Monday, September 05, 2005

It all started with an invitation for a marketing writing course that I received about a month ago. I got the invitation via a PR network, so I should have been warned…. It was organized by a company (let’s call them X-team), which specializes in technical writing. Since the current economic situation is bad, such companies have a tough time surviving. Due to the unemployment rate among marketing and technical writers (45%), companies prefer to hire laid-off writers that are dirt cheap, very experienced and are paid per hour. X-team invited me to join their course that took place on August, 2nd from 6pm-8pm. It consisted of two parts – the first part “what is marketing writing” and the second part “how to write killer marketing material”.

Since I always want to improve myself, I thought it was a good idea to go. The costs were also OK, 40 NIS. (I did not even contemplated to ask this amount from my employer).

So I registered…and did not get a confirmation. So I emailed twice, to make sure I had a place. Finally, I got the confirmation with a map how to drive there. And then the fun started….

That whole day, Ibby (my boss) kept throwing work at me. When I told him that I had to leave that day at 5.30pm (I start at 8am, mind you), the reaction was 1) why so early 2) what for.
I was stupid enough to tell him. He replied it would be a waste of time. I was finally able to leave armed with the map that X-team had faxed me. I don’t have the greatest sense of directions, but I was quite confident that I would find it. The map clearly showed that I had to turn right at the fifth traffic light on the main road into Rehov Habaniem, so that would be easy enough, correct?
So I drove off…..already being tired and stressed.

All went well, and I turned right at the fifth traffic light. Wrong street name, so I parked, and went to ask directions. I asked the proprietress of a small kiosk that sells milk, cigarettes, snacks, and newspapers and also serves coffee. She did not know, but her customer sitting outside budded in, took my map, and started to analyze it. Not very successfully, since he kept turning it around. After some minutes, I took the map back, and said I would ask at the petrol station. The guy looked insulted and said that he would have figured it out eventually. Yeah, sure, and I am a super model. The petrol station guy at the end of the street was very nice and helpful, and told me that he knew were Habaniem was. I just
had to turn left at the next traffic light. By that time, it was 6.10 pm, so it was cutting it close, but what the hack, I was almost there, right? Wrong!
I went back to my car (feeling hot and sweaty) and turned left at the traffic light as instructed. Lo and behold, the correct street name! Found a nice parking place, parked and saw that a high tech guy (pony tail, end 20s, must therefore be a software engineer) was getting into the car next to me. I thought that double checking would be a good idea, so I showed my map again, and he assured me that I was in the right place. He recognized all the streets, and pointed into the different directions to indicate them. I was very impressed and relieved. So, I went looking for X-team at Habaniem 1… that turned out to be a Chinese Restaurant. By that time, I was confused and nervous. I decided to ask a mother with a small child walking towards me – those ladies normally know all the streets. She was very nice and looked at my map. She told me that I was in the right street, but in the wrong kfar! Of course, I thought to myself, that explains a lot! She told me that I had to turn back to the main road, go to the left, 3 traffic lights and then to the right.
Bt that time, it was already 6.30pm, so I wondered if it was worth while to go. But since I am extremely stubborn, I could not give up. By that time, my feet were also hurting and I started to get hungry (Did not have anything to eat since my salad at noon).
So I drove off again. By that time, I was smack in the middle of rush hour, so I had to move with the speed of a snail, a heavily medicated, doped out snail. Finally, I arrived at the third traffic light and turned right. Guess what? The right street, but in the middle of a cluster of buildings. It resembled a kibbutz.
I parked my car, took my map and walked into the first small building I saw – a small high tech firm. I asked the two young guys there if they could help me. They looked at the map and told me that X-team should be in a building somewhere behind them. They did not know for sure, and happily informed me “nobody can find us as well”. This sentence was delivered with a big smile, so I wondered why they didn’t relocate.
I walked around amongst several clusters of small buildings. I suddenly saw an old sign with X-team on it, so I followed it…and ended up in a playground! Looking around, I noticed this tiny sign “X-team” on a building dwarfed by huge signs of other companies. Go figure. By that time, it was 6.45pm…..But, in for a penny, in for a pound, so I went into the building. Nobody to be found, so I first looked for the restrooms since I drank lots of water on the way. I walked around, and finally a guy talking loudly on his mobile came out of his office and demanded to know what I wanted. I answered that I was looking for the course. He pointed were it was and added “You must be very polite when you go in”. I informed him that I am always polite. At that moment, a young guy came rushing towards me and told me he was also late. We decided to go in together.
So I opened the door to slip in…. and nearly fainted.
It was a small meeting room, packed with 40 people sitting (shoulder to shoulder, knee to back) and another 10+ standing…without air-conditioning!
By that time, the idea of standing for two hours or so, having to pay for that privilege, and no possibility to make notes was enough to freak me out. I made a hasty retreat and drove home. By 7.30pm, I was finally home and thought this whole exercise over.

My first lesson: never trust maps sent to you by companies.
My second lesson: People are friendly and helpful, but not always reliable
My third lesson: X-team has a good idea – if implemented correctly

Their concept is great:

  • you let your own employees teach – no costs involved
  • in your own offices – no costs involved
  • 50 invitees = 2,000 NIS tax free
  • 5%-10% might turn into customers (hack, even 1 customer out of it makes it all worth while!)

But what upsets me most……Ibby was right!

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