Company and Department Profiles
GameDay Management Group is an international company that offers an array of first-rate services, such as transportation planning, operation planning, logistical planning and implementation, and cost-reduction strategizing. In the winter of 2010, GameDay Management collaborated with the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) in order to bring about the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. During this collaboration, GameDay Management Group hosted events and planned venue transportation. I held a job as a dispatcher at the Marine and Boundary Depot. The dispatch division is the largest department in the entire depot, with over a hundred staff members. The objective of a dispatcher is to transfer scheduling information between the buses and the various departments.
Responsibilities and Activities
There are many different types of tasks given to the dispatchers. Some tasks, including data entry, planning, and radio dispatching, are technical in nature. Others, like serving at the entrance and exit gates and commissioning, involve physical labor. Still others, such as taking phone calls and radio commands, are communication oriented. Although the tasks vary in nature, each duty is equally significant. A computerized sign-in system keeps track of the arrival of bus drivers and the availability of contingency buses. Radio dispatching is the sole means of communication between the bus drivers and the depot staff. There have been many circumstances in which buses broke down, were involved in accidents, or got lost. There are two purposes of having dispatchers at the gates: to keep track of bus ingress/egress history and to provide security. The ingress/egress records are the sole source of information given to reconcilers, whose job is to ensure that bus companies are paid correctly. There are thousands of entries made every day, and any wrong entry brings about a net loss of approximately $1500.00. While the accuracy of the ingress/egress records is crucial, looking at the history of the Olympics, security is the most important issue. The job of a security guard is to scan the accreditation passes of the bus drivers and the depot staff, who receive the passes only after a criminal record check.
The ability to communicate effectively is the most vital skill of a dispatcher, and approximately 99.9% of the dispatchers at this depot, including me, did not have this skill perfected when they started the job. In the dispatch world, communication is a lot harder than most people can conceive of because there are always multiple conversations going on at the same time. At first, I could not hear the person on the other end of the phone due to the noisy job environment. Now, I can easily talk on the phone with people yelling around me. Radio dispatching, as well as phone handling, brings about communication challenges. The messages given over the radio are often unclear, and weak signals amplify this problem by blanking out many words spoken by the bus drivers. The dispatchers eventually learned to fill in the contents of the messages with surprising accuracy. When I lost my voice in February, my co-workers were able to understand what I was saying even though half of my speech was voiceless. I could not even hear myself when I spoke at that time, but somehow the other dispatchers could understand what I was saying, even from a distance.
Aside from well developed communication skills, an understanding of teamwork is important in dispatch because of the comprehensive nature of the dispatch tasks. In the beginning, the dispatchers were arbitrarily assigned specific task by the manager or the supervisor. However, this method proved inefficient. The person doing data entry had difficulty typing, the person on the radio lacked professionalism, and the person serving the gate did not understand how to check the buses. After a few weeks of job rotation, the dispatchers themselves found their own niches within the job. Fast typists became responsible for data entry, people with experiences in customer service went on the radios, and highly observant people went to the gate. Finally, those unfit for any of the dispatching tasks were transferred to other departments.
My most important achievement at this job was learning how to cope with difficult people. I worked with people of various age groups and with very different personal backgrounds. Naturally, there were conflicts. However, through compromise, we were able to resolve our disputes. Another important achievement of mine was maintaining a twelve-hour-day, seven-day-a-week schedule. I did not know that I had that kind of flexibility until I grew accustomed to this schedule. Thanks to the flexibility that I gained, my future job search has broadened.
Some of the learning objectives I had set for myself turned out not to be applicable because the job description was vague and misleading. However, I did achieve certain objectives, such as gaining competence in technical, problem-solving, and communication duties. With respect to the technical side of the job, I learned to use Microsoft Visio to create a blueprint of the depot structure.
Problem solving was a major component of the job. Since radio dispatching deals with incidents all the time, and since each incident is unique, there is never a set of guidelines or rules to follow. In many cases, the problems require an immediate judgment call.
I now have an entirely new outlook on work. Before I started my co-op job, I imagined all full-time jobs to be formal and strict. Naturally, I was pleased to find the position intriguing and fun. I enjoyed the job even thought I had to work virtually every day. In fact, I became so caught up in my work that I suffered from nostalgia for two weeks after I finished the job.