Touched by Tesco

Thomas Madar

Thomas Madar – Involvement Volunteer

Experiences of Life and Employment Part 4

My final assignment was worked out offices of this well-known supermarket chain located at an enormous depot occupying the south end of Hatfield. It covered the last six months of 2007, from high summer to the dead of winter. Work varied from updating legacy software to cope with the supermarket’s expansion to the decommissioning of outdated information systems.

My performance was good. Time and task management lessons learned from a previous assignment continued to be put into practice and I became well noted for my thoroughness of my work. However, this was an emotionally rough assignment for reasons which originated well outside the world of work.

Because of my past, I was very sensitive to being left out of conversations, or being ignored in small social groupings. On a Saturday outing to Matlock Bath which was organised by my local Christian Friendship Fellowship group, I experienced a prolonged period of being ignored by the other members of a small group of which I was a member. This upset me greatly. I suffered sustained feelings of social worthlessness and mood swings which lasted until well after the beginning of the following working week, and which impacted on my relationship with others in the working team.

My mood swings triggered off an attack of insomnia which lasted for several weeks. For days at a time, I woke in the small hours of the morning and was unable to return to sleep, with the result that I was fatigued for all of the following day. I suffered periods of drowsiness which were noticeable to my assignment manager. Whenever this happened, I was asked to leave my desk and take a walk around the offices in the hope that exercise and fresh air would keep me awake.

Eventually, my emotions settled down, and I began to sleep well again. But some damage must have been done because unlike with Barclays Bank, my six month contract was not extended. I was also reported to occupational health in the hope that something could be done to relieve any future outbreaks of this nature.

The End

Following the end of my Tesco assignment, I found myself on the Bench. The Bench was a reserve list of employees who were looking for assignments, but were currently unemployed. Recent rules stated that if an employee was on the Bench for more than two months, then a notice of redundancy would follow. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any subsequent assignments commensurate with my skill set, or which did not require a substantial amount of verbal interaction with Xansa clients. This eventually led to me being made redundant in the autumn of 2008.

Thomas is continuing to volunteer for us and in between searching for jobs is a valued member of our Involvement Team helping us to improve our feedback website functionality.


Winter 2006

Thomas Madar- Involvement Volunteer Experiences of Life and Employment Part 3

On my return from Christmas, I had scarcely sat down at my regular desk when my senior manager presented me with a New Year surprise. My presence would again be required at Post Office premises in Chesterfield, this time to participate in a little software development

My assignment was to document and enhance a Microsoft spreadsheet based Visual Basic application which compared two sets of records of a single set of financial transactions and which reported any discrepancies on the spreadsheet.

The commute was little easier than last time. The offices were a little closer to the station, and in appreciation of the time taken for me to commute, I was allowed to arrive later than nine in the morning.

The laptop which I received was set up correctly and I had no problems with accessing my e-mails.

I thoroughly enjoyed the task and was well noted for the quality of my work. Regretfully, after two weeks, I had to leave this assignment because there was no more finance in the budget for this contract.

In the Belly of the Money Beast

Another assignment was working for Barclays Bank at their regional offices near Knutsford in Cheshire. This lasted ten months, from the summer of 2006 to the spring of 2007. Work was required to update their Securities Database and the software associated with it so as to conform to the Basel 2 Accord Standard. This included index linking the value of the securities listed in the database so that their value was automatically incremented by the rate of inflation. The programming languages and environment were what I had been used to at Boots the Chemist.

Time management lessons learned previously were put into practice. My improved level of time and task management, together with my thorough level of testing and a reasonable relationship with my team made this assignment one of the high points of my software development career. However, this assignment was not without its problems.

The main problem was the means by which employees were required to pay for their canteen meals and refreshments. Payment was effected by means of an electronic purse-card which could be charged with cash directly from the holder’s bank account. There was no hole in the card by which it could be attached to a lanyard or a key ring. And the vending machines operated by this card gave the holder the refreshment vended before returning the card. It was all too easy to walk away from a machine without a card, which if loaded with cash, could disappear. Being a forgetful person, this is how I lost a substantial sum of money.

Nevertheless, the canteen was one of the best in which I had the pleasure to eat a meal. On Thursdays, they served a very good curry with all the accompaniments. They also had an excellent sandwich bar from which I could buy rolls filled at the counter for my evening meal.

