@ Kathi.

Shon Richards said...

It is a well known fact that problem-solvers are trouble makers and on't get promoted. Yu might suggest ways to make things more efficent and cause a manager to look bad.

I have to wonder if four years of college taught you problem solving or superior vending machine manipulation. I think 40% of my college meals were from vending machines.

Grant said...

We have more modern vending machines which will not fall for being used as a change machine. They hold your dollar in a staging area and if you hit change return, they spit the bill back out. Now a new problem has arisen - some candies cost $1.25, but the staging area only holds one bill, so you must have change to get them. Note - I don't eat that fecking Western crap, but I did have to solve the problem for a manager who wanted candy but only had bills (I gave him a quarter, and he never paid me back).

As someone who has never suffered at the hands of a corporation for writing the wrong thing, I can assure you that it's quite safe to brag about your killing skills on paper. If your manager has a military background or has watched a lot of John Wayne movies, he or she will be most impressed. Give it a try. If anything bad happens, I'll owe you a Fresca. =)

Leesa said...

sjblogger: your problem was you were using force. For a bad employee that is also not so bright, you could have asked him (I assumed it was a "him" because of the not so bright part) to clean the window from the outside - the ledge is much wider than it appears on the inside of the building. Then shove.

tony: thanks for your service.

rob: and I thought you were moved into management for employees who seemed dangerous.

tai: pure genious. But can you program your TiVo?

kathi: and I also learned to say, "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?"

GP: yeah, she is a great lady.

shon: sadly, I ate many meals from vending machines when in college.

grant: I have seen those modern machines that don't act as a vending machine. I encourage others to unplug those machines and then cut their plug off. That will teach those machines.

grant: do you have an accomplishment line that states, "collection skills: manager would not pay me back the quarter I lent him so I took him out and sold his computer to recoup the account receivable."

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

Damn! I knew I shoulda took "Vending Machines 101" back in college.

No wonder I have such a shitty job...I got no skillz!

;)

jackt said...

At elite institutions of higher learning, they have a degree for dollar bill wrinkling. But you have to spend an extra two years for a graduate degree in Coke machine dispensing. If you lack those advance degrees, I don't think they'll believe you if you add it to your skills list. It's a very difficult task.

Ian Lidster said...

Your solution was inspired (re the vending machine) and it proves what you have learned since getting your degree, and that's what higher education is all about. Oxford and Cambridge used to automatically grant their BA grads masters degrees two years after graduation, with the assumption that they would have learned enough in those two years to automatically qualify. I think the same applies to you, Leesa.

sjblogger said...

Crap, Leesa, you're hired! Problem solved again! You're a miracle worker!

mal said...

Damn! the vending machine business is in the toilet and by figuring out how to make the validators ($ bill suckers) work you have just cost them some more new machine sales.

Have you no shame?

LisaBinDaCity said...

Vending machines are evil beings and must die! Or at least suffer a good kick once in a while ;-)

Pioneer Woman said...

That's about all my private education got me, too.

kathi said...

LOL, pas ce soir, merci

Leesa said...

stacy: sorry, sweets!

jackt: thanks for the information!

sjblogger: what would the starting salery be?

mallory: no shame whatsoever.

lisa: kicking them may damage the toes of your shoes. Fair warning.

ree: sadly, me too.

kathi: what a wonderful answer. Everything seems more wonderful in French, doesn't it?