Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Geek Assessments (Oh the Funny Things Foreigners Say)

I'm in Brazil this week. Thanks to Big Corp I flew to Sao Paulo on an overnight flight - 4 hours sleep courtesy of an intentional Dramamine overdose - in an economy seat in the middle of a row. (Damn the United Continental merger! 1k means nothing anymore...) Suffice to say this is not how I imagined visiting Brazil., which has been on my 'to visit' list for a while. I was picturing something more along the lines of a business class lie-flat, and a couple of weeks in Rio.

Still, I'm here now. I'm locked in the Big Corp tower in the heart of Sao Paulo, which is a big 1970s concrete monster of a building, where 4000 Brazilians come to, um, mend computers and stuff.

I'm here as part of a panel of Expert Geeks interviewing dozens of Trainee Geeks, to assess their skills in moving post-its around and writing on a flip chart in different coloured markers. If they meet the grade, they get certified. For your understanding: they really want to get certified. Getting certified is a big deal.

I'm the worst person to be on these geek assessment panels, as I'm such a soft touch. All the Trainee Geeks are so nervous, and anxious to do well. I really just want everyone to pass and get their certificate. I want it so badly that when the Trainee Geek answers the question incorrectly, I ask it again in a different way. And again, in a different way. All the while I'm smiling and nodding enthusiastically like an overeager counsellor.

My fellow panellists roll their eyes and tell me to be a little tougher. We should be hard on these guys, and maintain a high standard for certified Geeks. Well, of course. We don't want just any old Tom, Dick or Harry waving their Big Corp Certified Geek certificate around, do we now?

But not only am I naturally a soft touch, in any Geek assessment panel. There's also the Brazil factor. Specifically:

1.  An attractive man wheels in a trolley with little cheesy choux pastry buns, tiny flower shaped shortcakes and good espresso, every couple of hours.

2. The candidate Brazilian Geeks are all of above average attractiveness. (Sometimes racial stereotypes are rooted in robust observations, okay?)

3. Love is in the air. Or, to put it another way, all my Brazilian Big Corp colleagues kiss and hug each other when they meet in the corridors or lifts. Isn't that a nice way to start your working day? I feel like I'm at a big party, albeit one where everyone is wearing bit business casual.

4. The girl Geeks all have perfect manicures. Which is quite distracting as they gesture towards their presentations. I find myself wondering what shade of burgundy that is, when I should be checking out the standard of their powerpoint.

5. Foreigners say such cute things! And in the most adorable accent, in Brazil's case.
There's been a lot of talk of Helpdesk tickets in these panels, and when our Geeks talk about tickets, they say 'chickets'. 'Ticketing' becomes 'chicketching'. I melt. And pass them all. Even the clumsy English is endearing: one of our candidates yesterday talked about 'preparating' for a workshop. Passed him too.
And the Brazilian who explained 'You know, we have this saying, I don't know if it translates, we say, "Look at the cat! Watch the cat! The cat is by the wall!"', just destroyed me. I didn't have the heart to say it didn't translate. Instead I squashed my giggles, nodded as if I knew exactly what she was talking about, and passed her too.

Copacabana can wait. In my three days in Sao Paulo I am making a lot of geeks very happy. 

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