The Barclays campus had an on-site gym, which for a modest subscription, I could use for some much needed exercise. Frequently, I worked out long after other staff had left, which did not make me popular with the health and safety conscious security staff.

My accommodation was also the best which I had ever stayed at for any far away assignment. It was a privately run bed and breakfast hotel run by a friendly Christian couple and a short walk away from the offices. For a very reasonable price, one had a superb room with TV, tea and coffee, and private facilities….and an excellent breakfast. This made use of the gym all the more necessary.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end…and so did my Barclays assignment. After ten months, my manager told me that there was no more suitable work for me, and so I had to return home.

Next week ‘Touched by Tesco’ Thomas concludes his work experience blog

Thomas and volunteer colleague


The Beginning & Adventures in Chesterfield

Thomas Madar- Involvement Volunteer Experiences of Life and Employment Part 2

I was diagnosed with autism at the age of three in 1960. A mainstream boarding school environment with a class size of no more than fifteen pupils was the most successful strategy for my condition. By late teenage-hood, I was qualified enough to enter university. From the mid-1970s to relatively recently, I progressed through university in stages to acquire a degree and a collection of post-graduate qualifications.

The manifestations of my autistic spectrum condition resulted in a very difficult start to my career life. Eventually, I learned what areas to avoid, and what areas to aim for, and for more than a decade have enjoyed a reasonable degree of success on assignments as a software developer and tester. Beset by the practice of companies to send suitable work offshore to low wage economies, I am once again looking for work.

As a committed Christian, I am involved in supporting my local church and attend activities organised by the church and other Christian based societies. On a more active note, I keep fit by cycle commuting and going regularly to the gym, and like the adventure of long distance hiking and cycle touring.

Aspergers Syndome

Working Away From Home – The Beginning

The atmosphere was upbeat as we entered the dining hall to celebrate our transfer to a well-known IT services company known as Xansa. There was a party atmosphere with champagne and pieces of cake being served, cut from an enormous square cake bearing the Xansa logo. I enjoyed several minutes of conversation with work colleagues about where our future would be heading.

It all started a few months previously when the senior management team at our Boots the Chemist head office in Nottingham announced that the entire Information Services team would be outsourced to Xansa and IBM. Such a move would save Boots thirty million pounds. Support services would be taken over by IBM and software development services by Xansa. As a software developer, I found myself in the employ of Xansa.

At first, work proceeded as before. Later, as more and more of our software development work was moved to India so as to take advantage of this low wage economy, I found myself encouraged to work on assignments for Xansa clients around the country.

Adventures in Chesterfield  – Spring 2005

I was approaching the end of task, when I was given important news by my senior manager. As more of the work which I could do was being sent to India, an opening had arisen for someone to manage the documentation related to Xansa’s account with the Royal Mail in Chesterfield.  This role involved a daily commute to Chesterfield and required the use of a laptop which had to be especially set up for my use.

This role was demanding, not least for the daily commute which took nearly two hours each way. Included in this was a half-hour cycle ride between my home and Nottingham Station, a thirty five minute train ride, and a twenty five minute walk between Chesterfield Station and my new work place. To save time, I took a packed breakfast and ate it at leisure on the train.

On my arrival, I discovered that the laptop which had been issued to me had remained set up for its previous user. This prevented me from accessing my e-mail and the shared document libraries with which I was meant to work. To have it set up for my use required the assistance of the Xansa IT help desk. This was sited in India and did not have a very good reputation for providing a fast and trouble free service. My only means of contact with this was by telephone.

Over most of the next week, I was busy engaging with this help desk in an endeavour to have the laptop set up for my use. This took numerous telephone calls and instances of the remote operation of my computer from an IT expert in India. Eventually, on the afternoon of the fourth day, everything was in order. I was at last able to access my e-mail account and the shared libraries with which I would be working. While the problems with my laptop were being sorted out, I had to progress a very tedious off-line task which just required the use of pen and paper.

On the fifth day, my line manager called me into his office and told me that I would have to leave this assignment. This was because he was so overloaded with work that he would not have the time to give me the initial support which I required. However, he did write me a glowing report on my ability to patiently persevere with a problem to its resolution, even when tested to the limit.


Thomas shares his employment experiences

Winter 2006 to present  day