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First Couple of Days at Alta

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I sigh every morning when I see these. I have to walk up three flights of stairs to get to my third floor office. It's hard I tell you, coming from a flat country; I'm locked in a costant battle with stairs.

Anyway, My first day at Alta began at 10:30 on Monday. When I arrived I met with Matt Berkow, my mentor, to talk a bit about what I would be doing during my stay at Alta. I will be conducting research for him about different types of bike share programs and compile information into a database to use to inform feasability studies in future. After our little talk he asked me what my schedual would look like. Feeling him hand me the reins, I was tempted to say 10:30 to 14:00 twice a week, but I saw the light and decided I would come in at 9:00 and leave at 15:00 everyday. With my routine decided upon, I dove into my work. I have a desk all to myself because there is someone who is "not coming back". Everybody says that when they see me sitting at his desk, but they never say why. It is a little disconcerting to tell you the truth.

After a couple of hours Matt invited me to a staff meeting where he introduced me to everyone. I felt privilaged to be at a meeting where the ongoings of a company were being discussed right in front of me, with no attempt to mask up any issues to save face. Later in my research I would find out that Alta is a leading Bike share consultancy, being involved in some of the largest bikeshare programes in America, and the rest of the world, as far away as Melbourne and London. All of this was being discussed right in front of me. It was not how I had invisioned a staff meeting of a company with such an influence either. They were deadly serious about their work when adressing issues raised by a lady who was clearly the boss, but this seriousness was often disrupted by jokes and the meeting was not all business. My favorite moment during the meeting was when one guy announced that this would be his last staff meeting (fon't get me wrong, O am not malevolent or anything, it is what happened afterwards that I found amusing). Matt then also announced that he would be leaving. You should have seen their faces! The boss lady was livid. I could se why, Matt Is the head planner and Alta was really buisy that week. Of course he meant that he would only be leaving for a couple of days to attend workshops. After the meeting it was back to humdrum of daily work.

After a while, Matt came back to relieve me and we went for a walk. We went down to a shop where he usually buys lunch. It was great, they sell five dollar burgers! After marvelling at the cheap food we walked back and got back to work. I finnished my assignment and went to bid him farewell. In a way, with all this research, I feel like the girl with the dragon tattoo, although I imagine she was probably slightly more tech savy than I am.

The next day was, well, how can I put it? Uneventful, mundane, monotonous? It was very long and repetitive. It was back to the world of reason. I felt like Bartleby the Scrivener. I did research the whole day and the one time that I got a different task it was to take photos of pieces of paper from a comment box for The Boss Lady. The questionnaires never ended! There was a silver lining though. Before i went home I went to check in with my boss's number two. He took a look at what I had done and said that I had done a great job. With my future in mind, I asked him for a raise, because, well, you know, you need to take advantage of the few moments when your boss is in a good mood.Of course he just laughed but I know he was contemplating it.

Armed with the knowledge that I was on the verge of a raise, I came in on Wednesday with a different mindset. I started my spreadsheet, and despite the lack of information online, I got pretty far. I was constantly on guard though. When I had come in that morning I would feel the glares that people were giving me. Both my bosses were not in and I was at the mercy of the rest of them. They were going to swamp me with petty photocopy errands. I didn't want to be the coffee boy. Actually I'm sure after one cup they would know to stay clear. I am not much of a coffee drinker and wouldn't know the first thing about making a good cup. Surprisingly though, I reached the end of the day with not a singe disturbance, other than an introduction from a guy who had been on holiday for a few weeks. It had been a productive  day and I was beginning to settle in.

I think that my first half a week at Alta has planned out pretty well. Get it? Because Alta does Planning and Desing? Anyway, on a more serious note, I have used skills I learnt in English and History to do research, and have learnt more about bikesharing here than I have ever before. It is actually quite a big deal, and is taking over American cities, for the better. Bike sharing has great benefits like reducing traffic, obesity and pollution. There have even been studies that have shown that bike sharing (or at least the excercise involved with it) improves peoples moods and makes them happier. About 50% of people in one study said that they have felt happier since they started using bike share programs. The great thing is that Portland will have its own bike share program soon thanks to Alta. Another important thing to note is that bike sharing is different from bike rental in that it is supposed to be another form of public transport, and not a personal means of getting around. People pay money through a machine at any bike rack, hop on a bike and, when they are done, drop it off at any other rack for others to use. I am lust about ready to start my own bike share consultancy...  


Dumela, Rra!

Great to read your first post, Mpho. I appreciate the your sense of humor! I know it can be hard to keep a sense of humor after hours of data entry. It sounds like you are learning some stuff too, which is good to hear. Anything new planned for this week? Keep it rolling!