Tariq Ahmed
SF Bay Area, California

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Rebuliding Together Event

October 27, 2004

RebuldingTogetherWe (the Operations Excellence team of eBay) had a charity event that I volunteered to coordinate for a non-profit called Rebuilding Together Silicon Valley. Basically the goal of the charity is to enable elderly and disabled people being able to live in their house for as long as possible. Typically these are really old houses that are in need of repair, plus improving the safety of the house.

I saw this as not only an opportunity to help, but also to practice on the project management side of things. I was managing 19 people who didn’t report to me, have no career incentive to do a really good job, and a major risk in that it was unknown if the skills of the team (software developers, process engineers, technical writers, product managers, etc…) had the necessary skills needed for the job (plumbing, electrical, general contractor type stuff).

To make matters more challenging: it’s a one day blitz. No room for error, if we goof up, there’s no tomorrow to fix it.

The house was also very small, so I was concerned that 19 people would cause a bottleneck and grind things to a halt. However it went quite smooth. Everyone was dedicated to the mission, and because I had my plan laid out, everyone knew exactly what to do. Turns out my manager John, and coworker Jon, had strong handyman skills and I was able to put them on the toughest tasks which they tackled like true troopers!

We did encounter some issues that ate up quite a bit of time. For example my plan called for replacing an old sink; this should have been an easy swap, but the original owner of the house 40 years ago did it on his own using a freestyle implementation and as a result the pipes didn’t line up – so the team had to make a home depot run and try to improvise a solution. Fortunately the charity had some pros available for emergencies, and sent over a professional plumber to give us some guidance.

Additional time was lost in the garage as well. We put up a new lighting fixture, which should have been a 30mins install. But the wiring in the garage was a complex matrix of cabling, and it took awhile to decipher how to hook into it.

All in all we finished everything we started, which was the primary objective. There were a few similar Rebuilding Together events going on throughout the city with teams from other companies, and supposedly people left the project in the afternoon leaving 2-3 teammates to finish the rest of the work by themselves.

We had this huge dumpster, which at the onset I thought was way too big. However we ended up filling it up completely. A large part of that due to the backyard team who had cleared out so much foliage that it doubled the size of the yard.

Very interesting experience! Definitely recommend volunteering for this cause.



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